Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Power of Forgiveness

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As we begin Revive Our Hearts today, I want to say thanks to every listener who has responded this month to our need for new Ministry Partners. The Revive Our Hearts Ministry Partner team provides consistent prayer support and financial support month by month. I'm so thankful for the many listeners who helped us make up a budget deficit last month.

But we also need help with month to month expenses, and our ministry partners play a crucial role in that process. If you are a regular Revive Our Hearts listener and you've been touched by this ministry, would you consider partnering with us at a deeper level, sharing the ministry with others, praying with us, and giving to help support the ministry. That's what Ministry Partners do each month. They get a lot back in return. You can get all of the details by visiting us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

I'm so thankful that this week our Ministry Partner team is helping us tell the story of Martha Schaale. Even as an adult, Martha remembered the sting of abuse that she felt as a child. It caused her to keep her distance from an important person in her life.

Martha Schaale: I could never come to the place where I could spend the night at my father's house. If I did for some reason, that bedroom door would be locked.

Leslie Basham: You're listening to Revive Our Hearts with the author of Choosing Forgiveness, Nancy Leigh DeMoss. This weekend marks the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States. Abortion affects us as a nation, and it does so by affecting individuals. Yesterday we began hearing from a woman deeply affected by abortion. Nancy is here to set up today's story.

Nancy: Martha grew up in an abusive, chaotic home where there was much fighting and arguing. Her father left the home when she was eight years old. For years she was just bound with dreadful, horrible memories of the relationship she had with her dad. When Martha became a teenager, she became involved in a permissive and promiscuous lifestyle. She ended up involved in sex, in alcohol and drugs and then found herself pregnant by her boyfriend and ended up having an abortion.

After having the abortion, she married Rich, who was the father of the child she had aborted. Martha and Rich had a son that they named Andrew.

Yesterday we heard how Martha walked through a painful but important process of healing in relationship with God and then in relationships with others. Listen now as Martha shares the touching story of how God helped her to deal with those unresolved issues and to be reconciled to her husband and to her dad.

Martha: When we made the decision to have an abortion, we never thought of how our sin would one day affect our children. I was not thinking about the consequences of my choice. Back in March of 2000, the Lord brought us to the place where we knew that it was time to share this with our son. At the time, Andrew was eleven years old. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I will never forget that day.

We sat on the couch. Andrew sat between us. As we began sharing what we had done—because you know what, when we made that decision, we not only sinned against the Lord, we not only sinned against one another, we not only sinned against our baby, but we also sinned against Andrew—we shared with him about the abortion, and we asked for his forgiveness.

I'll tell you, as soon as the words came out of my husband's mouth, my son immediately started crying. He took his little head and he buried it in my side. He put his arms around me and he just held me tightly. He said, "I love you, Mommy. I forgive you, Mommy."

He just wept and sat there as we shared with him and talked with him for about two hours. We talked very openly about his sister. We believe in our hearts that she was a girl. She was a sister that he never got the chance to know, and he is going through a grieving process.

Andrew asked me if we had given her a name. I told him, "Yes, we have." I told him that we named her Mary Elizabeth. His eyes got real big.

He said, "You're not going to believe this, but I named her Mary also." You see, he wanted her to have a name.

A couple of months later, we decided to have a memorial service for Mary Elizabeth, just the three of us. It was really neat how God worked this out. Each one of us wanted to do something special for her.

Rich wrote a letter to her from all three of us. My son on his own made a beautiful flower out of colored tissue. Then I bought her a pink rose and just wrote a little note to her. We erected a small cross, a three foot cross. We placed that rose at the foot of that cross. That day my husband read that letter, and there were many tears. He prayed, and we just had some time to just spend there. It was a healing time for us.

That November, that fall, Rich's parents came to visit us. We knew that we needed to come to them and ask for their forgiveness. That was a very difficult time. I know even more so for my husband. As we shared about the abortion with his parents, his father asked the most important thing, "Have you made things right with the Lord?"

