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Mar 01, 2022 795 Jenson Joseph, USA
Encounter

He Set Me Free

I was carrying those wounds from the past which affected me deeply. Sudden outbursts of anger and addiction to sinful habits led me down the pit until He set me free…

When I went to high school in Chicago, there was a lot of racial tension. I belong to a minority group and during my time in high school, I often faced and dealt with discrimination. During those 4 years, I was harassed verbally, and I struggled emotionally because of the teasing and ridicule. I was the type of person who would not retaliate when I faced ridicule, but I took all the negative feelings from this verbal and physical harassment and buried it deep in my heart.

However, keeping all of that negativity inside affected me deeply. My interactions with my parents, brothers, and other relatives suffered. Sometimes I would have sudden outbursts of anger and lash out to hurt them with spiteful, cruel words. I was addicted to many sinful habits.

Although I knew that these were evil and desired to be released from them, I struggled in vain to free myself. I continued to fall into the same sinful habits and couldn’t control my temper. At one family gathering, I felt so angry that I got into a fight with my youngest brother. I became afraid of myself, realizing that I needed to do something about this hate and anger lying deep within me.

What Captivated Me?

By the Grace of God, during my freshman year in high school, I attended a youth Retreat. During this Retreat, I saw young people who were so excited about God that their deep love for Him shone joyfully on their faces. For the first time in my life, I met young people who felt unintimidated in talking about God or sharing their faith experiences. And it really captivated me.

I had grown up in a good Catholic family and thought that I knew all about God, but it remained at the intellectual level and never transferred to my heart. However at this Retreat, I saw young people who really loved living their faith and were so happy. Despite the fact that my friends and I would sometimes burst out laughing because we found what they were doing comical, the young people who were ministering to us were not deterred in any way. They were so excited to be there and so passionate about their faith that I really longed to have what they had, to be full of joy, to be happy and to love life. So, I prayed, “Lord I want to be like that, I want that.

After that Retreat, I had the opportunity to attend multiple Retreats. I would go at least 1 or 2 times a year and also began to be active in youth ministry. I got an opportunity to be part of the youth service team for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Chicago and I worked in youth ministry with other adults. It was a wonderful time for me.

Resisting Him

I began to grow in my faith and, at the same time, share my faith with others.

But even as I continued in ministry, I still struggled sometimes with sinful habits and outbursts of anger. This really depressed me because I was trying to share the good news of Christ with others, but my own sins were holding me back and I still couldn’t forgive the people who had hurt me. I desperately wanted freedom from this slavery of sin.

As I cried out to God in desperation, I felt the Lord telling me “Jenson, I want to heal you. I want to set you free from this negativity lying deep within your heart, but to do that, I need to walk with you into each and every one of those painful situations and touch those painful memories with My hand that is bathed in My blood that was shed for you at Calvary.” I was afraid and responded timorously, “Lord, I do not want to revisit those negative experiences. It is too painful for me.” So I kept resisting the Lord even though he was ready to set me free. All through high school—I continued to experience painful situations, the Lord kept telling me He wants to set me free, He wanted to heal me, but I kept resisting Him. I continued to work in youth ministry but I was becoming more discouraged because I was not able to find lasting happiness.

Revisiting the Pains

After high school, I went to a Catholic university in Chicago. It was a wonderful environment because, for the first time in my life, I did not face any discrimination. People accepted me for who I was. I began to desire very strongly that when I received the joy of the Lord it would last into the next day or week. To my disappointment, I kept falling back into habitual sin and outbursts of anger. I called out to the Lord, saying, “Something has to change. I want to be free; I want to be rid of my past because it is holding me captive.” And the Lord kept telling me, “I want to do that for you, but you have to give Me permission to do that one thing—to set me free.” But I replied, “No way!” I don’t want to ever revisit those years of high school which were so painful.

One day, at the end of a Retreat, one of the adults working with me in youth ministry (who knew all about my struggles and my past) came to me saying, “Jenson, I want you to do something for me. I want you to put both your hands on my shoulders. I want you to look at me in the eyes and I want you to see one of those people who hurt you in high school. I want you to tell this person what he or she did to you, and then I want you to say, ‘I forgive you.” And for the first time in my life, I did not resist.

I did not have the power to resist. I said, “I am ready now. I want to go through with it.” And so one by one I began to do this. Looking at my friend, I did not see her face. In my imagination, I delved into my memory to find and picture each of the people who had hurt me in high school. I told each of them what he or she had done to me, and then I said, “I forgive you.” As I began to do this, I began to cry uncontrollably. Each time I spoke the words of forgiveness, “I forgive you for what you did to me”, I felt something heavy lifted out of me.

River of Love

It was a long night of prayer, but it was the most powerful healing experience of my life. As the weight of this pain was lifted from me by each act of forgiveness, I felt more and more light-hearted. One of my friends, who resembled Jesus with his long hair, came up close to me as the prayer ended. I felt so light that I just floated into his hands. As he held me there, I felt as if Jesus was holding me close to His Heart, embracing me. My heart felt empty of the burden it had been carrying. Into that emptiness, I suddenly felt the love of God flowing like a river into my heart, filling me with peace, love and joy. I just enjoyed the moment, relishing the peace I had been craving for so long. I felt sure that I was finally completely free of the burden of sin, guilt and shame that had been crushing me. The Lord had completely uprooted all that negative stuff and taken it away from me. He set me free.

Why did this happen? Because I had reached a point of desperation where I cried out to the Lord for help to escape a lifestyle of sin, and then submitted to His remedy. The Lord had said, “I want to set you free. I am the wounded Healer. I love you, I laid down my life for you.” He wanted to walk with me into each of my painful experiences, share in my pain and I bring His healing touch to my wounds. When I finally allowed Him to do that, Jesus did not let me walk by myself. He walked beside me, taking me back to each and every painful situation, helping me to describe what happened to the person who hurt me and truly forgive them. He gave me the grace to do that, and permanently shed the heavy burden I had been carrying.

He Waits For You

God wants to heal us permanently and make us whole. He does not do partial work on us. If we trust in Him, He will finish the work that He began and heal us completely. Because He is the wounded healer, He loves us so much that He shares our pain.

The Lord does not abandon us even for a second; He stays with us through all our painful moments and walks beside us. After I allowed the Lord to lift my burden, and to set me free, I could continue my life free of the sinful habits that had enslaved me. Every day, I felt the joy of the Lord in my heart and nobody or nothing could take that joy away from me.

Even when I committed sin and fell away from God, I was able to come back immediately through the sacrament of Confession. Receiving the graces of the sacrament strengthened my commitment to go to confession frequently. The Lord was with me and I would not allow myself to slip away from Him again.

I invite each one of you who has experienced hurt through your own sins, or the sins of others, to open your heart to Jesus. He is the wounded healer. He can make you whole again. He can restore you through His healing power. He can set you free. All you have to do is say ‘Yes’ to Him. If you trust Him and give Him permission to heal you, you will receive lasting grace and joy. If there is anybody in your life that you need to forgive, I encourage you to say the words of forgiveness; because the act of forgiveness will allow the healing grace of God to complete you and bring fulfillment in your life.

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Jenson Joseph

Jenson Joseph has been part of Shalom Media as a speaker at the Shalom Conferences. He lives with his family in Michigan, USA. Watch his series at shalomworld.org/show/discipleship

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