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Recently, I was confronted on an important topic by someone I trust and admire.
Thankfully, God had graciously helped me to prepare for this meeting by calling me to prayer, reflection (I mentally worked through the Scripture passages and questions in the very same “Peacemaker Workbook” that I have used with mediation clients for over twenty years now), and listening to two spiritually-mature, insightful friends who know me quite well (and thus, they know my strengths, weaknesses, and proclivities in general).
So I was in a pretty good place when the meeting started and I can honestly say that the vast majority of the meeting was deeply enjoyable for me. I had the privilege of discussing substantively rich content on complicated and eternally important topics. My mind was engaged. My heart was engaged. I really do respect and admire this person, and I am passionate about the topics we discussed, so all of that was great. But, then. Sure. Of course. The few minutes that my friend (bravely) spent talking with me about my (mistake? bad decision? flat-out error?) were not, shall we say, particularly pleasant. Even between two Christians who trust, respect, and care about each other, confrontation is never that enjoyable. But this confrontation was oh, so good.
This morning, I woke up praying for this friend, and also for the things we discussed, and mulling over what made this difficult aspect of the conversation / this confrontation so good. Before I had to jump into my family duties, I came up with four things. There are probably more, but here is a start:
- First of all–this confrontation was good because this friend spoke to me rather than about me to others. Right there, with just that one step, aren’t we in the realm of that which is “good”?! I think so. And I think that every family, friend, workplace, church—every every relationship would be better if we all just followed this one rule and spoke to people rather than about them.
- Secondly, my friend’s confrontation was good because it gave me an opportunity to learn and grow. This friend’s confrontation helped me to remedy an error in my thinking and communicating. And, with God’s help, I truly don’t think I will make this same mistake again. (I hope and pray not anyway!) He was clear, direct, and I found his point to be persuasive. I think that is a gift!
- Third, this confrontation was good because this person (to use Ken Sande’s term) had “passport” into my life: I trusted him. I knew he cared about me as a person (not just about this substantive topic/issue). And he was competent to help in this situation for two reasons: 1) He had experience and expertise; and 2) He humbly recognized that he is a learner (just like me), with his own things to work on/blind-spots, etc, so he spoke to me as a fellow pilgrim, not (to use David Powlison’s term) from a “pedestal” with me way-way-down-there in the “pit“.
- Finally, this confrontation was “good” because it was accurate. Not too harsh. But also not that passive “sort of” confrontation where someone just talks at an angle about something—but never just spits it out and says what is on their heart. Or worse! Hands out an article or forwards a link to a big group of people about a “general topic” (that is CLEARLY about one person). Yeeeky-yeek-yeesh! Or probably my least, least favorite: the fakey-fake-fake-“OREO” of confrontation where someone says something NICE about you and then whaps you upside the head with the negative thing that is REALLY the reason this person is talking to you at all, and then (to close out the “oreo”) tries to say something nice to whatever bloody, bleeding emotional lump is left of you. Whoa, Nelly. No fun. Maybe some people find it to be a wise way to confront, but I have never found “the oreco” confrontation model to be a particularly redemptive or helpful model.
I’d like to reflect more on those four points, but I hear my kids moving around now, so my day is officially starting now and I need to scoot.
If you’d like to read more on the topic of confrontation and/or confession, here are some links that might prove helpful to you. Some of these I review often:
- Loving Confrontation will Not Ultimately Harm (Even if it Hurts)
- Justin Taylor’s summary of a good article on The Cross and Criticism.
- When to Overlook and When to Confront
- Wisdom re: Confrontation by Pastor Jack Miller
- How to Receive Criticism – Three Ways to Avoid Feeling Attacked by CT’s Ed Stetzer
- Face to Face and No Excuses by RelationalWisdom360’s Ken Sande
- Peace, Be Still — Learning Psalm 131 by Heart by David Powlison (I cited this article above when I mentioned “pedestals and pits”, but just to draw your attention to it even more … If you have not soaked in the glorious truths of this article, I encourage you to do so today. It is definitely in my “permanent”/re-read often file.)
Hope these resources are helpful to you and that your day is a blessed one—
[a re-post from January of 2015]
I am extremely grateful for all of the close friends and family members who continue to help us along on our journey of more healthy living. You motivate us by your example: canoeing, bicycling, hiking, push-up competitions and backflips on the Rims. You help us with specific recipes and wise counsel. And many of you pray for us, which is probably the most helpful thing of all.
