Staying Focus: Having Joy in Spite Of

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I feel like I’ve learned so many little lessons from not only this Joy study itself, but the many different things in my life during this time.  It’s amazing to experience God’s peace and joy, even in the midst of things that would seem negative, things that normally would rob one of joy or happiness or peace.

This week, we’ve been learning how to practice having joy in spite of difficult or less than desirable circumstances.  This journey over the past few months has truly grown me and stretched me, to where I’m not even the same person I was a few months ago.  I’ve heard so many messages now on what God was pressing on my heart – Staying Focus – and so many gifts of wisdom from people in my life on how to respond in better, more Christ-like ways to attacks and accusations.

I don’t retaliate anymore when I’m tempted to.  I don’t try to fight back in ways that only make matters worse.  I don’t give in to feeling ashamed when Satan uses people to bring up my past failures, things I’ve already apologized for and reconciled with them about.  I know God’s used my past failures to help me learn how to respond better in my life, and that I’m fully covered in His grace.  There is no more condemnation for my past failings.  And I know how to spot Satan’s attempts at stealing my joy – they don’t even work anymore – when he tries to condemn me for things I’ve already been forgiven for.  I know I’m covered in God’s grace, and feel no condemnation!  I still have joy 🙂

Now I actually celebrate and am actually a little excited to see insults and slander, not because of it or the pain it does cause me, but because I have the renewed chance to respond the right way this time.  To do things right.  Even last night, I decided to pray for someone that was obviously acting without self-control… again, and trying to cause harm by what she thought was a good plan at retaliation at feeling wronged.  It was exciting for me to know and decide right then at that moment, that I would not retaliate, and that I would pass that test God was giving me to learn how to deal better with sinful people.

I decided not to retaliate with insults or accusations of her past wrongs, or attacks like the last time I failed this test.  I decided I was going to forgive her, again, pray for her, and thank God for what she was doing and saying.  Sometimes we have to forgive people multiple times because they keep allowing Satan to use them.  But my reaction last night, is a far cry from what I would have done just a few months ago.  And that’s amazing!

It’s something to celebrate!  So I’m celebrating this week, for doing something I never would have been able to do with such grace this time last year.  I’m celebrating for the progress and maturity this means for me.  I’m celebrating because in passing this test, I’ll be able to move to the next level with God and be ready for whatever He has for me there.

So be encouraged readers!!  Have joy – joy in spite of.

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The One Thing I Hope My Son Learns From Us As Parents: How to Apologize & How to Forgive

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I’ve been reflecting a lot on the dynamics of healthy relationships, and how you want your kids to grow up – who you want them to be as they watch and learn from you.  We send our children messages whether we’re aware of it or not, messages of adults always being right, never having to admit making a mistake, or maybe even refusing to ever humble themselves enough to make an apology when one is crucially needed.

I think… the absolute worst thing for my son, would be for him to grow into a man who cannot admit when he’s wrong or apologize when he knows he’s offended or hurt someone.  Paired with this, would be the inability for him to truly learn what forgiveness looks like – or to gain an unhealthy victim attitude of, “accept all trespassers back into your life, even if they make no effort to change or meet you half-way in reconciliation.”  The effects of these two important life lessons on my son as he grows up and has his own family, will either make his own family stronger & healthier, or spiral into a darkness of devastation, anger, and destruction of relationships.  I’ve seen both firsthand in my husband’s and my family trees… they are examples we will (and have) used to teach our son what apologizing, forgiveness, and reconciliation truly means.

In our family, in our home, we are working on a family mission statement – part of it includes being people who admit when we’re wrong, and are quick to apologize to one another when we know their feelings have been hurt.  We also are teaching  our son the importance of accepting an apology, and whole-heartedly forgiving someone.

I truly don’t undstand how people can go on living life without living out these basic principles.  The only way to live in God’s beauty of joy and happiness (& definitely peace of mind), is to be this kind of person.

No One Deserves Forgiveness

 

Everyone has at some point, been hurt by someone else – whether it was intentional or random, violent or passive-aggressive, we have all had our experiences with hurt and pain.  Sometimes these instances can come from the hands of those who were responsible for loving or caring for us, accepting us and making us feel welcome in their life.  When we are hurt by those whom we are supposed to have good relations with, it can be extremely painful because it goes against our expectations of what life “should’ve” looked like with them.  Its not in God’s design and purpose for us to have to experience pain and hurt caused by anyone, but especially from those who were strategically placed in life to be close to us.

Biblically, these situations call for us to forgive, no matter how horrible the offense.

It can be extremely hard to forgive someone who is unrepentant, who is bent on not wanting to change.  There are probably instances in everyone’s life where we ourselves have hurt someone, and yet continue to go about life without ever realizing the pain we caused to the other person still affects them.  They are then faced with having to forgive not only the offense, but also our ignorance of how much it really affected them.

Forgiveness is messy – life is messy – and if we’re ever going to live as real Christians, sometimes we have to be wiling to get into the mess of life, and do things that we know God wants us to do – even when we don’t feel like it.

Some things I’ve noticed about forgiveness over the years:

 

  • You don’t have to wait until the other person apologizes to forgive them in your heart
  • The person you can forgive doesn’t have to still be alive – even if they are gone, forgiveness will heal your heart as if they were still here
  • If you wait until you “feel like it” you probably will never forgive people who have hurt you
  • Forgiveness is a choice not a feeling, its a choice to follow God’s command

 

Forgiveness really isn’t about the other person, we are commanded by God (if you’re Christian) to forgive so that our own sins will be forgiven.  Forgiveness is about freeing ourselves from the binds of being tethered to another person who may or may not even realize how much damage they did to our heart.  You forgive so that you can heal and be freed.  You forgive, for you.

I’m reminded of a friend I dearly love, she grew up in the most horrible home you can imagine, was sexually abused by her own father (her mother put her on birth control at 13 just to ensure that she wouldn’t get pregnant with her father’s offspring), her mother constantly let her know how much she hated having children, and how they ruined her life.  Eventually she was placed in foster care, but when she was 18, her foster parents let her out into the world with no where to go, no money or resources, so she made the decision at that tender young age to turn to what she knew she could do – she turned to prostitution.

Years later when we became friends, she told me her story and how she has had to forgive parents who would never admit what they did to her was wrong (particularly her mom who seemingly got away with everything – her father was finally jailed for his actions).  She would try desperately with her mother to reconcile, to get her to admit that they abused her so that she could move into a healthy and restored relationship with her.  It still hasn’t happened, and my friend had to separate herself from her family so that she could focus on living life in a toxic-free environment, and have joy in Jesus.

Even though reconciliation wasn’t possible for her and her mother, her decision to forgive her family was still pivotal in her being able to break away from the circumstances and live a new life based on God’s restoration and ability to make all things new.

Forgiveness isn’t based on whether or not the person who hurt you is sorry, or anything they can do to “deserve” your forgiveness… no one deserves forgiveness, even ourselves!  Having someone apologize and acknowledge their actions can be crucial to repairing a broken or sometimes toxic relationship, however, it has nothing to do with your decision to forgive.

If we have any hope of surviving in this world of wars, crises, and pain in our own families without becoming hardened and cynical, we have to be able to forgive others in our hearts.  The only other option is to hold onto a grudge and forever be tied to those who have hurt us, as if we were chained to them and had to carry them around throughout life.  (It sounds like the worst punishment imaginable!)

Forgiveness is breaking free from the ties to abusers, controllers, insensitive and hurtful people, so that we can live with abandoned joy in our new lives and be unaffected by their past actions against us.

Forgiveness is for you.

And no one deserves forgiveness.