When It’s Hardest to Forgive

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:21-22‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If you were raised Christian, ever visited a Sunday School class or have been witnessed to, I am confident you’ve heard a message about forgiveness. The plan of salvation alone consists of confessing our sins and Jesus forgiving us. Christ’s death is the epitome of forgiveness both to those who crucified Him and for those He died for. As He was hanging on the cross already beaten and tortured, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Throughout the Old and New Testament there are many passages on God and Christ forgiving sinners. We aren’t just forgiven. God calls us to forgive those who “trespass against us.” If you’re anything like me, being forgiven is easy. Forgiving others can be a very tough pill to swallow especially those who aren’t even sorry.

There are people in this world who may hate you, hurt you, and lie about you because of their own toxicity. Perhaps they’re jealous and insecure, sociopathic or narcissistic even. The stories of Jezebel, Joseph’s brothers and even Saul’s murderous behavior toward David are prime examples. The Pharisees even blasphemed against Jesus. Yet there are multiple scriptures that tell us to forgive. In fact a few verses even say love your enemies and pray for them/do good to them.

Here are a few more scriptures on God telling us to forgive:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. ””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭11:25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Over and over God tells us to love our enemies, be kind to each other and to forgive each other. When someone we love hurts our feelings or disappoints us-it tends to be easy to forgive them because our love supersedes the offense. It’s hardest to forgive those who’s offenses supersede the ability to love that person. That’s where surrender to God and an obedient heart comes in to play. That’s where seventy times seven needs to be applied.

You may come across someone who will never be sorry for the wrong they did to you. You may want to just avoid them or ignore their existence. However, there may be circumstances where you cannot ignore or avoid them. You may have such a justifiable aversion to them that being kind to them makes your skin crawl. Our wounded hearts don’t want to forgive. Our defenses don’t want to be around them let alone offer them grace or kindness. But God says “Forgive them.” God says “Be kind to them.” God says “Love and pray for them.”

Seventy times seven means we forgive every offense, every time. I think it also means we may have to forgive the same offense over and over as a means to truly let go and fully forgive our offenders. Think about it. How many times a day do you dwell on the offense? Ever have arguments in your head between yourself and the offender? Ever think unkind thoughts or call them vicious names in your mind? Gossip about them maybe? Can you feel roots of bitterness growing and consuming you? Do you think any of that hurts your offender? Trust me-it does not. Your offender is most likely not even thinking about you. If their not sorry for their actions then they’re certainly not dwelling on them either. Our dwelling only keeps us wounded and keeps us from forgiving.

We combat this by choosing forgiveness. When a negative thought pops in your head-confess in your mind or aloud that you forgive the offender. Dwelling on specific actions they did against you? Name them aloud as you declare that you forgive these offenses. Confess each and every hateful thought you entertain and give it all to Jesus. When circumstances arise that you have to engage with that person, force yourself to be kind. You may have to fake it until you make it but if you do this, you will cut off all roots of bitterness and walk in the freedom of having a forgiving heart. You will make it to forgiving your offender(s).

Your enemy may never change. Our greatest enemy will never change so why do we expect our human enemies to change? We cannot control the behaviors and actions of others. We can only control how we respond, what we hold on to and what we let go of. We have a choice to forgive or to hold a grudge. Holding a grudge steals our joy and makes us more like our haters. Always choose to forgive. Even if you have to say it 490 times (which is 70 X 7 by the way) choosing forgiveness makes you more Christlike. That forgiveness may be the exact stepping stone Jesus uses to bring your enemy to salvation. After all-Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20) You never know how God will use your forgiveness to save the lives of others also.

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Deep Waters

This post is simply a collection of verses to revive those going through deep waters…

“Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭69:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Rescue me from the mud; don’t let me sink any deeper! Save me from those who hate me, and pull me from these deep waters.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭69:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“The mountains watched and trembled. Onward swept the raging waters. The mighty deep cried out, lifting its hands in submission.”

‭‭Habakkuk‬ ‭3:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench!”

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭18:38‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Reach down from heaven and rescue me; rescue me from deep waters, from the power of my enemies.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭144:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters.”

‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭22:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭43:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What do these verses mean to you? To me they are a promise of deliverance and God’s protection.  Take Isaiah 43:2 (one of my favorites and one God has been sending me a lot lately.)  God doesn’t promise us a life free from hardship.  What He does promise is that He is with us through every hardship we have to endure.  He also promises that none of those hardships will ever destroy us because He won’t let us drown or be burned up.  Nothing that is not from God will consume us because we are protected in the wings of the Lord.  Adversity that comes from God definitely will not destroy.  The hand of God is only meant to refine us.  The process of refinement is painful but just like the labor pains of child birth, the end result is something beautiful created by our Heavenly Father.

Isaiah 43:2 is exceptionally special to me as it was sent to me last summer as a means of encouragement that God will always be with me.  To the person who sent it to me-thank you for the encouragement.  God is still using this verse to remind me that I am covered and protected and He is never going to let the devil destroy me.  I hope this verse strengthens you as well should you ever find yourself traveling through another pit of despair or going through deep waters.  Stay in the trench no matter how deep the water rises.  We have both learned it’s safer to be in the trench then to ever leave and fight the battle on our own.

Are You a Joseph or a Jonah?

 

“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18 AMP

 Adversity is something we have all encountered at one point in our lives.  For some, depending on their circumstances, adversity can be an everyday constant.  Sadly, in war stricken and third world countries, adversity is a way of life.  It’s how we all handle adversity that determines what happens to our character.  Will we use it as an opportunity to build our character, or will we allow it to destroy what God is developing within us?

I have been dealing with an overbearing amount of adversity in 2017 both personally and professionally.  Unfortunately it seems to be continuing as 2018 begins.  Without being too detailed I will simply tell you that at first I tried focusing on just the facts, reiterating the truth and not being bothered by what was thrown at me.  However, the more it continued at both levels, the more I allowed it to rattle me and I became consumed with bitterness and unforgiveness.  I became reactive instead of responsive.  I magnified the wrongs being done and I prayed some incredibly angry and irreverent prayers that even included a few swear words from time to time.  I was so focused on my enemies’ toxic behaviors I couldn’t see that I too was becoming toxic.  In fact, at one point I almost wrote a very prideful post about how to deal with toxic people.  Although I had bible verses in mind I have to be honest, that post would have been written from an angry heart, definitely not words of wisdom from Abba.

Recently I’ve been surrendering these situations and my enemies to God.  It’s a day to day, moment by moment effort because when you magnify something it can be challenging to let it go.  Since doing that I have felt God reminding me of two men in His word who struggled with some serious adversity and how each one handled it.  One chose to trust God no matter what and make the best of his circumstances.  The other pouted, complained, hid from God and then secluded himself because God saved an entire city of toxic people.  These two men were Joseph and Jonah.

Joseph had some very jealous brothers (Genesis 37:4)   They were so jealous of his relationship with their father that they plotted to kill him.   Instead they threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery.  He was sent away to another land completely cut off from his family and all that he knew.  Those who bought Joseph then sold him to Potipher, an Egyptian officer.  There’s nothing in Genesis 37 or 39 that show Joseph’s response or reaction.  However, in chapter 39, verse 2 tells us this, “The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master.”  Clearly we can be sure that throughout this confusing and most likely frightening time for Joseph, he knew God was with him and he kept his eyes focused on the Lord.

Sometimes when I read the story of Joseph I imagine him being a methodical man who simply says, “Ok this is happening now-let’s see what God does with it.”  Or perhaps his response was more like Ace Ventura’s “Alrighty then!” Who really knows. One thing is for certain, you won’t find any complaining from Joseph when you read his story.

If being sold by your brothers wasn’t bad enough, Joseph then gets put into prison because his boss’ wife accuses him of hitting on her.   Again there’s nothing in scripture that shows Joseph defended himself, fought the accusations or reacted at all.  We simply read “But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him His faithful love.  And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden.” (Gen 39:21 NLT) Chapter 39 closes with verse 23 which reads “The warden had no more worries because Joseph took care of everything.  The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.

