This article is the second and final one of a two part series by a guest writer who chose to remain anonymous to protect the identity of some of the individuals mentioned herein. You can find part one here. May you be encouraged as you read.
Do not carry unnecessary weight- Forgive!
Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
It is a given that because neither we nor others are perfect yet, we are bound to hurt each other, whether intentionally or unintentionally. As believers in Christ, we should strive to be at peace with others as much as possible (Romans 12:18) but even then, the reality is, until the day of Christ Jesus when we will be made perfect, we will most certainly wrong others and/or be wronged. The best way to deal with hurt, is to take it to the LORD and do what He says about it- Forgive!
Forgiveness is not an easy thing to offer to people who hurt us and especially when they do it intentionally and repeatedly. I have shared how I have been greatly discouraged and hurt by my own parents and people I considered to be friends. Knowing my own imperfections, I admit that there’s a possibility that I myself could have hurt them. Honestly, I choose to confess that I have forgiven those who’ve hurt me, by God’s grace, as I have prayed over it and I know God gives us the grace to follow through with His commands. He would not tell us to forgive if it was an impossibility especially through Him.
I am sincerely grateful that I have the parents I have- they are part of my story and since God gave us to each other, I trust Him to work out our relationship for good. Even Though the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy even relationships, I trust Christ to bring life to my relationship with my parents and with others (John 10:10). God’s agenda, not the enemy’s, is final in my life because I am His daughter and I know beyond doubt that He loves me. I choose to trust Him and to be grateful as He continues to work on us individually and as a family. He will win for us!
As God works on us to transform us into Christlikeness (Romans 8:29), we need to appreciate the nature of Christ when it comes to forgiving those who wrong Him- us included (Romans 3:23) and be willing to be like Him in offering forgiveness to those who wrong us. When Christ hung on the cross the day He bore our punishment, He prayed that God would forgive His persecutors: those people who had accused Him falsely and demanded His crucifixion; those who had flogged and mocked Him right before they nailed Him on the cross (Luke 23:34). Beloved, the one into whose likeness we are being transformed chose to forgive right in the middle of unspeakable pain. By His grace, we also can!
When God encourages us to forgive, it definitely is for our own good (He gives us peace) and hopefully for the good of others. In forgiving others, God helps us to have a positive impact on them- all to His glory and in fulfillment of His will. Some Bible Scholars and Historians believe that there is a possibility that the soldier who confessed Christ to have been the son of God while standing at the foot of the cross (Matthew 27:54), became a believer Himself. Like Christ, Paul and other believers were also able to share the Gospel and at times lead others into becoming believers because they chose to overlook the wrongs that had been done against them and to extend grace to their persecutors. Together with Silas, Paul once led a jailer to the LORD and he also preached to King Agrippa and Festus while they held him as a prisoner (Acts 16:16-34 and 26). Had Paul and Silas been vengeful, they would not have extended grace to the jailer, and he would have killed himself. Consequently, he and his family would not have become believers and chances are, the duo would not have had peace.
Forgiveness may not be easy but it sure is possible through Christ who gives us the grace to do so as God transforms us into His likeness. When God tells us to forgive, He is not ignorant of the pain that others cause us- He feels that pain as a Father, as a friend, as a brother (Christ) and as a companion (the Holy Spirit). God very much understands our pain because He Himself has gone through it in the person of Christ. Understanding that Christ knew the pain of rejection and being despised helped me to trust Him more to forgive those who had rejected and despised me, just like He did.
What is your pain? What burden of unforgiveness are you carrying? Take it before the LORD in prayer, surrender it to Him and allow Him to give you His yoke- it is lighter. I pray that God would continuously heal us of the pain that others cause us and help us not to intentionally cause others pain. If we ourselves cause others pain, may He help us to realize it and to be intentional in seeking forgiveness because it matters to God that we remain in good terms with others (Matthew 5:23-24). Knowing that not everyone may be willing to seek forgiveness- let us trust God to help us forgive whether or whether not our debtors ask for forgiveness and to help us to do them good. Knowing too that not everyone will be gracious enough to be willing to pardon us when we ask for forgiveness, may we genuinely do our part in apologizing and asking for their forgiveness, as we pray for their own healing because of our hurtful words and/or actions. May God give us peace either way.
