How To Forgive - Anna Szabo and Michel Szabo

Today we are talking about a very serious topic: “How To Forgive And What God Says About Forgiveness.” To post your comment, questions, and share your story of forgiveness, go to annaszabo.com/forgive

Why is this topic so serious? 

Matthew 6:14-15 says: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive you your sins.”

Wow… When I heart this, I’m asking myself: “Have I forgiven everyone?” Because I know for sure that I am not saint and I most definitely need my Father’s forgiveness of my sins. And sometimes forgiveness is hard for me. What about you?

How’s your heart? You might be experiencing some heaviness in your heart right now, or pain, or maybe your heart is aching and bleeding invisibly from complete brokenness.

I know what it feels like to have a broken, bleeding, shattered in microscopic pieces heart that causes pain, grief, sadness, anger, but most importantly can really paralyze us with resentment and bitterness from unforgiveness. 

How do I know? 

I shared my story with you at annaszabo.com/about but here’s a short version of what caused my broken heart to bleed and ache.

I got married last year, on May 15th 2016, and four months later my husband filed for a divorce saying that he is not interested in me our marriage anymore and that all he wants is to be an IronMan and compete in Kona. 

My heart was shatter is bleeding pieces on a sunny day in downtown Decatur, GA where he called his bicycle “MY OTHER WIFE I CHEAT ON YOU WITH.”

When in my divorce jury trial a few weeks ago his attorney asked me if Michel was cheating on me, I was surprised how it was even a question. How was it not apparent?

Michel spent 50-60 hours a week with his bicycle, regularly left me with no money in our checking account unable to buy food, and even refused to have sex with me saying he wanted to save himself for his IronMan training.

I was cheated on sexually, relationally, financially, and in every imaginable way. But most importantly, I felt worthless having been traded in for a bicycle. I was depressed and suicidal.

That’s how I can relate to your heartache. 

You might have endured infidelity.

Or maybe you need to forgive someone who abused you. 

Or perhaps you’ve been abandoned by your father as a child.

Or maybe the one needing your forgiveness is your uncle who sexually insulted you.

Or maybe you were let go from a job unexpectedly and you feel resentment from unfairness of the situation.

Whatever it is that requires your forgiveness, please know I can relate. 

You’re in right place. I understand your pain. I understand how much it hurts that someone treated you so wrong or took advantage of you.

I understand how much it hurts to be rejected, unwanted, and feel worthless, devalued, and like you don’t belong anywhere on earth.

My mother went to abort me. When I was born anyway, she hated me and told me that, until 9 years ago I left Russia for good.

My father didn’t want me. 

I was raped. 

I experienced domestic violence in my first marriage and was homeless in a foreign country without speaking any English in 2009. I lived in a shelter for victims of Domestic Violence called International Women’s House here in GA.

I know how much pain your heart is carrying from being broken. 

I am so sorry you had to go through that adversity.

I’ve discovered on my journey of pain from brokenheartedness that there are four aspects of forgiveness we must consider and I will post these at annaszabo.com/forgive

The Four Aspects Of Forgiveness:

  1. What we feel
  2. What we think
  3. What we do
  4. What God says

What We Feel About Forgiveness And Forgiving

If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while and read my story at annaszabo.com/about, you know that I have been taken advantage of and had to do some serious  forgiveness work and I still have to do it. 

I was living my life to the fullest when Michel who was a graduate of Metro Atlanta Seminary and worked at North Point Church started pursuing me. Very quickly he proposed to me and I said yes. Two weeks later I was already paying for his house remodeling, which continued through May 2016. We got married on 5/14/2016 and he abandoned the marriage right away, called his bicycle ‘My Other Wife I Cheat On You With“ and filed for a divorce 4 months later. 

It was a very clever deception and I shared 2 podcasts ago the methodology behind this manipulation. 

That house was worth $146K according to the insurance papers when we were replacing the roof last February. With the new floors, ceilings, walls, vanities, sinks, showers, bathtubs, light fixtures, door knobs, door stoppers, custom shelving systems everywhere – today it’s worth $230K.

We went through 2 divorces, actually, as Michel asked to reconcile last November and I said yes. Five weeks later he filed for a divorce again. 

So, when we talk about forgiveness in terms of a huge betrayal, cheating, and mental cruelty, I get your pain. I totally get it.  

I did not FEEL like I wanted or was able to forgive. 

Feeling victimized though, I was so depressed and I knew that for as long as I was not forgiving, Michel had power over me, so I decided to want to forgive. I installed as my iPhone lock screen our wedding picture where we were praying head-to-head, while doing a communion. I will post the picture at annaszabo.com/forgive for you.

Every time I picked up my phone, I saw the picture and I would intentionally say out loud: “I love you, Michel, and I forgive you”

For months, as he dragged me through these divorces and did all kinds of nonsense to me, I was practicing forgiveness every minute of every day. I remember everyone was asking me about that picture and when I would share why I still had it, people would look puzzled. 

Many people were trying to tell me he was not worth the effort and I needed to move on. Girl, you don’t move on from your own unforgiveness. Go listen to my podcast and hear how unprocessed feelings and emotions destroy you. That episode is called “Tell Me How You Really Feel”

So, I keep the picture and my habit until the end of our jury trial a few weeks ago. 

But we are talking about what we feel about forgiving and sometimes even though you decide to forgive, what you feel is the opposite.

After practicing all that and praying for MIchel day and night, I cried out to God one day because of how much pain there was still in my heart.

Here’s a poem I wrote about my pain and depression asking for healing.

The Truth

Dear God,

I am trying to hold it together

And persuade myself that I’m ok.

