Contentment is something I struggle with. I’m blessed to have a loving husband, a home that’s not huge or fancy but that is perfect for my family, three great children, plenty to eat, the ability to work from home, and so many other things! Yet, I seem to have trouble being content with what I have. It’s so easy to instead focus on what I don’t have.
I don’t have enough money to go on expensive vacations every year.
I don’t have lots of new clothes and pretty jewelry.
I don’t have the ability to keep my house clean and organized without a struggle.
I don’t have time to do everything that needs to be done each day.
I don’t have a perfect life, perfect children, or a perfect marriage.
But when I stop and think about it, God has given me so many blessings that I don’t deserve! Even though these things may not seem like much sometimes, I know there are people who don’t have these things and who would love to enjoy them like I do. People who would be thankful for these things and not take them for granted like I often do.
I do have a husband who loves our children and who loves me very much. He works hard to take care of us. He spends time with us.
I do have the ability to “tag along” on my husband’s work trips now and then. Even though he has to work on these trips, we still have travel time and evenings together.
I do have all the clothing I need. It may not be new or fancy, but I never have to worry about whether or not I’m able to clothe myself or my family.
I do have a home that I love. It’s not huge or fancy, but it has plenty of room. It has a walk-in pantry that I adore, a separate utility room—which is something I’ve always wanted, and it even has a good bit of closet space.
I do have children who love their dad and me, and we love them! We don’t always get along perfectly, but we do get along well, and I’m blessed that we have close relationships. I know many parents who would love to be in the same situation.
When Contentment is a Struggle
Yet my greatest struggle with contentment has to do with my 22-year-old daughter who is severely autistic. Since she was diagnosed at about age 3, I’ve prayed for God to heal her. So far that hasn’t happened. I know God could heal her if He chose to. But He hasn’t. It’s often hard to understand why God has chosen to allow her remain autistic instead of healing her. I don’t understand it.
But one thing I’ve learned over these 22 years is that God’s plan is better than mine. Even when I disagree with His plan. Even when I’m not sure what His plan is. Even when I wish MY plan was HIS plan.
So Many Good Things
I can look back and see so many good things that have happened in my life as a result of my daughter’s autism.
We attend our church because a friend who has an autistic son invited us. She knew we would be welcome and that our autistic child would be welcome—even though there were other area churches that didn’t welcome us.
I’ve been able to encourage so many moms of autistic children simply because I really do understand what they’re going through! I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard other moms say things like, “I’m so happy to have finally found someone who really understands what I go through on a daily basis!” Because I really do understand.
I’ve learned to appreciate every little milestone that my daughter reaches. I’ve learned to treasure every bit of progress she makes. I’ve learned to be happy for little things that most parents take for granted.
I’ve been blessed with a wonderful respite care worker who has become a friend. She takes loving care of my daughter for a few hours each day so I can work and go to the gym or to appointments. And my friend is blessed to have a flexible job that she enjoys.
No, I wouldn’t choose for my daughter to be autistic. But I’m learning to focus on the blessings I have and to pay less attention to the things I’d like to change. I’m learning to trust God’s plan more and my own plan less. I’m learning to be content knowing that God knows what’s best for my family and for me.
I’m learning to be content.
Oh, friend! Are you in the midst of a situation that you have prayed over for hours and hours? If you are, you are not alone. I truly believe these are some of the most trying moments in our lives that can turn into the biggest blessings and sources of contentment if we let them. But’s it so hard.
We have seen God relieve us in other moments, so we start questioning,
“Why not now? Why won’t you take this from me? Why won’t you save this person from that situation?”
God lets us pour our hearts out to Him and then He continues to comfort us where we are. Maybe He will relieve whatever is crushing our souls at the moment, or maybe He won’t. Whether He does or doesn’t we have to ask ourselves a pointed questioned:
Are we willing to trust God and praise Him, even if he allows this situation to continue?
Think on this for a moment or two…
Can you instantly say, “Your will be done, Lord. I trust you even if THIS CONTINUES.”
If so, then you are allowing God’s perfect peace, the peace that defies understanding, to live in you.
But if you can’t, it is ok. God is still with you. He is patient and merciful and will guide you through, if you let Him.
You are also not alone in this.
The Bible shows us that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have struggled with being in a seemingly permanent situation. I say seemingly because we all know that one day, when Christ comes back, whatever pain we are facing now will vanish. Praise the Lord! Let me her ya shout, “Hal-la-LU-jah!”