It’s hard, though, to change habits. This is especially true re: eating. “Healthy” and “good for you” foods sometimes just don’t taste very good (initially) when your taste buds have been ruined by junk food. But this recipe tastes GREAT. It is the moistest, most tasty muffin recipe I have ever found that ISN’T just a doughnut masquerading as something good for you. (Have you ever seen just how much fat and sugar go into most muffins? There’s a reason they taste so good.)
Thanks, Judy T. (and Meg!) for this recipe. Our family loves it.
Meg’s Incredible Muffins
1. Mix together:
1 cup bran
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup sesame seeds
2 T. poppy seeds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 t. each of salt, soda, baking powder
3/4 cup rains and dates
2. Mix in the blender:
1 and 1/2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1 t. vanilla
3. Pour wet ingredients into dry mixture just until moist.
4. Stuff all into 12 muffin cups as this does NOT rise.
5. Bake at 370 degrees for 30 minutes.
[Re-post from 2010]
Have you ever had a confusing over-reaction to something someone says or does? I have.
Years ago, I was confronted by one of those women who just always seem to have it all together. (Do you know any women like that?) I had invited her confrontation in my life. I wanted to grow and change. I know that redemptive criticism is an important part of maturing. But man! When she started in on her LIST I felt like I was being shot with a big gun right through my heart. I couldn’t even understand what I was feeling more or less what I was thinking. The power of speech had left me entirely and in its gaping hole, all I felt was sadness. Deep sadness. Because something very intimate and inextricably foundational to who I am as a person was hurting deep inside of me.
Honestly? What this person said or didn’t say, how they said it … I don’t think it really mattered. I think they were simply the presenting issue, the “tip of the iceberg,” as it were—because the real work had to be done deep inside of my heart. And it had very little, almost nothing, to do with her. But in my shock and pain and confusion, I did not see that at first. No.
My initial response was to replay her words (over and over and over again). I told myself that I just “couldn’t” stop thinking about what she said. As I rehearsed her exact words time after time, I felt tired and irritable. I raised my voice with my children like I haven’t done in a long time (rightfully mortifying me). I longed to talk it out with Fred, but he was unreachable at work. Grrrrr. I re-read articles on receiving criticism and excerpts from the “The Third G” in The Peacemaker. (Fascinating! Really good stuff! But I was still struggling. A lot.)
And then. Finally. I “quieted and calmed my soul like a weaned child with its mother” (Psalm 131) and I began to pray (honestly about what I was thinking and feeling) and read Scripture (so that I would listen to God and not just listen to my own ramblings and feelings).
It didn’t take long before I saw clearly how this present hurt had actually tapped into an older and deeper hurt that really had nothing to do with my current situation. Complex pain is often like that. In our chapter on suffering in Peacemaking Women, we describe it like this:
Complex pain. Another reason our suffering can devastate us is that we often experience suffering on two different levels. The pain from the current situation may “tap into” our past experiences. [An example is given about a Christian woman who was hurt by her employer.] … She was now experiencing suffering on two levels, past and present, and both were in desperate need of the gospel.
When our experience of pain seems disproportional to the actual situation we are in, we need to look deep into our own hearts to see if a life-forming trauma might be surfacing in the current conflict. Sometimes we may even need help to do so because our pain may cloud our vision and make it difficult to see clearly. Grief and despair, while rooted in past hurts, can be reflected powerfully in current circumstances and present suffering. Of course, even as we seek to gain wisdom and insight about our complex pain, our suffering never gives us an excuse to sin. God calls us to honor him regardless of our past or present circumstances.
As David Powlison reminds us, “Knowledge of a person’s history may be important for many reasons (compassion, understanding, knowledge of characteristic temptations), but it never determines the heart’s inclinations.”
For me? This confrontation had touched deep pain in my life associated with a completely different person who had “redemptively confronted me” years earlier … except it wasn’t very redemptive. It was just extremely condemning. You see, rather than give me specific information about current things I had done or said that had caused offense, she just brought up some sort of vague allegations from the far distant past. “15+ years ago you did such-and-so” or “10+ years ago, I heard that you were difficult to work with on that certain committee.” Things she didn’t even have first-hand knowledge of, or any details at all … things from years and years ago, yet she talked about it as though I had just done it yesterday. And when I tried to engage with her and ask for details, there were none. When I tried to express appreciation for God’s grace helping me to repent and grow, she refused to acknowledge any hope for growth or change in me at all.
This confused me, and grieved me, because I knew that there were hundreds, maybe even thousands of examples of kind and lovely and patient things I had done in that 15+ year time period too. But to her? To people like her? None of that mattered at all.
