Forgiveness & Woundedness

HeadShot Dave 100x100Forgiving someone and being healed from the wound they gave us are two different things.

Say we go to the gun range together. I’m handling my weapon carelessly and accidentally shoot you in the shoulder. You can forgive me instantly, but a gunshot wound takes three or four months to heal.

Suppose I see you the next day after you’re released from the hospital. I slap you on the shoulder, “Hey, how are you doing? Great to see you! Sorry again about yesterday.”

Ouch!” you respond, because I slapped your back right on the wound. “That hurts!”

Why are you still hurting?” I ask. “What’s wrong with you? You’re being very unforgiving.”

But forgiveness has nothing to do with it! You’ve forgiven me, but you still have the wound. There’s nothing wrong with you – it’s normal for you to hurt again if I slap the wound. My refusal to acknowledge the reality of the wound I’ve given you is really a sign of my own un-repentance.

And if you continue to observe me still handling my weapon carelessly, I’ve made no change in my behavior, it’s perfectly reasonable for you to put up a boundary and not go to the gun range again with me.

Forgiveness just means we don’t hold anything against the person; it doesn’t mean we’re instantly healed from the wounding they’ve caused.

Yes, we will never get healing unless we forgive first. Forgiveness is part of the healing process. In the gunshot example above, if you intentionally don’t take your antibiotics so the wound stays infected and messy, so you can hold something against me, that would be pretty jacked up. That’s unforgiveness.

In my own life, I’ve experienced a divorce. I’ve forgiven everyone involved, my ex, the lawyers, the judges, etc. And, yes, I’ve taken responsibility for, and repented of, my part in it. But the pain and the wounding continues, both in my own life and in the lives of the people affected by it (my children). The pain goes on and on.

So what do you do? I keep going back to the Lord and giving the pain to him. Day by day, giving him today’s pain. So I can move on with life, not getting stuck in it, but moving forward into the live works he has prepared in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Today’s Action Steps:

  1. I will keep a short tab forgiving people, not holding the wounds they caused me against them (although I may put up a healthy boundary to keep from getting wounded again).

  2. I will take my spiritual antibiotics, giving the Lord my pain and wounding each day, so I don’t get stuck and dwell on it, but move forward into the future he has for me.

How about you? Does this resonate? If so, please leave us a comment or an email. Tell us your story. And if you think this would benefit someone else, please share on social media with the buttons below.

The Blessing of Suffering

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Brother Yun, a severely persecuted house church pastor in China, was talking prayer requests with Western Christians. (His story is told in the phenomenal book, The Heavenly Man. Totally recommended reading!) They said they’d earnestly pray that the Lord would end their government’s persecution of Chinese Christians.

“On no, don’t pray that!” Brother Yun responded.

The Western Christians were shocked! “Why don’t you want us to pray for an end to your suffering?”

Brother Yun answered, “Because then we’d become complacent like the Western church. Pray instead that we can bear up under it in a way that honors our Lord Jesus.”

Wow, blows my mind. We in the West have no grid for that. But the Bible says to rejoice in our suffering:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James, brother of Jesus, in James 1:2-4.

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and charter produces hope.” Paul, in Romans 5:3-4.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Jesus, in Matthew 5:11-12.

What if, when we get to heaven, we see Jesus on his throne (see Revelation 4), the most beautiful being in all of existence. Then we get it! “Oh Jesus, you are so beautiful, now I get it! Now I’ll sacrifice for others! Now I’ll be happy to give up my creature comforts to help someone else in need! Now I understand!” But it’s too late. This is heaven. No one needs anything now. There’s nothing we can do to sacrifice for anyone else no matter how much we want to.

In the whole eternity of our existence, God has blessed us with a brief, very brief compared to eternity, 70-80 year window where we have the privilege of sacrificing for someone else, of meeting someone else’s needs at the expense of our own.

Angels never have the opportunity to do that. That’s a blessing God has only given to us. That’s hardly fair.

And it’s even more unfair than that. Our temporary sacrifices here bring us eternal rewards in heaven (see the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46). God has stacked the deck in our favor.

It’s all about perspective, and where we have our eyes set.

When Brother Yun was being tortured in a Chinese prison with an electric cattle prod in his mouth, he had his eyes set on the prize, on Jesus himself. He endured horrific but temporary pain because he had his eyes set on eternity.

Even here in the First World, God blesses us with opportunities to suffer and sacrifice, to meet other people’s needs at the expense of our own. We discover who we really are when we’re willing to go outside ourselves and help others. That’s why it feels so fulfilling.

Have you had this experience? Have you ever begrudgingly helped someone, but afterwards you felt so good, feeling God’s smile, you wondered why it was such a hard decision? Tell us your experiences in finding yourself by helping others in the comments. And please, if you think this post would bless someone else, please share it on Facebook or your favorite social media channel.

Dependence vs Responsibility

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So much truth in the Word of God consists of two opposite truths that hold each other in tension. They may even appear to conflict at first, but they really don’t conflict with each other – they complete each other. One brings balance to the other and vice versa. We’re going to talk about one of these today.