But what do we do until then?
I can’t help but think of David, Hannah, the Woman who bled for 12 years, and of course, Paul. They pushed through every day carrying the burden of what was happening but they also kept seeking God. They kept petitioning God.
Their contentment didn’t lie in any situation but it spiritually rested in the hands of our Lord. Yes, they all had something that overwhelmed their souls. David had to hide from Saul for years. Hannah year after year would come before God baring out her soul for a child. The Women who bled trusted God’s word in Isaiah when she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. Paul wanted everyone to share in his joy, when he knew physical death was around the corner.
Paul says to King Agrippa in Acts 26:29:
“I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
The boldness Paul had to proclaim, while handcuffed and being moved from prison to prison, that he was in a far superior position than the earthly king he was talking too, exudes his contentment and joy in Christ. It’s a contentment that is baffling to those who do not have it but joy to those that do.
Sometimes, we mistake contentment for being satisfied with the situation. By looking at these brothers and sisters, we can see that they were not necessarily thrilled about their circumstances and longed for them to change, but it was who they trusted to carry them during these times that allowed them to be content while in the struggle.
Prayer Over Our Hearts
Oh, Lord, you are holy and beyond compare! You promise to take care of all you have created. Even when we are going through times that overwhelm us physically, mentally, and emotionally, we can trust that you have us spiritually and will guard us completely.
We will not stop begging for relief, but will trust that even if we do not receive it that you are still a good, good Father. There are parts of your plan that we do not see and we will be honored to be used for your glory even if it means continuing in the circumstances we are in.
Continue to encourage us daily, Lord! We know Satan will try to use our difficult circumstances to convince us that we are unloved, but help us hold on to the truth that it is because of your love that we have our eternal hope. Satan can only bother us for a while longer and then he will be held back. We praise you for your power and ability to hold him back and destroy his hold on this earthly world.
We pray that as we live with your peace and contentment in our difficult situations we will bring hope to those who are dealing with similar trials. May your light shine through the difficulties in our lives.
In the One who weeps with us while giving us strength, peace, and courage to continue – Amen!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5–6
Whenever Christmas rolls around I think of that John Lennon song that comes on the radio every year: “And so this is Christmas… and what have you done? Another year over. A new one just begun.”
I guess it’s the pop version of “teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
I used to get to the end of the year with a mild sense of guilt thinking of all the things I could have done, or had planned to do and just never got around to. All the habits I was going to start. All the goals I was going to accomplish. Sound familiar?
I would even start to think back to all those wasted years before I accepted Christ, and all the failed efforts to BE a better Christian. That guilt, along with excitement for the new year, would push me into making new goals and new lists of things to do. So that I could look back on it all once again and be disappointed that it did not meet my expectations.
Don’t you want something different? I know I do.
Of course, I have nothing against goals and establishing good habits for ourselves. I still do those things. But I’ve come to find great contentment and rest in a few key ideas that have grounded me. They have given me perspective rather than end-of-year angst:
- God’s plans are more important than my goals.
- God always accomplishes His purposes.
- God redeems our imperfect efforts.
- God’s mercies are new every morning.
Isn’t that such a relief? What a merciful blessing. Do you want to know what is even more encouraging? His plans and purposes for you are not elusive. He’s already told us exactly what He’s up to.
This is the will of God, your sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 4:3
Our sanctification is God’s goal, and it’s better than any New Years goal we could come up with on our own. It’s a sanctification that changes us ever into the likeness of Christ and can only be done in us by the work of the Holy Spirit.
What is our part? To yield to Him in full surrender. To simply trust and obey, just like that sweet hymn by John H. Sammis says: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Dear sisters in Christ, as the new year rushes in, we can remain content and confident that God will complete His good work in us until it is finished. He will bring about all His good purposes for the glory of His name. Amen.
We have a lot of sisters at our house. Four to be exact. And that is just the right amount to produce a lot of fun sister activity. Unfortunately, it also produces a lot of not-so-fun sister activities; fighting, tattling, bossing, comparing, complaining, telling someone how to do it the ‘right way’…my list could go on and on and on. How easy it is to lose sight of our purpose as sisters.
When it happens over and over and over again…I get tired! It hurts me to see them hurting each other’s feelings. It makes me sad how they treat each other.
The girls know what I’m going to say before I even say it. I’ve said it over and over. I repeat it daily. Sometimes hourly.
“Sisters are for encouraging”
Sisters are not for:
- …fighting with.
