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To God Be The Glory…

My head is beyond full of frustration. Anger. A total jumble of words that are exploding. And yet…I can’t seem to type any of it just yet. Listening to music that gives God glory and praises Him is keeping me from spewing my frustration all over this blog. I’m angry. I’d possibly consider it to be righteous anger, except for the very unrighteous words that want to scream from my lips. But for the sake of my point here, I’ll reign in that frustration. Right now, I’m angry at Christians. Specifically, people who call themselves by that name, yet defame Christ behind (and some not behind) the protection of their keyboard.

I do not claim to be guiltless of this sin. Not at all. Let’s just be clear on that right from the start.

It’s one thing to have disagreement. It’s another thing to have disagreement when it’s not face-to-face. It’s another thing altogether when Christians behave in any manner BUT Christ-likeness when they disagree, in public, in private, and online.

Conflict is NOT bad. Did you know that conflict can actually be healthy?! I’m serious! But fighting, discord, and dissension…that’s different. And that’s why I’m typing faster than my head can even think.

When we call ourselves Christians, do we know what that means? It means we represent Christ. In our actions, in our behaviors (both public and private), and even in our attitudes! No, it doesn’t mean perfection. We are still sinners (and always will be, this side of heaven). BUT, we are called to a life of holiness and Christ-likeness!

“Be holy, because I am holy.”

– 1 Peter 1:16

Newsflash: This does not mean it’s OK to rip people apart, tear them down, or speak unkindly or disrespectfully to them – on any platform.

When we do this, our true colors show vibrantly. When we do this, the bottom line is: We lack humility, grace, and the ability to “count others more significant than ourselves”. (Philippians 2:3)

It is absolutely impossible, however, to behave in a way that represents Christ when we are so filled with self-righteousness. Colossians 3 is very clear on the matter of “putting off” our old self and what it looks like to the world when we “put on” Christ.

“PUT TO DEATH therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry…But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth…

PUT ON then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these PUT ON LOVE, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do EVERYTHING in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:5-8, 12-17

In the book/movie, Sense and Sensibility, the character of Marianne Dashwood is immature and cares nothing about what others think, until near the end of the story (after she’s been humiliated and forced to grow up) her sister asks of her, “Do you compare your conduct with his?”, referring to an equally selfish and immature individual. Marianne astonishes the reader audience by her maturity when she responds, “No. I compare it with what it ought to have been; I compare it with yours.”

We cannot compare our sinful attitudes and behaviors to others. We must compare it to Christ’s.

Why is it so difficult for us to truly love others as Christ does? Easy answer? Because we lack holiness and humility in our lives. We get so hung up on being right and trying to make people see our perspective that we actually lose focus on the perspective we need to be having. The perspective of Christ’s.

When we stir up dissension or call people out, thinking we are being Christ’s warriors (regardless of the platform or circumstance), are we doing it out of a heart and attitude of love? I know I’ve been guilty of calling people out, not out of love, but rather frustration, hurt, and anger over what I have believed to be injustice. But we must remember that “Controversy for the sake of controversy is sin.” – Walter Martin

When we choose to be “keyboard warriors” (regardless of where we are and who we are speaking to), remember your audience and onlookers, for Christ’s holy sake. Think of what you are showcasing. Are you radiating the goodness, the kindness, and the character of Christ in your words and attitudes, or are you defaming His name and His grace for the sake of pride?

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

1 Timothy 6:3-5

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

James 4:11-12

Friends, let’s showcase Christ. Let’s let His grace and mercy and humility radiate from our lives, our lips, and our fingertips. It’s OK to disagree with one another! It’s NOT OK to slander or showcase hostility towards one another. As a friend shared with me recently, “Disagreement turns into dissension when we lose sight of our respect and love for the other person and their perspective. Is the point of your disagreement worth sinning for?”

When in doubt, pray. Hard! Seek the Lord. Ask Him to make you aware of your own sin…and repent of it before you dish out any kind of rebuke on somebody else. A prayer that I have been repeating daily as of late has been: Oh, God, show me more of Your holiness. Show me more of my sinfulness. Help me to hate sin and to love righteousness as You do. Grant me a deeper conviction of sin and a more thorough spririt of repentance. And make me holy as You are holy. (Holiness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss)

There is nothing wrong with disagreement. But there is evil in slander and dissension.

Are you filled with pride or humility? Are you truly seeking to bring the opposing person to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Are you giving God the glory in this situation? Or are you simply trying to win the argument?

 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

1 John 3:18

In the words of Tim Neufeld’s song, Benediction, “To God be the glory, forever and ever. To God be the praise of all men. To God be the glory, forever and ever. To God be the glory, Amen.”

A Toxin. A people.

Toxic people. Frustrating, aren’t they? Annoying. Infuriating. Downright exasperating, at times.

As a Christian, what’s my role in that situation? I’ll warn you now. Just because I’m writing a blog post on this topic, does not mean I’ll provide a helpful answer for you. In fact, I can almost guarantee that won’t happen here.

But, if you have your coffee and a comfy seat, spend some time with me and my ramblings, if you wish.

Toxic people are ones that destroy others. They are the opposite of anything considerate or thoughtful of others. They think only of themselves, what suits them, what’s convenient for them. Toxic people live up to their title because they are masters at taking….everything they can….from those around them. They are thieves. They take from you. Your time. Your sanity. Your energy – both emotional and physical. In some extreme cases, perhaps even your money or personal belongings. They try (and often succeed at) taking our joy away as well. They also are great at causing anxiety in others.

They will blackmail you. Threaten you. They will make and break promises to you. They take anything positive in life and snuff it out. All joy. All excitement. All hope.

That is….until you’ve finally had enough. When you have tried, and I mean, really tried to show Christ’s love to them, to offer and cater to their requests, to even extend forgiveness, and you’re still labelled the “bad guy” in the situation, that’s your massive red flag / flashing red light. Call it what you want, but that’s your warning that you are NOT in the wrong here and it is time to step away….FAR, FAR away.

If you can’t do that physically, do it emotionally and mentally. Be done. Do not enable that behavior any longer. Do not continue to give in to outrageous demands or requests made of you. No. You set a boundary. And you STICK. TO. IT. That is the ONLY way to gain some peace back in your life with people like that. And guess what? That’s actually OK!!! It’s actually GOOD!!!

It IS possible to still extend love to someone without letting them treat you like a door mat. Trust me. I know just a bit about that. But, I won’t get into my story now. Just take my word for it. It’s possible. I would encourage you: if you are having doubts or regret or struggling with blame or guilt, honestly ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I extended grace?
  • Have I prayed for that person?
  • Do I wish the best for them?
  • Have I done the best I can?
  • Have I apologized for any part I may have played in the situation?
  • Have I cleared my conscience before God on this matter?