There’s a degree to which we’re supposed to depend on God and a degree to which we’re supposed to be responsible for ourselves. Two truths held in tension.

When we depend on God for our well being – for being loved and for our world working – we live in a blessed Relaxed Security. We can relax knowing that, whatever crazy circumstances life throws at us, whatever suffering we must endure, God is working in everything for our good (Romans 8:28). We have inner peace through the storms of life. We live fearlessly through fearful circumstances (Psalm 23:4).

This gives us a life of Autonomous Freedom. We are free to give, free to serve others, free to hold the things of this world loosely. We, in freedom not in fear, take responsibility for our actions and their consequences. In freedom we act proactively, meeting our own needs where possible, and it feels good. A job well done, a healthy sense of accomplishment.

This is the outcome when we rightly depend on God for his part and take rightful responsibility for our part. The hallmark of this godly balance is that belief “I’m OK because I’m loved by my God. He makes my world work in spite of my circumstances.” And because “I’m OK”, we live in the glorious freedom of not fearing failure, of taking the risk of daring to be all that God has created and called us to be.

On the other hand, when we mix these up, things don’t work out so well. Often we get it backwards – even Christians. Out of our wounding, we try to take responsibility for God’s part while blaming him for the logical consequences of failures in our part.

When we take responsibility for being loved and for making our world work, we live in Fearful Idolatry. We take responsibility for our own well being and security, so we have none. The hallmark of this ungodly imbalance is, “I’m OK if _____.” Fill in the blank. This is where addictions and co-dependencies come from.

Then, instead of glorious autonomous freedom, we live in Depraved Defiance. We blame God for the negative consequences of our unhealthy dependencies. The more we try to control our world, the less control we have, like sand slipping through our clenched fist. And, living in fear of failure, we don’t dare take a risk on our God-given dreams. Instead, paralyzed by a false sense of entitlement, we just drift along expecting happiness to drop in our lap, and blaming God when it doesn’t.

The way out of fearful idolatry and depraved defiance is through honest confession and repentance. Then giving the best part of our day over to intimacy with Jesus (in prayer, worship, and reading our Bible – just hanging out with God for bit each day without an agenda) is the path to relaxed security and autonomous freedom.

Kudos to Dr William Clark from The Lay Counselor Institute for these excellent concepts.

So how about you? Are you living in the autonomous freedom of relaxed security, in the depraved defiance that comes from fearful idolatry, or, like us, on a journey from one to the other? Are you responsible for being loved? Who makes your world work? Tell us your story in the comments or shoot us an email with the Contact Us link above. We’d love to hear from you. And please, if you think this would benefit someone else, share it on Facebook, Twitter or your favorite social media (share buttons for just about everything below).

So what do you think about all this?

Getting to Point B

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Sometimes we approach our healing as a destination rather than as a process. “If I can only get from Point A to Point B, my life’ll be fixed!” Point B might be a valid goal:

  • “Fix my marriage.”
  • “Stop my addiction.”
  • “Not be depressed anymore.”
  • “Control my anger.”
  • “Have a good relationship with my spouse, child, parent, sibling, boss, etc.”

Because we think our healing is in the destination, we come at it with a wrong perspective:

The False Belief: “I have to get to Point B.” Maybe, maybe not. Being at Point A may not be the real problem, and Point B may not be the real solution. Maybe there’s something deeper going on.

The False Myth: “There is a path to Point B.” The truth is, Point B may be unattainable, especially if it involves relationships with others. Healthy relationships depend on the other person as much as they depend on you, and they might not be willing to go there. What do you do then?

The Unyielding Demand: “You, O Pastor/Counselor/Friend/Whatever, are going to get me to Point B.” Already setting up the blame shift if it doesn’t work…

The False Formula: “I know I have a part to play.” When someone says that, they really mean, “If I do the steps, I’ll get to Point B.” Maybe, maybe not; life’s just not that simple.

The Big Denial: “I can get to Point B without looking at my heart, or my story, or my sin.” Good luck with that.

The Secret Fear: “What if it doesn’t work?” Or what if Point B’s not all it’s cracked up to be? What if I get there and I’m still miserable?

The reality is, God’s much more interested in the process than he is in the destination. The ends do not justify the means.

Romans 5:3-5 says, “We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

It’s the character and the hope that God is after. Another word for hope is faith. It’s our faith in God, that he’s enough for us even while we’re stuck at Point A, that he’s trying to build in us through this process.

Here’s the right perspective to approach healing (and life) with:

The Truth: “There may not be a path to Point B.” But I’m trusting God anyway.

The Hope: “I will be different whether my circumstances are or not.” And it’s who I am, and who God is, that makes the difference of whether I can thrive in these circumstances or not.

The Right Question: “What are you up to, God?” What does God want to do in me through these circumstances?

If we approach our life with the right perspective, we will suddenly realize God has taken us to Point C!

Kudos to Dr William Clark from The Lay Counselor Institute for this excellent material.

Does this strike a chord with you? Tell us in the comments or shoot us an email with the Contact Us link above. And if you think this would be valuable to someone else, please share it on Facebook or your favorite social media (share buttons below). We look forward to hearing from you!