We both said, "Yes."

He said, "The next most important thing is have you made things right with each other?" In other words, he was saying it doesn't matter about us, it matters have you made things right with the Lord and with each other.

He prayed with us. He shared with us from the Scriptures. They told us how much they loved us. At one point, he said, "We've told you how much we love you. Now we need to show you that love."

They came over to us. My father-in-law took me in his arms. I buried my head in his chest. He is a very tall man. As we were crying, he kept saying the words to me over and over again, "I love you, my sweet little daughter." Those were words that my soul longed to hear from my earthly father and also from my Heavenly Father.

That night opened my eyes to begin to see that there were some unresolved issues with Rich that I honestly didn't even know were there. You see, when his father asked us, "Have you made things right with each other?" my husband immediately said, "Yes. I have made things right with Martha, and I have asked her to forgive me."

I immediately started sobbing. I started crying very hard, and I could not answer. I could not answer that question.

The Lord used that time to show me, "Martha, I need to show you your heart." He showed me that I had some unresolved issues with my husband. The Lord showed me the ugliness of my heart. I'll tell you, it took some time for me to even come to the place where I could accept that this was what was in my heart. I had anger and unforgiveness and bitterness towards my husband concerning the abortion. I was angry at myself. I was angry at God.

The next several months were very difficult ones. I was sick inside. For the first time, I began to resist God's healing process in my life. I said, "No more, Lord." I stiff-armed Rich, those around me, and also the Lord. But even through that, Rich continued to love me and reach back towards me.

God continued to love me through my husband. My husband just waited and allowed the Lord to do the work in my heart. It was during this time that my husband began to take greater responsibility for his part in the abortion. Rich did everything he could do to make things right with me. Now the decision was up to me. There was nothing else that he could do.

God knew where I was, but God continued to love me. God continued to work in my life, even though I was saying, "No, Lord."

The following summer I was talking with Donna again at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. I was concerned about my father spiritually. I asked her the question, “Donna, do you believe a person can be right with the Lord when they have sinned so great against man?”

She said to me, “Martha, I want you to take a look at your own life. God began dealing in your heart long ago concerning the abortion, and you made things right with the Lord a long time ago concerning the abortion. But look at how long it's taking you to make things right with Rich.”

When she said that to me, I began thinking about my father in a whole different light. I had just told her that I would not feel safe in my father's house—that I could never come to the place where I could spend the night at my father's house.

If I did for some reason, the bedroom door would be locked. I told her that he was one person out of the whole world that I could never share my abortion with.

Well, God knew otherwise. My father's birthday came around, and I just felt led to go visit him. My father was getting older, his health was not well, so I knew I needed to go visit my father. I did not know how many birthdays he had.

So Andrew and I went to see him. That night when I was leaving to go spend the night with my mother, my father said, “Why don't you just spend the night here? I have plenty of room. It's late. There's no reason for you to leave. Why don't you just stay here?" A little fear arose within me.

But he was my father, and I said, "Okay, Dad. I'll stay here."

When I took Andrew to bed and said goodnight to him and prayed with him, I looked at the door. It's such an old house that there were no locks on the doors. I told the Lord, "Lord, I'm going to have to trust You." I stayed up until two in the morning just talking with my father. He talked with me about growing up. He talked with me about his life. We just spent a lot of time just talking with each other.

The next day when I left to go back home, I said, “Lord, thank you that there were no locks on that door, because if there were locks on that door, my trust would have been in those locks and not in the Lord.” God showed me that there was nothing I needed to fear about my father. God knew that I needed to know that, and He allowed these circumstances to happen to show me, “Your father is not the same man that you remembered him to be as a little girl.”

My father, in my mind, had never deviated from that, even though my father had gone to church over the years. I’ve always remembered my father to be the way that he was when I was growing up. But the Lord in His love for me showed me that he was not the same man.

