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photo-1518568814500-bf0f8d125f46With the approach of Valentine’s Day, I’m giving you permission to love. Which is weird, I know, but maybe it needs to be said. Because let’s face it, love can be a little tricky. Mostly because people are tricky and do all sorts of things to make themselves unlovable.

They push love away with their meanness, their messiness, and their thoughtlessness. Maybe it’s a result of their baggage, their wounding, or not knowing any better. Which is sad, because even in the pushing away they really wish to be pulling in. But vulnerability is scary and takes courage, yet without those, love precariously teeters on pretense. To invite love in means to risk rejection or the ache of a broken heart. But love is the very thing our hearts need most.

As much as love can tear us asunder, it can just as easily heal.

Despite love’s glorious complexity, we need to learn to how to love, actually discipline ourselves to love, and chose to love under all circumstances. Every day we’re faced with opportunities to love so there’s no shortage of practice.

Part of love is respect. It’s listening to another’s viewpoint even when we don’t share it, extending kindness to the person whose choices or worldview you disagree with, and not tearing another down needing to prove your point.

Part of love is action. It’s refusing to turn a blind eye to need. It’s serving the stranger, listening to the lonely, and caring for your family.

Part of love is sacrifice. It’s the giving away of all you thought you didn’t have to give. It becomes tangible in the sharing of such things as time, money, or other resources that you could easily withhold.

Part of love is getting dirty. It’s refusing to remain on the sidelines of others’ lives but instead climbing into the trenches with them.

Part of love is bearing with one another and forgiving. It’s choosing to let go of hurt, blame, and shame. Quite often, we even need to learn how to love and forgive ourselves.

As we learn to love unconditionally, we become impervious to the ungracious acts of others. We discipline ourselves to not take offense, or grow upset or bitter, when treatment is less than admirable. And when we do that often enough, we grow loving.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ Colossians 3:13

But it’s more than respect, action, sacrifice, getting dirty, putting up with, or forgiving.

Love has to do with faith. Not in the people around you, who you are learning to love, but in the One who first loved you and sacrificed his life in place of yours. Without Christ, and the help of his Holy Spirit, I’d be remarkably unloving. My forgiveness capacity: borderline zero. Even with him it’s a daily struggle, because I prefer not to be mistreated, disrespected, or neglected.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. ~ 1 John 4:18

As God nestles into our hearts, as we draw closer to him, there becomes room for miraculous, perfect love. I say miraculous, because apart from him, there would be little chance of fear-fleeing love. Christ suffered mistreatment, disrespect, and neglect himself. Through him—and the healing nature of his love—we learn to love fearlessly, courageously, habitually, and independent from others’ treatment. What they do, or fail to do, ceases to matter as much, and that protective wall we keep up—just enough to peer over but not let others penetrate— crumbles.

God’s love heals, purifies, strengthens, and perfects. But first, we need to let it in.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

~ Mark 12:30-31

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  1. Have you received God’s offer of love?
  2. What is your greatest barrier to loving God or others?
  3. Ask God to help you love creatively and courageously today.

 

 

 

 

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By virtue of being alive, and living any length of time, there will come a point when you experience the agony of a broken heart. Its initial impact brings you to your knees as soul-searing pain rips repeated and relentless at your insides. Bewildered and vulnerable, you struggle for air as internal bleeding threatens to overcome you.

This wasn’t the way it was meant to be.

Betrayal, sickness, death, abuse, neglect, broken relationships, and broken dreams can bring the kind of heart-sickness that tears strips off our faith, hope, and trust. Such is the devastation of brokenness that at times we fear we are impossibly damaged.

