No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

dropped_ice_creamA Christian friend recently struggled through a dynamic that may sound all too familiar to you. He was feeling less-than-godly emotions toward someone but decided to put his faith into action instead. Rather than react to the selfishness of this other person as his sinful nature encouraged him to do, my friend instead decided to bless this person by doing something that the selfish person did not deserve, which also came at a cost to my friend. After doing something he didn’t want to do, solely out of loyalty to God, my friend expected to receive some kind of blessing. Instead, he came down with the flu the next day!

My friend asked me the same question that many of us – including myself! – ask of God: “I did things God’s way, so where’s the blessing?” To quote my friend, “I did what was right, and rather than getting a blessing, I got the flu. So why did I bother?” I pointed out what I blogged about last week – that God is seeking people who follow Him for no motive outside of sheer love for Him. I said that perseverance can only be developed when we continue to follow God despite the suffering. God wants to know whether we will continue to do good, even when we see no payoff. His response was, “The answer is NO.”

Sadly, that’s the same response that many Christians have when they see nothing good coming out of doing things God’s way. When I find myself in the position of no good deed going unpunished, I meditate on Gal. 6:9, which says,

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

It’s not that my friend’s blessing/reward isn’t coming – it just wasn’t instant. We want instant gratification for making a sacrifice to follow God, but that’s not the way God works. Remember that after the crucifixion, Jesus had to get through Saturday before experiencing the blessings of Sunday. Will we continue to do good – to follow God’s ways – during the “Saturdays” of our lives?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying over dropped ice cream. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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God Turns Our Curses into Blessings

Continued from here.

Last week, God led me to a verse that beautifully captures what He has done for me in my life:

However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.” ~ Deut. 23:5

Let those words saturate your shattered heart and wounded soul: The Lord your God will turn your curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you!!

It doesn’t matter what your curse it. For me, it was being sex-trafficked as a child. For you, it might be alcoholism or addiction … abandonment … betrayal … divorce … the death, or even murder, of someone who you deeply loved … injury, disease, or long-term illness … No matter what the curse is, God can turn that curse into a blessing if you will let Him. He does this as you choose to walk with Him and follow Him, even when His ways make no sense to you … even as everything inside of you is screaming that His ways don’t feel good. Push through your resistance and follow Him. Nothing compares to what you will find.

And then here’s the very best part that I relish every day … One of the lessons I learned from The Count of Monte Cristo is that our greatest joys are best experienced against the backdrop of our greatest pains. This is a lesson that God has been showing me over the past few weeks, and I have been driven to tears of thanksgiving and awe multiple times as I process this truth. God has repeatedly taken an area of greatest pain in my life and used that very pain as the fertilizer to nourish a tree of life in that very spot. This is how something as impossible as this Bible verse can happen:

He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.” ~ Ps. 113:9

The deeper your wound, the greater the restoration. The darker the pain, the brighter the joy. Keep pursuing God and don’t let go until you have received your double portion. Then, you will view your greatest pains as the places of your greatest joys, to the praise and glory of God!

[Graphic: Cover of The Count of Monte Cristo (Bantam Classics). Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Blessings of a Raw Deal Life

blessedContinued from here.

If you are like me and had a raw deal life, you might have trouble believing God could have a blessing in store for you. After all, the world is seemingly filled with people who have family and friends who love and are loyal to them. It can feel like you are living in a Hallmark card world and that you are the only one who got a raw deal. I assure you that this world is filled with people who have lived raw deal lives, most of whom feel just as alone as you do. Don’t buy the lie that you are the exception – the exception is actually the person who got to live a charmed life, and s/he already has the reward.

God promises to restore those of us with raw deal lives, giving us a double portion for all that was taken from us:

Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.” ~ Is. 61:7

The more that was taken from you, the greater the blessing God has in store for you … the last will be first. I know how close to the back of the line I was as I was repeatedly raped as a six-year-old child. So much was taken from me, including my ability to trust, to feel loved, and to feel safe. The more that was taken, the more God will restore … TIMES TWO!! With God’s restoration, I move to the front of the line in heaven … and the last will be first.

I frequently share one other blessing that most people miss … Only someone who has been as broken as I was has the opportunity to experience the enormity of God’s healing power in the way that I have! It’s not that God loves me more than anyone else. The point is that I get to experience more healing than most people do simply because I was more broken than they have been. The greater your wound, the greater the healing power required to heal you, which brings you that much more of God!!

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying over the word, “#blessed.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

When Life’s Raw Deal was Not Your Fault

my_badContinued from here.

If I was reading this blog series 15 years ago, I would have angrily responded with, “But it wasn’t my fault!! I was six years old!! It was NOT my responsibility or fault that I was sex-trafficked!!” And those words are true. They are not incorrect, but they are incomplete.

I was not responsible for being sex-trafficked as a child. I was, however, responsible for hating my child abusers, which Jesus said is murder. I was responsible for “punishing” the people in my life who tried to love me as I rejected them because of what had been done to me in the past. I was responsible for idolizing food, seeking relief from my pain through an eating disorder rather than seeking the arms of God for my healing.

Again, I would have reacted angrily to reading those words: “If I had not be abused, I would not have NEEDED an idol!! How dare you tell me that I am sinning for hating the people who raped me!! My life is one big train wreck because of other people’s evil choices!! How DARE you tell me that I am sinning by hating them for doing this to me!!”

If this is your reaction to what I have written, I say to you with much gentleness and tenderness – God’s healing is bigger than your pain. My heart was beyond broken. It was shattered into a million pieces, but God gave me a new heart. While I have not forgotten all of the pain I carried for decades, it seems like a lifetime ago – like the story of a dear friend from long ago who has since been healed. I feel separated from all of that pain and heartache because God has healed me, and He will heal you, too, if you will let Him. But you’ve got to do it His way, and that requires forgiving those who broke you, which I know is the last thing you want to hear, but it’s the avenue God uses to heal shattered hearts.

A friend who is having a difficult time forgiving asked me if I would forgive someone who murdered my child, and I said yes. She asked how I could do it. I responded that the alternative is to carry the weight of that anger and pain around for the rest of my life. It’s not worth it.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging under the words, “My bad.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

The Last Will be First

pity_party_catContinued from here.

I ended my last blog entry by sharing a deeper truth that God recently gave me in answer to my question from years ago of where He was when I was being raped as a little girl. His answer centers around this passage of Scripture:

Then Peter spoke up, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’” ~ Mark 10:28-31

In God’s economy, greatness comes from loss and suffering in this life. Jesus explained this when James and John asked to be seated on Jesus’ right and left side in heaven. We all want to be honored, but are we willing to drink from the cup of suffering that Jesus drank from? He was/is the Son of God, and yet he came not to be served but to serve and to suffer, giving his life as a ransom for many.

Are we willing to endure suffering in this life to receive honor in heaven? The truthful answer for most of us is no. We are so driven by our desire for comfort and control that we reject our Healer, blaming Him for the raw deal that life has thrown us. We made ungodly choices that brought us harm – or were victimized by the wrongful choices of others – and then we rail at God for the consequences of free will used for evil:

A person’s own folly leads to their ruin,
yet their heart rages against the Lord.” ~ Prov. 19:3

When I talk to people who have been given a raw deal in life, I repeatedly remind them that this is NOT heaven. We all want free will, but we also want God to magically remove the consequences of that free will. We cannot have it both ways. If we want to experience the freedom, joy, and peace of God, we must submit our free will to His.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace and a cat sitting together looking sad. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Encouragement for Those Who Got a Raw Deal in Life

dog_cover_faceI am one of those who got a raw deal in life. By the time I was six years old, I was being sex-trafficked, repeatedly raped as family “friends” made money off my body. Despite receiving Jesus as my Savior at age 8, the sex-trafficking continued until my family moved away when I was 11. It took me a long time to reconcile how a loving God – one I had given my heart to at age 8 – could be trusted. Today, I will look you in the eye and tell you with absolutely no reservation that my God is GOOD and infinitely trustworthy. I know that makes no logical sense, and yet it’s the truth.

How did I get there? One step at a time, choosing to believe God’s Word over my own experience. A huge sticking point for me was the question that haunted me for years: “God, where were you when I was being raped as a little girl?” One of the answers I received was that He was right there beside me, grieving that mankind would choose to use free will in such a vile manner. A later answer was that as He was right there beside me grieving, He was giving me the stamina I needed to survive the abuse without becoming an abuser myself as he constructed an exit strategy, which was my family moving away.

I have found that interactions with God are always multi-layered, which is one reason I enjoy reading the Bible so much. You can read a biblical story from a surface level, but there are always deeper meanings and nuances that the Holy Spirit enlightens as you need them. God recently led me to a much deeper layer of His answer to my question of where He was when I was being raped as a little girl: He was preparing great rewards for me because in His economy, the last are first. More on this in my next blog entry.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting next to a dog, both of them covering their faces with a hand/paw. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Judging the Wounded

judgeI apologize for not blogging last week. My schedule for Father’s Day weekend was overstuffed, and I had to choose between blogging and sleeping. Here’s hoping I can get back on track this week.

God has been teaching me a particularly painful lesson over the past few weeks that I hope you can learn by reading about it rather than have to learn it on a “field trip” (as Beth Moore puts it) as I have. It’s a lesson about grace and why Jesus told us never to judge other people. I am learning this lesson by being on the receiving end of being judged during a particularly vulnerable season that most people simply cannot relate to. It’s one thing to be judged when you are being intentionally obstinate. However, when you are judged in weakness, vulnerability, hurt, and brokenness, the lack of grace heaped on top of that vulnerable season can seem unbearable.

Casting Crowns has a great line in the song, Jesus, Friend of Sinners:

Nobody knows what we’re for, only what we’re against, when we judge the wounded.”

And you know what? We’re ALL wounded. Your wounds might looks quite different from mine. In fact, your area of wounding might be in an area that’s a strength for me. When I judge you in the area of your deepest wounding, I can compound what’s already painful for you as I heap judgment upon you rather than grace. Not only do I squander an opportunity to saturate your wounds with God’s loving grace, but I actually rub salt into them, which can lead you to question whether you even have a place in the family of God. After all, we expect judgment from the world as “peculiar people,” but judgment from others in the Body of Christ can actually deepen the wound, that’s what I have been experiencing on this “field trip.”

Joyce Meyer recently preached on Ps. 105:18, which literally says that iron entered Joseph’s soul when he was enslaved and imprisoned in Egypt. If that makes no sense to you, thank God for sparing you that experience. Sadly, many of us know the pain of experiencing something so traumatizing that we cannot find the words to express the agony of iron entering the soul – words do not exist that can communicate the depth of your pain to someone who has not walked in your shoes. Judging someone with iron in his or her soul exacerbates the pain in ways you cannot possibly imagine if you have not experienced it yourself. I hope that you never do.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting in a judge’s chair over the word, “Judging.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]