Posted in Faith

Grief, life and the in-between

We tend to think of grief when there is a mortal death. A family member or close friend, a pet even, leaves this life and we have to learn how to move on without them. Why? Simply because our lungs still have breath.

Anyone fresh in this period will tell you the heartache is real and the loss unbearable at times. So it makes sense to associate grief with death of life. Physical loss is evidence of a physical presence no longer existing and we hate waking up to that reminder.

But what about when we lose a relationship? Someone we deeply loved, or a dear friend who seems more distant. What about when a job ends unexpectedly or someone rejects us without reason? When those doors close and that pain is felt, it also is a death of life – just not physical. And unfortunately, we are not afforded the same time to grieve, as one would have for bereavement. So we walk around at our jobs, at the grocery store, in church, at gatherings, etc. carrying the hurt with us.

We all know other people around us and even ourselves if we’re bold enough to admit, who are grieving millions of little griefs daily.

And I’m writing about grief because I think it deserves to be talked about. I can say personally in the past I’ve struggled with grief and loss, but most recently have learned to address and work through grief more quickly for my own mental health. Taking care of our minds truly does wonders for our physical health.

Recently I took a personal trip to a small cottage and began praying for God to help me recognize where I was “stuck”. I had noticed some things in my speech and behavior that were evident of being bitter and resentful, and I wasn’t okay with it. Being a writer, I began to journal. And I didn’t necessarily need to leave my home to do this, but the change of scenery was helpful.

I went through my life and memories chronologically as best as I could and began to see a pattern in relationships, in events surrounding certain memories and in my responses to them. And many times, I reacted irrationally or in unhealthy ways. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

What it revealed was that I hadn’t worked through old hurts and therefore was hurting others as a result.

Newsflash: Hurting people hurt people.

Let that sink in for a second.

WOW! What an opportunity to give grace to each other.

Most commonly in counseling, five stages of grief are recognized, known as the Kubler-Ross model: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.

The first stage of grief is denial. We end up in shock at received news. Our minds cannot comprehend what we’ve been told, read or experienced, and we make a choice not to believe it. It doesn’t make the event less true. We just tend to not want to accept this new reality, so we live around it as best we can.

It’s the ostrich effect in FULL EFFECT.

Then, when there is no getting around it, we get angry and many times rush to bargaining. We get upset at the inability to have had a choice made for us, and now we have to live with the resulting consequences or circumstances and we are mad, raging and frustrated! And sadly, anger is a comfy chair.

This stage especially frustrates us because we have to admit we had no control over the situation. And I don’t know if you are aware of this or not, but life is great at proving over and over again just how out of control we really are. We don’t like being reminded of that.

A clue to know if you are “stuck” in this area is to ask yourself how often you talk about said event, circumstance or situation. Are you seeking validation from others when you share your story? Do you ruminate over and over? Do you stay angry and feel justified doing so?

This is a healthy stage, especially because you’re no longer denying, but not where one should camp out. Walk through this, give yourself time to get upset and seek a counselor. I cannot stress enough the value of having an unbiased, neutral person who can assess your emotions from a distance.

Once anger is processed in a healthy way, we move into depression. That doesn’t sound right, but it is. In a way, we begin to accept the outcome and in this stage have to actually process the loss. Reality begins to set in. There is simply no way around it. And it will be painful in a new way, but in a way that leads to acceptance and freedom to move forward.

Getting to the point of acceptance takes time. It takes patience in ourselves and in others. When we’re hurting, our fuse tends to be a little shorter. We don’t walk around with badges on our shirts or signage of what we’re dealing with or walking through. It would be great to have porcupine quills that would allow us to show others when we’re approachable or not. Strangers have no idea what we’re facing or processing. Sometimes we even keep this from family members and those closest to us. And yet we operate out of hardened hearts that haven’t completely processed a moment – DAILY.

There are many reasons for “deaths” and each one has to be dealt with. Each time we die a little death, we need to process the timing, circumstances, people involved, situation, our emotions, responses, etc. There is so much to loss that we don’t think of our lives as “deaths” and yet they are. We just don’t have a memorial for each and every time.

Physical distance from people can create distance in relationship – it’s just normal to lose friends to proximity. And yet it still hurts and is still painful. When someone moves, they tend to move on. Choosing to stay connected to the past requires a choice and definitely more effort so the past can stay the present.

