Tag Archives: L-A cancer journey

Growing in God through forgiveness

“Commune with Me” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During my last article, we journeyed through a difficult field – of how to navigate during a season of silence – whether it’s the silence of God, or what seems to be shut doors in the hallway of whatever season we’re journeying through in our lives.  Yet we discovered that after we look past those closed doors, there is companionship in the silence. God woos our hearts, with just being there, even if he seems silent.  It’s a season of growing trust in our hearts. Sometimes we too need to join that silence and just … rest.

Rest is something that also comes to our hearts when we forgive those who have wronged us.  Near the centre of the Lord’s Prayer is the phrase, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”   This is essential, since unforgiveness raises up barriers against God’s love.  It makes us bitter, broken people.  Let’s learn about forgiveness.

One of the teachers at our Harvest Missions School was RT Kendall.  He spoke on two topics – not grieving the Holy Spirit, and on total forgiveness.  He actually connected the two together.  Unforgiveness grieves the Holy Spirit in such a way that we lose the intimacy of his presence.  Our hearts become cold.  He gave the example of Joseph from the book of Genesis – from when he shared his dreams in chapter 37, was sold into Egyptian slavery, had troubles, and eventually rose in favour.  Through all those years, Joseph could have easily become bitter, especially when he was in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  However, he remained with a soft heart, full of forgiveness, with his eyes fixed on the Lord.  And he was given insight that brought him favour – so much that he was released from prison, into Pharoah’s palace as second in command in the land. In Genesis 45, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, who had come for help and food.  He asks them no longer to feel guilty, for he had been given insight that God used their bad action of selling him into slavery with eventual good results. God turned the slavery and prison time into favour in the highest court.  Genesis 45:5-7 says, “ Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of youFor two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping.But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

Because Joseph had forgiven his brothers, he was given the ultimate re-frame of what God’s plans were. When we forgive, God can work through us so much better, since he can fill us with pure love that won’t be contaminated by our bitterness.  Forgiveness itself is a witness to those who don’t know God. Who can forgive like Jesus?  That’s what he does. He made it possible for us to forgive completely, since he takes our burdens from our hands and hearts.

RT Kendall also shared at our Harvest School that because Joseph forgave, he was able to grow in all the difficulties he faced.  Since he resisted sexual temptation with Potiphar’s wife, he was eventually made Prime Minister of Egypt. It was a perfect set up for his upcoming family reunion. Joseph knew the moment would come because of his dreams, although he really should not have shared his dream with his brothers. It was too early to share and he was misunderstood.  However, when the brothers come to Egypt for help, he could have said “gotcha!” to his brothers, but he didn’t.  He was a changed Joseph.  Instead, he weeps for them.  Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.

RT shared that the GREATER you have suffered, the greater the anointing you will have when God uses your story for others. Don’t feel sorry for yourself and be bitter. God will use it. It could take as long as it did for Joseph.  If you have forgiven, God will give you the grace to persevere.  Forgiveness can be a process.  How do you know you have forgiven the people who have hurt you?  Total forgiveness is an act of the will.  Don’t wait for God to make you feel total forgiveness.   You choose forgiveness, again and again.  And with each choice, YOU are made stronger. Forget about harbouring unforgiveness. It doesn’t punish those who have hurt you at ALL.  What it does is to give that person free rent in your head.  Forgiveness gives YOU peace of mind.

