Q. I’m trying to help a friend who is having this issue – He and his dad have had a rocky relationship in the past, he has forgiven his dad for past events but his dad keeps talking about the past to sort of joke about the negative events. It seems that this is how his dad deals with the past but it hurts my friend very much having to relive these things.
He’s afraid to saying anything to his dad because he’s feels like it could re-injure their relationship, in fact, he is frightened of his own temper and is afraid that it could escalate into a huge fight. So he’s stuck in a place where he doesn’t want to lie but can’t bring himself to tell his dad that these discussions are hurting him, so he usually acts as though he can’t recall the event.
I told him to seek the Lord’s help through prayer and that I would pray for him too but he also asked if there were any scriptures I could point to for help. Any suggestions?
A. I agree that your friend’s father appears to be insensitive, but I am more concerned about your friend. It sounds to me like he still harbors a fair amount of anger and resentment over these things. Maybe he’s pushed his feelings down into his sub-conscious instead of giving them over to the Lord. Some say that if the reminder of past events causes a return of the negative feelings, then true forgiveness hasn’t taken place. This may be a foothold that he’s given to the devil (Ephes. 4:26-27) and if left alone footholds often become strongholds.
2 Cor. 10:3-5 tells us that we have divine power to demolish these strongholds. We accomplish this by taking our thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ, recognizing that they are opposed to what we know about the Lord.
In your friend’s case this means that he should consider his father’s joking as really being an attack from the enemy and that his father might not even realize the effect it has. He should take his thoughts of anger captive by refusing to dwell on them, and choosing to consider something nice about his father instead. (Phil. 4:8-9) Bringing to mind a verse like Matt. 18: 21-22 where Jesus tells us to forgive someone 70 X 7 times helps, too, and the combination will drive away the anger and bring him peace.
James 4:7 says that when we resist the devil this way, he’ll eventually flee from us.
In the parable of the Unmerciful Servant that follows Matt. 18:22, the Lord reminded us that He’s forgiven us everything, and now it’s up to us to forgive each other. We don’t do this because the other person deserves it, but to show our gratitude for what the Lord has done for us. Your friend’s father’s actions in this are irrelevant. When he experiences true forgiveness, his father’s comments will no longer bother him and he’ll be free.