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.

Advertisements

Even if life turns upside-down

Ever been in one of those seasons in life where nothing feels stable? It’s like you’re trying to walk along the beach as the tide is rolling out, taking all the sand with it from under your feet. You aren’t sure where to stand because no ground is solid enough to support your weight. It’s an awkward dance, roaming the beach while the sand slides out from under you.

Welcome to my life

That’s sort of where life is for me right now. And it’s not just me. I know several people who are in similar predicaments. Life has thrown a curve ball they never expected. The job didn’t end up being a good fit. The job opportunity fell flat. People have passed away. New children have been born. New friendships are beginning, and some friendships are falling apart. New stories are starting, and others are ending.

Just about everyone I know is facing major transitions in their lives, and as I sit here this morning trying to knock out several thousand words on a novel, I’m tempted to despair. So much hurt and pain is happening right now. So many people are struggling with friendships and relationships and jobs and finances. People are scared and uncertain and feeling scattered. And I want to fix it. But I can’t. I can’t even fix my own problems. And some days it’s enough to make me want to give up.

I’m doing it wrong

That’s when I remember I’m doing this all wrong. In those moments I have to step back and remind myself who exactly is in charge here. It’s not me. And it’s not you either. None of us have the power to change much of anything in our lives, not without help. When we get to these points in life (and all of us do), we have to hold on to something. And the only anchor worth holding onto is God.

God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). He’s the same today as He was 10,000 years ago. He’ll be the same 10,000 years from now. Not like us. We change all the time, finding new and improved ways to identify ourselves or uncover value in ourselves. And because God doesn’t change, we can trust that He’ll always keep His promises (Numbers 23:19).

It’s okay to feel hurt

instagram upside-downSo life hasn’t turned out the way you thought it would. Join the club. Peoples’ lives rarely work out the way we expect them to. That’s not a reason to give up or stop believing that God can do something miraculous. That’s when God does His best work.

Maybe something you thought was certain fell apart, and you’re hurting. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not be okay. Nobody is okay, not really. As long as the world is broken and people are broken, “okay” is just a word we say to cover up what we’re actually feeling inside. But just because we’re not okay doesn’t mean God isn’t able. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

It doesn’t always help to remember that God’s got everything under control. Sometimes you’re just so hurt and so frightened and so unsure that you just need to feel sad, and I get that. And that’s okay too. But don’t make the mistake of thinking God doesn’t hear you, because He does. And don’t confuse His patience or His perfect timing for tardiness (2 Peter 3:9).

Nothing in life stays the same. Everything changes. Our dreams, our preferences, our stories, our families, our friendships. God is the only stable ground. He’s the only rock we can stand on that we can trust will stay put. (Psalm 18:2)

Our only hope

Life may be upside down for you right now. Or maybe you can see the chaos coming toward you like a tidal wave that threatens to sweep away the life you’ve built for yourself. Don’t assume God doesn’t know. He does, and He cares. And He’s your only hope.

Hebrews 6:18Knowing that God doesn’t change, that He always keeps His promises, that He offers hope to the hopeless, and that He is always good—maybe it won’t fix your troubles today. But maybe it’ll give you a different perspective on them. (Hebrews 6:13-19) Because it’s possible for life to be hard and good at the same time, just like you can be hurting and full of joy at the same time.

It all comes down to how you choose to see the trouble in your life. Yes, it can feel overwhelming, unfair, undeserved, and even malicious at times, but if that’s how you choose to see it, you’re missing the point. And you’re choosing to see God as an enemy who wants to hurt you, and nothing is further from the truth. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Breathe. Step back. Shut your eyes and listen to what God is telling you.

He’s got this. He’s got you, and all the little things (or big things) that you’re worrying about, He’s already figured out. And maybe He won’t give you a magic lamp and grant you three wishes. He won’t snap His fingers or wiggle His nose and solve all your problems. But you can be sure that however He chooses to act, it’ll be good, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away.

God never gives up on anyone

loyalty-give-up-stay-true-Ruth_1170x350

Sometimes I want to give up. I want to stop fighting. I want to walk away from people and situations in my life that make my life more difficult and more dramatic than it has to be.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been tempted to give up on people. So-and-so won’t ever wise up. So-and-so won’t ever realize he/she’s being a dummy. So-and-so won’t ever grasp the truth of life. So on and so forth. You’ve got those people in your life too. And you may have walked away from them.

Know what? That’s okay. You don’t have to keep holding on to people. In some cases, it’s better to let them go. It’s better to step out of their lives. Sometimes you’re making it worse. But there’s a difference between investing emotionally in someone and giving up on them.