Joseph’s story in Genesis ends when he is able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and is released from prison.  God gifts him wisdom to not only interpret the dreams but also to develop a plan that saved all of them including his brothers and father from famine.  In chapter 42, Joseph’s life comes full circle when he encounters his brothers again as they are in his land obtaining grain for his father and their families.  That moment could have been Joseph’s perfect revenge but instead, Joseph chose grace and forgiveness. He not only fed his brothers he reunited with them and his father.  Joseph does fool his brothers as a test to see if their hearts had changed and to find out information about his father and youngest brother.  In the end however, Joseph says to them, “…I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt.  But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place.  It was God who sent me hear ahead of you to preserve your lives.” (Gen 45:4-5 NLT)

After Joseph’s father died, his brothers feared that’s when Joseph would execute revenge and they begged him for forgiveness.  In chapter 50 verses 19 through 21, Joseph replies with this, “…Don’t be afraid of me.  Am I God that I can punish you?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good…don’t be afraid.  I will continue to take care of you and your children.”  In that exact moment, Joseph demonstrated the same kind of forgiveness Jesus gave whilst hanging on a cross when he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Then there’s Jonah.  Anybody who’s ever attended Sunday School has most likely heard the story of Jonah and the whale.   God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and announce His judgement on that city for all its evil acts.  However, Jonah goes the opposite direction.  If I didn’t know any better I would say perhaps Jonah was just directionally challenged but truth be told, Jonah deliberately disobeyed God’s order that landed him in the belly of a “great fish.” Jonah chapter 1 ends with telling us he was inside the fish for three days and three nights. Jonah was released once he prayed confessing his sins to God and professing God’s greatness over his situation.

Once God set Jonah free from the “whale”, He again tells Jonah to “get up and go the great city of Ninevah, and deliver the message I have given you.” (Jonah 2:2) Jonah obeys God this time and declares to Ninevah that God is going to destroy the city.  The citizens of Ninevah believe what Jonah tells them and fast in a decree to show their sorrow for their actions.  Even the king declared the fast and demanded everyone “pray earnestly to God.  They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence.” (Jonah 3:8b NLT) The people of Ninevah hoped that their changes of heart would change God’s mind and it did exactly that.  God did not carry through with the destruction He had planned.

God’s changed plans and redemption for Ninevah angered Jonah.  I don’t mean it upset him I mean it enraged Jonah.  Jonah was so filled with despair that he secluded himself waiting to see what the city would do.  God provided shade, but also took the shade away by killing the plant.  Jonah suffered through immense heat to the point he wished he was dead.  God finally pointed out to Jonah that he was angry enough to die over a lost plant that had provided him temporary relief from the intense heat.  He pointed out that Jonah did nothing to put bring life to the plant and it lived and died quickly.  However, the people of Ninevah (people God created) had lived in spiritual darkness and then repented.  How could God not feel sorry and give grace once they repented?

The story of Jonah ends with that question.  I’m sure scholars could tell you what happened next but I haven’t studied outside of God’s word to be able to tell you what else happened to Jonah after that.  I do know this-both men faced adversity.  Joseph’s adversity came from nothing he did.  Jonah brought adversity on to himself.  Both had big decisions to make.  Joseph chose to trust God and keep his focus on Who was really in control no matter the circumstances.  Jonah chose to go his own way, defy God and even get angry with God.  He ended up miserable and suffering because of his own choices.  When we are faced with adversity we have choices to make also.  In the face of adversity do we choose to be like Joseph or do we handle life’s curve balls like Jonah did?  Each choice results in the consequence of God’s favor and blessing or living in the belly of a great fish (metaphorically speaking.)

The verse I opened with said, “if possible” be at peace with everyone.  Let’s be realistic.  Humanly speaking it’s simply NOT possible to live at peace with everyone, especially toxic people.  But that’s why God also says, “Human speaking, this is impossible. But with God, everything is possible.”  (Matthew 19:26 NLT) I pray those dealing with adversity that is the bi-product of a toxic enemy, keeps their focus on God and allows Him to not only protect you but to avenge you as well.  I also pray that those who are dealing with adversity because of your own disobedience that you will soften your hearts to God’s will and purpose, confess your sins and seek His way even if you don’t understand it.  Please pray for me as well that I can be a Joseph during my own season of adversity and dealing with my toxic enemies.