Your forgiveness also allows God to touch the perpetrator’s heart.  I remember when I took a Father Heart of God course for a week in 1992.  It was life transforming. One truth that impacted me was that when Stephen, the first martyr, was being stoned, he asked God to forgive those who were causing him harm.  He essentially forgave those who were stoning him, as well as Saul of Tarsus, who was holding the cloaks of those who were being violent.  Acts 7:59-60 says, “ While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

My seminar teacher Jack Winter shared that because Stephen had released Saul and the others in forgiveness, it allowed Jesus to touch Saul in that dramatic way while he contemplated persecuting other Christians in Damascus.  Stephen released these people into Jesus’ hands, so that they could be dealt with in the way that God wanted to do. Shortly afterwards, Saul encountered Jesus supernaturally while on the road to Damascus.  Forgiveness also brings much healing – whether for small offences or large. Anglican pastor Dale Lang forgave a school shooter who killed his son in 1999.  This was the Canadian version of the horrible Columbine school massacre, the first of many in North America.  He and his wife chose to forgive, despite their pain.  Dale goes into many schools to share his story of how forgiveness heals. This includes the decision to forgive early before the emotional damage becomes worse. This is also applicable to family arguments.  Rev. Lang shares, “Life is too short to stay angry long at the people we really care about. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger; it really does make a difference.” Dale also shared that if even one person had befriended the boy who killed his son, that boy would never have killed him.  He needed a positive message in his life. I see unforgiveness as negative, and forgiveness as positive.  [Dale Lang, Forgiveness 5, YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5dMNpHcMpE]  (Unfortunately, this video is no longer available).

There are also beautiful stories of forgiveness in the Alpha Course.  Nicky Gumbel shares that when we came to Jesus we were forgiven. That is justification. Our sins are forgiven; but then there’s also the slower process of “becoming LIKE Jesus.” That’s sanctification. Just like we keep on being forgiven, so we keep on forgiving.

Nicky shares, “for me, experiencing God’s forgiveness made all the difference. Before I was a Christian, if someone had offended me, I’d hold a grudge against that person. But holding a grudge is like allowing a person to live rent-free in your head. I used to hold onto unforgiveness, thinking I was doing the other person harm. But now I can see that unforgiveness did far more harm to me than it did to the other person. As someone said, “not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and thinking the other person is going to die.” Once you’ve experienced God’s forgiveness – God forgives YOU, you have to forgive YOURSELF.  And that’s what I find the hardest.  But we have to do it, because CS Lewis points out, “not forgiving ourselves, is like setting ourselves as a higher tribunal than God.”  If God forgives, you must forgive yourself.  And we forgive others, because we’ve been forgiven so much. Forgiveness is a choice, but it’s not an option. And it’s not easy.  CS Lewis said, “everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, and then, it’s really hard.”

But it really is true that the first to apologize is the bravest, the first to forgive is the strongest, and the first to forget is the happiest.  One of Nicky’s great heroes is Corrie Ten Boom; she was a Dutch Christian who hid Jews during World War 2.  She was caught. Corrie, her sister and her father went to Ravensbrook Concentration Camp. Her father and her sister Betsey died there. She’s an amazing woman, and after the war, she went and spoke to others about forgiveness. She was speaking in a church in Germany one time, and at the end of her talk, she recognized the man coming up to her.  She saw that he was one of the most cruel guards from Ravensbrook concentration camp. She pictured him as he was then. And as he came up to her, he said, “I was a guard at Ravensbrook.  He didn’t recognize her, but she knew, she recognized him. She could see him – she remembered walking naked past him.  She said she felt so cold and so angry. He said, “I’ve become a Christian now. I know I did some very cruel things, but I’ve received God’s forgiveness for the cruelty I’ve done.  And I ask God’s grace for the opportunity to ask one of my victims for forgiveness.

Corrie realized she was being asked if she would forgive him.  She found this very difficult and she initially could not.  She could only remember the suffering of her dying sister through his cruelty.  Because he was evil, Corrie could only hate him.  But then she prayed, “Thank you Jesus, thank you that you have brought into my heart  God’s love through the Holy Spirit. And thank you, Father, that your love is stronger than my hatred and unforgiveness.  That same moment, I was free, and I could say, “Brother, give me your hand, and I shook hands with him.  It was as if I felt God’s love stream through my arms. Your soul is never touched so much as when you experience the depth of God’s love through forgiving your enemies.  Can you forgive?  No. I can’t either. But He can.” [Corrie Ten Boom, as quoted in Alpha Course video, “Why did Jesus Die?”]

