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Apart from the power of Jesus Christ, I don't know how anyone can forgive a parent who has abandoned his or her family. Yet I do know that forgiveness is a prerequisite for finding personal peace. And I know also that Jesus Christ gives us the strength and resolve to forgive from the heart those who have deeply hurt us--as long as we are willing to allow him to work in our lives.

Although my friend Bill Conard grew up in a religious home, his father began to wander into other relationships and eventually abandoned his family. The family plunged into dire poverty and Bill and his mother had to work hard to provide for themselves and his brother and sisters. Bill became a troubled young man who never understood how his dad could walk away.

About six months after his dad left home, some friends invited Bill to a youth rally. He didn't want to go because he was starting to get involved in some activities he knew were wrong, but his friends pressed their invitation and he went. That night Bill accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. As he walked home after the rally, Bill looked up at the stars and thought, My real Father is up there. He will never leave me!

Two years later Bill found out where his . . . Apart from the power of Jesus Christ, I don't know how anyone can forgive a parent who has abandoned his or her family. Yet I do know that forgiveness is a prerequisite for finding personal peace. And I know also that Jesus Christ gives us the strength and resolve to forgive from the heart those who have deeply hurt us--as long as we are willing to allow him to work in our lives.

Although my friend Bill Conard grew up in a religious home, his father began to wander into other relationships and eventually abandoned his family. The family plunged into dire poverty and Bill and his mother had to work hard to provide for themselves and his brother and sisters. Bill became a troubled young man who never understood how his dad could walk away.

About six months after his dad left home, some friends invited Bill to a youth rally. He didn't want to go because he was starting to get involved in some activities he knew were wrong, but his friends pressed their invitation and he went. That night Bill accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. As he walked home after the rally, Bill looked up at the stars and thought, My real Father is up there. He will never leave me!

Two years later Bill found out where his father was living. The two had occasional contact, but their relationship was never close. Bill went to Moody Bible Institute, then became a missionary to Peru, one of the best I've ever met.

One day in Peru, when he was in his mid-thirties, Bill thought, I have never told my dad that I forgive him for what he did to us. So on his next return to the United States Bill stopped at SeaTac airport in Seattle, went to a pay phone, and called his dad in Virginia.

"Hello, Dad," Bill said.

"Well, hello, son," his father replied.

"I wanted to call you," Bill said. "I've just come back from Peru--and Dad, I have not loved you the way I should. I have not forgiven you all these years for the way you treated Mom and the way you treated us. But, Dad, I forgive you--all the things you did to Mom and to us--because God has forgiven me."

At the other end of the line all Bill heard was sobbing. For five minutes without a break, the only sound crackling through the receiver was that of weeping. Finally Bill said, "Dad, are you still there?"

"I'm still here," answered his father.

"Can I come to see you when we get to the other side of the country?" Bill asked.

"Yes, please come" came the response.

As soon as possible, Bill (accompanied by his family) made his way to his father and embraced him. His dad wept and told Bill how glad he was to see him.

And the story doesn't stop there! Bill continued to pray for his dad, who was still walking far from God, but nothing seemed to change. Then one night Bill answered his phone and heard his father sobbing.

"Are you all right, Dad?" Bill asked.

"Yes," his father choked out. "I'm OK now because tonight I was watching Billy Graham on television, and when he spread his long arms and said, 'God loves you more than this and wants you in his family,' I fell on my knees and asked Jesus to come into my heart." He paused to compose himself, then continued. "And son, I'm truly sorry for what I've done to you kids, and I ask you to forgive me."

"Dad," Bill almost shouted into the phone, "of course I forgive you! If Jesus forgave me, how could I not forgive you?" Then both son and father wept together, even though one was in Minnesota and the other was in Virginia.

Today Bill says he and his dad have more understanding between them than they have ever enjoyed in their lives--all because of the transforming strength of Christ's love and the forgiveness and liberation it brings.

That is what can happen when you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior--even if your father or your mother deeply hurt you and you're rightly angry toward him or her. A man is not to beat, insult, demean or abandon his wife or children; it's the most despicable thing in the world. There is reason to be angry--but the Lord says, "Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).

That's how Christ changes us, from the inside out. And it all starts when we receive Christ.

Excerpted from Luis Palau's best-selling book Where Is God When Bad Things Happen? (Doubleday).

Copyright 1999-2002 Luis Palau. All rights reserved.
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