By Jackie Morfesis
Deliverance. Deliverance is mentioned 383 times in scripture. Interestingly, mercy is mentioned near 300 times in scripture. I see them as absolutely and inextricably connected.
We may be saved. We may be faithful in our devotion to the Lord. We may be doing our best to follow God’s laws. We may attend services and be a part of a Christian community. We may do outreach and serve God’s children. And we may have a developed prayer life. Yet it’s very possible we are still not delivered.
And by delivered, I mean in the scriptural sense. The adverse powers look for the chinks in our armor. They look for all the ways we are vulnerable and, like a vine that grows and attaches itself in the most unwanted of places, growing exponentially, will attach to us at our most broken sites. When we are emotionally, physically and spiritually attacked and exhausted, we are distracted from doing God’s work, and our energy is literally being sapped away like a tree that has been attacked and continually sends nourishment to its wounded parts.
Rest assured, we all have places that have been wounded. A memory. An experience. A grief we are still carrying for a loved one. A dream unpursued and a prayer we believe to be unanswered. And these weaknesses, these vulnerabilities, are exactly the openings where a stronghold can attach to our lives and deposit hopelessness, depression, physical and or emotional pain and despondency. Even worse, strongholds can bring us to the place of feeling that our very lives are no longer worthy or deserving of God’s grace.
We may be carrying not only years but decades of unresolved pain. And indeed, God works in mysterious ways. A man from my school days is now a pastor with his own church. We reconnected, and I began to watch his sermons on the Internet. Always one to ask for prayer, I reached out to him. As we spoke on the telephone and he prayed over me for physical healing, I admitted to him that I held unforgiveness in my heart from a past experience. I confessed the pain I was carrying.
And here was the turning point. He did not say to me, “Jackie, you have to forgive” — the words that so many well-meaning friends and even clergy have said to me through the years. Here is what he said: “Jackie, you can choose to forgive.” Choose was the operative word. Choose. It was up to me. It was up to me to make the conscious decision to forgive. I was ready. I was ready to choose to forgive. When I hung up the phone with my pastor friend, whom I now see as a brother in Christ, I prayed. And I forgave.
And here is what happened. God washed it away. Completely. He washed it away. He washed it away to the point where if I try to envision the past, a veil comes down and separates and protects me. It has been, simply, washed. Made white as snow, according to Isaiah 1:18: “‘Come now let us settle the matter,’ the Lord says. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’”
This was such a complete and profound experience that I searched God’s word and found scripture that speaks directly to my experience in Psalm 19, particularly verses 12-14: “Who can discern their own errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
I know, without a doubt, that I have been delivered. I literally feel as if I have been freed from bondage and the door to the prison has been opened. And I know this is true because I no longer carry shame. My trauma has turned to testimony. There are no secrets that have power over me anymore. Their dominion over me has been broken and cast down.
This is not to say that I have not been with my Lord all this time. Nor does it mean that I have not experienced intimacy with the Lord or experienced joy in life. But even so, there was always a gnawing, tormenting presence in my soul that would not be released. Not until I forgave. As another dear pastor friend told me that my forgiveness was the vehicle needed for God to deliver me.
Many times, we read scripture and think perhaps that these are stories that happened thousands of years ago. They are wonderful but do not truly apply to our own lives. We can’t possibly put our lives in such a modern world in the context of the particulars of what happened in biblical times. I beg to differ. Our God and our Lord is alive, right here, with us in the unfolding of his word. And we are as much God’s children and called to serve him as all the saints, prophets, teachers, martyrs, disciples and apostles. Actually, we are God’s disciples.
Only God has the power to so completely obliterate and rebuke what we should have never carried in the first place — as if a legion of angels comes to our aid and shield us. How is that even possible? It is only possible because all things are possible with God. In Matthew 19:26 Jesus said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
What a mighty God we serve. A God who not only saves but delivers us from evil and from every memory, every sin, every attack, that is unholy. What a mighty God we serve.