The handful of comments I have received from this series – whether typed or spoken to me in passing – have got me swelled up with tears so often.
Satan likes to wield what’s known in the boxing world as a sucker punch.
And even when we are purposely wearing God’s armor, that blow can knock the wind out of us as it slams up against that shield of faith.
The armor is divine but the warrior wearing it is 100% human and we can reel and stagger when the enemy roars hard in our life.
But if, in the midst of recovery, we can gather enough breath to ask God this one prayer…
Lord, don’t waste an ounce of this season….
this is a prayer He delights to answer.
If you will fight the good fight through the ups and downs of your very human reactions and responses….through your fits and through your rants…through your breakdowns and your meltdowns…through the surrender and the temptation to retaliate…God will work in ways that not only bless you but make you a blessing to others.
But you sure don’t feel like it a lot of days.
Because as I stated yesterday and will declare til the day I am standing perfected BY HIM…before Him…
I am … you are … a WORK. IN. PROGRESS.
On the road to healing we will stumble many a time.
We will not always be gracious to the ones who have wounded us.
We will not always rejoice with our friends who are getting more while we mourn our less.
We will not always want to forgive and forget.
We will rehearse the wounding.
We will allow our minds to play out scenes that we feel should be happening if everyone had played fair.
We will struggle to find joy and contentment with what we do have because we can’t shake off what we don’t have.
And yes…we will then beat ourselves up for all of the above and we will look around at our friends and mentors and think how much better each of them would be handling this and we will sink into an even deeper level of recognizing our failures.
So we need to remember this other forgotten aspect of prayer.
Confession…recognizing before God what He has known all along…our humanity…our frailty…our tendency to think that we should be better than all of those things I just mentioned…and acknowledging that we really are not.
Repentance…saying it is not okay to be that way when we see it in ourselves…no longer excusing our bad behavior in the grief process by saying it’s just the way we are and God loves us anyway…reversing the things above, literally….
Lord, I want to be gracious towards those who have caused me pain, because YOU were gracious to me when I was apart from you
Lord, give me joy and gladness when my friends receive the blessings I have lost. Help me to be happy for them and to rejoice with them in true fellowship.
Lord, you have forgiven me much and cast my sin and iniquity into the ocean of forgetfulness and mercy. I choose to forgive and forget because of this grace you have extended to me.
Lord, help me to stop myself when I am tempted to go over the details of the whole event long after You have asked me to lay it down. Like someone pulling out old home movies and cherishing the good times and then mourning the bad, I repent of dwelling in what no longer is and I choose to live in the present. I will actively engage in today and trust you for tomorrow. You were always writing the future and You have not changed.
Lord, I will not use my vain imagination to compare myself to others and waste precious time today conjuring up images of how well they would be doing my journey. My friends and mentors are fellow travelers. By assuming they could carry my backpack better than I am, I am robbing myself and them of the camaraderie we should be sharing as we link arms and help each other along.
Forgiveness…by faith I am forgiven my gaffs and faltering steps as I progress through the season.
By faith, I find my prayer to be a cry for mercy…and in His answer, I am enveloped in peace.
I am reminded in closing of one of my favorite teachings from Beth Moore on the difference between Satan and Jesus and it is also a boxing reference.
She said once that Satan is like the boxer who targets his opponent in a place of wounding. He pounds relentlessly into the open cut under the eye. He shows no mercy and will repeatedly attack in the place of weakness.
Jesus takes a nail scarred hand to that same wound and He presses hard to stop the bleeding…to draw healing into the pain.
My friend…if we are beat up in our sorrow…it is not from God’s hand.
Oh…conviction hurts…but it leads to healing.
Guilt and condemnation are not from God.
I pray today in all areas of grief and loss and sorrow that you know the Hand of God holding you tightly throughout the process and that you will yield to His loving guidance.
Remember YOUR sucker punch, right back at the enemy of your soul, is the conviction and prayer that nothing of this season will be wasted but that all will be used one day to bring glory and honor and praise to the God who brought you through <3
Hope you had a good weekend and whether you were rooting for the Patriots or the Eagles or Justin Timberlake or could care less that it was Super Bowl Sunday, can we all agree that the scene stealer of the whole event was that winning quarterback’s darling little one in her NFL denim jacket and Eagle green hair bow the size of a football perched under those headphones?
You would have to have a heart of stone to not think that was just the most adorable trophy presentation ever.
Right down to her tiny little hand grabbing that microphone.
She could have cared less who won any game in the world…she just had her eyes on her daddy.
Which brings us nicely to our next topic on prayer during times of Deep Healing.
(See what I did there?)
On Friday we talked about the role of prayer for ourselves and others who are hurting during a time of deep wounding in our own lives.
Today we turn even farther outward to the next deep level we are called to as Christ-followers.
Because it is not enough to pray for ourselves and for others wounded in the fallout or affected by our pain in some way.