If you’ve answered “yes” to those questions, then you, my friend can walk away…in freedom, with a clear conscience.

That’s what I’m doing tonight. Before God, my conscience is clear. I have done what I can, the best I can do in my situation. And now, I’m enjoying a glass of wine and letting go and choosing to forget any hurt or wrong done to me. I refuse to let Satan toy with my emotions and my mind and agree with any of his “Yes, but you….” statements. And it’s freeing.

My only other suggestion is to, once you’ve reached the glass of wine and trying to forget step of this process, you also pray for that toxic person. Pray for their souls. And let God do the rest. That is the only, and perhaps uncoincidentally, the very best thing we can do for them.

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”
~ Matthew 5:44

Waves of Hope

Can I be real with you for a moment? Life hurts right now. A lot. There is so much pain going on and I have a sneaking suspicion, it’s not just me that’s feeling the gravity of all of it. There’s light. And there’s also darkness. There’s moments of joy, but lately, I feel like the waves of depression have been slowly taking over…yet again.

Have you ever watched the waves of the ocean? They’re constant. Almost peaceful. We’re familiar with their sound and back and forth motion. And for this former Maritimer, they’re comforting. Rhythmic. Calming.

As this year is starting to come to it’s end, with Christmas right around the corner, I feel I’m lacking the joy that normally comes around this time. I feel any sparks of joy I have, I’m trying to desperately cling on to, hoping that things will get better. And yet…I feel like I’m watching any joy I clasp, slip away, leaving with the tide. It’s as if the tide is going out and I’m helpless to stop it. In return, slowly, repetitively, the waves of depression keep coming in.

The worst part this time though, is that I see it coming in and settling, not just in my mind, but also in our family. It’s something that you can just sense. You know it’s there. And you feel helpless to stop it.

It’s tempting to stay there, isn’t it? Because when depression begins to seep in, rarely do we have the energy to fight it. Rarely, we feel we even can.

Although you try and try to maintain some joy, some light, some spark of happiness, those waves of depression keep coming. And the blockades you’ve set up to ward off this depression – friends, church, community, seeing the smiles of others, freedom to go out in public…without fear or even hesitation – canceled. Gone. Taken away.

Then what?

When your defenses are taken away, how can you still fight? That’s where my heart and mind have been lately. And even writing this “out loud” makes me want to give up and just sob. But it can’t end like that…can it?

In the words of Dallas Holm:

There’s a heaviness inside your heart;
A weight you can’t describe, a feeling that you just can’t hide. There’s a weariness within your mind. The thoughts don’t come too clear; you feel as though I’m not so near to you. But remember, I said I’d never leave.
Trust in My Word and believe I am here, forever. I’ll never let you go.
This is all you really need to know.

Can you relate? I need to remind myself of those last four sentences. Daily, even when I least feel like it, I have to preach the gospel to myself. And that’s precisely where we find our Answer, isn’t it?

Christmas. A thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices!

Amidst the waves of depression, there are other waves: waves of HOPE! And I will, I must, I have to cling to those waves. Those are the only waves that I can put my trust in. Jesus. Hope in the form of a baby in a manger. What kind of hope is that? An infant in a feed trough?!

The best kind of hope there is. The kind of hope that Jesus brings is exactly that – newness of life! The Light that overcame the darkness. The wonderful Counselor. The Prince of peace. Immanuel. God is WITH us!

When I remind myself of the truth of the gospel, reminding myself that God is still in control, that He can still be trusted, that the kind of suffering we are enduring is really a walk in the park in comparison to so many other things…that’s when I feel it. That thrill of Hope! And not surprisingly, what follows to wrap itself around me is…peace. The Prince of peace, Himself.

Weary world, rejoice with me! There IS hope! There IS peace! There IS Immanuel. God IS with us. Even now. When darkness seems to be closing in, there is Light. And not only that…but the Light of the world that I choose to worship, is the Light that has already overcome the darkness.

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33

So when your strongholds and defenses are taken away, where does your hope lie? How do you continue to fight?

When Jesus is the only hope I have left, it’s true that it’s then that I realize…He’s all I need. And oh, how I need Him! Every hour. Every minute.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Exodus 14:14

Continue reading “Waves of Hope”

Giving Thanks – The Art of Contentment

I know what I want to write – but how to write it without sounding like I’m complaining or subtly requesting pity…that’s the difficult part. That’s the last thing I want to elicit from you! I’m about to write out my thoughts, feelings, emotions – lack of contentment – sin. So don’t pity and don’t think for a moment that my expression of hurt, sadness, and loneliness, is a cry for anything except this: a request to read to the end, my conclusion of the matter.

Every year, we practice rhythms. The rhythm of changing seasons, moon phases, daily, weekly, monthly, and annual routines and practices. We celebrate birthdays, rites of passage, and holidays. And this year, this Thanksgiving, is no different. Every year, Brent and I look on as our closest friends leave town, and share their excitement with us of their upcoming visit with family, traditions, turkey dinners, etc. And every year, we try not to be sad, as we stay home alone, and Brent and I discuss whether or not we’re too emotionally drained or not to even bother purchasing and cooking a turkey dinner. This year, we’ve been so preoccupied with other life events that we didn’t find the time to even discuss the holiday, let alone purchase a turkey, until today – Thanksgiving Sunday – because I think we both dread the discussion – wallowing in exhaustion, anticipating a restful holiday Monday, knowing full well that once again, families will get together to visit, laugh, feast, watch football games, cousins play outside in the fallen leaves, and all enjoy more than their necessary helping of pie slices, before travelling home, content, happy, thankful.

It’s exhausting to practice the rhythm of trying not to be depressed on major holidays. It’s exhausting to try not to feel lonely. In years past, we have tried to focus on others instead of wallowing in self-pity – making big dinners and inviting over friends or people we knew that also wouldn’t be celebrating with family. Putting in that effort dulled the pain of not being near family, ourselves, and celebrating with them. And, of course, let’s not forget the practice of posting big, happy family photos on social media to remind the lonely people of what you have and they don’t. Ha! (Have I depressed you yet?) Sigh.

BUT….

I won’t allow it. I won’t allow loneliness or depression to take hold. I won’t be jealous of friends and family from a distance. I won’t wallow in self-pity. I won’t allow any of those things for many reasons, but the main one is this – I won’t allow myself to be that shallow and immature and unChristlike.