I even asked her that if I were to not do any of those very bad things again for another five years, or ten years, or twenty years … then would I have any chance of growing or changing in her mind? Her response? No. I was and forever would be defined in her mind by this very bad thing I did in the past. When I was in my 20’s! (I am rapidly approaching 50.) No room for growth. No room for grace.
So now I knew why the current words hurt me so much.
My father died a few years ago. We were estranged. Oh. We had surface-level contact (cards, visits), but I knew he didn’t feel safe around me and loved by me. Some of that was his problem (his heart, sin, unbelief, immaturity), but some of it was directly tied to the fact that when I became a Christian as a fifteen year old, I was a total Christian jerk. Seriously I was the proudest, most self-righteous, judgmental, Pharisaical (saved by grace but really immature!) Christian you have ever met. And I poured a lot of my wicked judmentalism out on my immediate family.
Thankfully, God led me to repent of these terrible sins and also thankfully, my mother and sister (with whom I have very close, intimate friendships now) forgave me. But my father never did. He never gave me another chance. He never even considered the possibility that I could grow and change—and, by the way, that my apologies to him for my complete jerkdom-terrible-tara-ness were sincere! I was really, really sorry I was such a proud and graceless brat.
It didn’t matter. In his mind, even decades years later, I was still the same. Even my sister (who is not a Christian) would appeal to him:
“C’mon, Dad! Give Tara a break! She’s not fifteen anymore. Yes, yes, she was a jerk. But that was 30+ years ago! She’s changed. She’s grown. We all love her and enjoy her so much. You’re missing out! C’mon, Dad, forgive Tara! Let her have a fresh start!”
Nope. I blew it and he was done with me and that was that.
That’s a terrible thing to face from a non-Christian. But isn’t it even more awful when we experience the same sort of arms-across-the-chest / fake-friendly-smile-“We don’t have any conflict!”, but it’s clear to anyone observing the situation that something is terrifically wrong in this situation. There is guardedness and fear. Absolutely NO possibility of love, even if the person uses words like, “I love you.” When everything in their attitude and actions conveys, “I just don’t want to ever have anything to do with you. EVER,” how could that possibly be love?
With this person, this family, this workplace, this church … I blew it and that’s that. They are done with me. FOREVER.
(Well. Not really forever, right? Since we will be spending eternity together, you’d think we might want to obey Matthew 5, 1 John 4, Romans 12, John 17, etc. and work this thing out, right? Well. Sadly. Nope.)
I even once had an ordained church leader say those very words to me:
“That’s just the way you are, Tara, and you’re never going to change.“
Whaaaaaaaat?!?! I’m never going to change??!?!!! There is NO hope for me? The power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is not the same work in my heart right now??!? God’s promise to conform me to the image of his firstborn Son was a lie?!? Whaaaaaaat?!?
Thankfully, years later, this ordained leader realized that those words were not Christianly and he repented of having ever said them to me. Still. Yowza! At the time they were said, they were crazy hurtful to me. So of course, years later, when this woman said something pretty darn close, my lil’ brain made all sorts of fast neural connections—faster than my theology could catch up at first:
No chance for grace?
Yeah, those words hurt. They hurt on their own level and they hurt because they tapped into previous hurts. But once I identified what hurt me so terribly and then I identified why it was ripping through my heart on such a deep level, then it was nothin’ but a hop-skip-and-a-jump to run to our Lord and Savior, pour out my suffering to the One Who knows my pain (and knows pain far deeper than I will ever know).
I could pray to Him Who was rejected by people He trusted—people who vowed their friendship and devotion and then rejected him. I could cry out to Jesus because Jesus knew what it was like for our Father’s face to turn away from him—-and that, my friends, is a pain I will never know. But Jesus knows. And he cares. And He is with me. And Jesus will never throw my failures in my face and then push me away and stay as far away as possible from me (while still fake-looking like we have, you know, “fellowship”.). No.
Our “high priest” is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). And he will never view the whole of me through the lens of the worst of me.
When I get to Heaven, I will see this with my very own eyes! I will see the scars that formed after the blood and water flowed—blood and water so that I could be born again and washed new. I will see my name forever engraved on his hand—not “Tara Ashamed” or “Tara So Bad, So Annoying,” but Tara, my beautiful, wanted, cherished, accepted, safe, never-again-rejected, never-again-kicked out, Just Tara. My Tara. The Apple of My Eye, Tara.
Just like you! Just like every single child of God.
Do you have someone in your life (your ex-spouse? step-father or mother? someone in your church, your family, your school?) — does someone keep you at a distance and yell, “UNCLEAN! BAD! STAY AWAY!”?