This is total, unlimited forgiveness. This same phenomenon can transform a marriage, family life, friendships and more.   Just watch the movie “The War Room.”  The wife went through a process of forgiveness and learning to actively pray for her family.  The result was transformation.

I’ve also experienced forgiveness in my own life. I came to faith at a Dennis Bennett seminar in 1988. He and his wife Rita were strong inner healing teachers, and I learned early about forgiveness through their teaching and books.  I forgave my childhood bullies who teased me, mocked me, beat me up and told me lies about myself.  I forgave my parents for their mistakes and for others who had hurt me intentionally or unintentionally.  And later I forgave the evil man who molested me as a child. I had tried to block my memory of those times so I could cope, but my real healing came after I was able to forgive and then process what happened.  Then I was able to feel again.  That could only have happened through forgiveness.  It gave me a key to my own heart.

I went through a further experience of forgiveness two or three months before my mother died.  She basically died of a condition that made her weaker and weaker, until finally in January 2020, she died.  I could not come to her because I was in the middle of weekly chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.  But before then, I was told by a friend who ministers in inner healing.  She told me that there was some kind of barrier between my mother and myself.  I couldn’t see it, but I was willing to ask the Holy Spirit to help me discover any sin, and to repent of it.  It turned out that I still saw nothing until I was nudged to write a simple email to my mom, asking for her forgiveness.  Tony was using my computer, so I was going to delay, but I then had an urgent nudge to email her on my iPad instead.  As I wrote that I wanted to honour her for all the good things she had done for me, but I also wanted to repent of the sin of dishonouring her.  That’s the word that came to me – dishonour.  We are meant to honour our parents no matter what. So I told her that in my younger years I had judged her for her mistakes, and that was wrong.  She was only trying to do the best she could. I sent off this email, asking for her forgiveness.  She replied very simply, “I forgive you, will you forgive me?”  I was so touched by her gentle response, and from then on, we had no barriers between us; just love.   The disdain that had grown in my heart towards my mother was basically a build-up of daily mistakes and offences.

Please learn from my lesson, and don’t let these bother you for more time than it should.  Don’t let our enemy the devil steal your joy and your peace.  On the day before Mom died, I sent my sister a message on WhatsApp and asked her to relay it verbatim to Mom as a goodbye.  In the message, I thanked Mom for all she had encouraged in me:  my art, writing, missions, travel and more.  I also encouraged her to trust Jesus, since he cares so very much for her.  While my sister is not a believer, she was faithful to read my message verbatim, and she had the opportunity of being with mom when she died.  I hope that she realizes that this was a gift, and that her own grieving process will be lighter because of seeing Mom at the end.  She was still harbouring unforgiveness, and I trust that she is also working through letting that go.  Forgiveness and choosing not to take offence in the first place prevents so much pain. RT Kendall shared with our Harvest School seven principles of forgiveness.

Principle 1 is:  You don’t tell anyone else about what the perpetrator did to you.  Joseph sent away his co-workers before he talked to his family.  Joseph knew that if the Egyptians knew what his brothers did to him, they would be hated.  There are two exceptions to sharing about what someone has done to you.  We need to tell God first, then tell one person for therapeutic reasons. Psalm 142:2 says,  “I pour out before him my complaint;  before him I tell my trouble.”  Telling a counsellor is good, because they are bound not to tell anyone.  The other exception is if the offence is a crime; reporting it to the legal authorities is necessary, to protect others.

RT shared with us that some people turn their sharing into a form of revenge and venting. That’s not forgiveness. He says, “What’s the real reason to tell of the sin against you?  Revenge?  Perhaps anger?  Is it so they’re not liked? That can violate God forgiving you.  Remember the Lord’s prayer and that he has forgiven you.

