Forgiveness is hard. Forgiveness is necessary. Forgiveness is impossible, apart from God's grace. I am so thankful for God's perfect, whole, complete forgiveness. I wish humans were capable of that. But, let's face it. We aren't. The best we can do is to lay it at Jesus' feet and do our best to leave it there. To do our best to not use that thing we've said we forgive as a weapon against the one we love. Sometimes what is hardest is to accept Christ's forgiveness, lay that thing in the past, and then move on. It's done. It's time to dust yourself off, pick up the pieces, grab hold of His grace, and move forward. Yet, that's so hard to do. Some days, it feels impossible! It hurts, it's hard, and it's so necessary. Father, help me to lean into and grab hold of Your forgiveness in my life. Help me to be one that lavishes forgiveness on others.
Being part of the body of Christ is hard, messy, tiring, joyous, exciting, and scary. It takes work. People don't really tell you that. They don't tell you that you have to keep calling, hang in there, ask questions, dive in, get messy, laugh together, cry together, suffer together, forgive each other. It is tiring to do well. I am not up for this task. I am not built for this task. But, with God, it's not only possible, but it happens. I have been on the receiving end of this and it's beautiful. Messy, ugly, beautiful. Oh, Father, give me Your heart for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Give me Your eyes to see them and Your heart to love them. Help me to be Your hands and feet.
Addiction sucks. There's no way around that fact. It's confusing, mean, harsh, and a thief of pretty much everything. And there's no going back. Even those who are recovering addicts will never get their "before" life back. They, and none of their loved ones, will never be the same. Addiction is cruel and I am convinced it's one of Satan's greatest strategies. It pulls you, and your loved ones, off their game, diverts their attention, and makes it hard to see how there could possibly be a loving and merciful God in the midst of this kind of suffering. And so many suffer alone because it is so misunderstood. Trust me, I am no expert, but there is so much more to this disease (and it IS a disease) than we will ever be able to comprehend. It's not about will power or self-control. It's about this amazing, complicated, scientists still don't understand brain that God gave us. It can be helped and treated, but may not ever be the same again. It's a lifetime of having to give up privacy for the sake of saving your life. Who wants to do that? That's what makes it so hard. For many, to fight this battle means giving up friends and family who won't encourage or help. Those who do have friends and family willing to help, it's hard to give your privacy and pride to let down the needed walls and let them help. Those that choose to help, it's a long hard road. It means making yourself vulnerable to this person who needs your help so much. It means sticking with them, even on days when the desire is bad or they just want privacy. It means not giving up when that's all you really want to do. It's ugly, messy, real, and one of the greatest earthly pictures of what God, in His grace, has done for us. It's one of the greatest earthly pictures of the spiritual battle that is happening all around us, that our eyes can't see. It's real, harsh, and seemingly unending (though Christ's return will put an end to all of it, amen!!)
Why is it so hard to open up and be truly honest with each other? I mean, none of us are perfect, we all have sin in our lives, and we all need Jesus. Doesn't that put us all on even ground? Ah, but that whole comparison trap. We only see the outside, in little snippets here and there, and we're convinced that no one else struggles. Everyone else has it all together and we're the only ones drowning. THIS IS JUST NOT TRUE! If we would all be honest and share truth with each other (admittedly, you don't have to share every gritty detail with every person. Find that one, "your person", in whom you can confide and with whom you can have accountability and celebrate those highs and to whom to can admit your lows) how much more encouraging would we be to one another? (And how much more hope would a lost world see when they see that we are people, just like they are, who struggle but have Christ as our anchor!) Isn't it such an encouragement to know that someone else has rolled in the same (or similar) mud and lived to tell about it? Isn't it awesome to see how God works in the lives of others? I know that's always encouraging to me (unless I let that comparison monster take over, again!) Another thing that struck me while driving yesterday is that, sometimes, I think the reason we aren't honest with each other is because we associate, and assume others do, too, blessing and an easy life with a sinless life. Meaning, if we share our struggles with others they'll assume we've sinned in some big way and this is our punishment. NEWSFLASH: We all sin. We all receive punishment for sin. But we also know that we have an enemy who is roaming around like a lion seeking those he can destroy. He'll do that any way he can and sometimes, that means throwing a wrench in our lives. Why suffer privately when you can share and be loved on and encouraged as we were meant to be? (I am totally preaching to myself here!) I love this song and I always thought of it in regard to marriage, but as I was listening to it yesterday I was struck by this thought, "This should be an anthem of the church. This is how we are to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, whether they are in our building or halfway around the world." Listen to If You Fall by JJ Heller We must fight with and for one another. I am so blessed to know many in my life who do this well. It doesn't always feel good. It doesn't always look beautiful, in the world's terms. But, in God's terms, it's quite possibly one of the most beautiful things we humans can do-listen, love, show grace, and point to Christ. Oh, Father, help me to be one who is brave and honest with my joys and my struggles. Use my pain to encourage others that You are faithful, loving, merciful, and You alone are salvation. Lord, help me to step up alongside others who are hurting to be Your hands and feet in their lives. Let me be a reflection of Your love and grace in their lives each day.
Some days the feeling of unworthiness nearly swallows me whole. Please tell me I am not the only one Satan messes with in this way. He totally deceives my mind into thinking that there's no way I can be useful. No way I can be encouraging to others. No way that I should be doing any of the ministry that I am doing. That I have no right to worship, love on others, or ask others for prayer. That I need to walk away and let others leave because I have no place, in my mostly tattered and rag tag condition, It puts me in a panic and raises my blood pressure. It makes me just want to lay in bed, eat chocolate, and cry. But when I open myself up, cry out to God, and share with Him honestly He whispers to me who I really am. In Him. I am equipped through Christ with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). I am chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). I am regarded as holy and blameless before Him (Eph. 1:4). I am adopted through the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:5). I am redeemed, forgiven, and lavished with grace (Eph. 1:7-8). I am the recipient of a glorious inheritance in heaven (Eph. 1:11). I am secured forever by the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13-14). (This list can be found, with much more, in Priscilla Shirer's book Fervant.) And so much more! When I truly turn these feelings of unworthiness over to Christ, He shows me who I really am, reminds me of how much I've grown, and reminds me that my worship and my service are so much sweeter, honest, and personal these days (even if sometimes it's all more a sacrifice of praise than an offering of joy.)
I love music. I love the way it speaks to me, encourages me, lifts my attitude, and points me in the right direction. I love how just the right song coming on turns the whole van into a dance party! So, I thought I'd share some of the music that has meant the most to me (and has been on constant repeat) over the last 6 months or so. Click on the links and then do yourself a favor and get the music. I promise you won't regret it:
Mercy Me: Greater
Mercy Me: Finish What He Started
Christy Nockels: Already All I Need
Christy Nockels: Jesus, Rock of Ages (OK, this ENTIRE album is one you just need to buy! You will be in true worship with each song. Look it up: Christy Nockels "Let It Be Jesus". You can thank me later!) ;)
The Rend Collective Experiment: JOY
The Rend Collective Experiment: More Than Conquerors
The Rend Collective Experiment: Every Giant Will Fall (OK, let's be honest, do yourself a favor and purchase every song Rend Collective has ever recorded. Best.decision.ever.)
JJ Heller: I Believe
Andrew Peterson: The Rain Keeps Falling (This song, more than any other I have heard, truly expresses what it's like to be trapped in addiction, depression, or grief as a Christian, wanting out, but the lesson isn't over and the stone isn't rolling away from in front of the tomb. LISTEN TO THIS! Then, get the entire CD, "The Burning Edge of Dawn".)