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Hope deferred makes the heart-sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.  ~Proverbs 13:12

A positive attitude, an improved meal plan, a lengthy holiday, a workout regime, a self-help program, a new hobby, the numbing effects of substances—or another’s body—are all Band-aids. And we are so accomplished at finding fixes and fillers that we think it’s helping. And maybe it does, for a time, but a broken human being is a difficult thing to fix.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Enter the healer:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

We go to great lengths to mend ourselves, often ignoring the one who was sent for this very purpose and the only one qualified for the job. We can wander in the wilderness a long time, thirsty for something we can’t put our hands on, trying to fill a God-shaped hole that nothing else fits. When that emptiness, sadness, or brokenness threatens to swallow us alive, Jesus is there. He was always there.

He is the saviour, healer, counsellor, and lover we’ve needed all along. He’s the only one able to take the fragments of our once tender heart and piece it back together so we can begin to trust, live, and love again.

I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.  ~ Jesus

Jesus meets us in the middle of our pain, our brokenness, and loneliness. He doesn’t expect us to fix ourselves. We can’t anyway. We’ve already tried that. But until we accept that we are irreparably broken—unfixable apart from Jesus—we can’t be repaired.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  ~Psalm 34:18

Like us, Jesus experienced all of this messiness while on earth. He wasn’t immune to betrayal, sickness, death, abuse, neglect, broken relationships, and the broken dreams of others. He came to stand with us in our brokenness to heal us, to love us, to point us heavenward, and then to die for us.

Once we’ve experienced the devastation of brokenness, it feels impossible to entrust our heart to another again. It’s much easier to close ourselves off in an attempt to protect ourselves for fear of being hurt again. This protective measure leaves us cold, angry, distant, and joyless. We become untouchables—the walking wounded—never really opening ourselves up. It takes an act of courage, and a measure of faith to love again.

Hearts are a notoriously fragile but remarkably mendable. Entrusting your heart to Jesus—the only one who is fully faithful—will not only secure your eternity, it will secure your heart for the here and now. You are loved by God, fully, unconditionally, endlessly. You cannot be unloved, abused, neglected, or left by Jesus, no matter what you do or fail to do. His is a forever kind of love.

He has said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5

God’s love gives us the boldness and strength to love others, more purely, more patiently, more unconditionally, and more fully. Even if that love isn’t reciprocated, even if others are incapable of loving you the way you’d like to be loved, even if you are mistreated. God gives you the faith, hope, and love to overcome your own messes and brokenness and love others in theirs. There is beauty and abundant life on the other side of brokenness, and it’s gifted from Jesus.

“I am the way, the truth and the life.” ~ Jesus

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  1. Have you ever felt so brokenhearted you feared you could never mend?
  2. Bring your brokenness to Jesus, and trust him to heal you.

 

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In our youth, we race headlong into this one life filled with idealistic optimism. The world is an expansive unknown stretching far beyond us and filled with unending possibilities waiting to be harnessed. At this stage, there are no limits to what can be accomplished, no unforseen roadblocks or impending disasters, and no reason to believe our dreams will not be realized.

But then, as it’s prone to do, life happens. Some of it by our choosing, and some coming upon us as an unexpected downpour, and we discover that life isn’t perfect. After some repeated saturation, we may look at our life and declare, “This is not how I expected things to turn out.”

At this point, we often choose a pity party, sometimes even a tantrum, stomping and flailing about how unfair it all is. Or, we can towel dry our hair, gather courage and hope, and discover ways to dance despite the downpours and drink of the falling drops. Because here’s the truth: the most fragrant beauty radiates after the rain, and sunsets are most spectacular as the storm clouds recede.

Even though you never asked for any of it, even though you thought you would be further along in your journey, or imagined your life differently, this is it. No matter what has passed, or what you thought it would look like, you cannot change one single bit. This is your one life. And you have a choice. Will you let what has happened this far shape you – rearrange you if needed – to grow, to overcome, and to fully flourish?

We ignore the blessings we’ve been given when we focus on how our lives failed to unfold how we imagined, when we linger on the wreckage of what went wrong, the injustices enacted against us, or the ways we’ve let down ourselves or others. In our misperceptions, we forget this place isn’t meant to be perfect, and neither are we. This is a rehearsal, of sorts, for things to come. When the last curtain is drawn, and we arrive at our final destination, then and only then will all be as it should.

