Meditating on Scriptures Relevant to Forgiveness

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I have found that until I have progressed in the process of forgiveness, I am not in a good place to make decisions about reconciliation. Keep in mind that forgiveness is a process rather than a particular moment. As you pray for the offender day after day, you will gradually release the anger and bitterness, which leaves room to invite God in to heal your pain. The more deeply you or your loved one was hurt, the longer this process might take.

The other important part of forgiveness is holding your thoughts captive to Christ. When we are hurt, it’s natural to focus on our emotional wounds. As we do, they grow larger in our minds. If we are not careful, our perspective can shift so that the pain seems larger than our God.

The truth is that God is bigger than your pain. Thus, we must remove our eyes (focus) from our pain and place them back onto God, where they belong. To do this, I recommend looking up scriptures in the Bible that remind you of what God says to do when someone hurts you. Then, whenever you are tempted to think about the offenses against you, pray for the offender and meditate on applicable scripture.

For example, let’s say Sonja is tempted to mull over what the offender did to her child. Rather than give in to the temptation to rehash all that has happened, Sonja can say a prayer for the offender. She can then meditate on applicable passages of scripture, such as the following:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. ~ Matt. 6:14

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. ~ Matt. 18:21-22

Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. ~ 2 Cor. 2:7-8

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ Col. 3:13

While this won’t be easy for Sonja, it really is this simple. If she uses each thought of the offender as a reminder to pray for her and reinforces what God says to do through meditating on scripture, her focus will return to God, putting her in a better place to make reconciliation decisions.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting on a beanbag chair, drinking coffee and reading the Bible. Courtesy Bitmoji.]



Praying for Discernment on Whether to Reconcile

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If forgiveness does not require reconciliation, how do we know whether to reconcile?

You cannot base this decision on your feelings. If I did, I would have never reconciled with Person #1 but would have already reconciled with Person #2 because I valued the second relationship more than the first. Also, I was willing to put up with more “bad behavior” from Person #2 than from Person #1 for reasons I won’t go into to. Suffice it to say that if I allowed my feelings to drive my decisions concerning reconciliation after forgiveness, my story would the opposite of what I have shared.

Step one is to pray for God’s wisdom and discernment. Only He knows the heart of the other person. He knows the degree to which the person regrets the bad behavior and has truly repented of it. He also knows whether or not your presence or absence in that person’s life will benefit or harm him or her.

Note that I did not mention the benefit or harm of having that person in your life. Once you have forgiven the other person, he or she loses the power to continue emotionally harming you. Note that I am referring to emotional harm. If you are dealing with someone who continues to have the power to harm you (or someone else, such as your child) physically, pray for God’s wisdom in setting appropriate boundaries to protect you from physical harm if you sense Him calling you to reconcile with someone in a position to inflict physical harm.

As you forgive someone who has emotionally harmed you, God heals the emotional pain, which removes that person’s power over you. In fact, that’s one way you will know that you have fully forgiven the other person. As long as you remain mired in bitterness, you have given your “power” away to the other person, enabling him or her to continue inflicting emotional harm. Before I forgave Person #1, her words had enormous power over me. Today, whatever she says is irrelevant because the process of forgiveness dismantled that power. I no longer need emotional protection from her because God has healed my heart.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace’s face on the cover of a book entitled, “Why Even Try?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Abiding in God’s Presence Drives Out Fear

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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.

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


Seeing Through Holy Eyes

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One might assume that as I have grown holier in particular areas of my life, I must now be judgmental of those who are not. The opposite has actually turned out to be true. For example, when I hear women talking about how unhappy they are in their marriages, I feel sad because I can see how their complaints are a reflection of areas of unholiness in their marriage, and I know how painful that is. I also know that they must first be ready to begin working the holiness planted inside of them to move it to the outside so it bears fruit, and only God knows when they are ready. If I try to tell them how to live their lives in judgment, my words will be counterproductive.