- …tattling on.
- …bossing around…Mom is the boss.
- …comparing with. Life will NOT be fair. Everyone is better at something.
- …complaining about.
- …telling you how to do it their way.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Our true purpose
Encourage one another. Build each other up.
That is the purpose of a sister.
Let’s go a step further. I’m talking about earthly sisters here. Those blood sisters. Yet, as I repeat this sentence over to my girls I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “what about your sisters in faith?”
How should we treat our sisters in Christ? What is the purpose for that kind of a sister?
The answer is astoundingly the same.
Sisters are for encouraging.
We don’t need to fight with a sister of Jesus.
Do everything without complaining and arguing Philippians 2:14
We don’t need to run and tattle when a sister is doing something we don’t approve of!
And make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.
1 Thessalonians 4:11
We don’t need to boss a sister in Christ around.
They have the Holy Spirit to prod and guide into what they should be doing. We are NOT their boss.
When the spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13
Sisters are NOT for comparing with.
OUCH. Life is not fair. Really, we wouldn’t want it to be. Our talents are not the same as our sisters. Our calling is not the same as that of ANYONE else. So we must not compare with our sisters.
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others.
Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory.
But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:12-18
Sisters are not for complaining about. Or complaining to, for that matter.
Do everything without complaining and arguing Philippians 2:14
Sisters are not there for telling you how to do something… Exactly their own way. Again, that is the Holy’ Spirit’s job.
Jesus said in John 16:12-15 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
Sisters are for encouraging.
Whether we are blood sisters or sisters in Christ. We must not try to take over the Holy Spirit’s job. Or boss them around like a lord over them. No, friends, let’s encourage one another and build each other up!
This is the purpose of a sister: encouragement.
Friends, let’s go be encouragers!!
What comes to mind when you think of hope? Allow me to take you on a tour of what hope has looked like in my life for the last 45 days.
September 6th: While visiting family in Puerto Rico, I hoped and prayed that Hurricane Irma would go two degrees North and not wreak havoc. I also prayed that I would be able to conduct my online classes with minimal, if any, interruptions. Prayers answered. Damage was minimal, classes ran smoothly.
September 8th: I prayed for my aging grandmother’s home to get its electricity back. As my girls and I are in the driveway headed out, the electricity turns on. Prayer answered, and in just two days more my sister’s home would regain power.
September 19th: A quick call to my sister told me what I didn’t want to hear, this next hurricane, just two weeks later, was a force to be reckoned with. I approach the Throne and ask God for His protection over those I love and the people of PR.
September 20th: 7:30 AM, a half an hour before Hurricane Maria was to make landfall, I am speaking with my sister and could hear that Maria had already made landfall. My sister was headed to the inside room of the house along with my grandmother and elderly Aunt & Uncle. Shortly after that conversation, phone lines went dead. Prayers filled with hope and confidence that He would protect them
Later that afternoon, I spoke to my sister to learn that according to the emergency broadcast channels, no one was to come out until the next day. In the interim, I could see the news and my heart was crushed seeing the devastation that Hurricane Maria had just done to my country. Limited communication to follow, many decisions to be made, more prayers filled with hope.
October 1st: After ten days of discussions and surveying the landscape, it was decided that my grandmother would come to stay with me until electricity returned to her area. Homes, streets, and entire neighborhoods were destroyed. People were devastated. At the airport, there was what appeared to be a mass exodus. People either packed whatever belongings they had left or the very minimal for the journey ahead and while many people, like me received their relatives with glee, these very people arrived with deep sadness and very little hope.
The mass exodus, if you will, made me think of the Israelites and their multiple journeys, whether it be when they went in circles following Moses heading to the promised land, or when they were taken into exile to Babylon. It also reminds me our daily walk as Christians, God tells us in this world we will have trouble, this earth is not our home. Some journeys are harder to take than others, the days are long, and our flesh is weak, so how do we remain steadfast? What is the one essential item needed for our journey? HOPE.
We are reminded repeatedly in Scripture about HOPE –
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner [Jesus] has entered for us… (Hebrews 6:19)
if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:23)
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
As Christians we are to be rooted and grounded in HOPE. It is that very HOPE which lives within us that allows us to be sad but not be in despair. It allows us to have setbacks while looking ahead to what the Lord will do. It allows those of us who are in Christ to say, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
HOPE is an anchor for our weary souls this side of heaven.
