Slow Miracles Lead to Compassion Rather than Judgment

struggle_is_realContinued from here.

In areas of our lives that have never been a struggle, it can be easy to judge others who are struggling. For example, I am not vulnerable to alcoholism. I can drink a beer one day and go months, or even years, without having another beer. Then, if I have a beer again, I have complete freedom about whether to drink a second beer or not. Addiction to alcoholism has never been an issue for me. Thus, in my flesh, it could be easy for me to judge an alcoholic as I expect that person’s experience with alcohol to be the same as mine.

However, I have been addicted to food through an eating disorder, so I have a frame of reference for how difficult it must be for an alcoholic to choose not to drink. I remember the internal drive inside to “stuff down” an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting and how “impossible” it was for me to stop eating/bingeing once I started. Because God healed my addiction slowly, I have deep compassion for someone working through the Alcoholics Anonymous program. I know the challenge of making a healthy choice minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day and how easily months of progress can be cast aside in a moment of weakness. I would not have this empathy if God had not healed me with a slow miracle.

Being judged in an area of one’s deepest weakness is particularly painful. I have been on the receiving end of that type of judgment, and it cuts deeply when someone pours salt onto your open wounds. God fully understands our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and He is gentle with us as He guides us toward what we need to do to participate in His slow miracle. Being healed through a slow miracle helps us better understand how to demonstrate this aspect of God’s character to others who are struggling in their own difficult or impossible situations.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace grimacing and holding up her fist while saying, “The struggle is real.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Empathy Developed through Slow Miracles

forgive_youContinued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, God healing me from the pain of childhood abuse happened slowly as I obeyed His command to forgive them. I did this by praying for them day after day, week and week, and month after month for over a year. I knew I had forgiven them when the pain was gone. If God had miraculously healed that pain instantly, I never would have forgiven them, which would have led me right back to where I started – mired in bitterness, which would have brought more pain. Instead, I am free and refuse to go back into the bondage of bitterness. I choose to forgive anyone who hurts me immediately and pray for each transgressor daily until I no longer feel pain. God not only gave me the tools to participate in the slow miracle of healing the pain from childhood abuse, but He also showed me how to apply those tools in my day-to-day life so I am not mired by bitterness today.

Because God used a slow miracle that required me to exert much effort in obedience to Him, I have deep empathy for those who are mired in unforgiveness. I have not forgotten how difficult unforgiveness is or how distasteful the thought of forgiving a wrongdoer is. I vividly remember all of my own objections: “But they don’t deserve it! You have no idea how deeply they wounded me! Nobody could forgive what they did to me! I have every right to hate them, and I DO hate them!” This deep empathy helps me be gentle as I guide people toward obeying God in this sensitive area.

As an example, I have shared that I am the executive director for a statewide prison ministry. A woman called about potentially volunteering for our post-incarceration ministry. I told her that ALL are welcome, from shoplifters to murderers. I also mentioned that even sex offenders are welcome, which was a stumbling block for her. She had the wisdom to recognize that she was not yet spiritually mature enough to offer comfort to sex offenders who were reentering society. Rather than judge her for this, I told her I understand – and I do! – because if we were having this conversation five years ago, it would be completely different because I used to feel the same way. I told her that I had been victimized by sex offenders as a child, and I was only able to develop compassion for sex offenders after God led me to forgive my own abusers.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a halo and angel wings saying, “I forgive you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Slow Miracles Keep Us Empathetic

i_feel_uContinued from here.

One of the reasons that we do not immediately die and go to heaven when we receive Christ as Savior is because once we submit to God’s authority, our lives stop being about us. God loves everyone and wants to be reconciled with everyone. We are His Body on this earth to reach out to others. Many of those who are separated from God are in bondage, and we can best reach them by maintaining empathy toward what it feels like to be in bondage. The slow miracle enables us to stay empathetic to the pain and challenges of living with difficulty and impossibility.

Another one of my slow miracles was healing from the child abuse. While therapy took me a long way, I continued to struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms that my therapist said would never fully heal. He said that PTSD is something that is not healed so much as managed. Instead of having hard months with a few good days or weeks, the ratio would shift to having good months interspersed with few hard days or weeks, but hardship related to the PTSD would always be a part of my life. I did not experience healing of my deepest emotional wounds until I obeyed God in forgiving my abusers, and that took time … lots and lots of time. I prayed for them day after day, week after week, and month after month for over a year before I was finally able to forgive them. I knew I had forgiven them when the pain was gone.

Because this was such a long and difficult process for me (a slow miracle), I retain empathy for those who live in a state of unforgiveness, which (sadly) is most people, even Christians. If God had instantly healed my childhood pain without requiring me to forgive, I am certain I never would have obeyed God in doing so. My pain was so heavy that I was willing to do ANYTHING – even obey God in praying for my enemies – to find relief. Even though I forgave my childhood abusers years ago, I continue to remember the pain and heaviness of unforgiveness, which gives me deep empathy for those who are hurting as they continue to feed their bitterness toward those who have wronged them.

I have more to say on this topic, so we’ll continue discussing miracles next week.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding her hand over her heart and saying, “I feel U.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]