I rather adore this verse:

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

It reminds me that using the world’s measuring stick to determine success is rubbish. That God’s measurement for a successful life looks dramatically different. It’s possible that the very place we find ourselves, and the very person you and I are right now, is just where and who God would have us be, however inglorious, unattractive, desperate, downright ugly, or devastating it may be at present. That’s meant to be encouraging!

However disappointed we are with this patch of life so far, God doesn’t see your journey in any way wasted. However hard we buffet life’s storms, however unwelcome we make trials, even downpours can usher in beauty, refine character, and construct in us an enduring peace and patience the likes of which we had yet to know, not to mention prepare us to walk with added fury – a true force to be reckoned with – for the next leg of our journey.

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I like to think God looks at us – and our lives – rather like we used to as a child: full of possibility and hope, and without limits. And maybe, just maybe, from here on in, we would take His outstretched hand in ours, be led through the storms, navigated through the roadblocks and disasters, and follow Him out the other side, joining Him in puddle jumping, reclining by His side mesmerised by the sunset, while drinking deeply of the fragrant beauty of His love. Maybe then we will see our one life for the truly miraculous gift it is. Besides, by now you realize the best is yet to come anyhow.

I’ll leave you with this reminder:

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in the world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and the saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” ~ Ephesians 2: 7-10

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  1. Start a list of things you can be thankful for.
  2. Ask God to help you redirect your heart and thoughts to thankfulness. Develop a habit of replacing disparaging thoughts with thankful ones.
  3. Pray over each disappointment/disaster, handing it to God to make beauty out of. This may take time, but it’s worth it!
  4. Memorize a passage of scripture as encouragement during the downpours.

 

 

The-Art-of-Forgiveness

Last week, I wrote a few thoughts on surviving bitterness. My husband read it and, knowing me so well, commented that I neglected to give personal examples. I thought to revisit this subject and make it personal, so here we go! Read the rest of this entry »

Give-Forgiveness

It’s easy to have the mindset that if we withhold forgiveness, we are in control and somehow getting back at the person who hurt us. We think, if I forgive them, it lets them off the hook. But holding onto unforgiveness not only allows the offender to vicariously continue to hurt you, studies show it can also make you unwell. When you forgive, you release yourself from the bondage of bitterness. Forgiving not only frees you from hanging onto the offense, it frees you from the offender, and makes room for full spiritual, emotional, and even physical healing.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Our thought life is where the battle is won or lost. Not unlike food, each day, several times a day, we are offered a thought or idea we might be tempted to ingest. Some ideas are life-giving while others leave a bad taste in our mouth.

Here’s a little story. I’ll call it The Bitter Pill.

I’m having a conversation with a coworker and something she says hits me the wrong way. I could choose to ignore it, to not take it personally, and move on. I’ve done so in the past, but this time I’m caught off guard. She’s done this before, I think to myself, and no sooner have I thought it, I’ve ingested a chunk of bitterness.

Later that night, while I’m brushing my teeth, I feel something in my throat. I spit it up and realize it’s that piece of bitterness. It tastes worse now having been partially digested, and carrying the nasty residue of another bitter pill I’d swallowed a few days prior. I have an opportunity to spit it out, but I’ve taken offense, so I chew on it some more and swallow it all over again.

When I wake the next morning, I don’t feel so great. The bitterness has taken effect and now it’s in my bloodstream poisoning other areas. I take another dose by talking the situation over with a friend, thinking it will act as an antidote. It doesn’t. Instead, I feel worse. I read the side-effects on the back of the pill bottle. I don’t like what I see, but even so I commit to another dose, and another, and one more for good measure.