So here’s what I’ve decided to do about it: I will choose to practice the rhythm of thankfulness. I will choose to focus on what this holiday is about. I will choose to: count my blessings one by one – because, of those, I have SO many. How unbelievably selfish it is to take our health for granted and not even put a thought or prayer to those in a hospital or on their death bed with no loved ones nearby? How unbelievably selfish it is to sit in our warm, furnished home that is bright with electricity, and pumping heat on this cold, autumn day, and not give a thought or prayer to those who are homeless – or refugees? And how unbelievably poor-spirited and ungrateful am I to covet the joy of others and not give a thought or prayer of thanksgiving to Christ for the blessing and joy and gift of my salvation??

My despair, my sadness, my jealousy…they are symptoms of much deeper sins – discontentment and ungratefulness.

The cure? The rhythm and practice of giving thanks. Because it is only when we CHOOSE to be thankful for what we have – that is when we become content. Just as the rhythms of creation and our lives occur, may I encourage you, (as I also preach to myself here), to carve out time, often, to practice the rhythm of giving thanks and to count your blessings – naming them one by one. Having a big family get-together with a feast? Thank God for that. Have your health? Thank God for that. Have a warm home? Thank God for that. Have the grace of God on your life and a personal relationship with Him? Thank God for that! And while you’re thanking God for those things, I’ll be doing the same – for the health of my family, for our home, our vehicles, food in the pantry, clothing to wear, friends and family who love us, and mostly – for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross…for me. For His death. For my life. For His grace.

When I’m thankful – I need and want nothing more.

When I’m thankful – I am filled with joy.

If you’re like me and need a place to start on your journey of giving thanks, read any book of the Bible that the Apostle Paul wrote. It’s actually very difficult to find a book he penned without discovering at least one statement of his choice to be thankful. I find it only appropriate to share his words:

“…For I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” – Phil. 4:11-12

“At the moment I have all I need – and more! … And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” – Phil. 4:18-19

“Be thankful in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
– 1 Thess. 5:18

I hope this post did not elicit any feelings of pity or anything like that on your part. I simply wanted to share my musings on this specific holiday. I hope that by reading this, you were reminded of your many blessings and that thankfulness and contentment are choices we make. They are specific attitudes which give us the power to either wallow in our sin or to live joyfully. If anything, this holiday makes me long for the joy of a future feast beyond my wildest imagination, beside all of my family in Christ, and in the presence of Jesus Himself, that He’s prepared for us in heaven. And you can bet, that feast will definitely be filled with joy and thanksgiving, simply because of His presence. “Oh! What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

I’ll simply close with the words from a children’s song from VeggieTales. May it bring you joy…and thanksgiving.

“I thank God for this day,
For the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad,
For my piece of apple pie!
For our home on the ground,
For His love that’s all around,
That’s why I say thanks every day!

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
I’m glad for what I have,
That’s an easy way to start!
For the love that He shares,
‘Cause He listens to my prayers,
That’s why I say thanks every day!”

Yellow and Orange – The Colors of Joy

Growing up in the Maritimes is totally different than growing up on the Prairies. Chances are, you probably know that. But if you grew up on the Prairies, you probably didn’t know what you were missing when the season of Fall came circling around as it so faithfully does each and every year. “What did I miss?”, you ask? I’ll tell you. Leaves. But not just any leaves. RED leaves. At this point, you’ve probably rolled your eyes and exited this webpage. But…on the hopeful chance that you haven’t, bear with me. I promise I’ll make a good point. 😉

I’ve lived in Saskatchewan for 16 years. And every single year, when Fall showed up, I’ve focused heavily on one thing. I’ve made it my goal: To find red leaves. They’re not easy to find in this “land of living skies”. So, every year, when I find a rare vine or bush that has produced some shade of red, I’ve honed in on it – marking my task complete for that year. Some years, I haven’t found any red. Other years, God provided a bounty of red findings. And it brought joy to this foreigner far from home.

But, this year was different. This year, God shed light on some areas of my life that have needed attention, repairs, and repentance for far too long. One of those areas, He revealed a few weeks ago as I found myself driving along the highway, subconsciously searching for the red in every grove of trees I happened upon. The voice was gentle. It didn’t scold. It reminded me of truth long forgotten.

For the past 16 years, I have been so focused on finding that one thing I miss so desperately much from my homeland near the water – the home of Maple trees turned red each Autumn – their deep maroon, burgundy, and oh-so-very-dark-wine-colored leaves. That’s when it hit me. The past 16 years of my life have been so focused on finding what I thought was missing to make a perfect Autumn, that I was actually missing the beauty of what I had surrounding me instead.

Over those 16 years of searching for what was missing, I missed the beauty in what was present.

This may sound so simplistic and elementary to you, but to me it was profound and taught me a much larger lesson that had nothing to do with leaves. What else have I missed??? What else have I missed out on because my attention was so focused on what was missing rather than on what was right in front of me? As humans, we tend to do that, don’t we? We hone in on “the missing”; the “not present”, the “not how I think it should be”, the “what God never gave me”, the “deserved reward or credit I never received”, that we miss the blessings that surround us daily!

And here’s the amazing part: When I finally listened to God’s nudging and conviction and the smack up-side my head on that drive, it was then that I finally focused on what was here, right now. The beautiful, present reality. Not on what was missing. But on what was here. I chose at that moment to stop focusing on what was absent and to genuinely THANK God for the oranges, the yellows, the greens within my sight at that very moment. And THAT’S when I finally began to see the beauty and the blessing in the now. That’s when I was floored by the amazing beauty in God’s creation. And that’s when I stopped longing for and missing what wasn’t there.

God is so faithful, isn’t He? He interrupts our longings, however small and insignificant they may be, because to Him, they’re significant.

What do you feel is “missing” from your life right now? What isn’t there that you think should be there? Maybe that thing, whatever it is, no matter how large or how small, isn’t there because God has a different blessing awaiting you. And all you need to do is look around. I don’t say that to sound trite. I know we each have longings, deep longings of our hearts that others just don’t understand. But remember this: God understands. And He cares deeply about those longings that ache inside of you. He sees that pain that nobody else sees. And He longs to draw near to you IN that pain. He wants to be a friend to you – the very best kind of friend. And that’s why, just sometimes, He chooses not to give us our deepest longings and desires. Because He truly does know what’s best for me…and for you.

Look for Him in the present, dear friend. Look for Him in the right now. He’s there – and it’s beautiful. Don’t allow yourself to miss the beauty of now because you’re still searching for the “red”.

