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.
We all have it. Things we have done or shouldn’t have done with our kids. You all know what I’m talking about. Cold pizza for breakfast because I didn’t get enough sleep last night (teething baby) and I didn’t have the energy to make a fresh, nutritious breakfast.
Or the time my child was the only one on the homeschool field trip who didn’t have his jacket (and his pants were inside out – how did that happen?). How about the time I forgot to get a card for my husband’s birthday and frantically instructed the kids to make a “Daddy card,” in a feeble attempt to convince him that THAT was my Plan A?
It seems we moms are always feeling guilty about something. Let me ask you right now. Is there something (big or little) nagging in the back of your head right now as you’re reading this? Can you think of something that happened recently or in the past that you keep replaying in your mind, wishing you could have done it differently?
Let me tell you. Having raised four children, homeschooling them from K-12 grades, I am constantly having to deal with those thoughts even today. Things I did in the past keep popping up in my brain, and I have to deal with the regret or frustration of trying to push those thoughts out of my mind.
In a sense, that crazy, over-sung movie theme is useful…Let. It. Go.
Self-forgiveness is a tough thing. Moms, in particular, often carry a heavy load of guilt. And sometimes it goes way beyond the guilt of serving cereal for dinner.
If you do a quick search in the Bible to find verses addressing “forgiving yourself,” you might not find any. That doesn’t mean it isn’t in there. There are lots of passages that talk about the sin of unbelief. Think about that. In Romans 8:1, Paul says that there is “therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
He goes even further in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
So if you are a Christian, you have received the complete grace and forgiveness of Christ. When God looks at me, for example, He sees the finished work of Jesus covering over me, and thus He sees Jesus’ righteousness as if I have never sinned. So my sins are forgiven. I believe that.
Well, although that’s something that makes me want to sing and praise the Lord each day, and I am truly grateful for what Jesus did for me and God’s forgiveness of my sins, why do I keep beating myself up when I think back to things I didn’t do perfectly in my life? Why don’t I believe 2 Corinthians now?
In a sense, I am denying the work of Jesus. God forgives me, so why can’t I forgive myself? I mean, I DO forgive myself in my head, but my heart keeps bringing up the guilt and regret.
That is NOT forgiveness. That is rejecting what Christ has done!!
When you live in guilt, you have no internal rest. We can sometimes push that guilt away for a time, but like a horrible weed, it will keep coming back unless we can eradicate those roots.
And to do that, I have to turn to the power of God’s word. Paul says in Hebrews 4:3,
“For we who have believed enter that rest.”
We need to understand the rest that comes with the forgiveness and salvation in Christ.
We find rest when we really accept that our sins have been washed away and are forgotten. If the God of all creation who upholds everything in His hand made it so you and I are able to have a relationship with Him – made it so we can come to him as one who is perfect (thanks to Jesus), then who am I to say otherwise?
Who am I to say I know better than God? I don’t have to dwell on those guilt-bubbles that keep rising to the surface. When they pop up in my mind, then, I just remind myself that God is big enough to deal with them. In fact, He already has dealt with them. So why do I keep fertilizing those weeds? He pulled them out, and I can joyfully go forward.
Moms, let Him do that for you. It doesn’t mean you will never feel guilt, but you DO have a means to address it. You have the awesome goodness of Christ’s work and His overwhelming love for you.
Especially as you dress your toddler in yesterday’s clothes.
Do you find it easy to forgive others when they hurt you? How about forgiving others that hurt you over and over again even when you have told them that what they are doing bothers you?
I struggle with forgiving those closest to me. I mean shouldn’t they be more careful to not hurt or offend me since they care about me?
Yeah, that is a selfish as it reads. When I think about all the times I go to my heavenly father and ask for forgiveness for the same things over and over, and yes over again; I have wondered if He gets tired of hearing me and wonders if I really mean it this time.
I presented my feelings once in a class and the group stopped to talk about forgiveness. What is it? What does it include? What should be excluded?
Let’s talk about what Forgiveness is…
Forgiveness is submitting to scripture and honoring God. It is His right to take care of justice. When we don’t forgive, and turn it over to God, we are saying that we don’t trust Him to handle it properly.
Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Forgiveness is a multi step process. We can’t always just say, “I forgive” and be over the hurt. Sometimes we have to forgive as we heal, and that might take time. During painful events, I pray for God to give me the grace needed to forgive as I heal.
Forgiveness is a requirement. However, when we find that we are having to forgive the same person for the same offense over and over, we need to look at that relationship and perhaps set boundaries. If we allow someone to continue to have the power to hurt us, we will become bitter and they are not going to change their behavior.
Forgiveness is based on our heart condition and attitude. We can choose to forgive someone and ask God for the grace to let it go as our heart heals.
Okay for let’s talk about what Forgiveness isn’t…
Forgiveness is not allowing the other person to get away with their actions or not be held accountable.
Forgiveness is not allowing someone to hurt us over and over. If a situation exists like this, the relationship needs to be reviewed and boundaries put into place if you want to continue having a relationship with that person.
Forgiveness is not denying there is a problem or becoming the martyr. It isn’t okay for someone to continue to hurt you. However, sometimes we have to face the fact that there are individuals that are just obnoxious, mean, or unstable. When we are in a relationship like this, we have to face that they will not change their behavior but we can change the way we react or interact with them.