Romans 12: 17-21
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
Remember what God has done for you in the past and draw hope and encouragement from that instead of complaining.
Reading through the story of the Israelites right from when they were in Egypt up to when they entered the promised land, I kept wondering why they kept complaining whenever they encountered a challenge. I wondered why they complained bitterly against Moses, Aaron and God when they had repeatedly witnessed God’s powerful miracles.
As I kept thinking, God pointed out that I also have behaved like the Israelites time and again when I have failed to trust Him to come through for me in the face of challenges. There are times when I have doubted that He can provide for my every need and even complained against Him because He did not show up as and when I expected. There are days when I have focused so much on my challenges to the point that I have magnified them and ‘made God too small in my eyes’ as Don Moen puts it.
It’s a given that in this life we will face trials. May God help us to be like Caleb and Joshua who chose to believe that God would give them victory over the gigantic inhabitants of the land God had promised them, as opposed to believing that we cannot win in trying times, like the rest of the spies did. Their unbelief and complaining offended God, cost them their lives and delayed the fulfillment of God’s promise as they spent 40 more years in the wilderness until the ‘complaining’ generation had died out (Numbers 14:11-12, 20-24). Caleb and Joshua believed because they remembered how God had given them victory before and they knew He could do it again (Numbers 13:30). God allowed them to enter the promised land because of their faith. David too, unlike the ‘more- qualified’ soldiers in the battle against the Philistines, chose to trust God to help him slay a giant that had terrorized a whole army for 40 days. Goliath was a whole new challenge to David, but he chose to believe that God would make him victorious just like He had previously helped him kill lions and bears (1 Samuel 17: 34-37).
No matter the nature of our trials, we, like Joshua, Caleb and David, can choose to remember the victories that God has given us and others before, and we can trust Him to help us overcome new challenges. Nothing catches God by surprise. Our trials are yet another platform to glorify Himself. They may be new to us but to God, they are not, and He already wears the victor’s crown. May He increase our faith in every season and deliver us from any unbelief.
At a time when many people have become jobless because of the negative effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the economy, I am encouraged to trust God ever the more, not just to meet my own needs, but those of others. I am encouraged because I know that God can meet each and every one of our needs. If God was able to provide food and water for the Israelites in their hundreds of thousands, even by miraculously providing manna and quails, I am sure He can provide a means of income for me and the many more who have such a similar need at such a time as this. .
God was able to meet the needs of the Israelites in the wilderness before they settled in the promised land. He is also able to meet our needs in seasons, where like the Israelites, we wait on Him to establish us with regard to the various things we are trusting Him for. As we consider the things that He has done for us before, may we be inspired to trust Him ever the more for new things. He delights in doing us good!
Isaiah 43: 16-19 (NIV)
This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Seek help when you need to.
There was a day I woke up at 3:00 am and no, it was not part of my routine; I was unable to sleep because of the stress of unemployment. I remember praying or trying to, amidst discouragement and doubt. God felt far (the reality is He was near- He always is in His Omnipresent and Fatherly nature). I sent a message to 3 of my closest friends who knew my situation and I trusted they would pray with, and for me, as soon as they saw the message. It was one of those moments when I felt overwhelmed and I found it hard to pray.
I have spoken with enough friends and heard from enough believers to know that such a situation is not unique to me. It is prudent at such times to reach out for help if we can because the truth is, we need each other as the body of Christ.
No believer can stand alone in this life and especially in trying times, we may need the support of others, in prayer and in kind. There is a good reason why we are encouraged not to give up fellowship with other believers- we nourish each other (Hebrews 10:25). I would encourage anyone who feels overwhelmed to reach out for help, even if that help will only come in the form of a listening ear and prayer. It is helpful to pray together with your friends and encourage each other in the faith, being respectful of each other’s vulnerability out of genuine friendship and above all, reverence to God. Church leaders also come in handy- they are ‘the shepherds of God’s flock’. Good Shepherds delightfully tend to hurt sheep in genuine love and in reverence of the owner of the sheep.