For I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. – Philippians 4:11

When He Seems So Distant…

It’s been a hard month.  Well, who am I kidding?  2020 has just been hard, period.  I don’t want to add to the ridiculous amount of discussion you’ve, no doubt, been dealing with regarding Covid-19, so I’ll just say, in addition to that, I’ve dealt with a lot of other things too…that have also been hard!  I’m sure that you have as well.  Because…life goes on, right?  There are always other stressors, anxieties, worries, ailments, opportunities, etc., that happen on a daily basis for us humans.  So, in addition to dealing with Covid-19, I started homeschooling my children (not due to Covid), started a new job in a brand new field, and have also had the incredibly frustrating experience of having my identity stolen.  Trust me, change your passwords…often!  Your future self will thank you.  *eyeroll*  *heavy sigh*  Not only was my identity stolen and used to open credit cards in my name (that were maxed out) but these people also managed to change my information on my actual credit report!  Is your head spinning yet?  Mine sure has been.  Dealing with all of that…stuff…has been a royal nightmare to say the least.

This past month, especially, has been one of many tears, short fuses, anxiety, and fighting…for the truth to win in my life.  It has been exhausting.  But…it didn’t kill me.  And you know what they say about the things that don’t kill you…  Apparently they “make you stronger”???  Hahahahahahahaha.  Ok, I don’t know about that.  I certainly don’t feel I can attest to that, yet, anyway.  However, I can attest to something else.  And that is: the nearness of God…and His goodness.

It seems that in times of trial and stress, it’s so easy to feel as if God has abandoned us, isn’t it?  We assume that the pain or trial we are facing must be due to either His lack of love for us or, at the very least, some form of punishment.  Why?  Why do we naturally bend toward that type of thinking?  Honestly?  I think it’s because that’s our human nature.  We don’t typically cause harm to those we love unless we want to punish them.  But there are a few issues with that kind of thinking.  First, we are assuming that God is the “cause” of this harm, and second, we equate pain or trial with not being the easy route – therefore, it’s not the loving route.  We would be wrong on both those assumptions.

Just because bad, wrong, terrible, unjust things happen to us, or those we love, does NOT mean that God caused them to happen.  Seriously, read the book of Job.  You need only read the first chapter to see that God was not the cause of Job’s trials.  But He did, in His rightful providence, allow them to occur.  This leads us into the belief that if we allow something painful to occur, we must not love the other person.  Again, wrong.  If you have children, you know this is very far from the truth.  The difficult truth of parenting is that sometimes, parents allow their children (within safe parameters, of course) to experience pain and difficulty – so they can learn valuable and life-long lessons they would most likely, otherwise, forget.  It’s the experience of the pain that reminds us of lessons learned.  It’s also the experience of pain that allows us the opportunity to speak life and truth and encouragement into another person’s pain or tribulation.

I’ve recently read that pain…in it’s truest form, is a gift.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Pain often represents a warning sign, a symptom that something is wrong.  But that same pain, if identified, worked through, accepted, can also lead to healing.  Obviously, I’m not talking about physical pain and healing here, although the same idea can be applied to some of those situations as well.  But, reading through this idea that pain is a gift made me wonder:  When was the last time I thanked God for the gift of my current (or past) pain?  What is/was He trying to teach me in and through it?  And where is He during it?

The answer isn’t always so obvious to us during that painful time, is it?  But afterward…  Do you remember the poem, Footprints?  It was a popular one years ago and I feel that the overuse of that poem over the last many years may have caused some of the significance of the meaning to slip away somewhat, but remember with me if you will, the truth behind it:  It wasn’t until after the pain, when the main character thought he had been alone all those times, when he saw only one set of footprints in the sand, that Jesus had been right there, carrying him through it.  Hindsight is 20/20, right? For me, that’s proven to be true.

Dallas Holm wrote these lyrics that were released in 1993 and they still ring true today:

There’s a heaviness inside your heart
A weight you can’t describe
A feeling that you just can’t hide

There’s a weariness within your mind
The thoughts don’t come too clear
You feel as though I’m not so near to you

But remember I said I’d never leave
Trust in My Word and believe I am here
Forever, I’ll never let you go
This is all you really need to know

I’ve heard every prayer  I’ve seen every tear
When I seemed so distant, I’ve always been near
And I know the future, and I know the past
So believe me when I say…This too shall pass

He is with you.  When He’s seemed so distant, He’s always been near.  I’m still working on not trusting my feelings and emotions that change daily.  They simply aren’t trustworthy.  But He is.

So if, like me, you’ve been having a rough time as of late, or even if you haven’t been, take a deep breath and let me remind you of what is true:  God is still on His throne.  He still has a plan for your life.  He WILL see it through to completion…because He IS still good.

And on the days where you find yourself trusting your emotions more than your God, listen to the words of this song (click the link below to listen):

Be Still, My Soul

and remember…

“Be still, and know that I am God”  – Psalm 46:10

 

On Words and the Tongue

I talk a lot. Those that know me can attest to this. On top of that, I have a very sharp tongue. And to add to the problem even further, the words that come out of my mouth a lot of the time are anything but pure.

Lately, I have been told by a few people that I am a really great encourager. That comes as a major surprise to me. I don’t feel like I do that at all, but I can’t help but notice that it has come up in conversation not just once, but a few times – to the point where I can’t ignore it anymore and have begun to wonder if that is a spiritual gift that has been hiding somewhere deep within. So it’s no surprise that words have been on my mind lately.

Scripture has a lot to say about words and about the importance of holding one’s tongue as well as encouragement. So I’ve started a mini-study on what impact that should have in my life. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Fools Talk:

Ecclesiastes 5:3 …Many words mark the speech of a fool.

Ecclesiastes 9:17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.

Ecclesiastes 10:12 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.

Ecclesiastes 10:14 …Fools multiply words.

Have you ever noticed that the quiet ones usually have the most profound/meaningful things to say?

Tongues are Powerful:

James 3:5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

James 3:8 …No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

This last verse really made me think. If we can’t tame the tongue, what hope do we have? Our only hope is Christ Jesus. He is the One that created us. He created our tongues and our ability to speak. He alone can tame a fiery tongue. We need only ask. But what if I have asked? What if I have wept over my speech and begged God to take my unholy words away from me? What then? I believe it is a conscious decision to consistently be in prayer (1 Thess. 5:17), asking God’s assistance with our speech, each day. Remembering to really think before we speak. Accepting the challenge of continually seeking to live a holy, God-fearing life. Only then can we expect change.