This world is full of evil. There will always be people that will hurt us. We have the choice of holding the pain inside and becoming bitter and angry or forgiving and allowing God to heal our hearts.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you have forgotten the offense. There will be times when you will see or do something that will bring those memories back to your mind. Instead of allowing those memories to bring you pain from the past, try thanking God that you were able through His grace to forgive.
Another area that I struggle with when I am allowing the things in my life to keep me too busy to spend enough time in the Word and in prayer is admitting that I have taken offense where none may have been meant. Sometimes I just get my feelings hurt and honestly have no valid reason to back it up. You know, that “look” someone gave me, or the person that didn’t speak to me.
During these times when I am feeling put upon or picked on (all in my mind and because I have allowed the world to draw me in to doubt and fear); I will post this scripture all around the house as a reminder.
Ecclesiastes 7:9 says: Do not be quick to take offense, for the taking of offense is the mark of a fool.
I pray that as we grow closer to God, we are slower to anger and to take offense. This only comes through daily time in the Word. Take time to read and study your bible daily. Spend as much time as you can in prayer. Allow both the word of God and His love heal your hurts. And if you are reading this, understand that I am not talking about abuse when I talk about someone hurting you. Abuse is never okay and should never be tolerated. Please seek help if you are in a relationship that you are physically or emotionally in danger.
It was my fault. I deserved it. After all, I’d behaved just like he was behaving. I’d thrown the fits, hurled myself on the floor, yelled and screamed. My mother didn’t know what to do with me. I wore her out and consistently reduced her to tears.
When I was older, I disobeyed and argued with my parents. I knew how to wear them down. But if that didn’t work, I would just lie. Lying was my native language. I wanted what I wanted, and I was willing to do what it took to achieve my goal.
In short, this son of mine was the answer to my mother’s prayer, “I hope you have one just like you one day.” Looking at him, I saw my own reflection.
Yep, this was pay back.
Mom, have you ever had those thoughts? Have you ever thought your child’s misbehavior is your fault? Ever beat yourself up because your child, “That” child, won’t cooperate or obey? Ever felt like parenting is penance? A penalty? A punishment?
I have. I’ve listened to the enemy’s whispers. I’ve bought the lie. I’ve hung my weary head in despair. I’ve been tempted to give up. I’ve chosen to wallow in the reality of my own sin and rebellion, reducing God to a cruel “Gotcha God” — a God who laughs at my discouragement, a cosmic overlord who takes aim at me for fun, who delights in my suffering.
But that’s not the biblical God. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Allow me to digress for a moment and then connect some dots. Do you remember the parable Jesus told in the New Testament about the servant who was forgiven? In Matthew 18:21-35 in response to Peter’s question, Jesus tells the story of a servant who owed his master a debt. Now this was no small IOU. Apparently it was a huge sum, so much so that the servant fell prostrate begging for extra time to pay the debt. This action touched the heart of the master who forgave the servant’s debt.
Now hang on, I know you probably know this story, but try to listen with new ears. So this servant who has just been forgiven a huge debt leaves his master. As he is going away, he runs into a fellow servant who owes him a few dollars. A few, as in, not many. Although having just been completely released from a large debt, the servant grabs his fellow servant and demands payment.
When I read this story, I generally want to just throttle the first servant. After his own debt is forgiven, his friend begs and begs to be given more time, he pleads, but the greedy man throws him in prison. Eye witnesses report back to the master who calls the man out on his ruthless behavior and throws him in prison until his original debt is paid in full.
Hang with me a moment longer. What claims does Jesus make in John 8:12? You remember, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” And then in I John, the same author admonishes us to “walk in the light as He is in the light.” So, according to these passages, Jesus is the Light who illuminates our life’s path.
Now, what about those dots? Are you seeing a connection?
Being a mom is one of the most important jobs on the planet—maybe the most important. Every day we are shaping the future, every day we are defining culture, every day we are making a difference. Obviously these daily opportunities can be used negatively and we see that evidence every time we go to the grocery store. Clearly there are moms who are not taking advantage of their “every day” to nurture the world-changers (aka children) God has sent to them.
Being a mom is also not for wimps. If you are determined to raise your children in the fear and the admonition of the Lord, you know what I mean. If this mothering thing were only about food, clothes, and shelter that would be easy. But it’s not. No, this mothering thing is about holding up before our children a God worthy of their praise and service, worthy of their lives.
Being a mom means being strong and being vulnerable. It means living out loud in front of our kids every day. It means requiring obedience and respect. It means explaining one more time. It means dealing with conflict. It means persevering and not giving up.
Being a mom means we must walk in the Light — the light of His love, the light of His grace, the light of His forgiveness. Walking in His Light means that we extend what we’ve been so abundantly given, what’s been lavished upon us, shaken, pressed down, beyond what we can ask or imagine, to our kids day after day after day. It means praying without ceasing.
And Mom, here’s the truth, which trumps the lie: having “That child” isn’t payback. It isn’t punishment, or a penalty, or even penance. Having “That child” is a privilege.
Our being able to parent “That child” begins with our acceptance and embrace of our Father’s forgiveness.