We may have differences of opinion on certain topics, and all of a sudden, we drop a friend or family member with whom we can’t seem to agree. We are a disposable society – something gets old or doesn’t excite us anymore, we drop it and buy/get new. And so our friends and family fall into the same areas.

We have little mini-computers in our palms daily and can connect to the world around us, yet lose touch with those closest to us. We are backwards in our approach to intimacy and community. We don’t like being vulnerable. We don’t like sharing because we don’t know whom to trust. And we continue to live without actually living.

Pain in grief is also described as suffering. And I can admit that I don’t want to admit that I suffered for a long time without realizing I had/have the power to let go and move on. It’s all within my reach and will. But it would require effort.

Kara Tippetts, a young mother of four, blogger of “Mundane Faithfulness” and breast cancer victim, died two years after her diagnosis of cancer. Most would question God’s goodness, she stated, because of her years of life (she was 38 when she passed in 2015) and her diagnosis. But in her own personal grief and processing of her own mortal life pre-death, she shared some wise words:

“Suffering has a way of exposing our theology, where what we believe about God collides with where we live.”

Kara Tippetts, And it was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Goodbye

What if God allows things so we could turn to Him for solace and comfort? Because at the end of the day, God is somehow the One we turn to for answers, believer or not. We either blame Him or question Him, right?

One of our pastors, Bob Bauer, wisely said once,

“What if we keep praying away the one thing God is using to bring us closer to Him?”

After hearing that, it truly became a step of deeper faith for me. What if every time I’m uncomfortable, I ask God to remove the pain and hurt and He doesn’t? Does that make Him any less good? Or does it just make me the lukewarm Christian who wants the easy life and loves God when things are good, but can’t stand when things take me out of my comfort zone?

Another newsflash: He’s not a genie. He’s our Heavenly Father.

What if we took the time to process grief? What if we MADE TIME to process grief? Everyone I know says that their lives are busy. Too much to do, not enough time, yada yada yada. Busy-ness can be a distraction from dealing with reality. It actually can keep one locked into denial because they don’t have to face the painful loss. And why don’t we want to go there? Because it IS painful.

It requires admitting pain was experienced and in order to move forward, we have to accept circumstances we may not have had an opportunity to make a choice in. Perhaps someone else made the choice for us and we’re now living/operating in the fallout of that choice.

When I think of grief, I think of the sister word “lament”. To lament is to express the grief or sorrow. Biblically, we see this best in the Psalms.

Psalms are a great way to read about loss, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I know, I can hear you, “Seriously, Grace? When I’m hurting, the last thing I want to do is read about other people going through hurt.”

I get it. Truly. I’ve been there too. Hear me out…

Each of the writers of Psalms have demonstrated the ability to relate to us in this area. I was taught to read this book of the Bible early in my life to assist in “pain management”, if you will. And the truth is that I was pleasantly surprised to see myself in them at times of hurt. I could identify and I would read about the emotions these writers experienced. I could validate their hurt and frustration. I could see them shaking their fists at God and questioning His all-sufficient sovereignty. And when I would take the time to read all the way through a Psalm, I learned they usually end in praise.

Wait, what?

Yes, dear one. Praise.

Each time grief and loss is dealt with, it results in acceptance, just as a believer in Christ recognizes the truth that we are indeed “out of control” and technically never had it in the first place. So we extend praise to the One who IS in control.

We accept that God has reasons for what He allows and why He doesn’t allow other things, and though it hurts like hell sometimes, we cannot change the outcome.

We realize human beings are selfish by nature and sometimes hurt other people.

We recognize our own ability to wound and inflict pain on others, and should the Lord prompt us to deal with our own failings, we need to extend our apologies to those we’ve hurt. The Bible gives an outline of how to do so.

Scripture instructs that whether we are the offender or the offended, the onus is on us to seek restoration in our relationships.

In Matthew 5:23 – 24, we are instructed: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift” . In the next chapter of Matthew, we are told: “If you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6: 14 – 15 Today’s NIV).

Jennifer Thomas, https://www.christianitytoday.com/women-leaders/2007/july/apologies-that-work.html

We, as believers, give grace and do not have to be doormats to pain, but can create healthy boundaries where we can forgive and love from a distance, thus still honoring our Lord and His commandment to love Him first and our neighbors as we love ourselves.

