Here's the first chapter of Unshackled and Free: True Stories of Forgiveness.

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Introduction and Chapter 1
There was once a newspaper that reported the top phrases people love to hear. Number one was “I love you”, number two was “dinner is served” and number three was “I forgive you.”

Forgiveness. Is. Powerful.

I am passionate about sharing on this topic of forgiveness. Why? Well, just about every major turning point in my life spiritually has started with forgiveness. It’s been a powerful catalyst in my life for spiritual growth and healing from wounds of the past.

What Makes Forgiveness So Powerful?

Have you ever been forgiven a debt that you owed to someone else? It feels good to not have to pay that money back, doesn’t it? Now, imagine that someone came to you today and said that mortgage, school loans and/or credit card debt has been forgiven. It has been erased and you no longer have to pay those bills. Would you be happy? You bet! Personally, I would be throwing a big party if my mortgage was paid off today.

And so we see that forgiveness is powerful.

The Weight of Unforgiveness

I heard an illustration once about unforgiveness that I will never forget. Imagine that unforgiveness is like carrying a dead corpse around on your back, “piggy back”. You carry that weight around everywhere you go.

Do you know what would happen to you physically from carrying a dead person around on your back? It’s pretty gross, actually. As the dead corpse continues to rot and decay, it would eventually cause your healthy tissue to rot and decay as well. Over time, it would literally begin to “eat away” at you.

And that’s the picture of unforgiveness. Over time, unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment will begin to eat away at us emotionally and spiritually.

And the longer you carry it, the heavier it becomes. Just like carrying a backpack around with you on a long hike that gets heavier with each mile you walk, unforgiveness becomes a heavy weight emotionally and spiritually with each passing day.

What Does the Bible Say About Unforgiveness?

I don’t want to assume that you know what the Bible says about unforgiveness, so let’s look at a couple verses.
Matthew 6:14-15 says “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Mark 11:25-26 (AMP) says “If you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go) in order that your Father who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your failings and shortcomings.”

I like the way the Amplified version puts it. Let it drop (leave it, let it go). I picture myself letting go of the weight of unforgiveness I’ve been carrying around for all these years. Letting it drop into the hands of Jesus.

The Forgiveness Cross

An illustration that has helped me to walk through the process of forgiveness in my life is the forgiveness cross. It represents three different parts of forgiveness as you can see below.

1. Forgiving Others
2. Asking God for Forgiveness
3. Forgiving Yourself

Therefore, this book is broken down into three different sections where real people share their true stories of forgiveness in their lives as it relates to forgiving others, asking God for forgiveness and forgiving yourself.

We pray that their stories offer you hope in your current circumstances. We’ve also provided questions for reflection after each section so that you can apply what you’re reading to your own life for deeper healing and freedom in Christ.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
~Galatians 5:1

Freedom in Christ
Submitted by Gwen Ebner

It seems that forgiveness is, and has become, a necessary habit in my life.
~Forgiving my father for being emotionally unavailable to me...

~Forgiving my mother for being so controlling…

~Forgiving my grieving grandmother for shutting me out, favoring my older sister, and rejecting me now that Grandpa was gone...

~Forgiving the boyfriend who rejected and betrayed me and hurt me so deep…

~Forgiving the policeman who took my father-in-law to jail (thinking he was drunk when he had had a stroke) and left him alone all night in a cell to continue having strokes and then consequently die…

~Forgiving the man who my mother-in-law remarried who strangled her to death, thinking in his confused mind he was helping her…

~Forgiving the college girl who was driving and had an accident with a truck that took the life of my eighteen year old niece…

~Forgiving the woman in the van who struck my fourteen year old nephew on a bike, taking his life…

~Forgiving the friend who betrayed me with my husband…

~Forgiving the man who brutally beat that husband who now has to live with permanent brain damage all of his life…

On and on it goes: forgiving the person who stole my car, the person who stole my purse, the relative that cheated me out of money, the hurtful remarks from Christian friends, and the drunk that hit me sitting still at a stop sign which resulted in a lifetime of neck and shoulder pain. Forgiving… forgiving… forgiving… and probably more forgiving still to come!

But I Am Free Because I Have Been Able to Forgive

Thankfully I had a great model that showed me how and why to forgive; it was Jesus. He forgave when he was rejected, misunderstood, betrayed, brutally beaten, unjustly treated, killed, and dying in pain. And the best part is that he forgave those outrageous acts so that I could live free in this life – free from bitterness, sin, fear, and hopelessness.

What a blessing to be able to forgive! It has set me free to experience the joy of living!

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
~James 1:2-4, MSG

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