If so, then please listen to the words of your Savior, Jesus. He wraps all of us lepers in his arms; the ones with the “difficult” personalities and the “disgusting” problems like bleeding He touches us all with the hem of his robe, looks us right in the eye, and says:
This one? She was born in Zion (Psalm 87:6).
This woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years? Shouldn’t she be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day? (Luke 13:16)
Look to Jesus. Remember the words of Jesus. Play Jesus’ words over and over again in your mind!
Don’t worry about the list-makers and the people who never allow you to grow in grace in their eyes. If a person can only see you through the WORST of you? That’s really more about their problems than yours. Don’t let condemnation define you. Be defined solely by your union with Christ:
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39 ESV
Amen & Love you & Hang in there!
You are not alone.
You are not rejected by the One who matters most.
“His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.” Psalm 132:18
If you or someone you know struggles with similar feelings of rejection and abandonment, I urge you to read and study Ed Welch’s wonderful book: Shame Interrupted—How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection. We also have a chapter on shame in our book, but Ed’s is better. 🙂
I once heard a seminary professor at a women’s leadership conference talk about just how often women in ministry are treated terribly. I remember his righteous anger at sins done to Christian women leaders. I remember his kindness and compassion as the women in attendance grieved. But even more so, I remember the sentence that he told us all to memorize and repeat often to ourselves:
“I pity you for your graceless criticism of me because it reveals the appalling condition of your heart.”
2+ decades ago when I first heard that sentence, I had no idea how often I would need to use it in life. But as I ’round the corner towards age 50, now I know.
Some people will criticize us gracelessly. That’s OK. We can listen to what helps us to grow in conformity to Christ; in faith and godliness. Striving to be teachable and humble, we don’t have to be defensive in any way. Listen? Sure. Grow? You bet. But when their “feedback” is based on nameless, faceless, vague and unsubstantiated criticisms? When their “love” is joined with outright attacks or complete abandonment (or both)? Please! Listen to that seminary professor from the 1990’s (which wasn’t all that long ago) and get far, far away as you pity them for the appalling condition of their hearts.
[A re-post from July 21, 2012]
Thank you, Pastor Anyabwile, for posting this oldie-but-a-goodie CCEF video and your summary too:
Some of the suggestions/notes from the video:
1. Determine the issue: How did the church actually hurt the person? What was the issue?
2. Don’t assume: Be aware that you’re getting one side of the story. Don’t assume you’re getting all the information. Without disparaging the person’s story, remember that there is another side.
3. Relationship history: What else is going on in the person’s life? Are there other painful relationships and experiences affecting the person’s outlook? Is this how the person typically handles conflict?
4. Recognize the invitation to listen and empathize: By telling you of their hurts, the person may be inviting you to listen and empathize. They may be giving you access to tender and vulnerable areas of their life.
5. Help them identify their own contribution: Give plenty time to listening and understanding their pain. But having done that, you may discover places where the person should identify and own their sin and contribution to the hurt.
6. Remember: The person probably has not experienced the blessing of community. So, one major goal is to bring a healthy church experience to them. How can we create–perhaps in miniature–good relational experiences between the person and the church?
7. Avoid saying: (1) God wants you to go to church; (2) You should go to church because you need to grow spiritually; or (3) Going to church is the only way to follow Jesus. These may be true statements, but they may not be helpful or beneficial to the person at that moment.
Helping someone who has been hurt by their church may come down to the reality that you yourself are the church to them, prayerfully incarnating a positive experience of the church with the hopes of seeing them reconnected.
[A re-post from 2012]
The other day*, a certain friend “just mentioned” to Fred and me how another woman had said some pretty unkind things about us.
(There’s nothing like “sharing” information about someone that makes everyone involved look bad, is there? This friend was attacking us in a sort of passive way; the other woman was allegedly speaking ill of us to others; and now we were tempted to not think so highly of the other woman either. UGH! Gossip is insidious!)
ANYWAY … since our friend alleged that this other woman was telling people that we had “devastated” (crushed / offended / hurt) her, we knew we were into the realm of Matthew 5:23-24 (“Therefore, if you are leaving your gift in front of the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you. Leave your gift in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.”)
Fred was SO gracious and godly as he (gently & lovingly & respectfully) explained that it was not appropriate for us to talk about the woman (or the offense or the situation) outside of her presence and that we would do our best to speak directly with her and try to work through whatever happened.
Still, Person A tried to press on … she was quite insistent on showing us (what this other person had said about) our many wrongs, pointing out our failures, explaining what terrible people we are.
Again, Fred–SO mercifully and lovingly–gently stopped her and explained that the only way that we could work through this offense would be to speak with this woman (that we had offended) directly.
