Grace is for the one who broke you

What does grace look like? No, not a dancer. Not your friend named Grace. God’s grace, the gift He offers to us freely that forgives us from our sins and provides us with a second chance after we fail (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Grace, in a religious context, is always about God’s unmerited favor. It’s God giving us something we don’t deserve, something we could never earn or ever repay. Grace is even a cute churchy acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Nice. Sweet. Easy to remember. But what does it mean? What does it look like?

Maybe I’m too practical, but while the cute little mnemonics are nice for memory, what good will they do if I don’t know how to apply them? If grace is essential to following Jesus, I should know how to use it.

So many times, I think grace and forgiveness and trust all get muddled together, as though they’re synonymous, and nothing is further from the truth. Rather, they’re all part of a process that’s connected to following Jesus. But if you do all three at once, you’ll end up back where you started.

Grace is for our enemies

God demonstrated grace for us when He sacrificed Jesus to save us while we were His enemies (Colossians 1:21-22). Did you realize that? We hadn’t done anything good enough to deserve Jesus’ blood. We can’t ever do anything worth His sacrifice. That’s what makes it grace. That’s what makes it a gift. It’s undeserved.

Grace is loving people who don't deserve loveThat’s the picture of grace we’re supposed to use. Grace is loving people who don’t deserve your love. It’s showing compassion and mercy and kindness to people who have done absolutely nothing compassionate, merciful, or kind for you. Maybe they’ve even done the opposite. Maybe they’ve hurt you, lied about you, gossiped about you, but no matter what they’ve done to you, it doesn’t mean you can’t love them (Matthew 5:44).

No, you can’t love them in your own strength. The only way you can love people who’ve hurt you or betrayed you is with Jesus’ strength. Practically that’s going to look different in every situation. In some cases, loving someone means speaking kindly to them or about them. In some cases, loving someone will mean stepping away from them, getting out of their lives and letting them face the consequences of their actions without you there to soften the blow. But one aspect of loving someone remains constant: Forgiveness.

Forgiveness is hard

There’s something in our natures that wants to cling to old wounds—or even to new wounds. We think that holding on them will make us stronger somehow, that rehashing every cruel word or deed will provide us with wisdom to face the same situation again. My dear friends, that’s a lie. Going over those hurtful memories constantly doesn’t make you stronger. It only makes the tear in your heart wider and harder to heal. And maybe it will harden you, thicken your skin so that you can withstand future hurts, but you won’t be withstanding them with God’s power. And your power will ultimately fail.

Let it go.

Grace is for the one who broke you

Pry your fingers off those old wounds. Stop digging into them. And let God work. Recognize that whoever hurt you is imperfect, just like you. And maybe they’re wrong, maybe the enemy is using them as a sledgehammer to bludgeon you, maybe they need to face consequences for what they’ve done. But that’s not your job (Romans 12:19). Your job is to forgive. To take those hurtful words, that painful situation, that horrible memory and stop holding it against them.

I know. It’s impossible. But only if you try to do it alone. God has promised that He will give us strength to do impossible things (Philippians 4:13). Once you throw off the heavy burden of all that pain and grief and sorrow, you’ll truly be free.

But what does it look like?

Because if you forgive someone, doesn’t that mean they’ll hurt you again? Doesn’t that mean they’ll just repeat what they did before? Or maybe they won’t even stop. Maybe they’ll see it as a sign of weakness.

guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your lifeThis is where Christians get so messed up. Forgiveness isn’t restoration. Forgiveness is choosing (sometimes daily, sometimes hourly) not to hold past sins against another person. But restoration is trust, and once trust has been broken, it must be earned back. The Bible tells us to offer forgiveness freely but to trust cautiously (Proverbs 4:23). Don’t just hand over what’s valuable to someone who will misuse it; you’re asking for trouble if you do (Matthew 7:6).

Be careful with people who have hurt you. They’ve done it once, and they may do it again. So think long and hard before you let them back into your life. That’s trust. That’s restoration. That’s wisdom. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven them.

Forgiveness means taking the hurt and the pain and the memory of what they did or said and turning it over to God. Stop turning it over in your mind. It’s not helping you. Capture each one of those damaging thoughts and choose to forgive. Move on. God’s got it. He knows the truth, and He’ll deal with each of us in His own time.

Live Jesus’ love

Regardless, extend grace to everyone (Romans 12:17-21), no matter who they are or what they’ve done. Always be kind. Always be truthful. Always think the best of others. Always help others. And don’t do it because you want to make them feel ashamed. Don’t do it out of some passive aggressive tendency to make them pay. Do it because you love them. Do it because that’s the way you’d want to be treated. Do it because tomorrow, you may be the one who has hurt someone else.

Following Jesus isn’t about you. It’s about Him.