As followers of Christ, we look to Scripture as our guide and it is here we find an established pattern calling us to pray for the one who caused our heartache.
And just as we prayed for the circle around us, we must pray for the circle around that one.
Because no matter how much we feel we were wronged, the offender has a posse just like we do who will stand by that person and support him or her.
Let’s face it.
Seeing the one who hurt us feeling the love of people we thought were our friends is truly salt in an open wound.
And that burning can ramp up our pain, but remember…one of the properties of salt is that it helps heal wounds.
Which is why I believe that God commands us to pray for those who are hurting us.
It’s like the added aggravation to our pain can become a stimulus to remind us to pray for those who brought it on.
Or as I like to call it…one-upping the devil.
Let’s look at a few passages of Scripture to set the tone.
In Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses because of his marriage to an Ethiopian woman. Miriam must have been the instigator because the Lord punishes her by turning her leprous.
Moses, wrongly accused by his siblings, is justified before God in this.
Yet he is the one who cries out in verse 13 for the Lord to heal her.
Or Job, who had three good friends who came and sat with him in his grief and sorrow and then decided to play God with their judgment and advice.
They raked over him pretty harshly and in the end convinced Job to speak up to God about how He had handled the whole situation.
After a lengthy interrogation from God to Job about who should be passing judgment on who..
(or whom or…help me sophomore class English teacher, wherever you are)…
Job acknowledges the Sovereignty of God, which is of course the correct answer…
so God turns to the three and expresses His anger with them and then tells them that Job will pray for them and they will be forgiven.
Then we have our own Lord and Savior who prayed for forgiveness for those who hung Him on the Cross…
as He hung on the Cross…
every word painfully exhaled…
Father, forgive them.
Breathing out the very lesson He had taught throughout His ministry and recorded in Matthew 5:43-48…
But I say to you….love your enemies…pray for those who mistreat you…God sends the same sun and rain on each of you…so be like your Father and pray for them as you would a friend. (my paraphrase)
So here is what I do in applying God’s Word in obedience.
When the stabs come through reminders that the one who inflicted pain is going along with life seemingly untouched by the fall out, and in this day of blessed social media we can tell by the “likes” and “comments” affirming them who is comfortable in that one’s camp, so to speak…
I attempt to use that sharp pain to prompt me to pray for any and all of them.
And let me emphasize here…I don’t do it quickly or well or easily.
But I try very hard to discipline myself to say things like this (in the most sincere and least snarky way possible in each moment):
<3 Lord, they do not owe me anything. By forgiving them, they are free and so am I.
<3 Lord, even though this hurts me and I have no affection or love or respect for these, I know that YOU love them. You love them as much as you love me. So give me your love for them.
<3 I try to list all the blessings I would desire for me and mine, and then ask for those to come to that one and theirs.
Please hear me, this is a process.
An extremely humbling, awkward and painful process.
And, most assuredly, t’s not my first response in the early stages of betrayal, but the Lord faithfully works me toward it as I keep my heart open before Him in honest prayers and tears.
Well, this is a fun start to the week, right?
But I can tell you that this prayer initiative has huge dividends down the path of your journey.
I have seen the two-fold blessing of it being answered because I have lived a fair amount of years now and gone through a lot of seasons.
The first blessing is when some evil does befall the one who wronged you and your heart fills with compassion and genuine sorrow for him or her.
Let me tell you…THAT is far sweeter than any false victory the devil would pawn off as revenge.
Don’t let worldly wisdom convince you that to see someone get what was coming to them will bring you Joy.
It is an ugly win and one that will sour in your mouth and further serve to harden your precious heart that Jesus has given His life to heal.
The second is even more a miraculous work of God and that is the day the one who wounded you is blessed with the very thing you thought was stolen and you can celebrate in your heart for this.
On that day, you will shake your head in amazement and know that you know that it is the LORD who transformed your sorrow into a Christ-like heart.
Then you truly will know that Christ alone has healed your heart, mind, body and spirit and made you whole again.
That nothing was taken from you that He did not give back a hundred-fold.
It’s a process dear friends, and one we don’t do perfectly, but we are led through it all by the One who perfects us.
When in the throes of grief, our prayers at first can mostly center on triage.
Lord, stop the source of the insanity of this season and stop the pain.
Sooner, rather than later would be good.
As we progress through the early stages, if we continue to keep open and honest in our communications with the Lover of our souls…He begins to move us through some of the dross removal that we slogged through this past week.
The sifting and refining in the midst of the grieving and regretting can be …
sorry for all the “ing’s” but I am on a roll(ing)…
gut-wrenching, mind-blowing and best of all…
Ok, I’m done “ing”ing for today. Hope it wasn’t too annoying…oops…
Hey, it’s Friday so thought I would throw a little levity in as we switch gears and move into…the … wait for it…
part of this series.