Guarding One’s Tongue:

Proverbs 21:23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

Psalm 34:13 …Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

Our Words:

James 3:10 Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

Matthew 15:18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.

Going Forward:

Desiring a godly heart is a good place to start, but it is not the same as having one. Having a godly heart does not mean being perfect either. I desire a Christ-like heart; one of compassion, love, cheerfulness, goodness, self-control, temperance, (shall I list all of the fruits of the Spirit?), but do not feel that I exhibit these. And truth be told, it’s probably because I don’t – when it really matters. It’s easy for me to have compassion on the homeless person asking for money. It’s easy for me to be cheerful when I’m doing what I love. It’s easy to be good at work when I have a performance review approaching. It’s easy for me to be patient when I’m waiting for something I really want. But what about those other times? What if it’s having compassion on somebody going through a circumstance and your thought is for them to “suck it up.” What if it’s being cheerful in the midst of a failing marriage? What if it’s being good when nobody is watching and you’re aching to do X. What if it’s being patient when that toddler asks that same question for the fifteenth time and you are busy doing something else?

Having a godly heart, I believe, is:

First – having the desire.

Second – realizing our imperfection.

Thirdly – recognizing God’s perfection.

Fourthly – asking for His transformation on our lives.

Fifthly – actively working towards being like Him each day.

So for those that may find a discussion on “words and encouragement” strange coming from me, it’s actually quite perfect. As a woman who struggles with her filthy words and foolish talk, I am the perfect candidate to kneel before God in humbleness and beg for forgiveness and ask for wisdom. For my words to change, my heart has to change (Matt. 15:18 – as above), and so does my mind – Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

On understanding encouragement as a spiritual gift, I am still praying about that one. Discovering our spiritual gifts is a journey. And although I would never have considered encouragement as one of mine, I’m wondering if perhaps spiritual gifts can change as God changes us.

I want to honor God with my words, but change will hardly happen if we don’t set the right boundaries. That’s where accountability comes in. So if you hear me say something that isn’t any of the following, please remind me (gently) of this blog post.

Thanks for being on this journey with me.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

A Closer Look at Gethsemane: How Are We Measuring Up?

Over the past couple of months, I have been working through The Gospels – the first four books of the New Testament.  Specifically, I’ve been examining the responses of Jesus toward any situation or circumstance He faced.  Although there are so many things to glean from those four books, I’ve been most fascinated with the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Because I want to capture the full account of this story, I’ve taken the liberty of combining Scripture from Matthew and Luke so we can see a more complete picture of what occurred after the Last Supper with His disciples in the Garden.

Luke 22:39, 43-46 and Matthew 26:36b-39, 42-45

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him.  And He said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray”. 

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (James and John) with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with Me.”

Going a little farther, He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me.  Yet not as I will, but as You will.”  An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him.  And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 

When He rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, He found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.  “Why are you sleeping?” He asked them.  “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.” 

When He came back, He again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So He left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 

Then He returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?  Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us go!  Here comes My betrayer!”

Before we can look at Jesus’ responses, I’d like to take some time to really zoom in on His current circumstances – what He was going through, what He was experiencing in each moment, the emotions He must have felt.  Keep in mind as we examine this passage that Jesus was, at this time, 100% God and 100% human.  He went through many of the same things that we go through.  1 Peter 4:1 states that “Christ suffered while He was in the body” and Hebrews 4:15 states, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses since He had the same temptations we do, though He never once gave way to them and sinned.”

So what WAS going on?

Matthew 26:37-38 – Jesus “began to be sorrowful and troubled”.  His soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow”.  The word “sorrow” here refers to both physical and mental pain.  We see a couple of things here – inner turmoil and dread is one, and second, the grief from bearing the weight of other’s sins…the sins of the whole world.  Think for a moment about a time when you felt the most burdened about a sin you’d committed, or maybe it was just a sinful thought.  Or try and remember a time of immense grief where you couldn’t eat and you couldn’t sleep.  You just felt ill. The emotional agony of the situation was just too much to bear.  Now imagine the weight of your one situation multiplied by the burden of the sins of the whole world!  Can you see it in your mind’s eye?  I don’t know if we can ever begin to comprehend the weight of the burden that Christ was feeling that night, but we’re going to try.

His burden – His cup of wrath He was to drink – was so huge that we see in Matthew 26:39, the severity of the stress he was under.  He prays, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”  He was under so much stress of knowing what was to come that He actually pleads with His Dad to not make Him have to go through with it, to please take this horrific life sentence away from Him.  Jesus, in this very moment, shows His full humanity.  He knows what it’s like to go before the Father and beg for His situation to be removed from Him.  We can only imagine how He must have wept privately here.  He was under so much pressure and so much grief that when you skip to Luke 22:43-44, it says, “An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him.  And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”  He was in so much physical and emotional anguish over what He had to do, that an angel had to come and strengthen Him.  Scientists say that when a person is under that much emotional turmoil or grief, the capillaries in the human head can actually pop, causing a blood-like sweat as we see here.  Can you imagine a grief so great?

Looking back to the text in Matthew 26:40, 43, and again in verse 45, they state “Then He returned to His disciples and found them sleeping.  ‘Could you men not keep watch with Me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation’.” “When He came back, He again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.”  “Then He returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?”  Here Jesus is on arguably the most difficult night of His entire life.  We know He is already in severe distress and anguish – physical and emotional agony – and His closest friends, who He asked to stay with Him in Matthew 26:39 – “Stay here and keep watch with Me”, fell asleep on Him…repeatedly!  Try to envision for a moment the extreme loneliness and abandonment He must have felt.  He was beyond overwhelmed with sorrow and grief.  This was the time He should have been surrounded by His closest friends, comforted by them, having them be an alert, wakeful, and sympathetic presence, knowing they would be praying for Him, consoling Him, but they let Him down…big time. They completely ignored His request.  Have you ever been let down by somebody who was your closest friend?  The abandonment and loneliness He experienced here would have been so much worse of a blow because it provided a glimpse, a foretaste, of what was to come – from the imminent abandonment from His friends when they deserted Him after His arrest – to the cross, where even His Father would turn His face away from Him.

Looking back at Matthew 26:42, Jesus prays the second time stating, “My Father, IF IT IS NOT POSSIBLE for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it…”  He prayed the first time in Matthew 26:39 asking His Father to take the cup away from Him.  We can deduce from here that the reason He was in great anguish and needed to be comforted by the angels was because He received an answer to His prayer that He was not wanting.  He knew by verse 42 that God was not going to take this cup of wrath away from Him.  He was going to have to endure it.  Have you ever received an answer to prayer that you weren’t hoping for?  Maybe you just assumed God didn’t answer your prayer because what you asked for wasn’t allowed.