October 23rd: On Oct 1st my niece had accompanied my grandmother on her exodus to the mainland, she remained here for a week and brought some laughter into the dampened mood. A week later my nephew arrived. He’d recently relocated to FL for a job opportunity and was able to make the trip to visit. In addition, I have another nephew that lives nearby who has been able to visit her as well. As part of her exodus, my grandmother has enjoyed the presence of four of her grandchildren and her two great-granddaughters. What a blessing she has been to all of us and what a gift it has been to serve her during this time.
Every morning, for as long as I can remember, Grandma has risen early to says her prayers. She is faithful in her conversations with her Savior. Despite the situation that she is in she has hope. If she’s taught me one thing is that no matter what situation is before her, prayer is and will always be a priority. What a beautiful example of a praying parent!
Grandma is resting, the leaves are changing, and we’re settling into a new normal, albeit temporary. We do so with a peace that passes all understanding because of the HOPE that lives within us. Amen!
Before we can understand hope, we must look at hopelessness. Many of us have felt the sting of rejection and the heartache of sadness. We have even felt despondent at times. But hopelessness? It encompasses pain on deeper levels. It is dark. And helpless. There is no way out.
Hopelessness is true despair with no glimpse of help. There is not one ounce of light shining in and all seems lost. There is no future to look to and no peace in the present.
And, before Christ, we were all hopeless.
Yet, Jesus steps in and gives us hope – for a future, for a present, for a life.
Hope brings light into the darkness. It brings redemption and a future to look forward to. There is hope where there was once hopelessness.
I have been in that utter despair and darkness. With no light beams reaching me. It was truly a pit. Yet, He stepped in, and first a little pinhole of light poked through that darkness, and I saw it. I was changed by just that little glimmer of goodness and glimpse of a future that wasn’t so bleak. And that light grew and reached further into the crevices. It was like the rising sun out of a black night.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.
The light grows and broadens until it is penetrating each area that was once so dark. A once blackened room at midnight is filled with radiant light come morning.
And with each beam of light, hope grows.
And a future is promised. The present is lighter. The peace and joy that come only from knowing Him surpasses all else.
Therefore, hope is more than a feeling or a wish. It is a true anchor for our souls that offers a future of glory. It is what Jesus offers and the world can never give us. Because without Him, there is absolutely no hope. The only way to eternity is through Jesus. He is our hope. He is the One who lights our path into eternity.
So, dear friends, are you feeling helpless? Hopeless? May we look to Him in these times that sometimes feel lost and dark. Because we are never truly hopeless. There is always hope. In Jesus.
Dear Heavenly Father, May we all look to our One and only Hope each day. May we never waiver in knowing the truth that sets us free, sets our feet on a rock, and gives us a plan for a future. A future filled with glory far beyond this world. Far reaching into every dark and dreary corner is a Light that will shine and give us eternity. Amen.
This is a very special day. Four years ago today we lost our first grandson just hours before birth.
It seems like a sad way to start a post, especially since the theme this month is “Hope”, but it actually isn’t sad. Let me tell you why.
Minutes after we received the phone call that they had lost Isaac’s heartbeat and were getting ready to do an ultrasound, I numbly walked to my car. I asked God what to pray for. Should I pray for a miracle? Should I pray that our grandson was really alive and that this was just some scary misunderstanding? In a very quiet whisper I heard, “no”. It was at that moment that I could feel God’s grace wash over me and a knowing in my heart that He was not only present, but would provide everything we needed to walk this journey. The short drive to the hospital was the hardest I’ve ever made.
As I arrived and walked into the room where our daughter and her husband were awaiting the ultrasound confirmation, you could hear a pin drop. The tech came in and we watched as he searched for a heartbeat. It wasn’t there.
On the screen, we could see Isaac’s perfect little body, created in the image of God…still, lifeless, peaceful.
There were a few friends there in the room with us and a few minutes later one of their phones started playing a song. I tried to turn it off, but couldn’t, so I left the room with it. I still couldn’t get it to stop playing when I realized that maybe I was SUPPOSED to listen to it. So I sat down in a nearby chair and listened while tears streamed down my face:
All who are thirsty
All who are weak
Come to the fountain
Dip your heart in the stream of life
Let the pain and the sorrow
Be washed away
In the waves of his mercy
As deep cries out to deep (we sing)
Come Lord Jesus come
As I began to worship, I invited Jesus to come onto that hospital floor. Over the hours that followed, His presence was so tangible and his grace so evident, we would be fools to deny it. Our daughter delivered their sweet little boy just 12 hours after induction. I watched her and Jacob draw strength from Jesus as they walked out the seemingly impossible with hope that didn’t make worldly sense.