We can grieve and literally cry over events and not believe that we are weak in doing so. Cleansing ones’ soul due to pain and hurt is something we can only do this side of Heaven. There, God will dry our tears and we will never have to deal with sin again.

We can go to those we trust to pray with us, to share the stories that need to be told, and to help us mourn. Our friends carry burdens and these are some of those.

We also do not grieve earthly lives as the world does. See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Physical death takes us into the presence of God and if we’ve made Jesus our Lord, our future is secure. Our bodies will be changed to heavenly bodies and our sin will be eradicated. We are no longer separated by death/life. We get to LIVE ETERNALLY with Him and therefore rejoice when one we love dies. It makes us ache more for Home since we are foreigners here. There will be reunions of believers when we take our last breath here.

Healing is acceptance. Acceptance is healing. These are interchangeable.

And it’s mandatory to be able to function in healthy ways without being stuck in unhealthy grief patterns.

Scripture shares this story about Isaiah and Hezekiah:

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. 

2 Kings 20:1-5

When grieving, we have a Heavenly Father who is aware, still loves us, and gives us the ability and direction to go to Him with EVERY and ALL HURT.

He is our Healer, our Jehovah Rapha. He picks up our Humpty Dumpty selves and puts us back together like mosaic in the best way. Why? Because He is the Potter. We are the clay. And He gets to restore what was once broken with something that is made beautiful.

God will end all suffering, pain and eventually death. There will be a time when it will all end and we won’t have to deal with all of the weight of this anymore. Jesus already took onto Himself the pain of every hurt ever dished out, and God punished Him for what we are guilty of. This brings hope and forgiveness even to ourselves. The cross is our example of the lengths He would go to show us how valuable we are, even when we mess up. He is the ULTIMATE RESTORER and gets All Glory!

Heavenly Father, give us the ability to trust You when life hurts. Please allow us to say no to things that hinder our proper healing and time to grieve. We know You know what grief is like and you get the ultimate glory when you get to restore us. Give us the patience for ourselves and the grace for others daily, who struggle with things we know nothing about. May we love with Your love, give grace that can only come from You and share the love of Jesus no matter the rejection. We know You love us, and walk with us through every moment. May we remember to turn to You and seek Your face, knowing You will provide the right answers and peace during the trials. It is not up to us to fear, but to follow You. We love You, Lord.

In Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Here are some helpful resources for dealing with grief:

When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes
Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
The God of All Comfort by Dee Brestin
And It was Beautiful by Kara Tippetts

https://www.counseling.org/knowledge-center/mental-health-resources/grief-and-loss-resources

How To Grieve Like a Christian

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

Free Resource on Grief

Posted in Faith

Saying Yes to God

Wow, it’s truly been an amazing seven months and I haven’t blogged about any of it!  I apologize for that.  This year has truly been one of learning and growth, and love and surrender.  Much will come soon.

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To briefly share an update, I’m currently doing an online bible study that is opening my eyes to so many things. The book that is being used is shown above.  I decided to join the online study through Proverbs 31 Ministries because of the freedom of not having to do the study at a set time.  It allows me to do the study at my own pace, and I love things like that [online college student here as well- 😉 ].

We’re currently in week one, after reading the first chapter regarding a “soul that longs for more” and in that first chapter, Lysa described a time that God asked her to step out of her comfort zone and give away her well-worn and personal bible to a complete stranger on a plane.  Her reaction at first was the same as ours would have been, to question God and wonder if we’d heard Him right.  But when it was clear that THAT was exactly what God was asking her to do, she surrendered.  She gave it to the man, stating God had told her to give it to him, and that sometimes God pauses to touch the heart of one person, and it was him.  The man went on to become a believer in Jesus Christ, and has since shared his testimony with seemingly everyone he encounters.

In reviewing and rereading that story (up to five times-it just strikes me differently each time), I felt prompted to answer one of the suggested questions and write about a time that struck me as COMPLETELY stepping out of my comfort zone, for God’s glory.

I am a stepmother.  I have married a man who had an already existing family and became one of them.  This also means that there is a biological mother in the picture.  And as many other blended families go, ours is similar in the fact that she and I have not seen eye to eye in the past.  In fact, there have been many difficult exchanges, and emotional arguments that brought nothing but heartache to both sides.  Since about a year ago, it has become my new law to not engage with the bio mother, for frustration with miscommunications and lack of closure when something is taken the wrong way.  It’s just not worth it.  We’re like oil and water.

