What Lack of Reconciliation after Forgiveness Looks Like

not_todayContinued from here.

Person #2 was in my life for many years. She got the misimpression that I was a threat to something she wanted and wreaked havoc that harmed not only me but others as well. To date, she has taken no responsibility for any of this.

As with Person #1, I prayed for her. I refused to “feed the bitterness” because I had learned from my situation with Person #1. Whenever I was tempted to dwell on negative thoughts about her, I prayed for her instead. I feel no bitterness toward her. I am not happy about how she has behaved and her continued unwillingness to take any responsibility for the harm she inflicted on me and others, but I do not allow myself to dwell on those thoughts.

God has placed heavily on my heart that I am to have nothing to do with Person #2, despite having forgiven her. To make sure I was hearing God correctly, I looked for Bible verses to confirm that not reconciling with someone is consistent with God’s Word. Here’s what I found:

Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.” ~ 2 Thes. 3:14-15

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” ~ 1 Cor. 5:11

After much prayer, the conclusion I reached is that God does not want people in rebellion against His ways to benefit from a relationship with me. This ties into the sowing and reaping principle that is woven into many parts of the Bible. When someone does not repent of his wrongdoing, allowing him to reap the benefits of a relationship with you violates God’s sowing and reaping principle.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hand on her hip saying, “Not Today.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

What Reconciliation after Forgiveness Looks Like

welcome_backContinued from here.

Person #1 is someone who hurt me many times over a period of years. I finally had enough and removed that person from my life. I had no interest in ever having a relationship with this person again.

God led me to forgive this person, which is something I had absolutely no interest in doing for many reasons. God placed a question heavily on my heart: “Do you love Me more than you hate this person?” It was a close call, but I chose to obey God. My specific way of doing this was to pray for her day after day, week after week, and month after month for well over a year. This was very difficult to do at first, but over time, my bitterness abated while my peace grew. This person mailed me a card apologizing for one of the many things she had done in the past, and I realized as I read it that my pain was simply gone – God had healed it! This was how I learned what forgiveness looks like – you know you have fully forgiven someone when the pain is gone.

I was happy to move on with my life without this person in it, with each of us going our own way, but that was not God’s plan for me. He placed heavily on my heart that He wanted me to reconcile with her. I did not understand why, but I chose to obey God out of love for Him. So, I invited this person to lunch when I was visiting other people (she lives out of state) and praised God the entire drive so I could fill up with Him before seeing her. I was surprised by how well that visit went. God filled me to overflowing with His love, joy, and peace, which flowed out of me to her. I could feel His love for this person and enjoyed the benefits of getting to experience that love as it flowed out.

I continue to stay in regular contact with this person out of obedience to God, expecting nothing from her. My role is to pour God’s love into her life by extending grace. I expect nothing in return. If she has anything to give, it’s a blessing, but it is also OK if she does not. God meets all of my needs, and I am simply extending His grace to her. I have not forgotten the many ways she harmed me in the past, but it no longer matters. She is a beloved child of God, and I view her as such.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace peeking out a doggie door over a welcome mat that says, “Welcome back.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Does Forgiveness Require Reconciliation?

yes_or_noI was very resistant to the concept of forgiveness for most of my life, in part, because I had absolutely no interest in reconciling with people who had harmed me. An example I would use was the idea of forgiving a stranger who rapes a woman in a park. Why should she be required to establish a relationship with this man when their only interaction was violent? Why must some sort of relationship (and a positive one at that!) be required of the victim?

God taught me that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different concepts, and one does not necessarily lead to the other. If it were true that forgiveness required reconciliation, then people would be unable to forgive someone who has died or who refuses to have a conversation with them, leaving them bound in their bitterness for reasons that are outside of their control. If reconciliation was a requirement, then the “power” to forgive would be out of our own hands, and that simply is not biblical. God would not command us to do something that we are unable to do.

God has taught me much about forgiveness and reconciliation over the last few years, both with people I reconciled with and through those with whom I have not. I have forgiven all of them (or continue in the process of forgiving them), and whether or not reconciliation has taken place is not an indicator of whether or not I have forgiven them. I will share my experience with two of them without specific details to protect their privacy. My forgiveness of both is complete, but I have reconciled with one but not the other. I have experienced the same healing and freedom from bitterness in both cases. My lack of reconciliation with one of them has not, in any way, impeded my ability to forgive her.

For more on the importance of forgiveness, read this blog entry. You can read other blog entries on forgiveness here.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up two signs: “Yes or no?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Being Moldable and Remaining in God’s Hands

Continued from here.

In the Bible study of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Henry Blackaby talks about the potter and the clay from Jer. 18:1-6. He says that just like the pot in the potter’s hands,

To be God’s servant, you must be moldable and remain in the hand of the Master.”

I used to not do either one and was miserable. In March 2003, I climbed into the hands of the Master by committing to spending my first hour with God daily. He filled me with His love and then started molding me, leading me to release my bitterness by forgiving my child abusers. He then led me to humble myself in my marriage and breathed new life into those dry bones. And then he led me to submit to authority, which is still an area where the clay can be a bit stiff, but God is working with me by degrees.

