Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: You have to heal from your emotional pain before you can forgive, right? Not according to Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I believe the point of making the choice to forgive, to press the delete button, to let it go, more often than not is what sets us into the process of healing.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, November 9.

You’ve joined us in a series called Seeking Him. Each week during the series, Nancy has been presenting a characteristic of personal revival. This week’s focus is forgiveness.

Yesterday, we heard Nancy describing her helpful book, Choosing Forgiveness. Lisa Barry was part of that discussion, and they’re back to talk about practical ways to forgive.

Lisa Barry: Okay, Nancy, let’s imagine this. I’m walking through a book store. I’ve got a five-ton trailer of anger and resentment, and I need relief now. I see your book on the shelf and I pick it up and I start leafing through it madly to try to get to those magic words that are going to tell me what I need to hear, what I need to say, one sentence that is going to help me unhook this heavy trailer that I’ve got.

Am I going to find that in your book?

Nancy: Well, I don’t know that there’s any sentence anyone can say that is going to quickly and easily help someone get rid of that five ton trailer, because you didn’t get it overnight.

That five-ton trailer is an accumulation of hurts and years and how like us to want overnight to undo and change years, what has taken years to get to that point. So I think we need to realize in a sense there are no quick fixes.

But I do believe that through the process of forgiveness there is a means to enter into a process of getting set free and dealing with these issues. The kind of prevailing wisdom today in this very therapeutic culture we live in is to say that I can’t really forgive until I’ve walked through this process of healing.

I really believe that’s backwards. I believe the point of making the choice to forgive, to press the delete button, to let it go, more often than not is what sets us into the process of healing.

That’s important to understand because that is the starting place is forgiveness. If I wait until I’ve been through the process of healing before I choose to forgive, I probably will never get to the point of forgiveness.

But if I start at the point of forgiveness, it will enter me into a process of healing. By saying that, I’m recognizing that the fact that I choose to forgive doesn’t mean that now everything is done and dealt with, and there’s no more issue involved.

What is done is that I’ve turned it over to the Lord. I’ve said, “I’m not the judge. I’m not the jury. I’m not going to take vengeance. I’m going to release this to the Lord.” And then I put myself in a position where the Holy Spirit of God, through the Word of God and the grace of God can deal with those hurts and wounds in my life that need restoration, can deal with the relationship that may need to be reconciled or resolved or restored.

But the starting place is forgiveness, and then there is hope as big and as great as God Himself, no matter how deeply you’ve been wounded or scarred or wronged, there is hope you can be free of the anger, the bitterness, the resentment. It doesn’t mean you won’t get hurt again.

It doesn’t mean there won’t still be tender spots in your heart when that situation comes up, but you’ll be able to think about that person who wronged you without having to grit your teeth and wish they were dead.

You can get past it. There is hope for that.

Lisa: So, it’s interesting, what you’re saying is that we normally go through a book and we learn all these steps, and then we end up at forgiveness. Voila! That’s the icing on the cake. That’s the benefit at the end.

You’re saying you’re going to start out with forgiveness, and then we have these residual benefits—blessings—that are going to trickle down after we’ve done the right thing.

Nancy: As long as I’m holding on to the bitterness and the unforgiveness, I’m not in the position where I can experience God’s healing grace in my life. So, the starting place is forgiveness, and in the book, I do get to some specific, practical steps we can take to enter into the pathway of forgiveness.

But you know, I don’t even put those steps until probably two-thirds of the way through the book because I think there’s the need for us to recognize that we are bitter, to see what our bitterness has done to us.

It’s easy in today’s therapeutic culture for us to acknowledge that we’ve been hurt. We’ll say that easily, but not many people will be honest enough to say, “I’m bitter.”

To say, “I’m bitter,” implies that I’m responsible. I’ve done something wrong. To say, “I’ve been hurt,” well, that puts the responsibility on someone else. “It’s not my fault. Somebody else hurt me,” so we can project that responsibility onto them.

So it’s a huge thing to come to that place where we acknowledge, “There is a root of unforgiveness in my heart,” and the reason I know this is true of so many, many people, I’ve asked probably tens of thousands of women over the years in conference settings as I’ve spoken on the subject of forgiveness.