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One thing I know I have in common with this woman (whom we will call “M”) is a love for dogs.  She and my two stepdaughters had a black lab that was about six years old last year.  She was spunky, loved to play and fetch tennis balls, and was a great companion to their mom when the girls were with us.

Sadly, and completely unexpectedly one morning last November, our youngest (whom we will call K2) woke up to her beloved dog breathing oddly.  She shared her panic with her mother, who rushed the dog to the vet and within an hour, their pooch ended up dying there.  M and the girls were completely distraught.  Our eldest, K1, was working, and was told while on her shift about the dog’s passing.  How dreadful!

I was a wreck, as my husband called me at work to let me know, and I couldn’t stop crying, as I know how much M and the girls loved this dog.  I was in shock, and completely heartbroken simply because they were.

God began to tell me that this could be an opportunity to help M and the girls heal.  “I’m sorry, Lord…what!?”  How could a dog dying help M’s and my relationship (or lack of)?  And seriously, the woman can’t stand me, so how in the world can my understanding of her pain, help her?  She wants nothing to do with me, and I’m sure could care less that I care about her.  It made no sense.

So I listened, and God made it clear he wanted me to offer for the girls to stay home that night, if they wanted, instead of coming to our house as the schedule normally stated.

I went into “other shoes” mode.  When some situations are unclear to me, I try to put myself in other peoples’ shoes, to stay humble, and to give God an opportunity for me to see past myself. I imagined M being alone, crying all day and questioning, and just wanting to hold her girls.

I know M’s email address, so I sent her an email to let her know that Kevin had told me the news, that I was sorry and if there was anything I could do, to let us know.  Normally any communication sent by me to her is ignored and she refuses to acknowledge it.  Much to my surprise, she responded that they were heartbroken and she thanked me.

WHAT!?!!?

Was the wall coming down, or was she just vulnerable and thankful?  I tried to make no assumption, and just be thankful that she responded.

From my desk at work, I texted my husband about offering for the kids to stay with their mom, who said he agreed, and he offered.  Both girls declined and said that they still wanted to come over.  I don’t know their reasons, and won’t assume any.  They both deal with death and stress differently.

I was shocked, and thought, oh no, M will have to be alone all night.  So I just prayed.  I prayed for God to comfort her, for people to surround her, to give her His peace.  The kids came to our home later that day, were very quiet and laid on the couch.  Kevin and I just let them know how sorry we were and let them cry. I rubbed K2’s back while she laid with her face buried in the couch cushions.  K1 clung to her daddy.  I’m not sure we did much talking that evening.

And over the course of the next two days, God was telling me to step out of my comfort zone and show M that I cared about her loss.  I was wrestling with God about it, because any encounter with M usually starts and ends with awkward silence and staring/glaring.  It’s quite painful, and irritating.  So, in telling God I wanted to stay away and not “poke the bear”, He urged me to do what I normally do when friends have a loss: get them a card, explain my heartache with them, and give them a gift.

“You’re insane, Lord…simply insane.  You know she hates me, right?”

Randomly driving down the street Friday afternoon, I laughed at God.  I laughed out loud.  In my head, I pictured getting M a poinsettia and a card, and giving it to her.  And I laughed, because we don’t even go near each other unless we have to.  And she’s not my friend.  I would love for things to be cordial and friend-like, but the truth is there’s no acceptance on the other side.  I couldn’t possibly show her love in her brokenness.  How in the world would I give her a gift, a card and let her know my sympathy?

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And Saturday morning came…I was to pick up K2 and we were going to head to Nana’s for our Thanksgiving dinner with her.  Kevin and K1 were working and would come later.  Seeing as how I had to go get K2, it meant I would be in the vicinity of M.  Whoa…really, Lord?  I have to go to her house?  So instead of turning left to go to her home, my car went to the right…in the direction of the grocery store…

God led me to the card section, and I still couldn’t believe I was doing it.  I found a card that said exactly what I wanted it to say (imagine that) and I picked out a gorgeous poinsettia.  I was elated at the idea (I’m always hopeful), yet so nervous even paying for the items.  How ridiculous, right?