A recent reading of Augustine’s Confessions has been a sobering reminder of just how sinful I was in my childhood. Many would chalk up the sins of youth as trivial or thoughtless. Many would say that the wrongs done during a time of immaturity should be overlooked as a right of passage, just foolishness to be endured as we travel through our younger years, having no real consequence. But that isn’t true.
The Bible teaches that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. If a father loves his son, he should discipline him. “That child” should be taught diligently. So evidently, childhood’s behaviors can reflect deeper issues of the heart, issues which need to be dealt with through the discipline of a loving parent.
When you get down to the fundamentals, it’s simple truth. Yet all too often we don’t acknowledge it. You cannot give what you do not have. For example, I cannot give you a horse, or the moon, or one million dollars. I might want to give you one of those things, or maybe even all three of them, but I can’t. My wanting to and your desire for me to give them to you cannot override the fact that I don’t have those things to give. No matter how much I want to. No matter how much you want them. Neither of us can change the fact that since I don’t have them, I cannot give them.
What you Have Not Received
The physical example of things is easy enough to understand, but it works the same with intangibles, like love and forgiveness and grace. You see, I cannot give you what I have not received, what I have not embraced. This is not to say that love, forgiveness, and grace are not available to me. No, they are readily available to everyone through the person of Jesus Christ from God the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. These three, and others like them, are available, pressed down and running over. In fact, many of us would say that we have accepted and received these from the Father, but if that is so, then why aren’t we walking in them?
Mom, if you’ve accepted and received forgiveness from the Father, extend it to your children. If you’ve received love, give it. If you have experienced forgiveness, extended it to your “That child.” Why do we withhold from them what we’ve been so generously given? Why do we resist sharing what we have in abundance? Why are we stingy with the blessings of God?
I’m going to venture a guess as to why we do this. And my hunch is based on my own experience. I know that I was once an unforgiving and angry mom because I was like the servant. I had a debt of sin that I couldn’t repay. I’d been forgiven, but I didn’t really get it. I didn’t get the enormity of my debt, it’s hideousness in contrast to His holiness, and I didn’t get the power of His forgiveness, the completeness of it, His delight in granting it.
I’d been forgiven, but I hadn’t really received that forgiveness, allowed it to wash over me, to contemplate it’s value or it’s power.
So, when one of my kids did something, when “That child” misbehaved or rebelled, well, I got angry and incensed. They didn’t deserve my forgiveness. I considered it my right to be offended, to hold the offense against them. I didn’t get what I’d been given. Look, if you are finding it hard or maybe even impossible to forgive your children (or anyone else), then I’d suggest that it’s because you aren’t realizing the forgiveness you’ve been given. You can’t give it because you don’t have it. You’re not walking in the Light of His life. If you were, it wouldn’t be so difficult.
Look, when you get what you’ve been forgiven, you cannot help but look for opportunities to forgive. When you get the grace, the gift of salvation given which you neither deserve nor earned, then you cannot help but graciously respond to others. When you glimpse the love that chose to die on Calvary to pay your sin debt, the perfect sacrifice for your ugly, small, secret, overt, denied and deliberate sin, then you look for others to love unconditionally, extravagantly, and persistently. When you get what you’ve been given, you are driven to give it to others. You’re not driven by compulsion. You won’t have an I’ve-got-to-do-this obligation. Instead, you will have an inner desire to share out of the overflow of unearned abundance, abounding blessings, and bountiful gifts. Salvation is yours, but now you want to share it with others.
Mom, do you know this kind of forgiveness, this kind of love, this kind of grace? When did you last consider all that you have been forgiven?
Remember as a child when your mom told you to say you were sorry to your brother for that mean way you treated him? And you half-heartedly responded, “Sorry.” And your brother may have muttered back, “It’s OK.” And you were both expected to go forgive and go on your merry ways.
Neither party involved really was feeling sorry or much like forgiving.
And that is because we are usually so self-focused in the moment as children (and as adults) that we only care about how we feel at the time, not really about the other person.
In that moment we feel justified for our behavior. And the one we hurt doesn’t feel very much like forgiving.
What would happen though, if we took our eyes off ourselves and looked after another’s interests?
Whether we are the offender or the one offended, we need to pray through forgiveness.
We can pray for the Holy Spirit to give us the strength not only to apologize but to really mean it. Because in our flesh, “I’m sorry” are just words. And usually, they are said in an effort to just “do right” But are we truly repentant?
And forgiving takes just as much prayer. We may respond with, “It’s ok.” But are we still holding a grudge in our hearts? Do we still remember it the next time the offender hurts us? Are we keeping a record of wrongs and letting bitter roots grow?
Again, praying and asking the Holy Spirit to help us forgive in His strength, and not our own is necessary. Because in our flesh we want to keep a record and make that person pay for what they did to us. We want justice.
But God is just. He knows both the offender and the one offended inside and out. He will deliver justice, and our job is to do as the Bible instructs.
“…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Matthew 5:23-24
As we seek to live like Christ, we can approach forgiveness from both sides, but always as Christ. We must remember the One who ultimately gave His life for us. How can we look inward when He set the example of true forgiveness? And how can we not be filled with sorrow when we offend another?
Take our eyes off ourselves and look unto Him, and ultimately we will understand forgiveness.