A few weeks later I received word that my father was in the hospital. The next day my son and I left to go visit my father. I told the Lord, “If You want me to talk with my father, You're going to have to provide an opportunity for us to be alone.” And the Lord did.

That day before we left the hospital, I went over to my father as he was lying in the hospital bed. I just took my hands and I just placed them on my father's face. I looked him in the eyes, and I said, "Daddy, I love you. Daddy, I forgive you." I kissed him on the cheek, and I hugged his neck. He just sat there and listened as he had tears in his eyes.

I made things right with my father. My father made things right with me. I cannot tell you how the Lord used that in my life. A few weeks ago the Lord brought me to the place where I was able to make things right with my husband. I know what the Lord allowed to take place with my father enabled me to be able to make things right with my husband.

The Lord had been softening my heart all along in the prior weeks. God had just continued to love me through my husband. That night as I talked with him, I told him that I had forgiven him. Then I was also able to ask for his forgiveness.

I've never been able to see my husband's pain. All I could see was my pain and my suffering that I had gone through. I could not see that I also hurt my husband. I also caused him pain. I needed to ask for his forgiveness. I'll tell you, God did a healing in our marriage. I feel like a totally different person.

I was so depressed this year. That depression was lifted. I've even lost several pounds. I do not have that pull towards food anymore. I just cannot tell you the difference that I feel in my life.

Ladies, because of God's mercy and His grace, He did not allow the abortion to destroy me. Because of who God is, He is able to cause all things "to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28, KJV). He doesn't say the situation is good, but He does promise that because He is your God and you're His child, He will bring good from it.

When you feel as though your life is in ruins, you need to remember who your hope is in, as Jeremiah did in Lamentations 3:21-24.

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him (NASB).

No matter where you have been, no matter how painful the trial, there is hope because of who God is. Thank you and God bless you.

Nancy: As I listened to Martha, I thought of five different lies that she listened to that God has set her free from and five lies that perhaps we may be listening to today.

The first one is that you can't let anyone know. She said, "I stuffed it, thinking it would go away. No one will ever know."

Sin does want to make us cover and hide. It started with Adam and Eve hiding behind the trees. Ever since then, our instinct when we sin against God and others is to want to cover. But it's a lie from the enemy that says, "You can hide."

Proverbs 28:13: "He who covers his sin will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy" (NKJV). Can I just say that freedom comes when you run into the face of that lie and you say, "I'm not going to hide anymore; I'm coming out into the light"? That's where you find mercy.

The second lie is that you can't be forgiven. The enemy deals with shame. He wants to keep us in bondage to believe that we can't be forgiven. The issue is not so much (as some would have us believe) coming to the place where we can forgive ourselves.

The issue is really coming to the place where by faith we accept God's forgiveness and we receive the forgiveness that He made possible for us through the cross of Christ. If the blood and the death of Christ were not sufficient for your sin, then they're not sufficient for any sin. If they're sufficient for any sin, then they're sufficient for your sin.

The third lie is you can't forgive others—the others who may have had a part in the circumstances that led up to your sin. It may have been that doctor who performed the abortion. It may have been that husband who was passive and didn't protect you and stood by, or parents who didn't protect you in a relationship that led to immoral involvement.

The lie from Satan is that you can't forgive. The truth is you can choose to forgive. You are really only one choice away from exercising forgiveness. That really comes as an act of our will—not a feeling, not an emotion, but a choice.

Is there someone that you need to forgive? You'll never be completely healed and whole until you walk through that process of not only receiving God's forgiveness but extending His forgiveness to those who are a part of your story. They may never realize the wrong that they have done. Some of those people may not even be alive any longer. You may not be able to go and talk with them.

If you can, let me encourage you to do that and to do it without putting any blame on them, but to extend forgiveness, and where necessary, seek their forgiveness for ways that you may in your response to them have sinned against them.

Here's another lie: You can't ever be whole after what you've done. Okay, you can get forgiven. Okay, you can get past it, but you'll never be a whole person. That's a lie from the enemy. Satan wants to keep you in bondage by thinking that you will always have to be a basket case. In Christ we are new creations, brand new.