So I drove to M’s house and started brainstorming.  Do I just leave the plant and card by the front door?  Do I knock?  Good Lord, I can’t knock…what if she doesn’t answer?  I hate rejection!!  Lord…do you know what you’re asking me to do??

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I pulled into the driveway and texted K2 that I was there.  I had our greyhound/lab in the backseat, next to the plant.  And I began questioning, “How do I get the plant to the door?  Maybe I’ll just give it to K2 and she can take it in…yeah, she can do it, it’ll be nicer coming from her…”  And as these thoughts are coming, the side door opens and M comes out, not K2.

OH…CRAP…

I’ve got a gorgeous plant in the backseat, our dog, and a card on the front seat.  M didn’t look into my car, she walked down the driveway past  my car, and went to the mailbox.  I got this urgent PUSH from the Holy Spirit!!

ImageI grabbed the card from the seat next to me, and the plant from the backseat and met M as she was coming back up the drive.  She was wrapped in a blanket, and tears were just pouring down her face.  I almost lost it!  I handed her the card and the plant and fumbled with words.

“M, I am so sorry…I got you this.  I can’t stop thinking about you guys…”  She just looked at me with tears and sadness, and said, “We are so heartbroken!”  I choked up…and I reached out my hand.  I wanted to hug, but she’s not a hugger (certainly not with me), so instead, I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “I’ll be praying for you.”

At this time, K2 emerged from the side door, and was just standing there.  Later I found out she was saying inside of her head, “Oh wow, are they going to hug?”

While K2 was putting her book bag in the car, M leaned in through the back window to pet my Bella.  I really choked up, because I know how much she was missing her girl.  And I just said again before pulling away, “I’m sorry.”

Now unlike Lysa’s story, I have no idea what happened after I followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  I have no clue if M was thankful, or touched, or anything.  I don’t know if she kept the card, hung it up, or burned it.  And I don’t have to worry about any of that.  I did what was asked, and I have to leave it at that.

The eldest, when she got to Nana’s that night, said what I had done for her mom was extremely nice.  I just know I went out of my way to do something I REALLY didn’t want to do, for the sake of showing love to someone who needed it.

I was myself, I was obedient, and I was blessed.  Out of this study, I’m learning that EVERY SINGLE DAY is a chance to show love to someone who doesn’t deserve it.  Every single day is an opportunity to show God we are listening and to be obedient to whatever His call may be.  From paying for the person in the toll booth behind you, to holding the door for someone, to giving a card to someone who needs it, to pushing aside years of hate and anger because we all have moments of loss.

God has a strong desire to show each and every one of us HIS LOVE.  And for those of us who sit in pews, who sing hymns, who serve our communities, if we are not showing LOVE for the sake of Christ’s kingdom, it means nothing.

1 Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter.  But the first three verses are crucial to understanding LOVE at all.  They talk about believers doing all of the necessary things that would seem to show the world our commitment to Christ, but if we do ANY of those things without LOVE, it is meaningless.  See below:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

May I invite you to turn an ear toward Heaven, to reach out with willing arms, to look past previous hurts to the One who already died and rose for those hurts, and to simply say YES?  “Yes, Lord, I will do what you have asked.”

How many moments slip by that could change the life of another human being?  How many opportunities are presented to us, and we let fear override our love button because we don’t want the rejection?  How many times have we said NO?

I’m turning my #palmsup to my King, and letting go, so He can place something inside of my hands that far surpasses what I held onto in the first place.  And I’m rejoicing with my over 10,000 sisters in Christ who are on this “letting go and saying yes to God” journey.   These next few weeks may be incredibly painful, but I am assured and confident that our Lord will reveal His true self to us.  We just have to have our hands open!

Posted in Faith

On understanding forgiveness

Forgiveness is not easy.

Yes, I know that’s an understatement.  In the life of a Christian, however, it should be easy.  I know…I know.  I can almost hear you beginning to protest.  The Bible talks about it constantly, so there is much to learn about the concept.  Also, Jesus came to Earth to show us that God loved us so much that He forgave us and redeemed us.

So, as Christ followers, why is forgiveness the bumpiest part of our path?  How do we overcome something that creates so many emotions in us?