Emotions and the check-engine light

I’m tough on cars. I usually run them into the ground before I move on to the next one. The first car I ever drove was the family’s 1984 Oldsmobile station wagon. After that, it was my dad’s 1990 Chevy Lumina—torch red, beige interior. I loved that car. The Lumina was the car my brother and I shared through high school.

After the Lumina, a parade of less-appealing vehicles helped me get from point A to point B in my life. A 1984 Ford Crown Victoria LTD (that’s a story in itself). My mom’s little Saturn. A big old blue Buick. Until I could finally afford my own car—a 2005 Chevy Malibu, which I purchased in 2008.

Someday I’ll write a post on my car adventures. They have been many. But one thing remained constant with each vehicle I drove—I tried to take care of them. I drove them until they wore out in most cases. But if any lights ever popped up on the dashboard, I told my dad, or I took the car in for service.

I’m not a mechanic or a car expert, but I know enough about cars to realize that when the little engine light on the dashboard turns on, you’ve got a problem.

That’s a no-brainer, right? Of course, right. I would never ignore the check engine light on my car’s dashboard. If I did, I might get into trouble on a trip somewhere. Or I might cost myself a lot of money later on to fix a gigantic problem, when I could have handled it before it became gigantic.

It’s not okay to ignore the check engine light in my car. So why is it okay to ignore the warning signs in my emotional health?

That’s what emotions are, you know. They’re like check engine lights. And if you ignore them, they tend to make you explode (or implode, though I can’t tell you which is worse).

I don’t like emotions, especially the ones that make me cry. Emotions make me vulnerable. Open. Easy to hurt. Emotions turn me into a sappy mess who needs help, and I don’t like being that person.

But you know what? There’s nothing wrong with being a sappy mess. There’s nothing wrong with needing help. Actually needing help is normal. God even knew that we would need help carrying our burdens and encouraged us to come to Jesus just as we are, baggage and broken dreams and exhaustion included, to let Him help us carry our load (Matthew 11:28-30).

But I don’t do it. In my mind, emotion equals weakness, and I struggle with pride. That being said, do you know how difficult it is to be a Feeler personality without allowing yourself to feel?

Talk about confusing. And it’s not just yourself you confuse. You confuse everyone around you too.

Emotions you ignore become hurt feelings and vicious cycles. They become something you stew over, something you can’t let go of, something you can’t escape. And you go from controlling your emotions to your emotions controlling you.

It’s a lot like your car, honestly. When you see that check engine light come on, you’re still in control. You decide whether or not to go in for service. You decide if it’s worth dealing with now or not.

But give it a few weeks. Maybe even a month. Or longer. And the simple problem that made your check engine light turn on has become a crippling mechanical issue that leaves you stranded in your driveway or in your office’s parking lot. Now you’re not in control. Now the damage is calling the shots.

Have you heard that hurting people hurt people? It’s true. And I don’t want to be that person either. I’d rather be a sappy emotional mess and be my honest self with the people around me that have everyone thinking I’m strong enough to make it on my own.

So how do you learn to deal with your emotions? Frankly, I’m still working on that. But one thing I know works for sure: Ask God.

Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

The Lord wants to have a relationship with us. He wants us to approach Him with our problems, our questions, our doubts, and our struggles. And when we need help, He wants us to ask Him first, even if all we need is directions.

Ask Him to reveal to you where the problem is. Ask Him to give you wisdom in how to deal with what you’re feeling. God gave you emotions, and He’ll help you learn to manage them.

I don’t like dealing with my emotions, but I need to. Otherwise I’ll be bound to obey them instead of the other way around.

An orchid in the sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God works with us to help us figure life out

Do you believe God knows what He’s doing? I do, but that still doesn’t stop me from wondering what the heck he’s thinking sometimes. I’m so very grateful that He’s there putting pieces together because it’s times like these that I can’t see the big picture. All I can see is the damage.

An orchid in the sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

An orchid in the sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 8:28.

And we know that God causes everything to work togetherfor the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

I had been planning to post a Psalm today, but this verse was featured prominently on a site I frequent. And it seemed appropriate to focus on it today. I know so many people going through difficult times right now, and in the midst of all those trying circumstances it’s tempting to think that God has walked away. But that’s just our enemy trying to discourage us.

This is one of those verses that everyone uses and everyone knows, and I honestly hesitate to use those kinds of verses. But just because they’re popular doesn’t make them untrue, and this is reassurance I needed today.

God’s got a plan He’s working on, and that plan is going to be good and bring good to the people who love Him.

The Amplified Version actually says it this way: We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

God being a partner in their labor. I’ve never seen that before, and that actually changes my view on this verse a little. Because it’s easy to think that God has this distant and powerful plan already in place that all of us fit into like puzzle pieces on a card table. And it’s easy for me to envision that He just puts the puzzle together.