I was thinking as I was talking with Martha last night, we were talking about this matter of shame. We started talking about the apostle Paul and what he must have experienced in his life. He could never go back and undo the great sin that he committed against God and against believers that he had put to death when he was persecuting the church.

I don't think Paul ever forgot the great sin that he had committed. How could you? You may never forget the great sin that you've committed against God. But you know, that's not all bad. The reminder of that sin is a constant reminder of the mercy and the grace of God. The truth is you can be whole.

You don't have to live as the sinner that you were. You can live as a saint who has been justified, made right in God's eyes through the blood of Christ, as someone who is being sanctified, made holy by the power of God and His grace and His Holy Spirit and as someone who will one day stand before Jesus—clean, washed, forgiven, whole.

I love hearing Calvin Hunt tell his story. He is a part of the Brooklyn Tabernacle ministry. He tells the story about being a crack addict and all the things he did to his family and to his body and to others and how God then brought him to Christ and to a place of forgiveness.

After he gives his testimony, he stands up and he sings this incredible song, "I'm clean, I'm clean, I'm clean." There's a freedom there and a wholeness that God can give. He can restore the years that the locusts have eaten, the Scripture says.

Here's a final lie. Well, maybe you can be whole. Maybe you can be forgiven. Maybe you can come out into the open. But you certainly can never be useful to God. You can certainly never be fruitful like all those other people.

We think everyone else has never sinned or never done anything quite this serious. The enemy would have us to believe, "You can't ever really be fruitful for God." It's a lie.

In fact, our very failures can become stepping stones to greater fruitfulness and ministry if we'll let them. God is using Martha's failure from her past as an opportunity to incredible fruitfulness and ministry in the present.

Now, you can't ever be as fruitful as you could be if you still want to cover. We need to come to the place where we're so free before God and before others that, given the opportunity and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we could share with anyone that God would ask us to—"This is a part of my story." Not to brag on the sin, but to brag on the Savior—to brag on the grace of God.

It's our very failures that make us candidates for the grace of God, and then it's the grace of God that makes us useful and restores us to a place of fruitfulness. Let me just encourage you, don't resist the process that God has you in, wherever you are in that process. Don't resist God's healing, forgiving, cleansing, renewing process.

I find that I can go so far with God in dealing with an issue in my life, and then an issue surfaces and I just say, "I can't go any further with this." Then I stop the free flow of God's grace in my life. Don't stop. Don't resist the grace of God. Let Him keep taking you one step at a time.

As I look around at Christian women today, I see so many—perhaps I would say the majority today—who are living lives of quiet desperation, lives of anger, lives of resentment, lives of failure, lives of frustration. So much of it has to do with the past.

Wouldn't it be an incredible thing if we as women of God could put the past in the past? Put it under God's grace, move on to wholeness, move on to healing, not using our past as a crutch, as an excuse for not being whole women today. What an opportunity is ours to walk in freedom, to walk in fullness, and to walk in fruitfulness. Let's bow our hearts in prayer.

Oh Father, how we thank You for Calvary, how we thank You for Jesus, how we thank you for freedom through the truth. By faith we reject the lies of the enemy, we receive your truth. We say, “Lord, we want to walk as women who are free, who are full of Your Spirit, and are fruit for Your glory.” I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss responding to a moving story from our guest, Martha Schaale. Today's program is a fitting example of the mission of Revive Our Hearts, inviting women to find freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

If you or someone you know could get a lot out of contemplating the story of Martha Schaale, you can order a copy on CD. You can order the series Beauty for Ashes at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. 

Some of your battles are visible. Everyone knows that you've geared up for a big trial or a big event. They're watching as you trust God in the process. But sometimes the private battles that follow are even bigger. Learn how to trust God in those times of private temptation. Listen to the series The Battle After the Battle, starting Monday on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.