I read her words, sensing her heart and feeling her struggle as if it were mine. Different circumstances, but instantly I identified with the feelings she faced from being misunderstood. One person’s opinion led others to inaccurate assumptions about her intentions.
It’s hard when a safe haven becomes a risky place. Like a thick fog, it can be difficult to see past false impressions we feel viewed by.
Though my friend felt broken, she remained determined not to ingest a bite of bitterness. And I whisper, me too Lord, me too. Because the only escape from resentment’s trap comes through the choice to release all charges, relinquish every complaint and renounce whatever record of wrongs we might be inclined to keep or repeat, completely, unreservedly over to God.
We can’t control the assumptions others assign to us, but we always have a choice. And one way or another, growth will occur. We will blossom and flourish from this mud and manure, or grow bitter and faint from its odor.
So how do we grow mighty roots of strength and not malice ones of spite?
Forgiveness allows the dung dumped, to become a fragrant aroma lifted. Though I wouldn’t choose this way for growth, I’ve discovered the very injury which wounded, can emerge as an invitation to impart wisdom and healing.
Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart. Proverbs 20:30
A blow that heals and cleanses? A tough scripture to swallow and a challenging one to follow. Yet, I’m thankful God drew me to this verse in the past, to help me through a valley in the present. Because how I handle hurts and react to wrongs, will either prevent mending and keep me stuck, or my responses will promote healing and propel my growth.
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32 NKJ
When I’m punctured will I give a little punch back, when I’m misunderstood, will I rally others to my side or cling to God’s arm and learn of Him? For He is lowly and humble in heart, writes Matthew in 11:29.
TRUTH: When I choose to care more about honoring God in difficult situations, I will be less burdened and concerned with proving my point and defending my position. And that’s some good fruit of maturity, ya’ll! And it’s freedom.
When I’m resting under God’s shield, I won’t shrink in shame, nor feel the need to dominate situations, interactions or relationships. Matthew finishes with the promise of rest for the soul. Rest from the burden of proving, defending or determining to remain righteous in the eyes of others.
Yes, as one sweet friend spoke, “Jess, humility comes at a costly price.”
Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of someone else’s poor choices, harbored hurts or unreasonable responses. Perhaps you’re facing the leftovers of quarrel and conflict, finding it hard to find real freedom, true rest.
Hurts have a way of moving us to jump behind our flesh and stand in defense. But the Spirit can strengthen us to drop our guard and stretch out in humility, discovering deeper revelation of God’s grace and forgiveness.
Because God’s response to slander, shortcomings and sin, wasn’t blame and grudges, His reply was the offering of humility and sacrifice.
And humility brings healing.
Pride is hard company to depart with. But it’s not worth giving the enemy a foothold. I’ve seen how subtly, but strongly issues and hurts fester into strongholds, fiercely hindering freedom and stunting growth.
And the longer we allow any unforgiving parts to linger, the greater risk for developing a flawed perspective of people, events and eventually, perhaps even God. Grudges distort our view of truth and can infect and taint our most intimate relationships. I’ve done this and likely we’ve both experienced the shards of explosive emotions from others.
It’s simply not worth it.
The cost of humility is high, but the steep price of an unforgiving heart can bankrupt our strength and joy, imposing an unwarranted penalty on our relationships and friendships.
It’s simply not worth it. But forgiveness? It must be worth dying to self for – Jesus believed it was.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32