Once Upon a Time Anger Blackened My Heart…

“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Ever been so angry you could spit nails? Or better yet has anger fueled inside of you that felt like fiery volcanic activity? What circumstances or situations trigger this type of anger within you?
Anger is a normal feeling or emotion.  Even Jesus displayed anger during His short ministry.  When He saw that people turned the house of God into a shopping mall He “knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.” (Matthew 21:12 NLT)  In verse 13 He displayed more of His anger by accusing the traders of turning the temple into a “den of thieves.” Clearly the people in His time were doing something wrong and Jesus took action to right that wrong.  Clearly too, His anger was quite justifiable.

But what happens we we see or we experience wrongs being done and we feel helpless to be able to right it but acting out in anger, no matter how justifiable we think that anger is, would only make matters worse.  What do we do then?

There are many ways I have handled my anger over circumstances I cannot control.  Some ways were more positive or godly than others.  Some were downright dishonoring to God.  I’ve struggled with unforgiveness and allowed roots of bitterness to nearly suffocate my heart.  I’ve definitely allowed the enemy to bring a total eclipse over God’s light within me covering me in darkness and blackening my heart.

The concept of a blackened heart reminds me of the show Once Upon a Time. I’m a huge fan of this series.  If you’re not familiar with the storyline basically this show entwines fairy tale characters from the Enchanted Forest into other characters portrayed in a “real life” small town setting.  The first season of this show started out with Snow White’s step-mother, the evil queen, casting a curse on the entire forest and banishing everyone to this new realm with no memory of their fairytale lives.  In fact, they were all given new identities with only the evil queen knowing who they really were and continuing to be the “puppet master.”  No matter what storyline unfolds, each episode teaches a lesson about goodness and love always conquering evil and hate but never without a battle or a heartbreaking sacrifice.

In one particular episode, Snow White learns the truth of how her mother died and she’s immediately filled with such heart break that she starts to feel hatred toward her mother’s killer.  This angry state weakens her faith in good overcoming evil and she commits an evil act.  That evil act blackens her heart. For several episodes she battles with depression and despair but the love of her husband, family and friends lift her out of that pit and restores her faith in light being victorious over darkness.

When I am angriest, I pour out screaming prayers to God spewing disappointment and even questioning His love for me.  I think unforgiving and hateful thoughts and many times I hold a grudge for far too long.  Tonight was a night of tears and angry praying.  There are circumstances occurring in my life that I don’t know how to change and I’ve reached a point where, just like Snow White,  I’m lacking faith. It seems evil doers are getting away with spiteful acts and that’s not ok in my book.   I know God is in control and that’s frustrating me even more because I don’t see Him intervening.  Tonight I felt Him reminding me that David praised God and would continuously remind himself of all God had done for him but I refused. I was so angry and disappointed that I refused to praise God.  In my anger I sinned because I responded to hate by blinding myself from all of God’s goodness. And God is good-all of the time.  No matter the circumstances God is good.

In researching my Bible app to find the verse about the den of thieves, God led me to some verses on anger.  Here are a couple that stood out to me immediately and broke up the hard black stone that formed around my heart:

  • “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.”

          ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

  • “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”

          ‭‭James‬ ‭1:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

  • “Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm.”

          ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

  • “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.”

          ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭19:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

These stood out to me because they didn’t speak to the requests I made or to my lack of faith-they spoke directly to my heart.  Isn’t that  just like God to allow us to throw tantrums yet also provide correction at the same time.  It’s as if I was pointing my finger at these circumstances and asking God where He’s at in all of this and God was pointing His finger at me saying “Get your anger in check girl!”  To be honest, these verses humbled me faster than any verse I’ve ever read about peace and forgiveness.  These verses also motivated me to give thanks to God for His correction and to write this post because during my angry monologue in fits of sobbing, I confessed that I was too angry and too disappointed to even write for Him.  Good thing God is omnipotent and knew I would end up writing this post less than an hour after saying that.

Whatever you’re dealing with-pour out your anger to God, confess every feeling you’re experiencing to Him and if you happen to sin in your angry-allow God’s correction to humble your heart.  No matter what keep, believing in His goodness, His deliverance, His provision and His perfect timing! He promisss in Isaiah 41:10 “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
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