A) To find out if we had offended her;
B) To confess and seek her forgiveness (as appropriate); and
C) For us all to experience the wonderful joy of living out God’s call on our lives (Col. 3) by forgiving one another.
(Oh, and if you’re wondering where I was in this situation, I think my brain completely fried-out in a fritz of, “I can’t believe this!” as my sanctification was set WAY BACK and I had to rest pretty much completely on the godliness of my husband. Hmmmmmm …. nice response by a professional Christian mediator, eh? I hope to do better next time.)
All that to say, as I later reflected on this entire exchange, I was awash in so many teaching points. (Primarily the kindness and patience of Fred shown to this person who was attacking us. Again.)
I was also mindful of my sins and failures regarding both of these people (“Confronting Us Person A” and “The Woman We Had Allegedly Devastated”). I know that I fail over and over again in my effort to edify them and share God’s grace with them.
Lastly (for this blog at least), it struck me again just how true it is that we should NEVER trust a gossip. Not only is gossip a sign of spiritual immaturity, it truly is a destructive force that pits brother against brother and destroys the unity of the Body.
(And we know that the name “Slanderer” is translated 34 times in the Bible as a title for Satan! That alone should have us shaking in our Keds.)
It is simply a truism that if someone is gossiping TO you (about someone else), you can be 100% sure that they are gossiping ABOUT you when you leave.
And how does THAT minister God’s grace in its various forms? Or build one another up according to their needs in Christ Jesus? (Ah, those pesky Ephesians 4 verses!)
How I pray that I will never gossip.
That my speech would be more like the speech of so many women in my church–SO careful. Gentle. Edifying. Loving. Wise.
That God will give me great grace towards people who attack me and I will learn to respond with gentle, God-centered mercy and abiding love.
May your day hit that sweet spot of diligence, hard work, and rest without guilt.
* My notes for this blog article came from some random Monday in 2006 because I try hard to change random facts and dates so that I don’t inadvertently talk about real-life friends in real-life situations when I try to understand better biblical truth by applying its principles to fact patterns.
How DARE the pastor say that I shouldn’t take communion! Just because I’m in this big fight with someone in my church? How dare he! (Or. Dare he not?)
I always enjoy Dave’s posts over at our Redeeming Church Conflicts.com site. But this post was particularly challenging and edifying for me:
I hope you will click through and read the entire post, but for a quick summary, let me just say that Dave reminds us all of the seriousness of coming to the Lord’s Table in an unworthy manner; especially the warning in Matthew 5:23-24 concerning partaking in corporate worship before making any effort to reconcile broken relationships. He then responds to the people who were, shall we say, not pleased with this “fencing” of the Table when it happened recently at his church.
One reason why I think this post was particularly meaningful for me is because I spent my early years in churches that never taught this to me and thus, I have many memories of people (including myself!) taking communion while harboring bitterness and resentment in their hearts towards one another. What a mockery of the Cross! Jesus died to save us from our sin and make us his adopted children; he kisses us through His Supper to grow us all up into him, our Head. And we respond with cursing, gossip, slander, and bitterness? This is surely not the way it’s supposed to be. (And the human wreckage in these churches was great—“friends” who walk away from one another; marriages ending in divorce; even one of my churches splitting due to unresolved conflict. None of this pointing to Christ and glorifying the justice and mercy of God.)
My favorite years as a Christian were the years I spent in a church that fenced the table rightly. Pretty much every time we shared the Lord’s Supper, you saw people abstaining. Holding back. Letting the elements pass. It was a normal thing in the culture of our church and if it were noticed, it was only a call to pray. We prayed for our own hearts (when we were the ones caught in bitterness and refusing to even try to be reconciled). We prayed for wise and experienced peacemakers (laypeople and leaders) who were undoubtedly helping in the process. And we prayed for “the unity of the saints through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3); that the testimony of our lives would clearly demonstrate to a watching world that we are the Lord’s disciples:
Oh! Those Christians! Look at how they forgive and love one another!
May this be true in all of our churches.