But if God is a partner in our labor, working things out, that’s personal. Partners work together. Side by side, hand in hand, face to face. He’s not just sitting at a table piecing our lives together. He’s in our lives, building our lives one brick at a time alongside us. He doesn’t just snap His fingers and life happens, though He could. He gets His hands dirty and works in our lives.

Have you ever thought that way? I haven’t. I don’t know about you but working side-by-side with God to figure my screwy life out sounds like a good idea.

He already knows what’s going to happen. He’s seen the last page. He knows the last line. But we don’t, and time moves differently for us. His being available to help us through life a moment at a time isn’t for His benefit; it’s for ours.

Whatever you’re facing today, God has a plan. No matter how you’re struggling, no matter how you’ve been hurt, no matter what you’re afraid of, no matter aspect of life you don’t understand, God’s working it out, and not from some distant point where you can’t access Him. He’s right here with us, offering to work alongside us to help us get through the difficult times.

Challenges help us grow, so embrace them. Hurt feelings suck, but God’s plan is more important, so shake it off. Loss can be devastating, so take the time to grieve but move forward, holding God’s hand.

He hasn’t left us on our own, and He won’t. God is good, and so are His plans for us, in spite of what our enemy may be whispering in your ear today. We don’t have to stumble around in the dark hoping to find our way. God’s waiting for us to catch up. So keep your eyes open, keep your heart open to Him, and jump.

What we have here is a failure to communicate

I hate confrontation. Even if it’s a situation where I have been wronged, I would rather just struggle through the ramifications instead of calling someone else on what they did to me. I know other folks who, while they don’t like confrontation, don’t have any trouble telling other people that they’ve been hurt. A part of me admires that. To be able to tell someone that they hurt you? Wow.

But I think there should be balance when dealing with hurt feelings between people. If you’re prone to whining or if you get your feelings hurt easily, you should realize that and consider whether or not the person who hurt you actually did it on purpose. And if you’re prone to spouting off or losing your temper, you need to realize that and consider how your words affect the people around you. And if you despise any sort of confrontation (like me) you also need to consider sucking it up and honestly telling people how you feel about things — because if people don’t know how you feel, they won’t know to stop doing the things that hurt you.

Matthew 18:15 talks about how to deal with a believer who has sinned against you. Note that it does say specifically that it’s how to deal with another believer who hurt you. Not a nonbeliever.

 15 “If another believer[d] sins against you,[e] go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.

This is my difficulty. I don’t speak up. If someone hurts me, I keep quiet about it and either blame myself for it (most often, whether it’s my fault or not) or I develop an unhealthy picture of the person who hurt me. Both responses are silly.

Now I know there are a lot of different applications for this verse, but this morning when I read it I really thought about how people don’t communicate with each other anymore. I’ve seen this happen a lot. Two people have a discussion, and one of them hurts the other person’s feelings. But instead of communicating with each other, they both stay quiet. That’s how resentment starts to build. I don’t know if they think they should be able to read each others’ minds or what. But staying quiet about it doesn’t work.

I am constantly amazed at how poorly people communicate with each other. At home. At work. At church. Whatever you’re doing, you need to communicate. People can’t read your thoughts. People don’t know what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, and don’t assume that they do.

Most of the time, when we do communicate, we do it wrong. We tell other people that we’ve gotten our feelings hurt in a way that makes the whole situation worse. One thing I have learned is that when you do decide to stand up and tell the offender that you’ve been hurt, you need to do it humbly. Because there’s always a chance that you’ve misunderstood. And most of the time anything that you perceive as a sin against you was unconsciously done. So if you go barging into a confrontation, demanding that the person who hurt you apologize and turn from their wicked ways, how is that going to go over? Not well, I’d wager.

Be humble about it. Make sure they understand you love them and that you still want a relationship with them. Then tell them how they hurt you.

After that, one of two things will happen.

Either they will react with shock, completely uncomprehending that anything they did or said hurt you (this is most often the case). Or, they won’t care. They will realize that what they did or said hurt you and they won’t be willing to change or apologize or admit that they’re wrong — or if they admit they’re wrong, they will still keep doing it anyway.

If the first reaction, you’ve got a friend. Forgive them. Be friends. Communicate with each other. Live happily ever after. Whatever.

If the second reaction? Continue on to verse 16.

In either case, you have to communicate. And communication is difficult. Because you have two (or more) people who think differently and act differently and do everything differently, trying to have a relationship with each other that is mutually beneficial. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking friendship or dating or marriage. Two people communicating is always a risky business, and there’s always a chance that someone is going to get hurt.

But if you don’t communicate, you can’t be friends. If you don’t communicate, you can’t bless each other. If you don’t communicate, you can’t help each other. If you don’t communicate, you’ll never learn. So, as far as I’m concerned, even though communication is difficult and sometimes means you’ll have to confront other people with the things that hurt you, it’s worth the risk.