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Posts Tagged ‘Pain’

imageResentment is a certain evil, a ready seed in fertile soil. Like a noxious weed, it takes over and quickly ruins anything good around it. It’s a hidden trap, a merciless captor. It has no place in the heart of a Christ follower. It causes self deception, destruction of relationships, and is a cancer to the one bearing it. It fosters sin, the unjust belief of lies, and replaces Grace with Judgment.

After receiving grace ourselves, what a dangerous place in which to live.

Trust me, I know.

Paul says “Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” 2 Cor 2:10-11

The enemy of our soul hates relationship and is scheming to destroy what binds people to one another (body of Christ, spouses, friends) and to God. Human bonds, perhaps based on good feelings and emotions, are easily broken, sadly. Our feelings are hurt. Or perhaps our pride is wounded. Our worth or opinion is dismissed. Our needs are unmet. How easily we hold others accountable when we are wronged. And people in our lives should be held accountable for their actions, in a right and loving way. But accountability and forever labeled and blamed are not the same thing.

The bonds we as Christians have with one another, forged by God’s grace, are powerful and unbreakable. His is a Grace that doesn’t seek what it deserves, but what others need. Grace isn’t a fleeting emotion, but a powerful and deliberate act. It’s supernatural.

In fact, I think I’ll tattoo this to my forehead:

His is a Grace that doesn’t seek what it deserves, but what others need.

Want to thwart the enemy? Ask God for more grace and then choose to pray for the one you resent. I didn’t say it would be easy, but you can do it. (What Christ did for you on Calvary was much harder.) Choose to forgive and let go your case against them. Pray for them in earnest, and watch your resentment fade. Seek better for others, and seek Christ’s healing and comfort for yourself and your hurts. Be empowered by something far more powerful than a determination to hang onto your rights. Take your resentment to the Cross, where Christ accepted responsibility for your sin, and let grace help you leave it.

Question: when was the last time you chose to pray for the one who wronged you?

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“Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.”

Psalm 55:6-8

I have heard people say, “If I could just get over this health issue,” or “If only I had more money.” If only I had less stress, more help, less pain, more support, etc, etc.

 

Have you ever been there?

If only . . .

If I could just . . .

 

Between these words, I hear a cry for relief. Not only relief from difficult circumstances, but also from hopelessness. What if I become so sick or anxious or overwhelmed or so deeply in debt that I can’t function? What if my circumstances never change? What if it gets worse?

 

Thanks to our Adamic inheritance, we live in a fallen world, full of sin, disease, dysfunction, injustice, abuse, brokenness—the list is endless. You may be dealing with something that could wreak more damage than a hurricane. Whether from external circumstances or personal struggles within, the weight of constant suffering can be unbearable and make us hopeless for a way out, no end in sight. No hope for relief.

 

I am blown away by my pastor. For too many reasons to list here, but for one in particular: He suffers terrible migraines. These are horribly painful to the point of making him physically sick. He can’t think or do anything but lie still. With a family and a loaded plate of pastoral responsibilities, he doesn’t have time to be sick, and yet he somehow presses on, with the diligence of a faithful, caring shepherd. He asks God for healing and asks others to pray, and yet the headaches continue. When a migraine strikes on a Sunday, we’ve seen God answer prayer many times by giving Pastor enough strength and relief to deliver his sermon. What amazes me is that in spite of this suffering, this man is absolutely unwavering in his faith in Christ. His life is an inspiring example of steadfast confidence in and obedience to God. The fact that God has not yet healed him doesn’t stop him from serving the Lord with his whole heart, with truth and grace, every minute of every day.

 

He continues to ask God for healing. And we should keep asking God to relieve us and others of suffering. I know he can. And many times, he does. But what if immediate relief isn’t part of his plan for us right now? What if God is more interested in how we weather a storm (or an entire hurricane season) than he is in rescuing us from it?

 

The Apostle Paul talked about his “thorn in the flesh.” I think Paul came to terms with the fact that relief for him would not be coming. I also think he became grateful for the thorn, because it drove him closer Jesus.

 

How does being closer to Jesus help when we face difficult circumstances?

 

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

So I’ll never fail to bear fruit. Awesome. But what good is fruit when I’m suffering?

When we turn our lives over to Christ, his Spirit moves in and begins the work of making us more like him. God’s word and presence feed, sustain, and transform us. This transforming work is evident by such “fruit” as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Not a pretense pulled down over us like a goody-hoody, but a God-kind of gentleness and peace that springs from the place in our soul where Jesus lives and works on us. This fruit not only lets others see God in us, it reminds and assures us of his sanctifying power and love. This assurance comes from experiencing God in a way that teaches us we can trust in his goodness, his provision, and his constant faithfulness.