Dear Heavenly Father, Please help us to live like Jesus. Help us to give forgiveness and to ask for it from those we have hurt. Give us the humility to set aside our pride and give us the supernatural desire to forgive as well as to repent.
In Your Name, we pray. Amen.
Have you ever been truly hurt by what someone has said or done to you? So much that you may have thought, “I will never forgive them or trust them again”? I know for most of us it is safe to say you have experienced this a time or two in your life.
Dealing with the pain and anger that’s generated by not forgiving someone can truly eat away at you. Our natural reaction as humans is to seek revenge, becoming angry, bitter, hold resentment, and pull away from someone who has wronged us.
To allow our emotions to overtake us, especially by not forgiving someone who has hurt us, is not healthy. Holding on to that anger, it eats at us, it develops mistrust and negative thoughts in our minds. As a Christian, we have to learn to have a forgiving heart. It doesn’t mean it will be easy, but just like in Ephesians 4:32,
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
God forgives us when we sin, or hurt someone else. So why do we feel we can’t forgive others the same way He forgives us?
Matthew 6:14-15 says,
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus reminds us that it is so important to forgive, and not to hold resentment in and allow that negativity to hinder our lives. A lot of times we might find we are angry towards someone, and when we see them our heart begins to race, we get sweaty and want to confront them. But, the other person we are angry at seems free and happy. This is because it is us who hasn’t forgiven and the other person probably doesn’t even remember or know they hurt us.
Holding that anger and having an unforgiving heart hurts us not the other person.
When we learn to forgive and give it to God, an amazing thing will take place. That hurt, anger, resentment, bitterness that has been eating at is, is released. We are set free from the pain and are free. No matter if the person you are angry at never says sorry, learn to forgive and be free from the hurt. It can take time, forgiving, but you will be amazed at the freedom you feel. By forgiving you don’t allow them to continue to hurt you, you simply create healthy boundaries to protect yourself going forward if it is a person you have to continue to be around for work, family, etc.
Father God, I come to you now and ask that you help open up my heart to see those who I need to forgive. If I have areas in my life where I am hindering unforgiveness may it be brought to light, so I can be free from the pain and hurt I have been carrying around? I thank you that you forgive so freely, and allow me to be set free when I forgive others. I thank you for your unconditional love, even when I struggle and find I am not perfect. Lord, I pray that as I carry on throughout the day, I can build strong healthy relationships with my family and friends. If someone does offend or hurt me, I can learn to forgive right away, and now allow it to affect me.
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; Hebrews 12:15
Bitterness has a habit of sneaking into the door of our hearts when we’re looking at personal injustice rather than the cross of Jesus.
We have all been there: a rejection, an injustice, or an offense that left us angry or hurting. No matter how level we are, or how thick our skin is, we sometimes deal with unfair situations that wound us. Such is life.
What matters more, however, is how we respond. Bitterness can silently move in and put down roots without us realizing it.
How do we know bitterness has become an issue for us? Here are some things I’ve noticed from personal experience:
- We dwell on the injustice, nurturing the offense, playing it over and over in our minds. Ever catch yourself talking out loud about it, telling the person why they were wrong?
- We allow it undue influence in our life, dominating our thoughts more often than it should, sending us into an internal tailspin, or impacting our relationships.
- It brings destruction and sin. We begin gossiping, harboring ill thoughts toward others, etc. I believe it opens us up to be more susceptible to temptation with other sins as well.
- We become self-focused instead of Christ focused. Ultimately, we put our focus and attention on ourselves or our circumstances instead of on Christ, which is always a recipe for disaster.
I am thinking now of two instances where people have hurt me directly or indirectly and I realized weeks, months, and even years later that a root of bitterness had grown in me. It can be easy to miss at first, but it needs to be dealt with.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32
So what can we do to uproot bitterness?
- Acknowledge it. Realizing we’re struggling with bitterness and how damaging it can be is a big step in the right direction!
- Confess and repent of anything in the situation that is our part, including any time we have spent nurturing that bitterness to feed our sense of justice. Pray to God and ask forgiveness, and talk about it with someone you trust!
- Overlook an offense. Sometimes the offense is something we can overlook. The scripture teaches us to do this, and it certainly brings peace for us! This may take practice, but it’s a worthy thing to build into our character. Remember that everyone has baggage and struggles, and ultimately it’s between them and God.
- Be willing and available to forgive and/or reconcile – scripture seems to clearly link forgiveness to confession and repentance. But what if that’s not happening? Our part is to have a humble heart open to giving forgiveness if/when sincere repentance comes. It is open to reconciling and, with discretion and wisdom, possibly restoring the relationship. But our part is to have a heart that is willing to take part in whatever redeeming work God has in store for the relationship.
- Pray for them. It’s not easy sometimes, but praying for those who have hurt us is a healing work, a service to them, and honors our Lord. A friend once told me she prays three things for those people in her life: blessing, peace, and protection. It’s a valuable habit, these three prayers. They teach us much about what control we might trying to hold onto and what we really believe about how God answers the prayers of His people. You cannot hold onto bitterness against someone when you are sincerely praying for them.
