Pain … an amazing tool that can be used as a deterrent to avoid issues that could invite more debilitating heartache, but one that can also lend to stealing our hope and faith in a new venture or relationship. Pain is a tremendous motivator either way to learn a lesson as to the “take away” that we should glean from a tough circumstance of loss or betrayal, or, it can be utilized for tempting us onto the path of revenge.
Year ago I endured a difficult test of my willingness to forgive, when I fell into the trap of a predator and his schemes during some of the prime years of working in ministry. Wet behind the ears, I had no idea that those tiny signs of “something seems off” were actually an enormous shout from the Lord to avoid oncoming danger lying ahead. After all, predators aren’t supposed to lurk in the church and in ministry especially in positions of leadership, so a young and inexperienced person might assume.
In actuality, the avenue of ministry has the highest level of snares and traps set by the evil one of any area we will ever experience. Ministry has enormous rewards that far surpass the deeds of darkness that are present, so the risk is worth it when we enter that path with eyes wide open, Bible knowledge inscribed onto our hearts, and accountability and wisdom of those around us being our greatest buffer against falling for a scheme.
When that still small voice speaks, the is the FIRST sign that needs to heeded. It either means stop and run, or proceed with caution dressed in our full armor of God.
For me, my antenna was fine tuned after I was bitten by the snake and suffered much harm, which has caused my alertness to seeing danger ahead far more sensitive than it ever has been. It was a great lesson and one I will not willingly choose to repeat. The greatest challenge was not to nurse a grudge over the pursuit of the predator who indeed meant harm.
A deep grudge is undoubtedly burrowed in some type of offense we have taken by an action or words or even developed by witnessing someone else’s suffering whom we love, at the hand of another. On the flip side, we can harbor ill feelings over a perceived action, but made the fool for our assumptions when we discover all to late that we completely misunderstood an action and all along we fed a firestorm of thoughts and words without ever having checked the facts. In my case, I had to forgive the hand behind the masterful set up that was placed before me, and even wrestled with my own ignorance which ushered in the necessary step eventually of forgiving myself.
Even witnessing an action of evil against someone we love can dramatically affect us down the line if we don’t train our brain not to camp on those actions. We have give up our right to the Lord Who is supremely capable of dealing with “the bad guys.”
When that person walked away and broke a vow when we needed them most, when our boss passed us by on the promotional chain, when we are not paid equal wages as women to men or “grunt worker” compared to the executive, when our children suffer immeasurable pain at someone’s bullying, when we are falsely accused, a friend commits suicide, and so many other ways pain could be administered … in order to heal and be free, it requires that vital giant step toward maturity called “surrender”.
Surrender the right to get even … forgive them, forgive yourself, surrender the right to dwell on the loss, surrender the right to think it was “about us” to begin with … for if you are a child of God, that offense was aimed at our Savior by the Enemy of our souls, and you were caught in the crossfire.
If Christ can forgive all, and never bring back that offense as a manipulative tool, than who are we to hold onto anything against another … even if it is ourselves that needs to be forgiven. As my discipling mentor has always reminded me, “we have no right to draw out sin that has been placed under the blood of Jesus.”
Corrie ten Boom explained that sin has been cast into the deepest ocean with a sign on the shore line posted with “no fishing allowed”. Oh how I love that lady and what wisdom I have gained from studying her life.
No, it does not mean that the offender receives the “ok” for what has been done when we release their actions to the Father, that’s a lie from the devil, but it cuts us loose from the “root of bitterness” that Hebrews 12:15 reminds us to avoid, “see to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
But what about the gamut of feelings, the greatest hurdle we have to conquer in any of these settings, that is so vital for our growth and spiritual wholeness? That requires surrender as well.
I will never forget my good friend and Bible Teacher Triss Brakefield quoting this very truth, “emotions serve as incredible slaves, but they make horrible masters?”
It’s the Lord’s job to serve justice indeed, but just remember this … do we want to endure the same level of heaviness on the scales of justice for our sin as we are hoping the Lord will impose on our enemy? I would say “no” … and that letting go in the way of surrender will bring us great freedom and an enormous appreciation for His grace that served us as described in Romans 5:8b, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Test after scientific test proves that bitterness and mental pain we have not come to grips with can cause a tumultuous chain reaction in our bodies on the cellular level from hypertension, back pain, ulcers, to strokes. On the other hand, nothing is more glorious than when a person looks us in the eye and forgives us our offenses more than we could ever deserve, loves us unconditionally, entrusts us again with important tasks and a place of favor again. Having been on the receiving end of astounding forgiveness from Christ and from those I have sinned against on this earth, I can no longer look at an offender with distain as I kneel below the cross of Christ in my mind, with His blood droplets dripping down my face, seeing His loving eyes that say, “I am doing this just for you.”
Those three fingers pointing back as I point the accusatory first finger forward are tattooed with “Father, Son, Holy Spirit.”
With emotional pain, it’s incredibly important to place it at the foot of the cross and leave it there, ask Him to break the yoke of slavery to that pain, embrace the grace, and discover that your heart will grow light and free over time. It takes time to work through that process … after all it took three years of ministry to prepare everyone for His crucifixion, a night of betrayal, and all prior to six hours of torture on a cross, in order to qualify the work done with “it is finished.”
Your identity is not found in their sin against you or your sin you committed against another, rather, it is found in Christ with the renewing of your mind. The cure for bitterness is forgiveness …