I find myself engaging in more prayer for those around me who are struggling in areas where I once struggled. When I sense the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I’ll share my own story. Only if they ask to do make any suggestions. As an example, when people complain to me about their marriages and I sense the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I’ll share my story, which includes how God used Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick’s The Love Dare to help heal my marriage, and if they seem interested, I’ll offer to buy a copy of the book for them. It’s up to them whether or not to read or work through the book, just as it was up to me when I was in a similar place.

True holiness is the opposite of judgment. It enables you to see clearly enough to see the speck in someone’s eye because you have already removed the plank out of yours. And because you know how painful it was to remove the plank, you feel tenderness, compassion, and empathy for the one with a splinter.

[Graphic: Cover of The Love Dare. Courtesy Amazon.]

Stop Seeking the World’s Peace

A friend bought me the book Daily Wisdom for Women 2017 Devotional Collection, and I have been working through it each morning during my quiet time. I was blown away by this quote from Sunday, June 25, which was written by Jennifer Vander Klipp:

When we pray during life’s storms, we tend to think God is going to make things the way we want them, with ease, comfort, lack of conflict, and prosperity. But those things are not the things that draw us closer to Him and grow our faith. He promises never to leave us and to give us His peace, not the world’s peace. His ways are different from ours…

The end of that quote is what hit me hard – For all of these years, I have been asking for God to give me the world’s peace! I never thought of it in those terms, but it’s true. I want a life that’s easy, comfortable, and problem-free, which is the world’s definition of peace. Anyone with or without a faith finds it peaceful to be in a state of external comfort. That’s why we love vacations, spas, etc. These are slivers of time in which our problems are temporarily removed as we focus on our own comfort. However, God’s peace is internal, not external, and is completely independent of our circumstances.

And the next thought about God’s ways being different from ours drove home the point that I need to learn: I need to stop praying for God to give me what the world offers and start receiving what God has already provided. I already have access to God’s peace 24/7 because I always have access to GOD! He IS peace. But I haven’t been looking to God for peace in the form He offers. I have been asking Him to remove X, Y, and Z from my life to give me the World’s comfort instead of opening my spirit to receive God’s peace, which works even if X, Y, & Z get worse instead of better.

God, forgive me for seeking the World’s peace instead of You. Help me follow Your ways instead of the World’s ways and receive the glorious blessing of Your peace, which has been available to me all along. Turn my eyes off my external circumstances and back onto You where they belong. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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[Graphic: Cover of Daily Wisdom for Women 2017 Devotional Collection]. Courtesy Amazon.

Recovery Testimony: Infertility

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Little did I know that life’s next storm was already brewing. I had only returned to God for a few months when I learned that I was infertile. For someone so determined to be in charge of my own life, this news was absolutely devastating. Even the Bible validates the depth of the struggle with infertility:

There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’” ~ Prov. 30:15-16

Note that infertility is the only human experience recorded in this passage. If you have never walked the path of infertility or walked alongside someone dealing with it, you might not be able to fully appreciate the devastation, particularly for couples who are “control freaks.”

I had a choice to make – Was I going to walk away from God again? Or would I go through this with Him? I decided that grieving the loss of my father without God had not worked out very well, so I would go through the infertility process with God, even though I didn’t understand why He allowed this in my life.

Interestingly, I never perceived my infertility as being a punishment for walking away from God, just as I never perceived my father’s sudden death as being a punishment for anything. My struggle was about why God allowed these things to happen, but I never blamed Him for causing them.

Fast forward 4.5 years … I was sobbing as I drove to work. After years of infertility treatments and surgeries, we went through the process to adopt a child, and we had been waiting over 1.5 years to be matched with a birthmother. My friends’ children were already in kindergarten, and I felt every day of those 4.5 years as my arms remained empty on Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc. I asked God when would I ever be a mother, and I felt this in my Spirit: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” And a peace washed over me that I could not explain. For the next week, when my thoughts turned to this area of my life, I would sense that again and be washed over with peace.

One week later, we received the call that a birthmother had chosen us to adopt her son. She selected us on the very day that God gave me that message, but the agency waited a week to tell us to make sure she was certain we were the right family. That baby is now my 16 years old son, and he was worth the wait.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying one big tear. Courtesy Bitmoji.]