In Matthew 26:46 which states, “Rise, let us go!”, we see that Jesus faced his own, imminent death – literally.  Many of us haven’t had to go through that just yet, but I can’t help but think of numerous friends and family members we know who have had to do exactly that…possibly through a terminal illness diagnosis or failing health.  There is not one thing that we will go through that Jesus has not already experienced.

And finally, this whole story of the Garden of Gethsemane has Jesus surrounded by betrayal from one of His closest friends.  Jesus called it in Matthew 26:25 at the Last Supper: “Then Judas, the one who would betray Him, said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’.  Jesus answered, ‘Yes, it is you.’” and immediately following the garden’s story, we see Judas do exactly what Jesus said he would in Matthew 26:48&49 – “Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him.”  There’s nothing quite like betrayal – but it’s so much worse when it comes from a close friend.

So how DID Jesus respond to all of these things?

First of all – look back at the very first verse of the bolded passage.  “Jesus went out AS USUAL to the Mount of Olives…”  When Jesus was in the area, this is where He went to meet with God.  He had a special place set aside just for prayer.  That’s actually how Judas knew where they were going to be that night…because Jesus made it a regular habit to meet with His Father there in prayer.

When His sorrow and anguish was too great to bear, when He felt the most alone and abandoned by His closest friends – leaving Him to deal with His burden by Himself, Jesus chose to pray…and he kept returning to His only source of comfort – His Father.  Notice that at His loneliest time, God was still present through prayer.  Jesus’s prayer life was well-established long before a difficult situation ever arose in His life.  What are your prayer habits like?  Do you wait until a hard time comes up before going to meet with the Lord in prayer or do you have a regular prayer life already established so that prayer is your first response to everything and anything?  One other item I want to point out here is Jesus’s posture in Matthew 26:39 – he laid, face flat, on the ground.  It’s worshipful.  But it’s also a position of a servant’s cry to His King.

Jesus chose to receive help from the angels.  He chose to not get angry with His friends even though they completely ignored His request to stay awake with Him.  He chose to trust His Father totally, in full surrender.  You see this through the way He ends each of His prayers: “not what I will, but what You will”.  Just think about that for a moment!  What is the biggest thing you have ever prayed for, cried out to God for?  Did you ask Him just for what you wanted or were you ready and willing to embrace His will?  If not, what was it that held you back?

He also chose to face His death with courage and obedience – with total surrender and acceptance.

When faced with these kinds of situations or difficulties in life, how do YOU respond?  Is your response self-seeking?  Self-loathing?  Clothed in self-pity and self-servitude?  Or is your response more like Christ’s?  With humility.  With grace.  With obedience.  With trust.  With total surrender to the Father’s will.  As we prepare for this Easter season, may each one of us surrender ourselves totally to the authority of our God.  May we do as the Psalmist says in Psalm 139:23-24 and truthfully ask, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  May we daily choose to humbly and gracefully surrender our will to His, to fully obey, and to fully trust Him.

Main points to remember along our journey toward Home:

Step 1 – Ensure that you have a consistent and meaningful prayer life established before dark or difficult times arise.

Step 2 – Don’t blame God – even though He may be allowing the pain you’re experiencing.  Choose not to blame.  Choose to trust.

Step 3 – Go to Him in prayer and humility even though that might be the last thing you want to do – when everyone else is distracted and sleeping – go to Him…repeatedly.

Step 4 – Even if God doesn’t take                               away, obey.

A (Harsher) Word On Encouragement

The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines Encouragement in three ways:

  1. a. to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope
    b. to attempt to persuade
  2. to spur on
  3. to give help or patronage to

When was the last time you felt encouraged?  What brought about that feeling?  Chances are, it was probably someone who said something positive or uplifting to you or did something for you simply out of the kindness of their heart.  It’s a great feeling, isn’t it?  To be encouraged.  To have someone believe in us, cheer for us, help us, pray for us.  Sometimes, the encouragement we receive can make us feel as though we’re on top of the world, as if we are capable of accomplishing any task, no matter how difficult it may be.  But that’s because there’s power behind encouragement, isn’t there?

Why is that?  How can someone’s words or actions impact our own in such a drastic way?  I think it’s for the same reason that when another person speaks hurtful or unkind things about us or even to us, we cringe.  It hurts!

We were made FOR community and to be IN community.

It’s simply a part of the divine creation and order of things.  God made us to be a communal people.  His design and intent was never that His children would walk alone in this world, to strive to be able to do things on our own, or to even have to do things on our own.  You only have to look at Scripture to find truth to that.

So who encourages you?  Who spurs you on “towards love and good deeds”? (Hebrews 10:24)  Who encourages you and builds you up? (1 Thessalonians 5:11)  If you don’t have somebody who can speak life into your life, what are you doing about it?  Have you sought out a mentor or do you just sit miserably on your couch and “hope” someone will befriend and encourage you?  That might sound harsh, but know that you aren’t alone.  I was like you…for years.

“Where do I start?”, you might ask.  Great question!  My best suggestion is church.  If you don’t have a home church, start by finding one.  If you do have a home church, start by getting involved!  And no, the excuse of: “I just don’t have time” doesn’t fly with me.  You obviously have five minutes to sit and read this blog, so obviously you have five minutes you could spend helping out at church (granted…extenuating circumstances aside).  It can be small!  Maybe, for you, it looks like talking to the church secretary and asking how you can help with only five minutes of spare time – maybe that’s thinking of craft ideas for a Sunday School class, maybe it’s being an usher one Sunday morning and handing out bulletins before the service starts, maybe it’s offering to make an extra loaf of bread (or buy one while you’re already at the grocery store) for communion.  Maybe you have more time and you can help with teaching a Sunday School class, leading a Bible study one night a week, or helping with the Kids Clubs at your church.  When you do these things – when you “get involved”, you get to know other people on a deeper level than just your regular Sunday morning pew-warming neighbours.  And let’s be honest – how well do you REALLY know the people who warm the pews around your specific, self-allotted section?  Probably not that well.  But getting involved opens up new opportunities to meet fellow believers who are just like you – people who love Jesus.  The issue is – you can’t stop here.