But the truth is I am not sure whether

Or not I can live with this pain another day.

“I accept this divorce and I forgive Michel” –

That’s what I say to myself daily when I wake up.

But the truth is I’m going around in a vicious cycle

With sadness and grief about this eternal breakup.

I’m in pain. I am sad. I am grieving and I am angry.

I’m condemning myself and Michel for our mistakes.

My emotions from grace and love to hopelessness vary.

And I can’t believe how much time and effort my healing takes. 

Please help me move on from here, Father.

Please lead my walk and protect my mind and heart.

I don’t know if my emotional ups and downs you bother,

But I am bothered by them and need my “moving on” to start.

God, I trust in your goodness and your perfect plan for me.

I trust that you will deliver me from this pain.

Humble, kind, and God-glorifying I want to be.

Please make my life productive and joyful once again. 

This poem was never ever shared with anyone. It’s very vulnerable and personal to my soul. It revealed to even me how much I wanted to forgive but also how so very hard I was even after months of practicing forgiveness. This is a process. We must try UNTIL. Like when babies learn to walk, they try until. I believe forgiveness is that kind of skill.

Right now, pause and honestly answer this question: 

>> How do you FEEL about forgiving your offender?

Now, when we discovered our feelings about forgiveness, next, let’s talk about our thoughts on the topic. 

What We Think About Forgiveness And Forgiving

When we experienced something tragic, painful, we were taken advantage of in a terrible way, we tend to justify our unforgiveness.

I did that. And I asked myself: why? Why are you taking this poison?

And for a long time, I couldn’t pinpoint the problem. I couldn’t figure out why even though I wanted to forgive Michel, I couldn’t. And then I had a breakthrough. I realized that me holding on to my unforgiveness was like confirmation of what really happened to me. I realized that deep down I felt as ig forgiving Michel would make it as if the abuse never happened to me. And I wept. That’s how relieving this breakthrough was for me and my sanity. 

Forgiving Michel did not mean at all being around Michel, talking to him even again, or anything other than forgiving Michel I would let go of the debt of offence he owed me.

Why would I do so? Because unforgiveness is poison from which the only person dying is us. I wrote this poem about forgiveness.

“Forgiveness”

Forgiveness is a lifelong journey.
It’s a decision to set people free
From the debt of offense they owe you,
Issuing them an intentional debt-free decree.

The beneficiary of that decree though is not them –
It’s your heart that experiences liberation
From anger and bitterness as you no longer condemn,
So issue people the forgiveness decree with no hesitation.

Forgive people often or daily or even hourly.
Decide to quit taking the resentment poisons.
Commit to letting go of grudges sincerely
And move light-heartedly toward your new horizons.

So, once I figured out why I was holding on to unforgiveness justifying my own bitterness and resentment, instantly I wanted to forgive to set myself free from this prison I was in, I wanted to be joyful and at peace.

So, what actions did I have to take to make it happen? Let me share.

What We Do About Forgiveness And Forgiving

When I decided to forgive and I was feeling that desire and thinking about letting go for the sake of my own mental health, I was away from Michel living in my new home, preparing for our jury trial. 

I decided to pray for him. I have journals full of genuine prayers for my offender and I will share this one with you. I wrote this prayer for Michel’s Birthday and I prayed it non-stop. Today, I have it framed as a part of my prayer hallway and these things I prayed about are what I want for Michel. It was hard to get to that place, but now I’m at peace.  

“My Husband’s Birthday Gifts”

Dear God,

My husband’s Birthday is today.

I thank you for his life.

I ask for gifts with no delay –

Specifically, these five.

Love that’s eternal and unconditional,

Joy from knowing your Word of Truth,

Peace that’s beyond understanding traditional,

Patience that helps with any distress or ruth.

Kindness is next in line for asking:

Kindness that he can receive and give.

Giving kindness from gratitude and not tasking.

Receiving kindness humbly and wanting in it to believe.

Four other gifts I’m also requesting:

Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

Thank you, God, for generously investing

Into my husband’s Birthday gifts, his eternity, and his soul.

Right now, pause and honestly answer this question: 

>> Can you pray for your offender in order to facilitate forgiveness in your heart?

To post your comment, questions, and share your story of forgiveness, go to annaszabo.com/forgive Now, let’s see what God says on the topic. 

What The Bible Says About Forgiveness 

Mark 11:25 

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Matthew 6:15 

But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Luke 6:37

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven

So, as we can see, the Bible is very clear on the topic of forgiveness. The message is short and simple: if you want your Heavenly Father to forgive you, you must forgive people who offended you.

It was a tough one for me. A really tough one. But I believe that the Bible is God-breathed word. And here’s what helped me. 

For Christmas, at Perimeter Church here in Atlanta, where I am a member, our pastor Randy Pope shared the story of Barabbas who was actually supposed to be crucified, waiting his turn, when people condemned Jesus… They literally freed Barabbas who was like: what’s going on here? And Randy Pope asked us to imagine how Barabbas felt.

If you can’t imagine how Barabbas felt, you might really benefit from listening to my podcast called “Tell Me How You Really Feel” a few weeks ago. But I was able to imagine how Barabbas felt because I know I’m a barabbas myself. Jesus took his place and my place. Barabbas was supposed to be condemned and di for his sins but Jesus took that burden upon himself instead and gave Barabbas a new life. 

And so, knowing that Jesus bled and died for me to pay for my sin, how can I not forgive Michel? And I wrote in my journal what became the biggest help for me on my journey of healing:

I choose to view Michel as holy righteous, and redeemed because he is my brother in Christ…

What about you? Do you want to be forgiven by your Heavenly Father?

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