I’d like to let you in on something I learned about, during my talk with God on my drive into work this morning.  It softened my heart (I actually felt warmth in my chest), and I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.  Believe me, even as I write, I’m still struggling to let go.  I know I want to give God my hurts, and He was pretty insistent at telling me to do so.  Yet my stubbornness is holding onto them currently.  Talk about fighting the flesh…

John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”

Source: gatheringlex.org

When we choose to accept God’s call on our lives, we enter into a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  We begin to walk in the newness of the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:4-6) and we shed the flesh (old desires, habits or anything that separates us from wanting to be obedient to Christ).  In doing so, we develop new habits.  We begin to see needs in others and we talk with God about how to meet them.  Then we physically follow through so that the lost can see who God is, and know that they are loved.

That is the profile of being a Christian.  Simply meeting others’ needs and sharing Christ’s love, forgiving and spreading His Word.  Nowhere in that description is there room for judgment, anger, bitterness, hatred or resentment.  However, as Christians, do we still feel these feelings and deal with roots of these emotions?  Absolutely. So, in thinking about forgiveness and my resistance to let go, I needed a perspective shift, and it was this morning that God brought to my mind the concept of enemies.

To those of us who have been wronged (go ahead, you may nod your head), we have held onto a thought, word, conversation, action or anything that justifies our anger and bitterness.  We may not even consciously do it.  But something triggers that emotion again when we see that person, or hear something that sounds like the comment that put the seed of bitterness into our hearts, and we are reminded all over again of the pain we felt.  In that instance, we tend to look at that person who hurt us as an enemy.

Here’s a twist: God looks at the concept of enemies differently.  Yes, they are still people who wrong us.  Anyone who is not a child of God, who has rejected His teachings, is considered an enemy to God.  Does this include people of other faiths, following rules and regulations that are not governed by our Heavenly Father?  Yes.  The hard reality is that God said Jesus would be the doorway, and He is the only door to God.

Referencing John 1:12 above, the criteria to be a friend (child, family member, son, daughter, etc.) of God is right there.  We need to believe Jesus is who He said He was and that He loves us.  We also know that because of our belief through faith in Jesus, and grace from God, we are His extended family.  The Bible says we are no longer enemies.  Anything apart from that means we would have remained an enemy to God.  This is a hard truth, I know, but please stay with me.

Paul wrote the following to the church in Colossus regarding our position with God.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (Colossians 1:21-23)

Source: trulyrichmom.com

Paul is addressing Christians who, after accepting the truth of the gospel, now are no longer enemies of God.  They (we) are now reconciled through Christ’s body and are asked to follow through with what God has called us to, until He returns.  It’s that simple.  This is the transition of enemies to children of God.

 

But what becomes of those who are Christ’s enemies?  The Bible states there are two places we go after we die: a place for those who love Him and a place for those who reject Him.  Heaven and Hell.  Both are two real places and both are not entered into, until we pass from life to death (or life to life, for a believer).

In this context, I feel a real urgency.

Because this means that if someone is not a friend of God’s, that they will pass from life to death, and never know Him.  This is a serious offense, and one that should be taken very seriously.  For those who are lost and unbelieving of who Jesus is, their fate is ultimately death.

And the insight God brought to my mind is that we can’t let these people perish.  It’s up to us to be the hands and feet of the gospel, so that everyone has the opportunity to accept or reject the truth.

So, what does this have to do with forgiveness?

In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells all believers to go against their instincts of hate and rejection.  We are told to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Simple enough?  No way!  That’s easier said than done.  If you’re like me, you’re thinking, ‘Why should I be praying for them?  They’re jerks!’

Think about it this way.  Is God really concerned about the little fights/disagreements/injustices of our daily lives?  Yes, He does love us enough to love the intimate details that affect us.  But we already know where our inheritance is.  I think His goal for sharing this truth with me this morning, was to show me that their unsaved status is a little more important.  And that’s something I cannot argue with.

Source: betsyfromtennessee.blogspot.com

Any enemy of God is an enemy of ours, and we are not to reject them and give them what they deserve.  The lost may not be aware of their need for God yet, and we are to be the ones to help them.  If we’re rejecting them, we’re encouraging the lost to stay lost.  But maybe because of our injustices, we have an opportunity to show them that they are forgiven, which is not a reaction they will expect.

God showed me the bigger picture, which is this: While He is concerned for all believers and hurts for us when we are wronged; His goal isn’t to just make our lives better.  He is using our pain to help grow us in His character.  We are being asked to step out in faith, and show the person who wronged us the truth of the gospel by praying for them.