The truth is, I don’t think we’re supposed to give up on anyone. Step out of their lives? Maybe. Cut off communication? Possibly. Get out from between them and God? Definitely. But none of those things require you to give up hope that a person will one day find his or her way to God.

We’re in a series on the book of Ruth at church right now. Ruth is one of my all-time favorite Bible characters, and one of the things I love best about her is that she never gave up. Not once. Her mother-in-law Naomi was a wrecked shell of a woman when they left Moab to return to Israel. Ruth had every reason to walk away from her, but she didn’t. Some of the most famous words in the Bible are recorded in Ruth 1:16-18:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

What loyalty. What love. That’s how I want to live.

Yes, the Bible does say that the Spirit won’t always keep trying, but that’s between the Holy Spirit and God. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not privy to Their conversations. God has never told me to give up on anyone. Sometimes a relationship has to change, but just because a relationship is different doesn’t mean the relationship no longer exists.

You can disagree with how they’re living their life and still love them, still be there for them, still think the best of them.It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s heartbreaking. But let God give you the strength to keep believing. Draw strength from Him, because He has strength to spare.

They hurt you. They’ve disappointed you. They’ve broken your heart. They’ve left you bleeding at the side of the road. And you have every rational reason to walk out of their life and never look back, never think about them again, never speak to them again. But since when has God called us to be rational?

God calls us to be like Him. And God never gives up on people. So why should we?

Remodeling is never easy and always messy

remodel-renovate-mess-life-God-heal_1170x350

I have never built a house or a commercial building, although I know quite a lot about their plumbing systems (how many people do you know who can say that?). But one thing I do know is that there’s a major difference between new construction and renovation.

In a lot of ways, new construction is easier. You can begin from the beginning. You can establish a new foundation. You don’t have to worry about working around existing systems that are already installed. Oftentimes new construction is cheaper for that reason. But even though building new sometimes is easier and cheaper, it’s not always the best option. And that’s true for things other than houses and buildings too.

In relationships (romantic or otherwise) or even in your own life, you can’t just start over. You can try, but you’ll often find that past experiences have left scars you have to work around. Building new isn’t an option, and you have to renovate instead. And the honest truth about renovation is that it’s messy. You have to clear old stuff out of the way to make room for new stuff. You have to rebuild foundations. You have to fill in cracks. You have to make a bigger mess before you can start making it better.

The Bible talks about this in Hosea 6:1-3. The prophet says, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.

Maybe some people will read that and think negatively of God, but is it really a negative statement? How many times do we need to have our lives torn apart before we realize what really matters? How much agony do we need to experience before we get our heads out of our backsides and start paying attention?

If you’ve got a splinter in your finger, you have to dig it out, and often that hurts more than the splinter itself does. If you’ve got an organ that’s not working or a growth that needs to be removed, the process of surgery usually causes more pain than the organ or growth did. But you’ve got to get it out.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]You can’t just wipe the slate clean. You can’t just build new. You have to remodel, and remodeling is messy. [/su_pullquote]

If a relationship in your life is causing you pain, don’t just give up on it. Don’t just walk away from it. If your perspective on life or God or people or work or whatever is making you bitter and resentful, don’t just give up. Your emotional response to a bad situation is an indication that something is broken and needs to be fixed. Sometimes it’s the people around you. Many times it’s your own self.

You can’t just wipe the slate clean. You can’t just build new. You have to remodel, and remodeling is messy. But when you’re finished, isn’t it amazing? Once you complete a remodeling project, it’s incredible to see it, compare it to what it used to be, invite people in to marvel at it.

That could be your life. That could be your relationships.

If it feels like God is hurting you today, don’t walk away from Him. That means He’s working on you. That means He’s remodeling your life. Instead of running away from Him, work with Him. Find the spots that need attention and get your hands dirty. Get the old stuff out. Make room for the new. And get ready to invite people inside to show them what God has done with a space you thought was hopeless.

Grace for your heroes

Who is your hero? Don’t think about it too long. Who’s the first person that comes to mind? A teacher? A mentor? A parent or grandparent? We all have heroes. Some are older than us. Some are even younger than us. Others are our same age. And even though we know they are “only human” we still elevate them because to us, they’re larger than life. It’s not that we put them on a pedestal (though some of us do), it’s just that we have such high expectations for them.

So what happens when your hero falls? What happens when your hero makes a judgment call that hurts someone else? What happens when your hero sins?

Does it shake your world? Does it rock your faith? