Often when the Lord is correcting an issue in our lives, we encounter a similar, seemingly unbeatable problem over and over again. Typically, how this starts in my own life, is through me asking God to root out sin in my life and make me more like Him. He never fails to answer this prayer, and I never fail to be completely unaware that my trials are Him answering that prayer. I firmly believe that God deals with one issue at a time, because we would be completely overwhelmed if He revealed all the problem areas of our hearts at once. Philippians 1:6 tells me that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This reveals an important truth- that we will always have things that need refining in our hearts. God will continue to address these areas in order to make us more like Christ and less like our sin nature.
Recently, I prayed that difficult, heart-felt prayer, asking God to root out something that was not pleasing to His heart and to continue to prepare me for ministry. At first when He answered this prayer, I was frustrated and confused. I began to feel upset and dejected. I couldn’t understand why I was repeatedly encountering similar issues. They seemed to defeat me every time. I then decided to confide in a godly woman at work with my frustrations. What she told me provided both peace and understanding. She told me that God oftentimes has to continue sending the same challenges our way, because we’re missing a very important lesson. Each similar challenge was an opportunity to learn that next lesson and experience a change in my heart. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and reminded me of my recent request for refining. I then began to earnestly seek the Lord and ask for clarity regarding what He wanted to teach me. I pleaded with Him to teach me this lesson quickly, because I couldn’t take much more defeat. True to His character, He answered a prayer that was lined up according to His will.
Now, I’ve been completely honest and vulnerable on this blog since the day I began writing, but this lesson was a doozy. This lesson linked back to years of childhood hurt and rejection. This was a lesson I had been fighting for the majority of my life. This was a lesson in offense. As a child, I encountered moment after moment of rejection. I was told I was weird by other children who didn’t understand my quirky personality, my sense of utter honesty, or my free spirit. I experienced rejection from a teacher who mistook my love of learning as a form of arrogance. I took my father’s busy schedule as a sign of rejection, and I even experienced rejection from high school students who didn’t agree with my choice to abstain from alcohol and premarital sex. I let these moments reek havoc in my heart. I let them define my outlook on life, the lens through which I judged my interactions with others. This fear of rejection has far too long crippled me, and I am positive that the Lord has for years mourned with me and longed to set me free from that trap of the enemy. Here’s where the painful truth comes in. My fear of rejection and my constant feelings of offense were not my classmates fault, my teacher’s fault, my father’s fault, or anyone else’s fault. The Lord revealed to me that my offense was MY fault. I couldn’t possibly understand. “But Lord, they hurt me. They rejected me. They didn’t accept me. How is that my fault?” The Lord began to bring such truth and healing to my hurt as He told me that my immediate reaction to rejection is to be expected, but what I do with that pain is on me. Whether I choose to walk in forgiveness or offense has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with me.
This is an unpopular opinion. In the world, we are taught that it is our RIGHT to be hurt, our RIGHT to be angry. They must apologize to us. We deserve that. The Lord has revealed to me that this is the way of the world but not the way of the Word. God’s Word requires that I lay that right down. I laid that right down when I chose to pick up the cross. If anyone has the right to be hurt, it’s God. I’ve rejected Him daily. I’ve chosen other loves over Him. I’ve neglected Him. I’ve rejected Him. I’ve forgotten Him. I’ve wronged Him in every way, yet He has never forsaken me. He has never pushed me away when I’ve come running back to His arms. My job as a believer is to take that grace that has been extended to me vertically and to send it out horizontally to those around me. How can I accept so freely His forgiveness yet refuse to extend it to His children? Wow! So convicting!
This month, I have made some changes. I have decided to extend forgiveness and to be slow to anger, for love “bears no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13). On my way to work every morning, I have been making declarations of faith such as this, “I forgive _______. I am choosing to extend God’s grace to them. God, help me to forgive. As I stand in faith saying that I forgive, I pray that you would cause my feelings to line up according to your Word.” The truth is this: I don’t always FEEL like I forgive them when I say that prayer. To the contrary, sometimes I still feel quite hurt. I know, however, what God’s Word says, and God’s Word requires me to walk in forgiveness. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). For that reason, I cause the words of my mouth to line up according to God’s Word, believing that my feelings will soon follow. Grace be to God, they have done so every single time. We serve a great God who longs to bring healing and draw us closer to Him.