Their enemy status is not just against us.

It’s against Him.

Those who are not children of God may hate and reject us forever without any repercussion.  But if they hate and reject Jesus forever, their consequences are eternal.

I may be justifiably angry at being hurt or rejected, but the pain is ultimately Jesus’.

It’s not me they’re hurting the most.

Heck, it’s not even about me.

I’m not to seek revenge or stay the victim.  In Christ, I AM VICTORIOUS!  And not in a prideful way, but victorious in the sense that I have hope of eternal life because of what Jesus did for me.

I can overcome forgiveness issues if I keep the mindset forefront that God is primarily concerned with those who are His enemies.  He doesn’t wish anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).

In light of eternity, is anything that was ever said/done worth losing someone over?

If it is, you may need to ask God to help soften your heart.  We as believers should never have the idea that we’re good to go, and that’s all that matters.

The hurting world around us is waiting to be shown the love and mercy of Christ.  Can you look past yourself to see them as an enemy of God, and that they need grace in every sense of the word, just like you did?  Let’s shift the perspective from ourselves and put them first.  The Holy Spirit will guide us to help those who have hurt us, and instead of festering hate and anger, He will begin to produce love and mercy.  It’s a win-win.  We get to let go of the pain and someone sees the light of the gospel.

Source: heritage-christian-university.blogspot.com

If you are a child of God, you are being called to step out of your comfort zone and love those who hate you.  You are being asked to lessen your pain and put Christ’s first.  It doesn’t mean your pain is any less worthy to be worked through.  It just means that you have the supernatural spiritual ability with Christ’s help to love someone when you feel you are unable to do so.  You are able to love and forgive, even in the midst of that pain.  Can you do that?  If not, I invite you to pray and talk to God about the root of bitterness that needs to be taken from your heart.

I promise you that you will flourish and love with Christ’s love in an amazing way!  Why hinder your own growth for someone else to rejoice over?  They may not even be aware of the pain they caused you.  Please let it go.

Posted in Faith, Family

Does God take things away so we can be closer to Him?

Today I listened to Midday Connection on Moody Radio in Cleveland (WCRF 103.3FM) and the discussion was with author Dee Brestin, and her book, “The God of All Comfort.” I read through some comments on Facebook that had been posted and one of them caught my attention, enough to respond.

From Dakota Atkinson:
Question – I’ve heard that God will take away sometimes to get our attention. Do you think God would allow someone to be taken away by death in order for us to come closer to Him?

My response:
@Dakota, I don’t see why not. Death is not an end, but a beginning in Him. Ultimately, for believers, death is our way HOME. I’m not afraid of it, I welcome it, because we all must die to get into His presence. If our focus is on ourselves, then we tend to question how He could take something away from us, but if our focus is on HIM, then we need Him to heal our hurt and carry us through the grief. See Job’s response when God allowed Satan to take away everything Job had…he lost his wife, kids, belongings and STILL WORSHIPPED. I believe it questions our attachments. Do we really follow His call to leave everything and follow Him? Or do we attach ourselves to others, and grieve, not realizing that our true lover (GOD) is the one with a broken heart? Our relationships here must end at some point, and though that is heartbreaking, with time, we move on. Everything in the Christian life revolves around God and who He is. Blessings in the form of a spouse, children, family, etc. are from God, but ultimately the best gift is that of eternal life. If we lose everything, once we accept Him, that is the one thing we can still claim with confidence.

Thankfully, after feeling the Spirit move in me as I typed the words, I said a prayer that it would be received well, and went back to working.

Coming home this evening, I was relieved to see another person’s response to what I had said.

From Michelle Oliva:
@Dakota, I think Grace is on the right track here. I experienced several losses last year, and boy was I clinging on to God like I hadn’t in a while. Not only did I reach out to Him, but I began to step back and pray and ask about my God given purpose. It was only through God’s strength and comfort that I was able to grieve and come out on the other side, still faithful and hopeful. Best of all, I have a clearer understanding of my God give purpose right now and I have a real thirst for His words and presence in my life. I think if not for all the losses, I would still be on the same train…Grace, I might use some of what you said for my dad’s one year memorial ceremony.

May you be encouraged in trials, and not question out of lack of faith, but for reassurance of what He is doing, even when we can’t understand it.  Faith ALWAYS beats FEAR.