- Continually choosing to trust God. This is what all that is about, right? Trusting God with our hearts, with fairness and justice, with the relationship and what might happen, with the person who hurt us, and with how our prayers will be answered. In uncertainty and disappointment, God is our Rock and Redeemer! He is the One in whom we can entrust the whole tangle of relationships and emotions mixed up with sin and selfishness. Continue to lay it all at His feet and soon you will find it has been released from your burdens!
- Fixing our eyes on Christ and dwelling on His goodness, capturing every thought. Oh that we might do this in all things and in all circumstances! When we feel bitterness and resentment creeping up and sneaking in, capture it and hold it up to the light of Christ! Focus your heart on the truth of scripture and on His everlasting (and right here right now) goodness! Shove bitterness away and draw near to God.
Lord, thank You for Your goodness and Your love! Please show us any wicked way in us, including bitterness and strife. Help us to confess and repent of any time we have spent harboring bitterness. Give us pliable and humble hearts toward You, and help us to have a willingness to let go and trust completely in Your plans and Your timing. Be with us and remind us to pray for those who have hurt us, releasing in our hearts all of it to You in your perfect love and holiness. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Where does forgiveness happen?
We were riding in the car as tears were streaming down my face. Our marriage was in sticky spot. We’ve been in sticky spots before, but it seems like the challenge to work through it doesn’t necessarily get easier.
We had both been busy and were starting to feel like two ships passing in the night. Our conversations seemed to consist only of what needed to get done, how tired we were and wondering when we might get relief from some of our burdens. There was really no romance and each other’s presence seemed to only represent more stress added to our days.
We had planned an overnight get away hoping to reconnect, but sometimes when we are in those sticky spots, reconnecting feels so far out of reach that you feel pretty sure it will be impossible. There was just too much “stuff” to wade through.
A few days before we left, I began to pray that God would go ahead and prepare the way for us…that the trip would truly be refreshing and somehow, by some miracle, my husband and I could actually reconnect in a very real and powerful way.
I prayed over my own heart because I KNEW I had a critical spirit toward my husband. It was wrong, but I didn’t know how to change my attitude toward him. My only hope was for God to step in and work.
Over our 28 years of marriage, we have had many, many uncomfortable discussions. The worst ones were the ones I didn’t pray over first and then unloaded a ton of emotional baggage on my husband. Eventually, we came to a resolve, but the process was sometimes unnecessarily hurtful. I’ve learned it’s better to bathe those conversations in prayer and work through some of my emotions with God first.
So as we rode in the car, I chose my words carefully and used as few words as possible. I wan’t afraid of long pauses in the conversation and I didn’t feel the need to make sure my point was heard. You know what? God did exactly what I asked Him to do. My husband verbalized the very things I would have brought up and his plan to deal with them. The tears flowed as I absorbed my husband’s loving words toward me AND the fact that God had worked on my behalf and I didn’t need to fret over it…not for one minute.
As I had prayed over this sticky spot, God had cultivated in me a heart of forgiveness toward my husband BEFORE our conversation even began. Because I had waited on the Lord and was unhurried in my journey toward resolve, there was time and space for the Holy Spirit to do the work he needed to do in my husband. The walls between us toppled and we spent that time away truly enjoying each other.
Marriage is probably the relationship that most requires a spirit of forgiveness. The Enemy wants to destroy godly marriages and we must be courageous enough to stand firm, wrestling with our own desire to do things our way.
I haven’t always done the right thing in our marriage, but forgiveness made a way. That kind of forgiveness only comes from the One it originates with. Jesus was our greatest example. Because of Him we have the power to truly forgive…and where forgiveness happens, healing begins.
Rage. It’s very intense, and it’s embarrassing when it’s happening to you, you can’t believe it. I know as a young mother, I was like “I didn’t sign up for this, this isn’t what I wanted”. I couldn’t believe that it was happening, and I always wanted to go “Shh! Shh shh!” when it was happening. And I’ll be honest, it happened a lot. My oldest son was my original “that” child, I had that one first, and I learned so much for which I am retrospectively grateful, but at the time I was just mortified at the way he’d rage.
If you have a ‘that’ child that’s doing this raging, I want you to know this: you’re not alone. Say it with me: NOT ALONE. There are others of us that have these kids that just rage, and we don’t understand it, and it’s kinda terrifying. But I want to tell you this: they’re not broken…
What I know now, and I didn’t know then, is that often they’ve just got so much bottled up inside of them. So many ideas, so much they want to say, so much they want to do, so much frustration, so much creativity. It can all just bottle up in their little body and they don’t know how to navigate all that.
I would actually describe Charles, when he was younger, as the proverbial volcano. And he would blow all the time, it was completely unpredictable. And yes, it had seismic consequences for the rest of us when he’d do it. But it was not unusual for him to rage not just once a day, but multiple times a day.