All of this molding has come about by remaining in the potter’s hands. I have stayed committed to my daily quiet time with God, which I believe is critical to the molding that has taken place inside of me. I am now learning that one hour is not enough. I cannot focus on God for one hour and then my problems for the other 23. It’s not enough to climb into the potter’s hands for one hour and then hop out for the rest of my day. I need to rest in those hands throughout the day, recognizing that He is moving in the situations that I keep running ahead to try to fix myself. God created me with an assertive and zealous nature, but those qualities only benefit God’s kingdom when used at the appointed time and in the appointed way.

Patience does not come naturally to me, but perhaps it’s easier to be patient when I rest in the hands of the Master. At the appointed time, He will tell me to act, and then He will do the work, parting waters that I could never part myself.

[Graphic: Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God (Workbook)Courtesy Amazon.com.]

 

Abiding in God’s Presence Drives Out Fear

lets_goContinued from here.

The day after I wrote yesterday’s blog entry, I attended an evangelism meeting at my church. We talked about a presentation I am building on talking about our faith: why we need to do it and how. I felt so alive in that meeting and did not have a whit of anxiety during or after it. I realized that my focus was on God rather than my problems, and I felt the difference between a “life” and “death” focus in a tangible way.

And then God pounded home the same message during my quiet time the next morning. I read the following quote in Daily Wisdom for Women 2017 Devotional Collection:

Try ‘abiding, not striving nor struggling.’” ~ Hudson Taylor’s friend

Next was this quote in Jesus Always: Embracing Joy in His Presence:

Relax in My loving Presence.’”

And then this quote from Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God (Workbook):

To be God’s servant, you must be moldable and remain in the hand of the Master.”

When I hear the same message three times in a row, I take notice.

I am now getting a better understanding of what I keep doing “wrong.” I have a similar nature to Peter and Paul, always running ahead of God, zealous to do His will but not waiting for His signal to act. Both men truly wanted to serve God, but their view of servanthood aligned too much with the world’s view – as soon as they thought they knew where God was going, they ran out ahead of Him and tried to do the job themselves. I don’t know if this caused them anxiety or not, but that’s what happens to me when I do it. Like Peter and Paul, God can use me to go boldly where He leads, but I first must learn to follow, just as they did.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running and saying, “Let’s go!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

How Love Drives Out Fear

do_not_panicContinued from here.

I am still in the early stages of processing all of this, but here’s what I have learned thus far…

God is love, so whenever I am with Him, I am “with love.” While He promises never to leave me, I can leave Him, and I do whenever I run ahead of Him into my circumstances. He always walks with me, but I don’t always walk with Him.

My pattern is to run ahead into the circumstances, reminding myself that God will show up. My faith has developed enough to know that God will, indeed, show up, but it always seems like he does so at the very last minute. Meanwhile, I’m surrounded by unpleasant circumstances, trying to hold onto my faith and remain standing until God arrives. I don’t think that is how God plans for us to live.

I have been pondering if perhaps there is another, better way to live. Perhaps God wants me walking alongside him with my focus on Him rather than on my circumstances. Instead of running ahead into my circumstances and waiting for Him to catch up, perhaps I have another option – to walk alongside God at His pace and enjoy the blessings of His love and presence while the circumstances come to me. For all I know, by the time those circumstances reach me, they might look quite different up close. Rather than being a river at flood level, it might just part the moment God and I step into it. And even if it doesn’t, the time leading up to my inevitable intersection with the river can be spent experiencing love, joy, peace, and rest as I walk alongside God, knowing that I am in His presence the entire time we are walking together.

When I was in therapy, my therapist repeatedly told me to live in the present moment, not in the future. Perhaps this is what he was talking about. The only moment I can do anything about is right now, and right now is the only moment that intersects with eternity. If I can stay focused on walking with God right now in this present moment, might love drive out the fear and anxiety?

Only God knows the answer, and only He can empower me to do this. Please pray that I learn this lesson. I am so tired of living in fear.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up her arms and saying, “Don’t panic.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Do Not Fear

fearAnxiety has plagued me for most of my life. It used to be much worse: I struggled with an anxiety disorder for decades, which caused me to have panic attacks regularly. I cannot remember the last time I had a panic attack, so I have certainly progressed. However, anxiety continues to be an issue for me.

I have been praying about what I am doing “wrong,” and God led me to this verse:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ~ 1 John 4:18

I have always struggled with this verse because I don’t perceive what I am fearing as “punishment.” The root of my fear is other people harming me, and that comes from a childhood of abuse, where authority figures had the power to inflict much harm. I do not view the child abuse as “punishment” so much as simply evil.

Looking at the context of the entire passage, the focus is on love – God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for other people. It sounds like love and fear are incompatible, so where I have a fear problem (anxiety), I have a love problem. I know that God loves me, and yet I fear (experience anxiety). How specifically does love drive out fear?