We spent what felt like far too short of a time holding, kissing and loving on Isaac.
In the days, weeks and months that followed we experienced waves of deep and gut wrenching grief…and yet there was hope…REAL hope. We lived out I Thessalonians 4:13 that describes how, as Christians, we grieve, but NOT as those who have no hope. To grieve WITH hope is entirely different than grieving with NO hope.
And THIS is why we can have confidence…because He IS our confidence. There is no place we can go where His love does not go deeper still. Our feelings may tell us differently, but feelings aren’t always fact and, as believers, we can yield those feelings to the truth…that He is not only our reason to hope, but He IS our hope.
Three years ago I was rocking my 2-month-old baby when my (then) husband broke the news that he no longer wanted to be married.
I’ve struggled daily with forgiveness for more than 3 years, learning that forgiveness can’t always be given in an instant.
I can’t say, “I forgive you for leaving us.” and suddenly be rid of anger and hurt forever. That anger surfaces over and over: when I face a parenting decision alone, when medical bills arrive, when I’m lonely, when a child asks why her father left, and on, and on. Each and every time that anger washes over me, I must again try to forgive.
What can be done to forgive what feels unforgivable?
Realize that forgiveness isn’t ‘once and done’. It is a constant. Each time anger surfaces, there is need to forgive once again.
What is forgiveness? Is it condoning the actions of the one who hurt you? Is it removing the need for accountability? Is it pretending the wrong never happened or there were no consequences?
No! Forgiveness is simply acknowledging a wrong and giving it to God, realizing that He is the one in control of the situation. Rather than worrying about just punishment for an offense, allow God to take care of it.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
Even after three years, I am no pro at forgiveness. I must still frequently revisit forgiveness through prayer, asking for help to surrender my anger and hurt.
Friend, if you are struggling to forgive, remember that forgiveness is an ongoing battle. Approach God with prayer each time you find yourself dwelling on the transgression. Recognize that God is in control of righting injustice and you are simply in control of letting go.
I had gone thru many of the steps of forgiveness. And just still couldn’t let go. Just still couldn’t find closure to the matter.
I had always heard you must forgive or you won’t be forgiven. But it just didn’t resonate with me. It was just all too vague or something. It didn’t tug at my heart strings.
I remember the day, it was the Sunday before my 30th birthday. I took some quiet time after church. I heard God saying…
- “Ok, Trudie, did this person do you wrong?” Yes, for sure, is the answer.
- “Did this person hurt you?” Yes.
- “Did this person ruin your life?” Yep!
- “Does this person OWE you?” Yes.
Yes, yes, and yes. This person certainly owed me. I had given up so much of my life for this person’s control and agenda. Things that should not have been asked of a young girl.
Yes, the resounding answer to all those questions was yes.
I pictured myself standing before my God as the judge. The person that had hurt me was on trial and was found guilty. The punishment was, well, anything really. I think I pictured money. Say $100,000. This person owed it to me. God as the judge was admitting that, yes, the person was guilty. And He was ready to hand out the sentence.
But then Jesus walked in.
He said, “I will take the place. I will pay it all. I too, know that this was the guilty person. But I want to pay her punishment.” He handed me the money to pay the debt that was owed.
The choice was now mine. I needed to decide if I would accept the gift. Jesus was freely handing me everything the person owed me.
If I took the money, the person would be able to walk out of the courtroom free. I could not hold a grudge. I could not call another trial. If I accepted His payment, I had to let go of the right to get even.
Finally, I realized this was the way it was. Real life. Not a made-up courtroom scenario.
Jesus had paid it all on the cross. Years ago. For the sins against me. He had paid that person’s debt. He DIED on the cross so that that person would be free from the bondage they owed me.
He only asks me to accept his free gift of repayment.
When Satan comes back and he wants me to hold on to that debt. Daily, when he brings memories back and words that were spoken. Daily, when he wants me to pick that hurt back up. I have to go back to the court room. Jesus is still standing there with a receipt of payment. Signed and dated. March 1st, 2013.
Sometimes a new hurt comes; I find myself back in the courtroom. I know as soon as a sentence is made, Jesus will be walking in ready to pay the debt. He is always ready to pay all that this person owes.
He is able.