Principle 2 is not to let them be afraid of you. Joseph’s brothers were afraid, until he calmed them down.  They felt guilty. They were guilty, but they were also forgiven. Joseph just wanted to love them. Otherwise they were nervous.  Like forgiveness, 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that LOVE keeps no record of wrongs. We often keep records to show that we have paid.  Forgiveness pays the offence and throws away the receipt.

RT also reminded us about the importance of forgiveness in everyday life. “Marriages can be healed if both partners stop pointing the finger at each other.”  I believe that if we even stop saying things like ‘you always and you never’ in our speech to each other that it would also not inflame disagreements into hurtful arguments.

Principle 3 is that we want them to forgive themselves. Nine out of ten people we forgive don’t actually know they did wrong.  Does it really help at that time to share what they did to you? It may be part of their own brokenness. Pray and ask God. Also forgive them when they are NOT sorry.  For example, Jesus forgave when he was dying on the cross.  He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Principle 4 is to let them “save face.” This protects their ego.  Joseph says to his brothers – “It was God who sent me first [to Egypt for their survival].”  This shows the big picture, and brings God into the picture.

Principle 5 is to protect them from their darkest secret.  Joseph didn’t want to reveal to his father what his brothers did to him. It would have broken his dad’s heart. He did this for his family’s sake.  This is helpful for sins that would hurt the whole family. There are many cases of families who have been ripped apart by dark sins – including incest, either real or false memories. Does this mean that you would maximize the pain or ignore the pain caused by not sharing widely?  No, by no means!  But it does mean that there needs to be discretion.

Principle 6 reminds us that total forgiveness is a life-long lifestyle. Joseph likely had to forgive them over and over as a process.  It was 17 years from when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, to when they met him again.  Don’t just forgive them once. You may get mad and get bitter again.  The anointing and healing kicks in best when you keep forgiving the perpetrator.

Finally with principle 7, you bless them. When you do this, really mean it.  Pray for them.  After you have this lifestyle of forgiveness, God opens doors of favour for you.  I learned to do this when I was hurt by family members, Christian leaders and friends, whether or not they meant it.  Sometimes we just make mistakes and hurt each other without even realizing it.   When I forgave my dad of his endless teasing, I was set free in my heart.  He was just an insecure man who also needed love.  Since I love and encourage him whenever we speak, he lights up and speaks words of love back.  He no longer teases me.  And the Christian leaders who hurt me never realized that they did.  I even spoke to one and while he apologized, he was amazed that he had actually hurt me.

Finally, I learned something new about forgiveness when I took a debriefing course with LeRucher Ministries in June 2018.  When we forgive, we give God the right to avenge.  He has the justice of setting things right.  If we’ve said we’ve forgiven but we still want harm to come to the offenders, then we haven’t fully forgiven.  But we can do this today.

Lord Jesus, I offer up my friends, and all who are reading this article.  We offer up those who have hurt us and we again forgive.  We give you the right to justice for the offences against us. We ask for you to transform our lives and theirs.  May you bring your deep healing and love. And may we continue to grow in you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the listen drop-down menu).  Click here (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #58!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:

For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I just finished 16 radiotherapy sessions in Cape Town.  My oncologist is pleased with the results of all the treatments, and I only have three more expensive Herceptin injections left.  The end of the cancer journey is in sight – and it was all done in South Africa.  I’m also in MLD and compression therapy for lymphedema, which is swelling of the lymphatic system.  While we explored that that this condition is a result of the mastectomy surgery, I actually had primary lymphedema in my legs since 2006.  I’m thankful that it was discovered and is being treated by controlling it.  Click here for the medical campaign page for info:

https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html

We are still crowdfunding to cover the cancer treatments (we will be almost $2,000 Cdn in debt this week).  If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our paypal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

L-A’s Colouring BookIf you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of Laurie-Ann’s colouring books, they are available at the OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near PicknPay), in Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson), and through Takealot.com through this link:

https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Bless you and thank you for your support!

Laurie-Ann