Multiple passages in the Bible tell us not to fear. The reason provided for not fearing is that God is with us:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Is. 41:10

I know that God is always with me, but do I really believe it? If I did, wouldn’t that drive out the fear? And then where does love tie into this?

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking frightened. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Armor of God: A Word of Caution

panic_attackContinued from here.

Spiritual attack is a real experience, and the more you grow in your relationship with God, the more fighting will be required of you. Joyce Meyer puts it this way: “New level, new devil.” While spiritual attack is a reality that you will face as you grow closer to God, you need not fear it. Remember that whether or not you win a particular spiritual battle, the war has already been won:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.’” ~ 1 John 4:4

Spoiler alert – God wins! And because you belong to God, that means you win as well. So, it doesn’t matter how many spiritual battles you lose because the war has already been won.

You might wonder why we must fight battles, some of which we will lose, if the war is already won. God allows us to be attacked spiritually to grow us in Christlikeness. The more you transform into the image of Christ, the less spiritual attack will bother you. To an inexperienced Christian, the battle seems insurmountable. However, to the mature Christian with many battle scars, even very heavy spiritual attack is unable to shake the firm foundation he or she has in Christ.

Some people make the mistake of becoming obsessed with spiritual warfare. If you aren’t careful, the enemy will lure you into filling your mind with thoughts of him and his power rather than God. God must always been your central focus. As long as you keep your eyes on God, it really doesn’t matter what the enemy does. He is a defeated foe. Fear God, and you need not fear spiritual attack.

I hope you found this series on spiritual attack to be helpful. Now that you have the tools, use them whenever you are tempted to despair over your life experiences. This life and spiritual warfare are temporary, but your relationship with God is eternal. Keep pressing on, chasing God with all you have, and then you need not fear anything else.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace having a panic attack. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Armor of God Addendum: Praise & Worship

amenContinued from here.

While this last component is not included in Paul’s explanation of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6, I am including praise & worship as an addendum because it is such an important part of my own personal experience when I find myself under heavy spiritual attack. As I shared here, Brian Johnson of Bethel Music called praise & worship the anesthesia for the Word’s surgery. I also find it to be anesthesia for heavy spiritual warfare.

This is not unique to me. Before Gideon launched his attack against the Midianites, he spent time worshiping God:

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, ‘Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.’” ~ Judges 7:15

As we worship God, we orient ourselves toward God rather than our problems/spiritual attack. God is bigger than anything we face, and the act of worshiping God helps us zoom in on the size of our God rather than the size of whatever we are facing. As we do this, our spirits are in a better position to “hear” from God. I often find I suddenly “know the answers” after I spend time worshiping God. It’s like he slips the answer I have been seeking into my brain while I am busy worshiping Him.

While praise & worship does not require music, I find Christian music to be very helpful in orienting myself back to God. I am musical by nature, so singing along with words directing me to focus on who God is and what He has done powerfully positions me into a posture or praise & worship.

If you are not musical, you can accomplish the same thing by reading aloud from the Psalms. Choose a Psalm that focuses on characteristics of God or specific things He has done, and read it aloud. You can also thank God for specific attributes of His character you appreciate as well as specific ways He has been faithful to you in the past.

Notice that I encourage you to praise and worship God using your voice. While we can certainly praise and worship God “in our heads,” I find doing so aloud to be more powerful preparation for spiritual warfare. If I am feeling defeated, I’ll even include my entire body in my praise & worship, such as by standing, raising my hands, or even dancing around the room (alone, of course!) Bringing my full body into the process of praise & worship is the fastest way I have found to reorient myself to God when I have been losing spiritual battles by allowing my problems to appear larger to me than God.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up her hands and saying, “Amen.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Armor of God: Prayer

churchContinued from here.

The final piece of armor identified in Ephesian 6 is prayer:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” ~ Eph. 6:18

Paul’s admonition to pray all the time is not an add-on or a move to an unrelated topic. It is located immediately after identifying the other six pieces of armor because prayer is an integral part of successful spiritual warfare.

Prayer is the way we stay in communication with God, which means we only need to pray when we need His intervention … which is all the time! When do we need to pray? Continually!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thes. 5:16-18

The Bible is filled with examples of people praying as they went about their daily lives. Nehemiah used what my friend calls an “arrow prayer” when he shot a quick prayer up to God in the middle of a conversation with the king:

The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, …” ~ Neh. 2:4-5a

Clearly, Nehemiah did not excuse himself from the king, get on his knees, and break into a formal prayer. As he breathed in to respond to the king, he “shot an arrow prayer” up to God in his spirit, and God answered him by guiding his words and granting his request for favor with the king.

If you want to be successful in spiritual warfare, prayer needs to become second nature to you. Make it a regular habit. Your prayers don’t always have to be of the “please help me” variety, although God certainly welcomes those as well. I try to prayer throughout my day, looking for the many blessings He gives and thanking Him for them. When I become frustrated, I try to remember to thank God for giving me this opportunity to trust Him more. Weave prayers of gratitude into your daily life, and you will find yourself experiencing more joy!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying in front of a stained glass window. Courtesy Bitmoji.]