MEMO: Getting Past Your Past

Have you ever felt really stuck? I don’t mean you’re simply at a loss for words when writing a business proposal or a school assignment. I mean something big has its claws in your brain and you feel like you just can’t move. No matter how hard you try you can’t get rid of the baggage that is weighing you down and holding you back.

That “something big” could be any number of things. It might be:

  • a troubled or abusive childhood
  • domestic violence
  • a history of mental illness
  • an addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography, or gambling
  • a series of failed relationships
  • sexual indiscretions
  • a divorce
  • a business failure
  • an abortion
  • the death of a loved one

As Patrick Dempsey says to Reece Witherspoon in the movie Sweet Home Alabama, “So you have a past. Who doesn’t?”

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How to Find the Freedom of Forgiveness

How to Find the Freedom of Forgiveness

You’ve been wronged. Badly. Someone stole a lot of money from you. Your spouse cheated on you. Someone told horrible lies about you. You were physically, sexually, or emotionally abused. You were purposefully passed over in a business deal. A loved one was killed.

There comes a time after every such horrible wrong where you must make a decision. And it’s yours alone to make. You have only two choices. Do you:

  • Remain hurt and miserable, or
  • Do the hard work of forgiveness.

Remember, it’s your choice. Before you quit reading, let me acknowledge the depths of your pain. I may not know exactly where you hurt: pain is a very private thing. But I can give you the respect you deserve and need. I only ask that you think about what I have to say.

Forgiveness sets you free. It does much more for the one doing the forgiving than the one needing to be forgiven.

Forgiveness is also one of the hardest things for most people to do. There’s a sweet misery in nursing your wounds. Having been hurt is a wonderful excuse for all kinds of bad behavior.

Forgiveness is a process much more than a one-time event. It’s been misunderstood and made light of far too much. Here’s what forgiveness is, what it is not, and how to do it.

Forgiveness is:

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Why Patients Care About My Faith

Praying HandsIn just the past couple weeks I have been almost surprised by how many patients of mine have asked to talk about matters of faith. As a doctor I am privileged to touch people’s lives at very vulnerable times, and it’s at those times where faith makes a significant difference.

Here are a few vignettes:

  • A woman facing challenging hormonal problems says, “I looked at your online profile, and I’m glad you’re a minister also. I want to be able to talk about those things too.”
  • A couple facing long-term infertility wrestling with whether God would look kindly on their use of fertility treatment, or whether they should accept childlessness as God’s will for them.
  • A patient needing an urgent C-section says, “We prayed that the doctor who would deliver our baby would be a believer too. You are an answer to prayer.”
  • A woman who is newly pregnant, feeling guilty about her previous abortion and wondering whether God would punish her by not allowing this pregnancy to continue.

What is it these patients are looking for from me? Why do they bring up spiritual matters? What do they need?

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What God Will NOT Do For You

Ambulance at HospitalThere are a few things God will not do for you.

That sounds terrible! But it’s true.

Let me first assure you that I am a believer. I have experienced God doing some pretty awesome things for me and around me. I believe in miracles. I pray for them, and I know God hears and answers prayer.

But we human beings sometimes presume on God’s grace and think that will excuse our bad behavior. Just recently two different friends have been in the hospital for heart or blood pressure problems almost certainly caused by a very unhealthy lifestyle. Another wonders why God does not bring her a godly husband, while still playing around sexually with a drug addict. A preacher friend grieves over his daughter running away from home, but was never there when she needed him.

Al (my husband) has told many times how he would leave the doctor’s office after getting a chest X-ray, and celebrate the “no news is good news” result with another cigarette. (Thankfully he quit smoking some years ago now.)

Thankfully God does not treat us as we deserve. He offers us grace. But He does not always reverse the natural consequences of our behavior.

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Doctor, Doctor: Bitterness and Unforgiveness

Doctor, Doctor: Bitterness and Unforgiveness

Bitterness and unforgiveness doesn’t pay. Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

OK, pretty graphic. And I can’t take credit for coming up with that analogy. But that’s exactly what bitterness and unforgiveness does. It’s terribly toxic physically, not to mention emotionally and spiritually.

It does no good to say, “It’s OK. It doesn’t matter.” It does matter, and that’s the very reason forgiveness is so important – and so difficult.

Some fascinating research has found some very physical effects of unforgiveness. (And by the way, this research has been done by psychologists and medical doctors at major universities.) Here’s a sample:

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