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Recently, I have been struggling with shame. Again. Going throughout my day, making Fred’s lunch, getting ready for events, caring for Sophia — but all the while burdened by this horrible, vague sense that no matter how hard I try, it is never be good enough.
One day I said to Fred, “I am such a failure! Why even try any more?” And he replied, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
“Yes,” I said, “I know that I am forgiven my sins, but what about my stupidity?”
What about our stupidity? Failures? Weaknesses? Immaturities? Foolishness? Fallenness?
Yes, yes. We are forgiven our sins and our fallnness is covered by God’s grace too. What comfort we have in knowing that our standing with God is not based on us–our “good” parts (filthy rags) or our “bad.”
We fail, but He never fails. We are faithless, He is faithful.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26
I learned recently that I had hurt a friend of mine years ago. I was surprised and immediately contacted her to try to work through the conflict. We had a difficult, but good, conversation and thought we had left reconciled. After a few weeks, I touched base with her again (she lives out of state so I don’t see her regularly) — just to see how we were doing and find out if there was anything further I could do to pursue peace between us.
In our second conversation, she graciously shared with me that as she reflected on the offense and our recent conversation, she realized that she did not feel completely reconciled to me. It turns out that she wishes I had, in our first conversation, specifically confessed some details to her. Sadly, I couldn’t remember the offense well enough to do so! (And generic, “blanket” confessions rarely bring about complete reconciliation.) By God’s grace, we persevered.
I asked her if she would be willing to share the specific hurt so that I could specifically confess to her. It was hard to hear, of course, and to realize the depth of the pain I had caused her. But oh what joy and true reconciliation occurred as I confessed the details, owned the pain I had caused, and asked her please to forgive me. She did!
And yet again, the gospel of Jesus Christ was remembered in this troubled life!
For every time we confess our sins and offenses, receive lavish forgiveness, and relationships are not only restored but strengthened … we remember again how good it is to be reconciled to God.
I can honestly say that every time I think of this friend now, my heart is blessed. I am eager to see her, talk with her, pray with her. Why? Because not only has she forgiven my past offenses, but her grace and mercy gives me confidence that when (wish I could say “if,” but I’m sure “when” is more accurate) I hurt her in the future, instead of running away from me or hating me, I can trust that she will come to me and give me the opportunity to specifically confess so that we can be reconciled.
Our friendship is restored because she lives out Colossians 3:13: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” How grateful I am!
I’ve been thinking a lot today about just how much I hate conflict. I do! I will never stand in front of anyone and say how “fun” peacemaking is because it isn’t. This past summer, just as we think we might be able to claw ourselves up off of the mat and face one day without abject pain and ongoing strife—BAM!!—-we are knocked to our knees again.
This weekend? Rather than meditating on God’s Word re: blessing, praying for, doing good, etc. etc.? All I wanted to do was pull the blankets up over my head and hide away. Forever.
(Not very peacemaking-y of me, eh?)
God helps me to see my own heart in the situation. God comforts me by reminding me that I have an inheritance kept in Heaven that can never spoil or perish. But in this life, I am going to have trouble. Guaranteed.
And so I pray: Please God, change my heart. Let me not make an idol out of not being attacked and not being unjustly accused. But let me find my identity through my union with Christ. That way, no matter what my situation; no matter who gossips about me; falsely accuses me; judges and hates me without even knowing me … I will continue to entrust myself to my faithful Creator. And do good.
Of course, I may still need to go to the other person. But now it will not be from the standpoint of, “Let me tell you all of the ways you are wrong, unloving, rude, terrible, etc.” But from the standpoint of, “How can I please the Lord? Trust Him? Repent of my sins? Help to restore the other person? Strive to be at peace with him?”
This is the heartbeat of repentance — godly sorrow that leads to salvation and leaves no regret (2 Cor. 7:10) — and faith — For in Christ Jesus … the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Gal. 5:6).
I know that left to my own devices, I am without hope. I will attack when attacked; reject when rejected; hurt when hurt. I will run away from my conflicts in “super-spiritual” ways (“God is calling me to a new job / Bible study / ministry”).
But in Christ? There is hope — even in the worst conflicts. The ones that seem to have no end and no hope. Our “Summer of Suffering” as we are referring to good ol’ 2015. Or maybe, one day, when we can laugh about it (will that day ever come?) we will call it, “The Summer that Shall Not be Named.” Hmmmmmm.
Let’s close by meditating on God’s very Word:
‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.’ 1 John 4:7-12
This past weekend, the Lord granted me a sweet insight into my troubled heart. After spending time with a remarkable family where I felt completely safe, wanted, and actually even loved, I realized a shocking truth: I had stopped trusting people.
I could hardly believe it, but as soon as the Lord revealed it to me, I knew it was true … deep down, the my heart of hearts, I did not believe that anyone (anyone!) was really trustworthy. I had stopped trusting people.
I came to this insight when I was in an airport, talking to my husband on the cell phone. Fred wisely responded, “Of course, Tara, the answer isn’t to start trusting people again. You know as well as I do that ultimately people will let us down. The answer is to trust in the Lord and love people.”
Of course he was right. 1 Corinthians 13 convicted my heart: love always trusts. And if I was not trusting people then I was failing at the second greatest commandment to love my neighbor as myself. God have mercy on my soul!
I am grateful that God has led me in repentance and is growing my faith in Him.
People hurt us. Christian betray us. We risk with some people because we think that they are mature Christians who will not let us down — and we are horribly mistaken.
Being hurt by Christians is a legitimate reason to persevere in peacemaking and even to grieve. But it is not a legitimate reason to stop trusting. Why? Because we trust in God, not Man.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20:7
Today I was humbled yet again by my friend, Samara. Not many people know her because she is a quiet woman who never draws attention to herself and rarely speaks up in a crowd. But oh! If you take the time to just be quiet in her presence and listen to her, you stumble onto a radiant treasure. I love being around her. I love spending time with her adorable daughter. She is a creative, godly, happy woman.
But today? Today I saw again the depth of her godliness. Attacked this week, yet again, by a selfish and immature–arguably mentally ill–person, Samara responded day after day with genuine humility and abiding patience. I wanted to confront this person and tell her to stop hurting my friend! But Samara said no, that wouldn’t be the loving thing to do. So instead, she sought help from our pastor, scheduled a meeting with this person, and set in place a detailed plan with our pastor and deacons to serve this person.
Samara reminded me that love for enemies is the pinnacle of Christian obedience to God. It is easy to love people who love us. But it demands a powerful work of God’s Spirit to love those who are committed to harming us, or those who are simply unlovely. This is the measure and mirror of a Christian (Christ-like) life.
Do you want to know that you are being conformed to Christ? Obeying him? Reflecting him? Consider this: How do you treat your enemies? Those who hurt you?
In Matthew 5:43-48, Christ taught us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. … If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”