In Christ Our Only Hope,
If you haven’t re-read Bonhoeffer’s Life Together in awhile, I encourage you to do so. Chapter 5 (“Confession and Communion”) is alone worth the price of the book. Spurgeon also has a sermon that is worth the read (doesn’t he always?): Fencing the Table. The Spuurgeon paragraph most on point to this post (my emphasis added) is:
And, dear friends, once more, there is a necessity for us to examine ourselves, because we must know that there are, among us, some who are, doubtless, partaking of the Lord’s Supper unworthily. We have known, to our great sorrow, of some who have been harbouring an unforgiving spirit, yet who have dared to come to the communion table. When I have really known that this has been the case, I have prevented the wrongdoer from sitting down with us; but, unknown to me, and to other ministers, it must often have happened that persons have come, professing to be Christians, yet all the while not manifesting the true spirit of Christianity toward some offending brother or sister. You remember how even the loving apostle John writes, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”
In full disclosure, I found the link to the Spurgeon sermon and the wonderful graphic at the top of this post on JoeThorn.net. I do not know Pastor Thorn personally, but I am in a writer’s group with his (delightful! wise!) wife. I hope you check out his blog—especially if you are one of my many Baptist friends. I think you would enjoy his “byte-sized experiential theology” very much.
[A re-post from 2012]
So today’s Ravi Zacharian International Ministry’s devotional taught me something that I never knew before …
Dr. Zacharias himself wrote the message today. It is entitled, ‘Our Father the Weaver’ and I would post it here if their copyright so allowed, but it doesn’t. Sorry!
Dr. Zacharias has long been one of my favorite theologians/authors—but other than years of study and growth in grace, I really didn’t have any ‘inside scoop’ as to his biblical precision, humility, hopefulness. Until today.
In today’s devotion, he granted us all a glance into one of the sources of his deep faith in God’s sovereignty even in the midst of terrific suffering. You see … Dr. Zacharias attempted suicide as a teenager. I had no idea.
‘Allow me to share a story from my own experience. As one searching for meaning in the throes of a turbulent adolescence, I found myself on a hospital bed from an attempted suicide. It was there that I was read the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel. My attention was fully captured by the part where Jesus says to his disciples, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). I turned my life over to Christ that day, committing my pains, struggles, and pursuits to his able hands.’
Oh! How quickly my heart jumped with a sad and yet joyful leap into remembering that dark night years ago when I seriously considered ending my life. (I have only had this experience once, and like Dr. Zacharias, it was when I was a young person. The pain was so great! I couldn’t breathe. The suffering seemed endless. I couldn’t go 24 hours without weeping to the point of wretching. I thought that I could not bear it—and I couldn’t. So my beloved friends helped me to remember that I was the one BEING held by God. And then they physically held me too. And I survived the dark night of the soul—but I knew then that I would never be the same. And I haven’t.)
As I thought about this dear, precious brother in Christ—now a great man for Christ, then a scared child attempting to end his life—I wondered how many Christians have had their lives touched by suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, or actual suicide. How many families? Churches? There must be millions and millions. (I can think of many even as I type this.)
How much wisdom comes through suffering!
How much the saints throughout the ages have grown in grace–but through a fire.
This life is so hard!
Suffering in the church, in Christian families, in Christian lives … well … it just rips us to the core.
Emotional pain translates into physical pain and darkness overwhelms.
But God IS good.
ALL the time.
(It sounds trite, but it isn’t. It’s TRUTH. And our Only Hope!)
And He gives us His Body to care for us—especially when we can’t go on in and of ourselves.
The Body comes down to our level and lifts up our hopeless, beaten, broken lives.
Sadly—and I know this first-hand—all too often we are beaten down by other Believers. For who can wound us like a brother or sister in Christ? No one. No one at all. For I expect betrayal and meanness from unbelievers. But Oh! The pain is great when it is you, my brother, my friend. ‘One with whom I walked with the throngs in the household of God’ (Psalm 55) … when our dearest beloved attacks and betrays us? It is a SHOCK. Always a shock.
But God is SO good.
Every moment of every day.
He is with us.
And this is enough.
Yeah, though He slay me … I will trust in Him.
Please, God, please keep my heart fixed on YOU.
And please help us all to carry one another’s burdens–and carry each other!–especially when we are crushed (but not destroyed).
And PLEASE, dear one–if you are having any thoughts of suicide, GET HELP NOW. Tell someone. Dial 9-1-1. Go to your nearest emergency room.
You are not alone. Suicide is not the answer. There is help for you!
With sober concern and much love,
[A re-port from 2006]
Yesterday, I had a wonderfully interesting and edifying conversation about the difference between guilt and shame—and why assurances of forgiveness do not comfort us when we are burdened by ungodly shame. (For more on that topic, I encourage you to read one of the few books I have ever endorsed–Ed Welch’s excellent book, Shame Interrupted. There is also a chapter on Shame in my first book, Peacemaking Women.)
Our discussion reminded me of some notes I took from a specific letter in The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller. In this letter, Pastor Jack was reflecting on a young, gifted leader who seemed to struggle with perfectionism and shame. (Please note: there is much more to this letter than my little notes. Pastor Jack was very gracious and encouraging! As well as redemptive in his confrontation.)
