It’s Time to Unlock That Pain

open wide your hearts also…. (2 Cor 6:13). 

Has pain ever made you close your heart off?  It has for me.  You know that person who hurt you deeply, shut you out and cast you off? For me, the thought of opening wide my heart to them, quite frankly, fills me with anger and if I could be quite honest, I don’t think its righteous anger.  It’s an anger that says, “You hurt me, and I’m angry.  I have very little love or grace for you because of how you treated me.”

Ouch.

You see, I don’t want to open wide my heart because that means I have to let go.  I have to  release all the pain once more, the rejection and hurt feelings.  Opening wide my heart to that person means that I release them to the Lord, knowing that He is for both of us and sits forever on the throne.

Yes, He is for both of us.  As much as I want God to be against that person, I should praise Him that God never treats us how our sins deserve.  When someone casts you out and cuts you off, it’s not because you’re the problem.  It’s something deeper in their heart that needs the touch of the Father’s love.  It’s a wound that never healed and unfortunately that wound is infecting you.

I wonder what would happen if we stopped closing off our hearts and started opening them wide instead?  Knowing that we are not receiving back the wrong done to us in our lives, as if it never happened or as if it wasn’t wrong.  Instead we are opening up our hearts to that person in a Spirit of love and forgiveness.  We are opening our hearts knowing that who we are actually becoming as we do this, is more like Jesus and when He fills our hearts we can receive others knowing that it’s not us who receives them, but Christ in us instead.

That kind of love changes people.  It convicts them and sets things free.  It might not make the situation right in the way we want it, but it becomes something that is now held in the hands of a loving Father instead of locked up in the hearts of hurting people.

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Lord, I entrust my life to you.  Every heartache and pain, every person who has hurt me, Father, I surrender them to you.  Fill me now with your love, grace and mercy, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.  

A Long-Term Investment

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry…(2 Cor 3:3). 

Writing a letter takes time.  You have to sit down, slow your mind and take the time to pen out the words.  I’ll be honest.  I don’t like writing letters.  Mostly because I don’t like taking the time to do it.  If I can do something faster by typing, I’ll take the quicker route just about every time.  You see, my mind often races towards the next thing instead of staying present in the moment before me.

But, if we want to make disciples and truly invest in the lives of people we must be willing to slow down.  We have to quiet our hearts and busy minds.  We must commit to taking the time to doing what our control and selfishness tells us not to do.

Paul says that the Corinthians are his letter from Christ, the results of their ministry.  Paul was someone who took time to invest in others.  He built churches by building leaders.  He stayed in places not just for a moment, but for a number of years until things were established and we know along the way, he faced much trouble and hardship.  But because he persevered and kept pouring his life into the people of that community, a letter was written to the world about the love of God.

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I want my investment in people to be a letter that is written to the world about the wonderful love of Jesus.  Let it be so.

Jesus, help me to slow down and invest in others.  Forgive me when I make life about the things I produce and not the people in my path.  Help me to love, honor and serve others, not for my sake, but for your glory, in Jesus name, Amen.  

Who Rules Your Thoughts?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…..(2 Cor 1:2). 

How do you greet people who’ve hurt you?  I’m not just talking about a physical greeting, like when you see them at church or at the grocery store.  I’m talking about how you greet them when your thoughts run towards them in your heart.  Sometimes, for me, that’s a greeting that’s met with anger towards them or a desire for justice.  I often wonder how many of my thoughts towards people have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God, but everything to do with the Kingdom of me.

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Because what’s best for me, might not be what’s best for God and His glory.  You see, His glory is made manifest in me more abundantly when I learn to make my life about being a living sacrifice.  As I sacrifice my agenda and preferences, I make Him and others a bigger deal than I do myself.  This is when my heart starts to grow, because I have learned the value of being a servant who trust in her Father’s love and plan.

I’m not sure who comes to mind most often when you think about your pain, but remember that our painful moments hold within them the potential for purpose.  A purpose far greater than the anger and discouragement our pain tries to drown us in.  It is a purpose that connects our hearts with God and with people.  Not so that we can be put on display, but so that Christ in us can abound all the more.  Now my thoughts are no longer so much about those who have hurt me, but those whom I can love and serve for the Kingdom and glory of Christ as we all walk this road of healing with Christ together.

Jesus, help me now to thing upon thoughts that are pure and lovely.  I need your help to do this.  God, grant me wisdom.  Help me to navigate life with grace, love and mercy, in Jesus name, Amen.  

Finding God in the Midst of Tragedy

But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed…(1 Pe 4:13).  

This is going to be hard for me say, especially in light of recent events in our world and even in my present community, but God is working out something good through tragedy and uncertainty.

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Now, I understand that when I say that there are stories and real lives attached to that reality.  I get that.  I’m not dismissing your pain, confusion, anger or fear, but what I’m telling you is that there’s something bigger going on behind the scenes in light of all the uncertainty in our world today.

I’ve been there in such deep, dark places of loss in my life where I wondered where God was and questioned His goodness.  Is God punishing me, I asked?  No, He was preparing me.  Preparing me for a better day.  A day when I would see Him face to face.  A day when He would wipe every tear from my eye and remove all fear and uncertainty from my heart for all eternity.

As we wait for that day, beloved, we can live with hope.  Hope that God is working.  Hope that although life might disappoint us there is a rock that stands firm forever.  The Lord Jesus Christ.

In those dark seasons in life, I had to learn to let God write a different story on my heart and mind.  I had to stop asking the question of, “Why God?” Instead, I got back to the question of, “Who is God?”  And although my answer to that questions didn’t feel great in light of my circumstances, what I knew about God had to become what I rested my hope upon.  That He is good, gracious, loving, redemptive and kind.

Lord Jesus, thank you for showering us with grace.  Help me to live with hope.  Truly, you offer that for me.  I want to live in light of who you are, believing you for great things, in Jesus name, Amen.  

When The Actions of Others Bring You Pain

Should not your piety be your confidence 

and your blameless ways your hope? …(Job 4:6).

Don’t get discouraged when life goes wrong. I get it, it’s easy to feel like God is punishing you for some bad behavior along the way, but beloved, His heart for you is not like that.  Yes, He wants what’s good for you.  Yes, there are consequences for our sinful choices, but every bad thing that happens to us is not because the Father is punishing us.  He very well could be using those trying circumstances to work in the people around us.  Sometimes we get hit with the areas in someone else’s life that are being pruned and that can bring tremendous pain into our lives as well.

The parents who are dealing with a child who is battling addiction.  The spouse who has to separate from their destructive spouse.  The friend who has to watch their loved one make one bad decision after another.  All of this can bring challenges into our own lives as we walk closely with those we love.  You see, it’s not about finding the perfect friend, the sinless spouse or children who never fail.  It’s really all about being willing to walk with people in the depth of their darkest moments and learn how to not make it about us.

Have you ever thought, “Gosh, your actions are hurting ME, knock it off!”  Yeah, that’s been me too.  I’m sure glad Jesus didn’t keep repeating that line on His way to the cross as He suffered and died for our sakes.

The other day, as I was listening to a loved one deal with their own pain and grief, instead of trying to fix them, I asked the Father how I could love them.  You see, beloved, it’s the Father who works in people.  That’s the only way they’ll change.  If you keep trying to fix or change someone, you’ll only push them away.

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I get it, keeping them close means you have to suffer through something painful, but beloved, that’s what a friend does.  Now, you may have to draw healthy boundaries for yourself and that is wise and good.  You should never submit yourself to destructive or abusive behavior.  Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is set a boundary, but please, do so in love.

We must recognize that the Father is in control.  He sees our willingness and desire to please Him.  Therefore, He’s going to make something beautiful out of this mess we call life.  Don’t let the enemy tell you any different.  Truly, God’s love for you is great and He delights in you.

Father, may my heart be bound to you.  I don’t want to give in to despair.  I want to walk in the way of love.  Help me to do that now, in Jesus name, Amen.  

 

 

When It’s OK To Not Tell Someone God is Good

I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” …. (Job 3:26).

 
Job felt the depth of his pain after such great loss, heartache, and pain that he literally sat in the dust lamenting his grief for seven days.
 
Pain is a real and inevitable reality in a world broken by sin. I wish this wasn’t the case. I really do. I wish we didn’t have to experience deep suffering, loss, and pain, but the reality of this present world is that a better day is coming. A day where there will be no mourning, sickness, crying or pain.
 
How do you explain the goodness of God to a teenager broken over their parent’s divorce or the loss of a friend? How do you tell a grieving mother that God is good after a great loss in her life?
 
You don’t. You simply sit with them in the dust and by your willingness to cry with them in their pain, you SHOW them the love of God. The healing, transformative and gracious love of God that lives inside of you through the resurrected Christ.
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If there is one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s not our place to fix people shattered by life. We simply serve as little pieces of God’s loving grace to them. As we sit with them in their pain, we become the healing salve of the love of God.
 
Does that make all their pain go away, certainly not, but it makes that moment a little less burdensome. I wonder who today might need a friend that’s simply willing to sit with them in the dust and act as the healing salve of God?
 
Father, help us to become your love for others. Forgive us when we try to fix hurting people. Help us to act as your love to them instead. We want to sit with them in the dust if that means they will experience more of you. Let it be so, in Jesus name, Amen.
 

One Bad Thing After Another

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said…(Job 1:16). 

Have you ever walked through a season in life where one bad thing happened after another?  I have.  It feels absolutely crippling as your heartbreaks once more through all the bad news you’re receiving.

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Many of us, in light of what’s happening in our world today, have been facing one bad thing after another.  Some may be wondering how they’re going to make ends meet, feed their family and keep everyone safe.  Bad news might be springing up left and right and it’s making you question the goodness of God in your life.

I wonder if Job ever felt that when he lost everything.  I wonder if he, like me ever thought, OK God, I’ve had enough, please, no more bad news.  Job’s response in the midst of great suffering encourages me to submit myself to the Lord in similar ways when life starts to go bad.

He says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall depart.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”  

Those are easy words to say until God takes something away that you love deeply.  That’s when our faith is truly pressed and tested.  That’s when we must choose whom we will serve.  The Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom or our feelings, wishes, wants and desires?  Sometimes we must choose Him through tears, but beloved, even through your tears and wrestling, He is near.

Truly, we do not have to live in fear, because we can wrestle with hope.  The hope that God is in control and forever sits on the throne.  Truly, He is a good and gracious redeemer for all who would believe.

Lord, I want to be fully submitted to you.  Help me now to do that for your glory, in Jesus name, Amen.