You know, I’ve missed out on a lot because of this debt owed to me. Yet, as time goes on, I’m realizing that not only is Jesus willing to pay the debt, but He also wants to fill the holes that were left. He wants to restore me completely. He wants to make good the wrong done to me. He wants to change this story of hurt into a story of complete joy.
He is not just into paying the debt, but into restoring me completely. Refining me into pure gold, tried by fire through this.
He is Able. But I have to accept it.
I have to focus on the good that this situation has brought in my life. I have to focus on the things, people, and circumstances that this very situation has brought. I need to look at the place where I would have been, and the place where I am now. And in that, I find that Jesus was able. Jesus is still able to provide payment for what this person owes me. In a FAR greater way than any person ever could. More than any punishment could have repaid, the debt is restored.
Jesus is able. Every day I have a question to answer. . . Will I let Him?
You have the same option this very day… Who are you standing on the other side of the wittness stand from? Who do you need to forgive? Jesus is walking into the courtroom. Will you let Him pay what is owed to you? Will you accept His free gift? He can restore your debt! Will you let Him?
Have you ever noticed that the words GIVE and GIVEN are in the middle of forgiveness? I guess I never really thought about it. Until today. And now, that which has been seen cannot be unseen.
ForGIVEness is a noun, and as such, it is a thing. It is something you can give, and it is something that can be given to you—whether you choose to receive it or not. Isn’t that interesting?
Psychologists have long contended that the offer of forGIVEness benefits the person giving it regardless of the recipient’s reaction. Why? Rarely do the people we need to forgive have a clue how much harm they have inflicted or the extent of the pain they have caused. Can I get a witness?!
ForGIVEness is not about fighting for justice or holding the offender accountable—that’s completely different. ForGIVEness is an attitude of the heart. It’s about us and our willingness to trust God’s sovereignty: Do we trust God enough to forGIVE someone for hurting us? Our family? Our friends? Our pastor? Our animals? Our possessions? Our bank accounts?
When I consider what authentic forGIVEness looks like, I think of the incredibly inspiring and humble members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. I think of Nadine Collier, the daughter of Ethel Lance, a senior citizen who was shot and killed after an evening service in 2015 for no other reason than the color of her skin. When Collier had the opportunity to confront her mother’s murderer, she did not seek revenge or curse his existence. She did not question why or scream in his face. Instead, she offered the unexpected and holy gift of forGIVEness. Though he was held captive by his hate, she was FREE.
When I consider what authentic forGIVEness looks like, I think of Debbie Godwin, daughter of Robert Godwin Sr. whose cold-blooded murder was posted on social media and shared all over the interwebs. Instead of hate and bitterness, she has shown tremendous grace and emotional fortitude by offering forGIVEness and showing empathy towards the murderer who later took his own life. He was held captive by his hate. She was FREE.
What do Collier, Godwin, and others who genuinely practice the art of forGIVEness have in common? They share a heart filled with humility and trust—the combination of which unlocks our ability to offer forGIVEness to those who have hurt us, even if the hurt can never be undone.
Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus taught His followers how to pray, He taught them to “Let it go!”
“Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.“ (Matthew 6:12, CSB)
And just in case Jesus’ followers didn’t understand that forGIVEness was tied to their willingness to forGIVE others, He re-stated it more clearly:
“If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14, CSB)
In this model prayer, Jesus highlighted the essentials of an effective prayer: honoring God; calling out for His will to be done; looking to Him as provider; requesting protection and deliverance from evil; AND seeking forGIVEness with the same measure we offer it to others. It’s almost as though Jesus was teaching His followers that forGIVEness was an important daily practice—a spiritual discipline, of sorts—and withholding it would have serious negative consequences.
ForGIVEness requires neither a frontal lobotomy nor a risky reconciliation. It simply requires (1) a humble spirit convinced that the best judge of character, motivation, and intention is the Lord God Almighty and (2) a heightened sense of self-awareness that we are not Him! 😳
Only in humility are we able to place our trust in a God who is who He says He is and does what He says He will do. When we trust God, we can genuinely offer forGIVEness—not concern ourselves with the reaction of the recipient—and experience freedom from the bondage of bitterness.
Are you willing to trust God’s judgment over your own and offer forGIVEness to ___________________ today, even though she or he might never know? Or might reject it? Remember, His forGIVEness is directly related to our willingness to forGIVE others. There really is no better time than the present to let go of bitterness and trust God’s sovereignty with your pain. ForGIVEness is freedom.