I find as I cooperate with God’s work in my own heart during times of loss and grief, allowing Him to remove more of my selfish tendencies and tunnel vision, He begins to open my heart to deeper levels of prayer.
We do not experience deep loss alone.
Our lives are intricately woven into the lives of others – family, friends, associates, people who serve us and people we serve, and most importantly the Body of Christ to which we belong.
When one of us is hurting, we all hurt and so as God begins to work in us the first stages of healing, we need to look outside of our own wounded selves and begin praying for others who are also experiencing pain as a result of the circumstances.
I came across a printed copy of an email I sent a dear friend during one of these times.
While I remember very well what we were going through, I do not remember typing the words.
It was an apology for not being a very good friend to her in a time of need in her own life. I apparently was aware that she needed a level of love and comfort and support that I was unable to give in that moment.
My words assured her that I loved her dearly but my current season of loss had come quickly on top of several other seasons and I was temporarily sidelined.
I know that I would never have been aware of my negligence in offering appropriate comfort to this gentle and always-kind-to-everyone-even-the-mean-girls friend if I had not been asking God to make me aware of others around me who were hurting.
Even though I did not feel I had anything to give, at least the Lord prompted me to reach out with what little was left to share.
Our friendship today is intact because prayer led me to be honest and real with her about my distance in her time of need.
I don’t remember writing my confession to her, but I very much remember two broken women linking arms around each other and limping into some deep healing.
In seasons of pain, our human instinct is to crawl to the back of some dark cave and lick the wounds until we can emerge with the semblance of being healed.
How much better to open those wounds wide to our loving Father and ask Him to cleanse them so that they can heal properly.
Heavenly Father, You know me so well. In times when I am hurting, I tend to think only of myself and the pain of this moment. Remind me, LORD, that You died so I would could be free. Keep me from hiding in myself when I am wounded and draw me ever into Your Presence. Even when I would focus only on my current setting, constantly show me others who need Your light in their darkness. Lead me ever into greater places of intimacy with You, Lord, and as You pour into me, may the overflow splash onto others. <3
As I have been gathering my notes for this, I find myself in a sticky place where I have to look at the ways God has convicted me personally and decide how much is beneficial to you and how much is sacred to me.
I have found in seasons of grief and loss resulting from the choices of others, there is a blessed gift of conviction that feels like anything but a blessing at the time.
There is nothing quite like receiving the loving comfort of the Lord in times of sorrow and then realizing the gentle hand wiping my tears is also beginning to pry into some areas of my soul that would have happily stayed hidden and buried.
Because as I grieve, God sends messages through His Word.
Through a Bible Study.
And then another.
Through a sermon or a devotion that comes in my email.
In one season of loss, I ran into one word repeatedly expressed in multiple ways until I could no longer avoid the fact that God was speaking to me in my circumstances…a word that I was forced to face as conviction…
Here I was, asking God for help in processing how to move forward with life and what is going on and where is He in all of this and I kept running into the theme of….
While it was so easy to see how the offending party certainly had erected some idols…
the studies and the sermons and the scriptures constantly cropping up seemed to point to …. uh..my wounded spirit.
So I found myself responding to all of this evidence of needed self-examination with the spiritually mature and godly cry of…
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
But sure enough, I started to fill in the blanks of open ended sermon questions like…
What is the thing that if it isn’t going well, your whole world is falling apart?
Stuff like that.
And my heart was definitely being convicted.
I began to look at the deeper levels of my sorrow and loss and I realized that somewhere along the way I had begun to set some things up on little pedestals.
I would never have thought I worshipped them until I lost them and their worth to me became so evident.
Good things that had become main things.
My “success” in life depended on the success of my people and circumstances, and if my people and circumstances failed; then I failed.
I had determined what success looked like and suddenly the cruel waves of other’s decisions and choices washed away the sand castle.
I realized that I was grieving the loss of what I thought life should be like.
Are you noticing a pattern in the above statements…
my people….my circumstances…I had determined…I thought…
But what did God say?
Tearing down idols is hard work.
You have to put some muscle into pulling them down.
But when you are frail and thin from a hard season of grieving and sorrow, raw from too many tears and too little sleep, set aside from the comfort of others because you have been seeking solace in the Lord…you are in the best possible place for God to show you the good things you had begun to invest your worth and value and security in.
And then He shows Himself to be the best thing.
The only thing.
The only ONE.
The Rock and Solid Ground.
The Firm Foundation.
Idols are funny things.
They can look like being a good parent or a dedicated employee or in a happy marriage or your excellent reputation or even “the real deal” in your spiritual walk.
They are anything that takes the place of the only God worthy of all glory and honor and praise and notoriety and fame and set themselves up as the main thing keeping us steady and giving our life purpose and meaning.
So for today…do an idol check.
Answer the simple question….
What is the one thing that if it isn’t going right, your world falls apart?
Thanks for coming back today…not a fun part of the series, is it?