Getting to know other people requires real work.  It involves opening the doors of your home to others, practising hospitality (Romans 12:3), regardless of how big…or tiny your home is.  Truly, the size of your home matters very little compared to the size of your heart – that, THAT is what people will see.  THAT is what will attract others to you.  So stop focusing on your own self-loathing and get out there!  Do what you can with what you have, regardless of how little that may be.  When you start to get to know people,  you start to care for them, to love them – so show it by your actions.  “My children, our love should not be only words and talk.  No, our love must be real.  We must show our love by the things we do.” – 1 John 3:18  In doing that, you may be moving mountains for others in ways you may never see here in this lifetime.  But these are the things that matter in eternity.  So what are you doing with what you’ve been given?  Are you keeping it all to yourself or are you sharing generously with others?  (My reference here is to the Parable of the Talents – Matthew 25:14-30)  Are you making a “profit” for the kingdom of heaven?  If not, don’t you think it’s about time you start?

“But, I thought this was about getting encouragement!?”

It is.  When you invest your time, your energy, your love, your wisdom into others (not for selfish gain), you can’t help but be encouraged.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

“Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3

When you get to know some other older, wiser, godly women in your church family, consider asking one of them to mentor you.  The format of a mentorship relationship can be as formal or informal as you like – you’re the one requesting it!  But pray about it and make your requests clearly known, to God – He will provide one if you ask Him to, and to the person you choose to ask to enter into that mentor relationship with you.  Do NOT be discouraged, however, if they say “No”.  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” – Romans 12:12  If, however, they say “Yes”, don’t be a drain!  Ask for that encouragement but also seek to be an encouragement to them.  Ask about their life, how you can be praying for them, etc.  Encouragement is not and should never be a one-way street.  The Bible is pretty clear on that.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!  Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.”  – 2 Corinthians 13:11

“Therefore, encourage one another…” – 1 Thessalonians 4:18

“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up…” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” – Hebrews 3:13

Who do you need to go to and encourage right now?

Forgiveness – The Unexpected Gift of Freedom

It’s springtime here. And it’s beautiful. We moved last September to a tiny, hamlet-style town just 20 minutes from the city. We love our new home…and neighbourhood. I have absolutely no green-thumb, but my yards are completely (and meticulously) landscaped (from the previous owners). Each time I bring the children outside to play, I’m constantly checking the shrubs and perennials that line our fence. I check often because I have no clue if I’m supposed to be pruning off the dead, stick-like stems of what were once beautiful flowers just months ago, or if I should leave them in hopes of a miraculous, life-like appearance once again. But each time I go outside, the signs of new life are everywhere. The trees are budding and tiny, green shoots are peeking through the rock beds. Each time I venture into my own backyard, I witness something new and alive. It’s beautiful. Miraculous!

It’s Sunday afternoon. The thunder rolled and the rain poured. The puddles are deep and wide. Peacefully, my children napped through the storm. After waking from her rest, my daughter took one look outside and her face awoke with excitement, eyes widened, a smile cracking, revealing an inner joy. To add to the already blossoming excitement, she saw her friend already outside jumping in the puddles on our cul-de-sac. I had the ultimate joy of sitting in my livingroom, watching the girls play on our street, running through the puddles and squealing as they chased their umbrellas which were tumbling around in the wind. For some reason my five-year-old thought that having her umbrella run away on her was the most hysterical thing in the world. I smiled, listening to the rain gently fall, and the squeals of glee, mixed with the all-out gutteral bursts of laughter coming from my daughter. Is there anything more beautiful and peaceful than the joy that comes from listening to the sounds of your child’s laughter, or to witness their pure and innocent joy and happiness?

When we witness the happiness of our children, it brings a rush of joy to our hearts and souls. Think about it. Why do parents go to the ends of the earth to find that lost teddy bear? Why do parents painfully pull out their wallets once again at the carnival when they see the pleading in their child’s eyes to play that game or ride that ride just one more time? Why do we lavish gifts on our children at Christmastime (or Easter, or Valentine’s day, or for the really bad ones…Arbour day? ;)) If you’re like me, chances are you’ve probably even thought something similar to, “OK, I mean it. This year, I’m going cheap. They have more than enough toys. They really don’t need anything! A couple small gifts each. That’s all they really need.” The next thing you know, you’ve spent $400 at Costco (on the kids gifts alone) and you didn’t actually think through how you were going to get all of your purchases home. Or maybe you’ve stood in line for hours (or days) on Black Friday awaiting the massive sales on toys – that special one your child has been eyeing for weeks. Of course, I always think it’s sad how we rush out to get more stuff after we just finished celebrating Thanksgiving – the holiday where we are supposed to be thankful for the things we do own…but I digress. Why do we put ourselves through all of that hassle? I think it’s because, sometimes, we live for that moment – the build-up – when they finally open that gift and you get to see their widened eyes, their mouths open in awe, sometimes with squeals of delight or sometimes with no words at all – that moment where joy and happiness radiate off of your child. At the core, we are selfish people. Yes, we want to bring joy and happiness to our children, but being able to witness it – that does something for us as well. It brings joy and happiness to us. We can’t help but smile. We might even shed a tear depending on the situation and we might even think, “Yup! It was all worth it.”

Basking in the moment of listening to my daughter’s joy, I had to wonder if that’s how God feels about His children. It only makes sense. Having a child tends to reveal a depth of love which I don’t think most of us know we are even capable of producing. The moment a child is brought into the world and placed into our care, instinct sets in. Regardless of the kind of parent you are, regardless if you let your kids watch too much t.v. or none at all, regardless if you let them eat only chips for supper or if you provide a full-balanced meal, regardless if you scream at your kids sometimes or are completely calm and collected all of the time (you’re a liar by the way), regardless if your baby has sat in that poopy diaper for 20 minutes longer than he probably should have or if your child was potty trained right from birth, regardless if you live with your child or only get to see them every other weekend, regardless of our failings or shortcomings, when our child is threatened or hurt, that also does something to us. We either rise up as an evil monster comes out of us to do whatever it takes to protect our child, or our hearts will break as we watch them suffer and learn the hard knocks of life on their own terms. We are connected to them because they are our own and we love them. Just like God is to us.

How He must hurt when we hurt. How He must wish we wouldn’t have made some of the decisions we did. How He must ache, draw near, and comfort us. How He must want to guide us in healthy directions, keeping us from harm. How He must yearn to take our place sometimes so we don’t have to go through the pain of learning or paying for our mistakes on our own. Oh, wait. He did. Over 2000 years ago, on a cross, on a hill called Golgotha. Because we are His own and He loves us.

Can you imagine how it must have felt to watch His only Son be tortured? Spit on? Mocked and ridiculed? To witness the false accusations against Him and sit by and say nothing?

How deep the Father’s love for us? How vast beyond all measure!