Eventually, my body can’t process the intake, and I get toxic. I stagger to the Doctor with my sickness. He asks me what I’ve been eating. A steady diet of bitter thoughts, I tell him. He suggests I need to detox my system. I assure Him I understand it would have been better if I hadn’t ingested the pills in the first place. He gently reminds me I have a choice, and offers me this prescription for next time:

“…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 

How? I ask. He says the next time I’m tempted to swallow a bitter pill, I instead toss it away. If I hold onto it, even for a short time, let alone swallow it, well, you know what happens. Instead of accepting the offered thought or idea, He tells me, I have the choice to reject it. Once I do, I’ll feel healthier and will even thrive. As an added bonus, He tells me this will help too:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

It takes practice and discipline, he continues, it doesn’t happen all at once, but He assures me it’s a habit I can change with His help. I ask what happens if I mess up. He tells me, just say sorry and start over…as many times as needed.

I feel satisfied with that.

And maybe you do too, knowing that whether you’ve taken a bitter pill, an anger pill, a dishonest pill, a fear pill, a you-name-it pill, there is always the opportunity to not only say sorry and begin again, but lean on the Physician’s prescription for next time. His word, His strength, His love, and His forgiveness are readily available.

Know that you aren’t defeated. You CAN take every thought captive. You CAN forgive. You CAN overcome those habitual patterns of thinking or behaving! After all, we’ve been redeemed, given a Helper, and are dearly loved! It doesn’t get any better than that!

You’ve got this, because He’s got you!

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  1. Take a moment and make a list of habitual thoughts or actions that are harmful to yourself or others.
  2. Now ask God to help you focus on them one at a time until you begin to default into taking your thoughts captive. You might also find new life-giving habits to replace the old ones. My example was taking offense which lead to bitterness. Ideally, I choose to take my thoughts captive, and refuse to get angry or take offense. But if I fail to do that, I have a second opportunity to forgive quickly, pray for and bless the offender, and disallow any other bitter thoughts a parking place.

 

 

 

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People who are mad at God aren’t always truly mad at God – they’re angry at a person or system linked to God.

That system or person failed them in some way, and because it somehow represented God to them, they transfer ownership for the wrongdoing to God. Even though God didn’t deal the blow, He’s been made responsible for it.

Disillusioned, the wounded leave the faith and walk away from God, carrying deep pain and anger with them for years. What’s sad about this misrepresentation is they miss the true nature of God.

Religious systems and religious people are imperfect. They fail. They sin. The sin harms. The harm hurts. The hurt runs deep.

If you’re reading this and you’ve been hurt in this way, I want to say sorry on behalf of the people who caused you harm. But I also want to encourage you that they are not God. God is love and His love never fails (1 John 4:8; Psalm 136). Although you may feel you want no part of God if this is how He looks, don’t mistakenly bundle God’s infallible character with the flawed character or behaviour of human beings.

What they said or did, or failed to say or do, is no reflection of the true nature of God. I hazard a guess that God is deeply saddened when people leave Him on account of people. He understands this kind of pain and is likewise pained when His relationship with those who have been wounded is fragmented. He offers healing, counsel, direction, and the gifts of deep love, joy, and peace; being severed from Him doesn’t afford these pleasures.

Sometimes the anger toward God isn’t misplaced. Instead, the wounded one isn’t mistakenly blaming God but rather asking why God let it happen. As difficult as this is to absorb, we’re not often privy to these kinds of answers. Sometimes, we merely need to trust. That’s where faith comes in.

Can you believe in a God who doesn’t always tell you why? Who allows hurts this side of heaven? Who isn’t a divine Genie? Bad stuff happens to good and “bad” people alike. We aren’t living in heaven…yet. We just have to trust, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

“So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time…Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” James 4:8-10 (Message)

Let’s not make it about people, but about God. He’s trustworthy, perfect, and loves us unconditionally. Let Him heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

May you have the courage to trust God despite the wounding.

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  1. Make a list of those who have wounded you.
  2. Can you forgive them one-by-one? Can you forgive God for allowing it? Return to God and ask for forgiveness for your anger, knowing He is quick to forgive, then rest in Him believing it’s done.

 

 

 

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