Twenty years ago I wanted to quit. I felt like a complete failure in life and in church leadership. I was the senior pastor of a mega-church that had started with only twenty-five people about twelve years earlier. Although I knew I had clearly heard from God to start the church and we experienced His blessing for many years, everything seemed to come crumbling down around me.

My immaturity and insecurity as a leader opened the door for much of the turmoil I was experiencing. The pain increased when a Christian leader circulated a letter that questioned my character, and I felt helpless in proving my innocence.

I tried to claim God’s promises. But nothing penetrated the dark silence I felt. If God was speaking to me during this season, I was failing to hear because the hurt, failure and fear smothered the voice of God in my life. Instead, the voice of the accuser grew stronger in condemning me for everything that was wrong, convincing me that all God had done in my life was ending in shambles. I questioned why God would leave me during these dark hours in my life.

The Good News is that God didn’t leave me. He promises in Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you.” And He really means it! He was with me constantly, working in ways I did not comprehend at the time. During the silence, I learned some invaluable lessons. I learned that God does indeed work in our lives, deep beneath the surface, even when we are convinced He seems silent in the midst of our pain. But I still needed to find freedom from the painful memories I carried.

I knew I must forgive, but I needed help. Eventually, I went to a friend that I trusted and opened my heart to him. He helped me to forgive in Jesus’ name, to obtain God’s forgiveness and receive healing in my emotions and memories. I found strength to go on.

To my dismay I still dealt with the painful emotions of what had happened even though I had forgiven and received prayer as instructed in James 5:16. Every morning I awoke with the pain of these memories. The process of complete healing did not happen overnight, but I did find a secret to finding freedom from the painful memories.

I discovered the bell theory. I read that Corrie ten Boom, who experienced life in a Nazi concentration camp, learned a spiritual principle through the analogy of a church bell. Corrie said that when you forgive someone and ask the Lord to heal and restore you, the devil tries to bring back the old emotions and memories of hurt and pain again and again. But like the final clang of a bell, the reverberations grow softer and softer until you can no longer hear the sound. Her example helped me realize that even though the emotional pain does not immediately cease, it will grow fainter and fainter as we forgive others and thank God daily for His healing and restoration.

So every day when I awakened and remembered the painful memory, I verbally reminded myself, “I already forgave and received healing of the memories—I am free in Jesus’ name.” The memories lessened every day until the painful turmoil they provoked was gone. I still remember the incident, but the painful emotions are completely erased. Instead, I strongly sense the grace and healing of God in that area of my life.

God will do the same for you as you forgive in Jesus’ name, receive His healing from the painful memories, and daily thank Him for what he has already done in your life. The bell theory will help you experience complete freedom from painful memories.