I remember one day in particular, he was two and a half and his next sibling, younger brother Anderson, was just a baby. I had just changed Anderson on the floor in our bedroom where I had this little changing station. Charles went into a rage and actually ran into the bedroom where that baby was on the floor and locked the door. I was terrified, because I didn’t know what he might to do the baby on the floor. I was shaking trying to get the latch to unlock the door to get in there. I’m so grateful he didn’t even try to do anything to the baby but he was running around the room just screaming…
Mom, you have to know that you’re not alone if that’s happening to you. Not even close to being alone. At the time when he would go into these rages, he would yell and scream these things that didn’t make any sense. Like something had gone off inside him and he couldn’t stop. I felt very compassionate towards him, I felt like I needed to do something in that moment to help him, I didn’t think it would be healthy for him to just continue to run around in circles. So what I did, and what seemed to be very effective with him at the time, is I’d take him into my arms to restrain him even in the midst of his yelling and screaming. I would sit on the floor with him, and put my hands between one of his legs, and I’d put my arm down to hold my leg, and I’d just rock him back and forward and he would just yell and scream and yell and scream and all I knew to do was to sing to him.
There we would sit, Charles in a rage, and I would sing “Peace perfect peace”, I would sing “holy holy holy”, I would sing “Jesus loves me” and just rock him. Sometimes it took every verse of every hymn I could think of in that moment… it did work though and he would finally let go. I’m guessing you know what that’s like mom, if you have one of these kids. You know that’s what they do.
He just had to let it run its course and completely wear himself out. And on the other side of it he was just physically… done and just completely drained. We would both be crying by the time it was done because it’s just so intense for both of us. I know that if this is happening at your house its intense for you too. I wish I could just give you a hug, mama, I wish I could just somehow assure you with more than just my words through a screen. But I want to tell you this: you’re not alone and its not your imagination.
What you need to make sure that you’re communicating in those moments with ‘that’ kid is that you love them, and that you’re on their team. You want to be as much of a calming effect as you can possibly be. Yelling? Screaming at them? Thats only going to make it worse. That’s not blessing them, that’s not helping them, that’s not meeting them where they are.
One of the wonderful things I love about scripture and Jesus in the New Testament throughout the gospels is He always met the people where they were. I mean that’s glorious! Obviously, there were occasions like the sermon on the mount where the people came to Him, but there were so many other examples where He actually met the another person right where they were.
I think when our kids are raging, we should step back and imagine what its like to be them. Haven’t you ever wanted to throw a fit? Haven’t you ever wanted to throw yourself in the middle of the floor and just yell and scream because things aren’t going your way? Of course you have, just like I have! What we need to give to them in that moment is a whole lot of compassion, and a whole lot of grace. Just like our Father gives us in our ugly moments. Just be there with your precious child, in that moment.
Hold them, calm them. Don’t contribute to it! Because you know what? They can’t, they just cant…
I don’t know if this will terrify you or encourage you, but I want to tell you that, generally with “that” child, it doesn’t necessarily go away with age. It might morph become a more sophisticated rage. As they age it’s probably not so much the yelling and screaming and running around in circles. Often it becomes this emotional pit that you just can’t believe you’re in the middle of. I mean surely I’m speaking to somebody out there when I say that nobody prepared me for a twelve year old boy. They can be so incredibly challenging. They’ve still got all those ideas, They’ve still got all those frustrations. They’ve still got all of this energy, and now they’ve got all the hormones too. God has wired them this way, and one of the primary things they need from us is our acceptance. They need to know that we get them. If we’re continually fighting with them about the way God made them, what does that say about God? What does that say about them? What does that say about us?
I think the most powerful thing we can do for them is to really be for them and with them in that moment.
My current “that” child and I had a moment earlier this summer where he just took a left turn and started spinning out of control. Everyone was against him and everyone was mad at him, and nobody understood him. (Side note: I think that language is a cue to us moms, the “Everybody”, “always”, ”never”, “nobody”, “all the time”, “every time”, and it just keeps going on and on. You and I know it’s not true, but they can’t think it through.) So in this moment, he couldn’t think clearly and he couldn’t stay on topic. He kept coming back to something that didn’t matter over and over and over.
It was well past my bedtime when it started, I was literally in my pajamas. He had had a conflict with his brother in another room, and he comes into my room angry. At this point I’m halfway to sleep, eight o’clock is my bed time so I was out. But Davis and I got up so we could engage. You can’t really engage when you’re horizontal. So we’re up, and we’re just keep cycling and going through the same thing over and over. And Davis was speaking at a conference first thing in the morning so I said, “Look, you need to go to bed. I’m here”
I literally sat on the floor with my child for two and a half hours. I was telling him how much I love him, going through that same conversation over, and over, and over and over. I sat there, in my pajamas, into the night because that’s what we get to do. Did you catch that? Thats what we get to do. We get to be with them in that moment of total and utter frustration. We get to be with them and show them love and compassion.
We get to experience the holy sovereign God’s mighty patience with us, that we know we don’t have in that moment.
Trust me, when this starts happening, I want to yell and scream myself. I really do. I want to get all frustrated, and say things that should never be said. But when I don’t do those things, I get to experience the holy spirit coming, and giving me strength I don’t have in and of myself. You know what I’m doing the whole time? I’m praying “God give me discernment, God give me grace, give me eyes to see what I cant see, open my ears to what I can’t hear.”
When we do that with that kid, we’re communicating a level of love to them that is just immeasurable and invaluable. So I want to invite you to reframe this. I get that it’s frustrating. Lets just all admit it and give that one a big hug. But the God of the universe has a plan to shape you through this, and to shape that child through this.