May we also trust God to be of help to others with the same comfort that he gives us. When God brings it to our attention about someone else’s need, I pray that we’d be willing to act, first in prayer and also in reaching out to them. I must say that at times, God has graciously put it in the hearts of others to just reach out to me, without my asking, in moments when I was feeling discouraged. In such moments, God has reminded me of His care, love and presence. As He continues to transform us into the likeness of His Son- our brother- Jesus Christ, may we always remember that it is in the likeness of Christ to reach out to those in need, even without their asking, and to help them to God’s glory.
This is a season and it will definitely come to an end. Keep your eyes on Jesus.
One thing about seasons, good or bad, is that they come to an end; and the best thing about the seasons we go through is that God always accomplishes His purpose for our lives in them.
There are two recorded incidences where the disciples were caught up in storms. In one of them, Christ was with them in the boat, but He was sound asleep. They were scared as their boat was tossed and turned by the roaring waves. Concerned, maybe even offended, that Christ stayed asleep, they woke Him up and questioned Him on whether He cared if they drowned. He commanded the waves into stillness right before he asked His disciples why they were so afraid and if they still had no faith. In wonder, they stood terrified at the fact that the wind and the waves obeyed their LORD (Mark 4:35-41).
The second time the apostles found themselves in a storm, they were all alone in the middle of the sea of Galilee. Christ had sent them ahead as he went to pray after He miraculously fed a group of 5,000 men with 5 loaves and 2 fish. They had just witnessed the power of Christ yet once again they found themselves straining to ‘survive’ in the middle of a storm. This time Christ came right to where they were- walking on water. They were all terrified as they thought it was a ghost until Christ identified Himself to them. Peter dared Him to call him out upon the waters. He did and Peter, by faith, began walking towards Christ only for Him to begin sinking as fear crept into him when he saw the wind. He cried out to Christ to save him and He graciously did. Christ knew that Peter’s faith had been challenged and asked him why he doubted (Matthew 14: 22-32).
How we are like the apostles sometimes! We doubt that God cares when we find ourselves in difficult times because our focus is mostly on the magnitude of the seasonal storm instead of Him. We forget that God is in charge and He has the ability to calm the storms in our lives and safely bring us through them. We easily forget the power of God that He has clearly confirmed to us through the things He does in our own lives and those of others. Sometimes we are like Peter- we trust God and walk in His command until we sense the stormy winds and our faith crumbles even in His presence. I pray that the LORD will help us in our unbelief like He helped Peter and the rest of the apostles and grant us faith to believe in Him. In life’s storms, may we always fix our eyes on Christ and remember that storms are seasonal- they pass, but Christ remains- both in the storm and after it passes.
In remembering that Christ is with us in every season, let us trust Him to bring us through them;
I pray that in the same way He worked on the faith of the apostles through the two storms, may He also work on our faith;
I pray that He will accomplish His purpose for us and through us, in every challenge/ storm/ season that He allows us to go through, as He leads us;
I pray that God will graciously help us to hold on to the Hope that we have in Christ and as we trust Him, may we find rest in Him as He grants us the peace that surpasses all human understanding, in every season, to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus;
I pray that regardless of how hard it gets, we will keep believing and speaking life into our own situations and those of others, as we trust God to bring us to a place of rest, for we walk by faith and not by sight;
I pray that He who is faithful and who cares for us, will answer us in due time and give us a song of praise after every trying season;
I pray that by God’s grace, we will cooperate with Him in making every season count for His glory;
May He, in His unending grace, unconditional love and mercies that are new every morning, help us in our weaknesses that we may never depart from Him but that we may always depend on Him;
May we commit to trust Him as He causes all things to work out for our good because by His grace, we love Him;
May we know God more, for who He truly is in every season and in knowing Him, may we know more about ourselves and others;
I pray that God will never let us forget that in Him, we are more than conquerors and as He gives us the strength to face every condition we shall overcome;
May God help us, in every season, to love Him the way He wants us to love Him: with all our soul, strength, heart and mind;
May He help us to worship Him, not just because of what He does or what he gives us, but because of who He is!
One in Christ.