For sending His only Son to die a death that was never deserved, He sure doesn’t ask for a lot in return. As a loving Father, He seeks to steer us toward paths of righteousness – good things! He desires to keep us from the hurt that this world brings. He asks for our trust, our belief, and our obedience. If you think of God in any manner but a kind, compassionate, and loving Father, you must think Him to be demanding, cruel, and a keeper from a life full of fun and happiness.

But just suppose for a moment He is Who He says He is. Suppose for a moment that He actually is the way, the truth, and the life? What if He is good? What if He is kind? What if He is the best example of what a loving parent ought to look like? What if He actually tells the truth and means what He says? At first glance, what God asks for in return – our trust, our belief, and our obedience – doesn’t seem all that impossible. But when we take a closer look, these three little words have big implications on every aspect of our lives. But I want to look at one specific area of obedience that Christ calls His children to – an area in which God has been teaching me a lot about lately –

Forgiveness.

Do you cringe when you hear that word? Maybe you’re even thinking, “Oh, she’s going there? Nope!”, and proceed to exit this webpage. But if we haven’t fully forgiven, doesn’t it just mean that we aren’t spiritually mature enough to face that area of our lives? Harsh, I know! But nevertheless, true?

Two points I want to make right from the get-go:

  1. Forgiveness does NOT mean that you must continue in a relationship with somebody who has harmed you or hurt you. Forgiveness takes only one person.
  2. Forgiveness is NOT the same as reconciliation. Reconciliation takes two people.

So what IS forgiveness? Forgiveness is the relinquishment of your desire for vengeance and justice against the person who has wronged you. From her book, Passion Pursuit, Author Juli Slattery states,

You must understand that the forgiveness God has called you to, for yourself and others, does not compete with justice. The loving Savior who hung on the cross is still the judge who is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is still the Righteous One who says that, “Everything done in secret will be exposed.” (Mark 4:22)

But this righteous judge has another name: Redeemer. He brings redemption for one reason – because He loves.

Forgiveness brings freedom – to you. It has nothing to do with the person who has wronged you. Extending forgiveness releases your hold of anger, vengeance, justice, grudges, and hostility – on yourself. It frees you to be at peace. It does not mean that when something unlawful has occurred, you refrain from making a report to the local authorities or don’t press charges. It does mean that you:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence].

And instead, choose to:

Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and FREELY], just as God in Christ also forgave you.

Wow! What a calling! And yet…when we stop focusing on the sin of others and “look at the log (the bigger sins) in our own eye” (Matthew 7:3), we slowly come to a place of humility. Before the perfect God in heaven, recognizing our own sin, we can’t help but fall prostrate in repentance. In that very moment, forgiving others from their “debt” against us, becomes significantly easier. But in that moment of our own sin recognition, we also come to a place where we realize that we must also forgive ourselves. I would argue that, most often, forgiveness of self is the most difficult kind of forgiveness we could ever extend. Upon realization of our own sin, self-forgiveness becomes almost impossible – because there are weights attached to it. It would mean the relinquishment of guilt. It would mean letting go of the shame we are burdened so heavily with. It would mean freedom from our own personal vengeance and justice – letting go of the self-inflicted need to suffer for our sins. It means letting go of your own pride – your independent desire “to settle your own score, pay your own bill, make your own way” (Passion Pursuit, p. 142). Let me be very clear:

WE CANNOT SAVE OURSELVES.

BUT, we can, however, place ourselves in a similar posture of the woman from Luke 7, before the ultimate Savior and Redeemer. Do you remember her? This is the woman who had “sinned much”. From Luke 7:36-50 (TLB):

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to come to his home for lunch and Jesus accepted the invitation. As they sat down to eat,
37 a woman of the streets—a prostitute—heard he was there and brought an exquisite flask filled with expensive perfume.
38 Going in, she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping, with her tears falling down upon his feet; and she wiped them off with her hair and kissed them and poured the perfume on them.
39 When Jesus’ host, a Pharisee, saw what was happening and who the woman was, he said to himself, “This proves that Jesus is no prophet, for if God had really sent him, he would know what kind of woman this one is!
40 Then Jesus spoke up and answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
“All right, Teacher,” Simon replied, “go ahead.”
41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—$5,000 to one and $500 to the other.
42 But neither of them could pay him back, so he kindly forgave them both, letting them keep the money! Which do you suppose loved him most after that?”
43 “I suppose the one who had owed him the most,” Simon answered. “Correct,” Jesus agreed.
44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look! See this woman kneeling here! When I entered your home, you didn’t bother to offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
45 You refused me the customary kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I first came in.
46 You neglected the usual courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has covered my feet with rare perfume.
47 Therefore her sins—and they are many—are forgiven, for she loved me much; but one who is forgiven little, shows little love.”
48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 Then the men at the table said to themselves, “Who does this man think he is, going around forgiving sins?”
50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

Did you catch it? “She knelt BEHIND Him, at His feet, weeping.” This woman was at the lowest of lows in her town, her social class, and probably even her self-esteem. She didn’t even feel worthy to kneel before Jesus’ feet; she knelt behind Him. What sorrow and brokenness she must have brought before the Savior! This woman had indeed, “sinned much”. But where there is much sin, there is much forgiveness. Where there is great sin, there is great redemption.

In order to forgive ourselves, we must believe that Jesus really is the TRUTH. If He is true, what He says is also true. Psalm 103:

vs. 3: He forgives all my sins. He heals me.

vs. 8-13: He is merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; He is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love. He never bears a grudge, nor remains angry forever. He has not punished us as we deserve for all our sins, for His mercy toward those who fear and honor Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic to those who reverence Him.

Do you believe it? If not, you are indeed calling God a liar. God longs to forgive us. “He is like a Father to us…”

Do you dare let go? Do you dare cling to truth? Do you dare believe that God forgives you and even calls you to forgive yourself? In humility, in brokenness, in repentance, dare to approach your “tender and sympathetic” Father. From 1 John 1:9,

But if we confess our sins, God WILL forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done.

God is that parent to us who longs to see us, His children, joyful and happy. He hurts when we hurt; but how it must bring joy to God’s heart when He sees His children living in the freedom that He offers us, the freedom that His only Son died to purchase for us. God delights in His children! Psalm 149:4 states,

For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with victory.

Choose this very day to put your stake in the ground. Claim the freedom and the miraculous newness of life that comes with forgiveness. Run through those puddles and let out those squeals of glee, because you know that your tender and sympathetic, heavenly Father says to you, just like he said to the woman who had sinned much:

“YOU ARE FORGIVEN. GO IN PEACE.”