I’ve asked, “How many would be honest enough to say there is some root of unforgiveness in your heart, there is someone or ones in your past or your present that you have never fully forgiven? Would you just be honest enough to lift your hand in the air?”

I don’t have them bow their heads. I don’t have them close their eyes. This is in the context where we’re learning to be honest with God and with each other so we can get His grace in our lives.

I want to tell you, Lisa, every single time, no matter who is in that group, it can be lay people, it can be people who are vocationally in Christian service, pastors’ wives, any group, 80 to 95 percent of the people in the room will raise their hand.

"There is someone or ones in my life that I’ve never fully forgiven." When I look at that audience of people, I know, here’s a group of women who are in prison.

They may not realize it, but they are. What motivates me to keep pressing on with that message, what motivated me to write this book, what motivates me to share those practical steps to forgiveness and freedom is that I know when people say, “Yes,” to forgiveness, it’s as if God is going to come through that great big prison cell there, that great big block of prison cells, and with His key of grace, unlock those prison doors and set those women free.

I’ve seen it over and over and over again, and that’s what gives me a passion about calling women to say, “Yes,” to forgiveness.

Lisa: Now, let’s say I go through with it. I agree with you, “Yes, I do need to forgive. I’ve got responsibility here.” I forgave yesterday. And today, what do I feel? These horrid feelings are rising up like a cobra inside of me, and I think to myself, “I forgave yesterday. What are you doing here?”

Nancy: Okay, let me back up just a minute here to what it means to have forgiven, because the question you’re asking is an important one. People do say, “I have forgiven, but then I have these emotions. What do I do with those?”

Let’s make sure we really have forgiven. I encourage women to first make a list of the people who have wronged them, things that are still on their heart, things they’ve never released.

  • Make a list who it is that sinned against you.
  • Next to their name, list how have they sinned against you.
    You can take a piece of paper and mark it into three columns. The left hand column, here are the people who sinned against me. The middle column, here is how they have sinned against me.
  • Then here’s what the third column is for: here’s how I’ve responded to that person and that situation, that offense.

So you say, “What do you mean? How did I respond?”

  • Have you loved that person?
  • Have you prayed for them?
  • Have you done good to them, the things Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount we’re to do? (Matthew chapter five).


  • Have you withheld love?
  • Have you spoken evil of that ex-mate to your children?
  • Have you tried to make that person look bad?
  • Have you disengaged?
  • How have you responded?

Before you can really forgive, and certainly before you can be an instrument of helping those offenders be restored, you’ve got to make sure your conscience is clear. I need to make sure my conscience is clear.

So if I have sinned in my response to their sin, then I need to go back and make that right, confess it to the Lord, seek His forgiveness, confess it to the other person. Let me put a little disclaimer in here: there’s some situations where there was an offense committed where it would not be appropriate for you to reinitiate contact with that person.

But if it’s not inappropriate, go back to the person and say, “I sinned against you.” Now, don’t project blame. Just go and take responsibility for your part. What we tend to think is—and we all do this—“but I was only five percent responsible.”

Okay. Say you were only five percent responsible. Go and take 100 percent responsibility for your five percent. When your conscience is clear, then you can go one by one through those individuals and press the delete button.

Lisa: Can we go back for a second to some of these emotions that I have that I don’t know what to do with. I’m surprised that they’re there because I really believe that I forgave that person, but I get this feeling in the pit in my stomach every time I think about them, and I try to convince myself that I really did forgive. Tell me why I still have those feelings and why they’re not gone.

Nancy: I think a couple of things, Lisa. First of all, we need to realize that forgiveness is a matter of faith. It may or may not involve my emotions initially, or my emotions may take a while to catch up.

So, the fact that I don’t feel forgiving doesn’t necessarily mean that I haven’t forgiven. In time, the emotions in time will follow.

But I also think there are those who really have genuinely forgiven, but Scripture gives us a step beyond that that we need to go, and we read about it in Romans chapter 12, verses 17 and 19 where the apostle Paul says, “Don’t return evil for evil.”