I have been so shaped through this, I am sooo grateful. I am so grateful, if I had never had “that” child, I would’ve thought I was a fabulous mom. If I had only ever had my other kids that are compliant, and obedient, I would’ve thought I was amazing! I would’ve had more judgement than anybody should ever have for anybody else because I would’ve thought it was all about me and my skills as the world’s greatest mom. It has been through having “that” child, that God has taught me and He’s broken me.
I now know all I have is Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Heavenly Father to help me do what I knew I couldn’t do.
Look, along the way I learned some things I didn’t know so I want to go over a few of the potential reasons behind the rage.
- It’s chemistry
They’re a chemical project. They have chemicals in their body that are simply not balanced. We found out that with Charles by keeping a journal. Red food coloring and cinnamon would actually trigger Charles rages.
One morning we were having cinnamon rolls for breakfast on a Sunday, and he actually threw a plate at me! It was pretty evident that there was something chemically inside of him, that didn’t know how to process red food coloring and cinnamon.
I don’t know what that is for your “that” child but it’s worth keeping a journal to see if you find any trend or pattern..
Another thing is that affects “that child” is stress. They have stress that they can’t always process. What complicates this is they don’t have the communication skills that you and I have, to say “I’m stressed” and “I can’t handle anymore” So the combination of the stress, and the lack of communication skills, makes for a messy cocktail when they’ve got both of those going on at the same time. And so again our compassion, and our ability to be the mature one and not reduce ourselves, and not give into our stress like they are. We just need to keep breathing in the midst of it.
The hormone thing is not something to be underestimated. When all those hormones coursing through their veins, and all those changes are going on and they’ve got all this going on in their head, it’s just a very intense time for them.
The first book I read in high school was “to kill a mockingbird”, and it just became my favorite book of all time. In it, Atticus Finch talks about the value of walking around in someone else’s shoes. Mom, I want to invite you to consider what it’s like to be “that” kid. I promise you, it’s not easy. They feel all the stress, they feel this need to communicate something. They know they can’t, and they don’t like it. But, they don’t know what else to do.
When I first started with my “that child”, it was all about me and I was so embarrassed and I felt ashamed and I was sure I was a failure. But I’ve learned so much since then. Please, please put yourself in your child’s shoes. What are they going through? How did we get here? What have they eaten? What stressors are going on with them? Because what I’ve found “that” child needs consistency like nobody’s business. And that’s hard. It’s hard with one, it’s hard with two, three, four, five, six or seven.
I know you’re wondering, “What does an Oreo cookie have to do with ‘that’ child?” Well, let me tell you. And before any of you email me or comment saying I should not eat these, I want to assure you that I cannot possibly keep these at my home because I would become an Oreo cookie. I do love them but I don’t eat them often at all, probably biannually.
I want you to think about an Oreo cookie: you’ve got two chocolates, and the creamy stuff in the middle. It’s actually the original sandwich cookie right? So that’s what you’ve got here, and now I want to give you some tools to deal with the raging, whether it’s young or old, and to deal with your exhaustion.
First of all, I want to challenge you to surrender to the Lord. That’s right. It may sound trite, you may say “Rachael, I’ve already done that”. Well, I’m saying do it again. Surrender to God, and start every day praying and saying “This is your day, have it your way. This is your kid, teach me who they are for your kingdom. Equip me to be the mom, that that kid needs me to be.”
Surrender to God every day.
Next, if this raging thing is pretty basic and on going in your home, I want to challenge you to plan a conversation. Yes, there’s no point in going through this cycle over and over again. I want you to plan to have a conversation with “that” kid about the raging. Now, it’s very important that you make sure they know this isn’t about punishment. This is not you intimidating, this is not about “hey, you’re in trouble”. This is you saying “Hey, I want to have a conversation with you. Do you have some time this afternoon?” Or, if they’re younger than than go “Hey, let’s make some cookies” or “Lets cut up an apple” or “Lets sit on the porch. I’d like to talk to you about something.” And frame it as positively as you possibly can. Build anticipation! If it’s an older child say something like “Lets go for a drive” and they’ll say “Oh cool what are we gonna talk about?” And you can reply “That’ll be a surprise! I’ve been really wanting to spend some time with you and I’m really looking forward to it!”
So you’re planning this conversation; they’re excited and looking forward to it. I want you to plan to discuss four things:
- Bless your child
I want you to tell them you’re so grateful that God sent them to live at your house and in your family. Tell them you’re so excited about the young man or young woman they’re turning out to be.
- Praise your child
“So what do you think are a few things that are going really well right now?” and then give an idea or two that you can see. Find some positives and really talk about how your child is doing well! I promise, you can find them. And if and you can’t, ask God and He’ll show you something. Find SOMETHING that they’re doing real well.
- Ask your child
“Can you think of some things you need to work on? Some areas that need some improvement?” Look, that kid knows they’re raging. They’re not going to be surprised, and they’re probably going to be the one to bring it up; you probably won’t even have to!
