She didn’t smoke. She didn’t drink alcohol. She exercised three times a week. A two-time cancer survivor, she was very careful with her health. Yet, here she was in the doctor’s office complaining of a myriad of maladies that were impairing her quality of life.
“Ms. Rosen, I have good news. Your blood work results show you are in perfect health,” Dr. Eiffel ruffled through the lab reports as he spoke.
“But I feel so lousy all the time,” Cheryl insisted, “and I’m so nervous, I can’t sleep,” the puffy bags under her eyes confirmation that the proverbial sandman had not paid her a visit in a long time.
“Didn’t you say you recently retired?”
“Yes, last year. It was wonderful until I began feeling sick.”
“Ms. Rosen, I see nothing physically amiss with you. I would like to refer you to a colleague of mine, Dr. Gupta. He is a highly-respected psycho-neurologist who specializes in difficult diagnoses.”
“You’re sending me to a shrink who is a neurosis expert?”
“In layman’s terms, yes. I think you will find him understanding and knowledgeable. Furthermore, he has a strong religious faith, which I know is important to you.”
Cheryl Rosen’s sessions with Dr. Nathaniel Gupta became gradually revealing as he helped her strip away each barrier wall she had built around her heart. She felt like an onion being peeled under a microscope, each layer thicker and tougher as it opened up the old scars and wounds of her past.
“Cheryl, while you were employed, you were able to distract yourself from dealing with numerous issues. Now, for the first time in your adult life, you are facing demons from the past. The physical symptoms you are experiencing are the result of unresolved matters eating away at you.”
“Do you mean that I got cancer because of “unresolved issues”!?”
“I’m saying that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it. For instance,” as, arms resting on his desk and fingertips of one hand pressing into the fingertips of the other, “what do you think is the worst thing you have ever done?”
“I divorced my husband. It’s the biggest sin I ever committed, and God has punished me for it ever since.”
“You obviously are remorseful—did you ever ask his forgiveness?”
“That’s quite impossible—Stan died several years ago.”
“I meant, did you ever seek GOD’S forgiveness?”
“Of course--all the time.”
“Do you believe He has forgiven you?”
“I guess so. But the consequences of the sin are still there.”
“Ahh-h. Consequences. What consequences?”
“Like Him punishing me with cancer for what I did.”
“Cheryl, the natural consequences of a divorce consist of a disintegration of your relationships with your spouse and your children or the effects the separation had on them. In turn, you suffer emotionally for their sakes because you love them.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” memories rising up like an erupting volcano, “I live with guilt every day.”
“Ahh-h. Guilt. Why do you feel guilty?
“Because I am. I did a terrible thing.”
“Doesn’t the Bible say that God remembers this no more? It has been forgiven—erased from your record—as if it never occurred. So why do you torture yourself by dredging up your past sins? Don’t you believe God?”
Beginning to sob, Cheryl choked out,
“Yes, but . . .”
“But what?” Dr. Gupta deftly sailing a tissue into her lap in a practiced fluid move that could defy a swished basketball.
“I can’t forgive myself. It’s my fault. Everything. I don’t deserve to be forgiven!”
“None of us deserve His forgiveness, Cheryl. That’s why it’s called grace.”
“But I don’t FEEL forgiven!”
“Let me get this straight. You believe in God and His Word. You have asked His forgiveness. But you have not ACCEPTED His forgiveness. You have thrown this gift back in His face. You are basing your guilt on FEELINGS, not fact. If God can forgive you, isn’t it rather presumptuous for you to hang on to your sin?”
Slowly, over the next few sessions, Cheryl Rosen, for the first time, acknowledged that she had to forgive herself for the past; that, even though the footsteps of her past stepped on the heels of her present, they did not become her future. Like a cleansing shower, she allowed God’s forgiving grace to cover her sins. Consequently and amazingly—to her—she was able to sleep again, her physical problems also eventually abating.
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