 

If storms feel endless and unbearable, maybe we need to stretch our roots deeper in God’s stream. When we make him our Source, nothing can destroy us. No drought, famine, wildfire, (debt, depression, cancer) can steal our love, joy and peace when we are nourished by The Stream. Yes, storms may shred our bark, and our fruit might be knocked off and crushed, but we will never wither. We will sprout new leaves and blossom again. What tremendous hope we have!

 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Romans 8:35-39

We might be battered for a season, but God will be our strength and sustenance. If he is allowing us to go through difficulty, he will provide what we need. And he won’t let us weather a storm alone! He is a “friend who sticks closer than a brother” and will stay beside us all the way to the other side, whatever that may be. He will never leave or forsake us!

 

Sometimes, the response we get to “If only” or “If I could just” isn’t the relief we desperately want. I know, not very comforting, I’m sorry. Relief from suffering may come soon, later on, or it may not come at all—in this life. But even if we suffer the sting of some particular thorn for the rest of our lives, we won’t suffer forever. An entire earthly lifetime doesn’t even compare to forever. It may feel like eternity, but no matter how long our suffering lasts, God promises us it will not last forever. He also promises to be with us, strengthening and providing. Let’s set our hope in him, and look forward to a joyful forever yet to come, where all difficulty, sorrow, and suffering will be forgotten.

 

Paul could say this with full assurance, thorn and all.

 

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing
with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

Are you in a season of suffering? Can you share a time when circumstances felt too unbearable? Have you “reached your roots” into the stream of God’s provision and strength?

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I confess. I would’ve liked to have been called somebody’s “Princess.”

As a very little girl, of course. Long before the black eyeliner, Army coat, and bag of weed in my pocket.

Sometimes, I wince inwardly when a dad talks about making sure his daughter knows she’s his princess. Every father should make sure his daughter feels beautiful and special and loved, absolutely. But girls like me never saw ourselves this way. I have never felt like princess material. I may have even gone out of my way (with the Army coat and the weed) to make sure no one suspected me of wishing to be anyone’s princess. That way no one can mock you for failing.

When I was four, my parents divorced and my dad left the country. It’s hard for a kid not to take abandonment like that personally. Hard to ignore the inner voice whispering you aren’t lovable or he would have stayed. Hard to ignore the nagging sense there’s a gaping hole at your feet and there’s no one to catch you if you fall.

By the time I was 15, I’d learned that fathers (and their replacements) were deserters and bullies who were critical, perverted, self-serving, or unappeasable.  After years of receiving conflicting and demoralizing answers about who (and whose) I was, I no longer pined for a daddy. That ache had been thoroughly cured.

And I sure didn’t feel like anybody’s little princess.

When I was 17, my mom and I were both brand new Christians, on our own again and trying to start our lives over. Then mom said she was getting married. Again.

Wonderful. My first thought was to leave the new couple to their blessed new life and go my own way. I was of course so grown up. So I told the new man in Mom’s life I was happy for them and would be moving out shortly. The guy burst out laughing. Not exactly the reaction I expected. And he kept on laughing until he turned red. Once Robert composed himself, he somehow talked me into staying a little while longer.

It didn’t take long to realize my mom had married a psycho. He’d often say things to me like, “HI, HONEY!!!” (Robert doesn’t have a low setting on his volume control.) And “You’re so NEAT!” And “You’re such a pretty girl.” Okay, great. Another perv.

And my favorite: “I SURE LOVE YOU!” To which I wanted to reply Whatever, man. There’s no need to butter me up, she already married you. Save your breath because I’m not buying it. And don’t be getting any ideas that I need to hear that stuff, because I don’t.

(Sorry, yes, I was a jerk. Holey hearts have a way of growing thick, ugly shells.)

But the guy just wouldn’t stop. No matter how much I stiff-armed him, Robert kept telling me I was pretty. Neat. Special. And that he loved me.

You know, a rock hard heart can only take so much of that.

When I accepted Christ at age 16, I understood that Jesus died for me out of love, but I struggled hard with the whole Father God thing. God the Father was certainly far away—like in another country. Maybe he was like my dad who only thought about his kids every five years with a postcard bearing foreign postage and stamped “Airmail.”

But in time, Robert’s persistence finally wore down the shell around my heart. Not only did I begin to accept his love, I found myself needing it. And eventually, that persistent love helped me grasp a life-changing, heart-healing truth about the huge, persistent Father heart of God:

There is a Father whose love never fails.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

Do you know without a doubt that you are God’s beloved child? If not, I encourage you to let the truth and grace of his word pour over you. I’m praying he will show you without a doubt. You are a son or daughter of the King of Kings! And so am I.

Hey! I guess that makes me somebody’s princess after all.

And thanks, Dad. I love you too.

For a similar Along The Banks post, see: What Would You Say To Little You?

Special Treat: Interested in a powerful story of hope after pain? Check out the newly released novel Wildflowers From Winter  (Waterbrook Press) by Christian Author Katie Ganshert. Also, Katie’s blog today is loaded with several “hope after pain” stories like mine.

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