Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Tears Inside a Prison

“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it: You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51: 16-17 NASB

It is often said that to forgive one's self is harder than it is to accept God’s forgiveness. But that is not the whole story. We never forget anything without organic damage and living memories can just turn into bad memories — as many prisoners have found.

Some experiences are so traumatizing that for the rest of our lives we have a broken heart every time we remember them, but by God’s grace, we can live with them.

One day, when I was still a prison minister, a Russian man stood up after accepting Jesus as his Savior. As tears streamed down his face he sobbed, “I can’t forget what I’ve done to so many people.” Pictures of terrible things he had violently done to many flooded his mind. Confessing his sins to Jesus had opened a floodgate of pain and pictures of blood.

I helped him the best I could by urging him to put the pain and pictures in the hands of the Lord who died a terrible death on the Cross for all his sins. This calmed him down a bit and his sobbing lessened, but I could tell there was still an ocean of pain straining to be set free.

I then remembered something I had learned during my career as a psychologist. Pain often must be released the way we deal with an onion, by unpeeling layer by layer. Cutting abruptly through an onion will often overcome us by what is released.

I still pray for that prisoner that he has learned to not bury those memories when they come up but admit them and place them each time in his Lord’s loving and forgiving hands while living a Psalm 51 life.

Claim the answer to living with painful memories, don’t bury them or they will continue living inside you. A broken and contrite heart that has an honest and humble spirit brings pleasure to God and strength to a servant; this is part of walking in The Spirit and finding contentment.

Dear Father, please help us to understand that no matter our experiences, the answer to living with painful memories is the same as for prisoners: no matter the crime, one layer at a time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright © 2018 Bob Segress, Ph.D., used with permission.

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