This post is a continuation of this post, but feel free to throw caution to the wind and read them in reverse order. These points are not arranged in any specific way. My hope is, no matter how you read them, that you would read them and learn from them. I would rather be the one to suffer and struggle through these lessons so that others might avoid the struggle and simply apply the end result. However, the choice is up to you and I can understand the need to learn the hard way. Which leads me to my next lesson…
Pain is the Greatest Catalyst for Change
I am confident this lesson comes at no surprise to anyone. In all of my life there has been no greater motivation for change in my life then struggle and strife. A simple read through my testimony will reveal that my life has been a series of transformative seasons where pain and heartache were like a cocoon. Like any cocoon, the transformation is only complete after the struggle to exit. Though I would never desire to be back in those seasons of pain, I am grateful for them. They were times of amazing growth and closeness to God. They are flag poles in the ground that I will look back on in future seasons and find hope and strength to run the race with endurance.
My encouragement to you would be to embrace these seasons of trial and difficulty. God may or may not be the direct cause of the season, but either way He is using it for your good (Romans 8:28). In every season good and bad, there is always something God wants to teach you. We should never be in a place where we are just coasting. The truth is, if you are not moving towards God, you are moving away from Him.
God Really Does Bind up the Broken
In my present season of life, I have come to cling to this truth. Though I have not been fully restored; not sure if I ever will in this life, He has been mending my broken heart. It didn’t just happen though. It has taken many prayers, many times of crying out to God, many moments of fear, anger, bitterness, & resentment, and daily falling on my face and begging God to help me to forgive. I would assume that it will take many more moments like these to get to a place of healing. I think the biggest key to unlocking this promise is getting to a place of forgiveness. If we let bitterness reign in our hearts it just keeps it broken. I have to remind myself of this on a daily basis. Forgiveness is a process that God uses to mend the broken, but if we harbor un-forgiveness, how can He forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15)? I don’t know about you, but knowing that God has forgiven me, brings healing to every area of my life. It is when I harbor bitterness that I hinder the healing process. My advice, do not hinder the healing process!
A Critical Spirit Destroys Everyone Involved
In an effort not to name names and places, I will leave the detailed testimony out of this one. I have been on the receiving end of this. Unfortunately, I have also been on the delivery side at the same time. Criticism is often masked in the church as mentorship and/or discipleship. Under the banner of admonition and rebuke, people who think they have been given authority or wisdom will then wield these gifts in arrogance. In my experience with being super critical of everything, I realized it came from a place of insecurity that was brought on by severe external criticism. The root of criticism comes from a lack of compassion and mercy. In my experience, criticism is simply the expectation of perfection, which is defined by the critic and then placed on another person. It is a destructive cycle that seems to happen pretty often within the church. I would still be in this cycle today, had it not been for God showing me the results of my criticism in the actions of my oldest, Abby. God blessed me to be able to see the results of my actions being passed on to my sweet child. With the helpful observations of my wife at the time, I was able to acknowledge this sin in my life and begin the process of turning from it.
Criticism is not something that can be self diagnosed. As stated above, it hides in “Biblical” rebuke and admonition. It justifies itself with, “I am just trying to help this person grow.” If you are uncertain as to whether or not you struggle with this, ask the people closest to you. Ask the people that you mentor. Give them freedom to be honest and be ready to accept what they are saying without justification or excuse.
Accepting Responsibility is the First Step to Forgiving Others
I know, I know. You are already thinking in your head, “I did nothing wrong, it was all their fault.” That may be true. There are many circumstances where one party may have no responsibility to play in a wrong doing. One such circumstance would be rape. Murder would be another. I whole-heartedly support this, but even in these kinds of circumstances there is a spiritual responsibility that can be taken. No, I am not alluding to the idea that a rape victim should not dress a certain way, or a murder victim taking responsibility for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What I am saying, the responsibility that we all have in every situation is that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:32). In the eyes of a holy God your sin receives the same eternal punishment as the rapist or murderer. Some struggle with this concept. I understand! Believe me, I understand your struggle. My prayer is that God will comfort you in your pain and allow you the freedom to grieve. I also pray, God will help you move to a place of total freedom through forgiveness.
On a less drastic level, I can confidently say, we all hold a responsibility in almost every situation. When people do us wrong. When they betray our trust or carelessly hurt us, we have to acknowledge our fault in it before we can truly begin the process of forgiveness. This is what Jesus meant in Matthew 7:5. In typical Jesus fashion, He makes it clear that we bear the greater burden of sin in the wrong doing by saying we have the log in our eye. If you find yourself struggling with this concept, feel free to assume your percentage of wrong. If you think you carry the 10% of the burden of wrong, then own that 10% without excuse or justification. In reality, it shouldn’t matter who was more wrong. That is petty and childish. In maturity simply admit that you were wrong and in what ways you were wrong. Once you do this, you can then go before God, whom you have offended with your wrong, and seek forgiveness from Him. If you do these steps, the rest should begin to fall into place. The cause and effect relationship of Matthew 6:14-15 will take over and fill your heart with compassion and a desire to forgive others as you have been forgiven.
It all boils down to Romans 3:23
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
The more you acknowledge that the penalty for your sins far outweighs the justice you think you deserve, the easier forgiveness will come. If you continue to demand justice for the wrongs done to you, then what is to prevent God from giving justice to those in whom you have wronged?
The Will of God is Not Confusing
This is a hard one for all of us, I think. It cannot be stated more plainly. His will is not meant to be some deep mystery to us that we have to jump through hoops and become detectives to figure out. Knowing the will of God is a simple cause and effect relationship. Romans 12:2 states,
“Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.”
God also says in Jeremiah 29:11-12,
“‘For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,’ says the Lord.”
The will of God is easily discerned and known through the transformation that happens when our minds are renewed through an ever growing understanding of who God is and what He has said in His Word. In seeking His face, He promises to make Himself available to us and reveal His plans for us. What’s confusing about this? Nothing!
What I have learned is that His will gets confusing only when I allow my preconceived ideas, desires, and selfishness to get in the way. I hinder the process of transformation by locking out the truth of God and replacing it with my own wants and desires. Could it be that you are unable to discern the will of God in your life, because you don’t want to hear what He actually wants to tell you? Maybe you have been clinging to an idea that was once spoken to you, but the season of that idea has long passed? I don’t know your situation, but I can promise you that God wants you to know His will for your life, but you will need to get out of the way.