And he goes on to say, “Don’t avenge yourselves. That’s God’s job. Leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine. I will repay,’ says the Lord” (paraphrased).

So, we agree, “Okay, I’m not going there.” But then he goes on to say in verse 20, “To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” What is he saying?

When your enemy sinned against you, he demonstrated that he has a need. What is that need? If you really want to be free in your heart, I have found it’s not enough just to take that initial step of pressing the delete button, opening the prison door, setting the captive free, releasing the offender.

I need to go beyond that and identify what need that person has. You know, so many times, wounded people wound others.

You’ve heard it said that the most dangerous animal in the forest is the one that’s been wounded. Sometimes, it can help us to understand, “You know, my parents didn’t know how to communicate love or didn’t communicate love or communicated disapproval or a critical spirit toward me all the time.”

But as you go back, you may realize they never received affirmation and blessing from their parents. I’m not saying that excuses them or it excuses us. We’re all responsible for our own lives, but that parent, that mate, that son or daughter, that neighbor, may be crying out for someone to help their woundedness.

The way it’s coming out is that they’re acting like a wounded animal—they’re being dangerous. So rather than reacting or retaliating, we release them; we forgive them, and we say, “Lord, how can I minister to this person’s needs?”

And I will be set free as I return good for evil. So we’re really talking about building bridges of love. If nothing else, praying for the person who has so wronged you. I can’t hate someone I’ve been praying for.

So pray until God releases your heart. Do good. Invest in them. Build bridges. Seek to, if possible, reconcile and restore the relationship.

Lisa: Nancy, I know sometimes the way we learn best is by seeing what we’re trying to be taught lived out in the life of somebody else. Can you think of an example where somebody really did exactly what you’re talking about here and how that worked out for the good of all the parties involved?

Nancy: You know many of our listeners are familiar with the name Elisabeth Elliot. She, for many years, had the radio program “Gateway to Joy.” She’s had such a wonderful ministry and influence in the lives of so many of our listeners through her writing and her speaking.

Most know the story of how, over 50 years ago, her husband, along with four other missionaries, were martyred by the Auca Indians, and how Elisabeth and those other widows chose to forgive and to extend grace.

Actually, Elisabeth and the sister of one of the other martyred missionaries went back into the tribe that had murdered these missionaries and served them and took the gospel to them.

It’s an incredible story of grace and forgiveness, but I learned a little bit more about that story on the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of the missionaries, just a couple of years ago, when I was interviewing Steve Saint, who is the son of one of the missionaries who was martyred.

Steve was only a five year old boy at the time, so he didn’t have a whole lot of memories, but as he grew up and became aware of the situation, I said to him, “Did you ever become bitter or angry yourself toward those who had done this thing to your dad?”

He said, “You know, I really never struggled with that because I saw in my mother and in the other four widows, including Elisabeth Elliot, how they responded.”

The fact that they never developed a root of bitterness, that they never questioned or challenged God’s sovereignty or wisdom in this whole matter, the fact that they were women of grace and forgiveness made such an impact on this young boy, and then as he became a young man, his life was protected from bitterness and anger because of what he had seen God do in giving grace to his mom and these other widows to forgive.

What Steve learned from the example of those women not only helped him in dealing with his dad’s death, but as he shared events and painful circumstances that have taken place in his life as an adult man, he has been protected from taking the pathway of bitterness because of the example he saw in his mom and in those women.

As I heard that story, I was so moved, and I thought, “You know, it goes both ways.” People who choose the pathway of bitterness—you don’t really choose, you just fall into that one pretty easily—people who go on that pathway probably don’t realize the seeds they are sowing in the lives of their children, their grandchildren.

They see how we respond to being wronged, and as we’re responding in bitterness, we’re planting those seeds in the lives of those around us in the next generation.

If you want to protect your children from growing up and becoming bitter, angry, hostile, dysfunctional men and women, you might consider how they see you responding to the hurt that has come into your life.

I’m thinking of a friend who had two early adolescent children, and her husband, who had been a dedicated, committed Christian dad and husband, made some compromises and ended up in an adulterous relationship.