- Ask your child
“How do you think I can help?” Don’t jump in immediately with a solution. Be quiet and listen. That’s right, just listen to what they have to say. They might say “I have no idea what you could do to help” or you know what, they might say “When I’m doing that, I’d really appreciate it if you’d stop asking me questions. Or if I could just go to my room for a few minutes. Or maybe I could just walk around the house for a few minutes” They probably have some ideas on what you could do to help them! And some of the things they might suggest, might hurt a little bit. But I want to dare you, listen. And listen. And see what you can learn about that kid. Ask how it makes them feel, or maybe even ask how you think you’re contributing to the problem (if you dare). And I promise you they’re gonna tell you, and it’s going to be an amazing time.
I found that with my oldest son, when I dared to have this conversation when he was fairly young, he totally got it! He knew that he was raging, he knew that he was out of control, but he didn’t know what to do to stop it. Giving him a setting in which he could have that conversation, was powerful for him.
Affirm for them how difficult it is to deal with stress, how difficult it is to deal with frustrations. How difficult it is to deal with change or when things don’t go as planned. Affirm that you too get frustrated, and exhausted. That you too get frustrated when things don’t work out. Remind them that you’re in this together, that’s the number one thing you wanna communicate. You’re on their team against this problem of rage. It’s not you, against them, against the rage. It’s you and them against the rage, shoulder to shoulder. I told my that child, and they one I’ve got going now, “You’re stuck with me, you can’t lose me in a crowd. I’m determined, we’re gonna fight this out together.” Make sure you communicate, that you are on their team.
Next, strategize how you can work this out. When “that” kid is starting to feel those feelings coming up inside and let me tell you, they can feel it coming on. Strategize some terminology so they can come to you and say “I’m feeling off, it’s coming on” just pick a phrase or a word they can say to you or you can say to them when you see it beginning. The phrase I used with my oldest son was “You’re getting close to the edge” And often time when I would say that to him, not always but often times, it was like a wakeup call for him. And sometimes he would just come to me and say “I’m off”
Your “that” kid needs to have permission to come to you and have a timeout of their own. A self-initiated timeout. They don’t want to rage so give them permission to come to you, or to go to their room, or go for a walk, or even just take a rest. Something positive or constructive they can do to avoid going into that rage.
And the last thing, you need to pray together. Make sure the first time you’re praying, that you’re surrendering to God. This isn’t just you and God in this last step, this is you praying WITH that child. If they need anything from you, aside from their compassion, they need you to pray with them.
So back to our Oreo cookie. You’re going to pray, you’re going to do the conversation in between, and you’re going to pray on the other side too, just like this Oreo. I cannot guarantee this will be a one-time conversation. In fact, I can promise you’re going to have this conversation over and over and over and it’s worth it. So just resolve to dig in, resolve to have compassion, and resolve to persevere as you raise your world changer.
What do you think? Do we pray against God’s will? I believe we do. Without realizing it.
We ask God to bless us or someone else, to meet our needs or someone else’s, to give us wisdom to make a decision, or to cause certain events to occur.
But sometimes, God is not obligated to answer…with a yes answer. Why? Because we ask amiss. James said, “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” (James 4:3 NLT) We ask, by definition, badly, evilly, miserably, or grievously.
Aren’t our motives mostly centered on selfish desires: what we want, when we want it, and how we want it? Do we ever truly say, “Not my will but Yours, Lord”?
What about the events taking place around the world or in our own country? Are these things happening in accordance with God’s plan, maybe even to usher in Jesus’ return? So, then, do we pray for peace or other things that may not be God’s purpose?
What did Jesus teach about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount?
“Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
(Matt. 6:9-10 NLT)
What were the first three priorities in Jesus’ model prayer? God the Father’s name being kept holy, His kingdom, and His will.
Before any petitions are made…
1) we are to hallow His name.
To venerate, to declare sacred, to honor His holy name. As the Lord told Moses, “You must not treat Me as common and ordinary. Revere Me and hallow Me.” (Lev. 22:32a TLB)
We celebrate Him in our worship, for He is worthy “to receive glory and honor” (Rev. 4:11), to be held in reverence and praised. David said, “I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.” (Ps. 18:3 NKJV)
2) we are to invoke His kingdom to come.
Where is the kingdom? Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 10:7 NKJV) At hand, where? “The kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].” (Luke 17:21 Amp)
We pray not just for His kingdom at hand on earth now but also for His heavenly kingdom to come to earth again. We pray that earth will be made more like heaven through the observance of God’s will.
3) we are to ask that His will be done. The observance of His will is that it should be obeyed. On earth as it is in heaven.
God’s will is what He desires, purposes, and has determined to be done on earth. It is His established kingdom rule in heaven being accomplished on earth by, for, and through His people.
Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33 NKJV) What things? The things Jesus mentioned right before that, the things we eat, drink, and wear. Those things necessary to living.
The three things listed above should be first in our hearts before petitions are presented at the throne of grace.
Then, petitions can be made for all that sustains life.
Prayer is not just a list of one’s requests for God to do something. It is time spent in the presence of His holiness, at the foot of the throne of heaven. Sitting. Listening. Communing. Presenting our requests in faith. And relinquishing our hold on them.
All prayers should be wrapped in faith’s envelope and sealed with the kiss of thanksgiving.
All our prayers should end with the thought of the words Eli spoke to Samuel, “It is the Lord’s will…Let him do what he thinks best.” (1 Sam. 3:18 NLT)
Lord, Your will be done. Do what You think is best.
So, what do you think: do we pray against God’s will?