– Mike seems to have many surface worries; he is overly conscientious and overly self-critical in his work habits; he keeps endlessly and restlessly busy in his work; he is intense.
– Underlying his surface worries, Mike seems to have fears about almost everything … appearance, lack of ministry or job success, relationships, acceptance with God, financial concerns. It would be hard to have so many fears and not be angry with people, circumstances, and God.
– Mike is locked in unbelief and ignorance of God’s holiness and love; he is controlled by a completely negative evaluation of himself and his future; his nagging guilt (and fear) often confirm his judgment that his is worthless.
– How can Mike break out of this pattern? Yes, secular psychology might help bring to the surface core elements; but it can offer no real hope because it does not offer the real solutions. Mike needs a foundation of faith: the inward experience and sure conviction that his sins are forgiven (justification deals with guilt) and that he is not an orphan (adoption deals with shame).
– So. Should we preach to him? No. Preaching will only deepen his guilt. He needs to know there is solid hope for him in the Lord and in his salvation. He needs to discover God’s grace and how God gives objective peace as a free gift through faith. And he needs to discover how these truths touch the central insecurities of his life.
– And all of that must take place in the context of affirmation: the knowledge that we love him unconditionally and we accept him as he is. We ourselves have gone through similar dark times in life and eventually we emerged on the other side by God’s grace.
– Inherently Mike’s problem is that in his unbelief, all he sees is his insecurity. His whole mindset plans as though he were an orphan. We must help him to claim his relationship with God as his Father through faith in Jesus Christ.
Oh, how I pray that God’s truth and grace will touch the “central insecurities” of our lives. And that truth and grace will begin to splash over onto all of our relationships as we help each other to reject unbelief and to believe the promises of God in Christ! All in the context of love and acceptance.
(I read a quote yesterday that said something like, “Anyone can be kind to a king. It takes a real man to be kind to his brother.”)
Sending my love!
[Re-post from 2015]
Reading my denomination’s magazine (By Faith), I was struck to the heart and literally brought to tears. And prayer.
The last article was on the relationships between ordained men in the church and women in the church. There were many wonderful, gospel-saturated aspects to those important relationships.
But two quotes broke my heart (especially, I am sure, because I have seen over and over again–across the nation–how true they can be):
– “Men are afraid of women. We’re often content to be at arms’ length from them.”
– “Some women mistrust the men ordained in leadership over them.”
Both statements reminded me of 1 John 4:18:
Where there is fear, there is not love (because perfect love casts out all fear).
How I pray that the love of God would so fill each one of us that we would love one another as Christ loves us.
That we would lay down our lives for one another.
Lead. Submit. Listen. Repent. Confess. Forgive.
Praying for the Bride!
[Re-post from 2006]
Excerpts from Chapter 10 of Peacemaking Women, “SHAME“
When a woman is filled with ungodly shame, her response to her own sin or fallenness is to say, ‘Something is wrong with me and I need to work harder to make this right.’ Ungodly shame is a self-indictment that overrides the truth of the gospel that Jesus Christ loves me and in him I am accepted. Another way to think about godly shame and ungodly shame is to note that while godly shame may have a component of legitimate and appropriate guilt (‘I did wrong’), ungodly shame condemningly says, ‘I am wrong.’ Sadly, ungodly shame directs people away from God and others, effectively trapping them in a lifestyle of shame-based living. Ungodly shame is an unbearable burden …
What is the cure for guilt? What is the cure for shame?
Nearly every believer is able to rapidly answer the first question. The cure for guilt is forgiveness. However, few are able to articulate the cure for shame without a great deal of reflection. And yet, Scripture speaks volumes about how to cure shame. To be women of shalom, it is crucial to understand how the concepts of adoption, intimacy, love, and delight impact our experience of shame. These gifts of grace help us to trust that we are accepted, just the way we are. The acceptance we have in Christ because we are adopted into his family is the surgeon’s scalpel that begins to carve away the festering poison of shame. The intimacy, love, and delight we experience because of our adoption all provide the healing balm that soothes the painful effects of shame.