It was a horrible situation. It wasn’t short-lived. It went on and on for a considerable period of time. I watched that mom who was in excruciating pain herself go to Christ and say, “Lord, you have forgiven me so much. How can I not forgive my husband, even before he is repentant? I’m turning him over to You.”

Now, she was honest with him. This doesn’t mean you roll over and play dead, and say, “Go ahead and have your affair. Bring your girlfriend in the house.” There were things she had to say that were very honest, that were straightforward; they needed to bring in a process of church discipline.

There are means that God has given to confront the situation, but she refused to let that root of bitterness grow up in her heart, and I watched God protect her children and have seen her children called into full-time Christian service in the midst of this whole horrible process.

I’ve seen her children grow in grace, and those kids will tell you, “It’s because of the way we saw Mom deal with this situation.” There’s so much power in this whole thing of forgiveness.

Lisa: Nancy, I’m feeling a kindred spirit with the disciples when they said to Jesus, “This teaching is too hard.” Do I have it in me? Is it possible for me to do what you’re saying? Is it in me?

Nancy: You know what, if you’re not a child of God, and you’ve never experienced God’s forgiveness for your sin, then you really don’t have the wherewithal to extend forgiveness and grace to others.

But if you are a child of God, if you have been a recipient of God’s grace and forgiveness, then the very grace God has poured into you is the grace that will flow out from you to others.

No, we don’t have it in us. But yes, God has it in Him, and He is in us. Christ is in us. His grace, His mercy is in us. He doesn’t ask us to do this on our own. We don’t have the resources to forgive, but God does.

So we have to say, “Lord Jesus, I can’t do this, but You can. You live in me. Would You forgive through me? Would You pour Your grace into my life. As You have forgiven me, would You allow me to have the grace to forgive this other person.”

It is not natural. It is supernatural, but we have a supernatural Christ who lives in us.

Leslie: You can’t forgive without the Spirit of God working in you. Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray.

She’s been talking with her friend, Lisa Barry, about the book Choosing Forgiveness. This book will walk you through the forgiveness process and help sooth the raw emotions that flare up when you think about that situation that’s so hard to forgive.

For more information on this book, visit We didn’t have time to air the complete conversation between Lisa Barry and Nancy today. When you order this week’s programs on CD, you’ll get the entire interview.

You can order this week’s forgiveness material at, or you might find it beneficial to order the entire Seeking Him series on CD or MP3 CD. Find out what happens to a person when they experience revival.

You’ll grow in humility, honesty, and repentance. Be seeking Him with Nancy. To order the Seeking Him series by phone, call toll free 1-800-569-5959 or visit our website.

During these twelve weeks, you have a unique opportunity to pray for revival. We’ll have a conference call among Christian leaders praying for revival. You can pray along when you listen live via the Internet.

In some cities, you can also listen by radio. For more details, visit This week we explored the link between revival and forgiveness. Next week, find out how revival affects sexual purity.

Now, let’s pray with Nancy that we’ll have forgiving hearts.

Nancy: O Lord, I cry out to You right now on behalf of those who are listening who have huge issues, huge hurts, huge disappointments, huge pain, and some who’ve lived in bondage to that and the bitterness and the unforgiveness for many years.

Lord, I just think it’s no accident that You’ve had them listening to this program today and that You have hope for them. You have a way out. There’s a journey to freedom that You want them to experience.

Lord, would You extend into those lives the helping, healing hand of Jesus. Remind us of how much we’ve been forgiven. Remind us of how undeserving we are of Your grace and forgiveness.

Lord, would You give the courage to that trembling, faltering heart to just let it go, to say, “Lord, I forgive. I forgive.” Forgive me for my bitterness. Forgive me for my unforgiveness, and then would You supernaturally give me Your grace and mercy to extend to those who have sinned against me?

Father, how I thank You for the incredible grace that You have shown to me. Thank You for Calvary. Thank You for forgiveness, and may we, as Your children, be channels of forgiveness and grace into the lives of others.

May the gospel be seen to be real and to be lived out in the way that we forgive others. I pray in Jesus’ name and for His sake, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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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.