Adoption. When we know without a doubt that God has accepted us, we come to understand the amazing truth that we are brought into membership in God’s family forever (1 John 3:1). The doctrine that speaks most powerfully to our guilt is justification and the doctrine that speaks most directly to our ungodly shame is adoption. While the cure for our guilt rests only in the forgiveness of God, the cure for our shame is found in God’s loving acceptance through adopting us into his family. Adoption washes our shame away in the same way that justification wipes away our guilt. Adoption says, ‘I love you, you belong to me, nothing will take you out of my hand. Nothing about you will cause me to reject you. Anything wrong with you will not cost us our relationship. I am God and I know you completely. And I love you’ (cf. John 10:29; Rom. 8:15–17; Gal. 4:4–7; 1 John 3:1) …
Intimacy. Intimacy is a biblical concept that permeates Scripture from beginning to end. It is the relational experience of knowing others as they really are and being known for who we really are. The desire for intimacy is strongly related to how God has made us in his own image. Although sufficient in himself, God desires that we know and love him, hence the First Commandment (‘You shall have no other gods before me’) and the Greatest Commandment (‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . .’). As people made in his image, we share the same desire to be intimately known and fully loved. Our creation in God’s image assumes intimacy as a normal part of relationships. Yet shame, that lethal disease, eats away at our hearts—especially the place where intimacy is desired and embraced. Shame destroys the desire and ability to be known by others. Shame kills the desire and ability to know and love others.
If genuine love flows out of true intimacy, and if love for God and others is our greatest calling, intimacy is a vital part of our human experience. We will not be vulnerable with people unless we know that we are safe with them because they love us intimately …
It is helpful to note that in this John 10 passage, intimacy is a crucial aspect of loving leadership and ministry. So often, our counseling with believers touches on the topic of how difficult it is to know Christian leaders. The hurts that are experienced by our pastors and elders often make them withdraw from people. The hurts that are experienced by all believers lead us to withdraw from relationships as well. When Christians are deprived of intimate, loving relationships with one another, shame often flourishes because we fear letting others see our weaknesses. Mistrust, bitterness, unforgiveness, and fear stand in the way of deep connection in the body of Christ.
Love. Paul gives the Philippians much to consider about the importance and wonder of having intimate human relationships when he writes, ‘And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God’ (Phil. 1:9–11). Paul uses powerful words—abounding love—to describe a powerful concept. Love doesn’t trickle in when love abounds and intimacy is present. Love surges forward—more and more. And shame flees in the face of love …
Acceptance and delight. We can love many people but delightful acceptance with intimate knowledge is a foretaste of the exquisite grace that awaits us when we are reunited with Jesus Christ face-to-face. Delight is a special form of acceptance that profoundly heals shame …
Delight dispels shame. Shame cannot breathe or live in the flood of loving, rejoicing delight. Of course, the ultimate foundation for our delight is found in Jesus Christ. He is the Lover of our Souls who delights in us and eternally dispels our shame. Even if we do not yet experience delight in earthly relationships, we can rest secure in God’s delight in us.
From Shame to Shalom
Even as I (Tara) have spent the day working on this chapter, I have struggled with shame. My husband is caring for our little baby so that I can concentrate on writing. Shame tells me, ‘If you weren’t such a lousy wife, you would take better care of your husband.’ I look around my home and see my attempts at cobbling our used furniture and old lamps into a warm and inviting home. Shame whispers, ‘If you were a better homemaker, you would know how to decorate and create a beautiful environment. You can’t even take care of a home. There’s dog hair everywhere.’ We are working on having our daughter, Sophia, take naps in her crib instead of in our arms. But as she cries in protest, my shame indicts me, ‘You don’t have any idea what you’re doing with your baby. What makes you think you can be a mother?’
Can you imagine? Even as I am here meditating hour after hour on the many truths of Scripture as to how the gospel speaks directly to my shame, I still struggle. Some of you reading this will not be able to relate to what I’m saying. I thank God for that! I am always refreshed and blessed to share fellowship with people who do not struggle with the foreboding, horrible, vague sense that they are not good enough. Their confidence and trust in the Lord is like a refreshing breeze or a sweet melody. To not live in shame is a glimpse of heaven.
But others of you know exactly what I am talking about. You know what it is like for your shame to condemn you. You, too, struggle with horrible thoughts of your own unworthiness, dirtiness, and inadequacies. Dear sisters in Christ, there is hope! Let us run to our saving, forgiving, adopting, and accepting God. The Prince of Peace knows our hearts, our pasts, our futures, and our every deed—and he delights in us. God delights in you! He, in his awesome act of love, offered himself as a sacrifice, that we might live eternally as righteous children of God. Forever.
To know that Jesus knows us, loves us, accepts us, and has declared us righteous, is the first step toward seeing shame forever washed away. Being known, loved, and accepted by others dispels that shame even more. When we, as fallen sinful creatures, can view ourselves with the eyes of Christ, shalom abounds richly. In the light of the love of Christ, shame gives way to shalom. In grateful and humble response we cry: ‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’ (2 Cor. 9:15).
[A re-post from 2009]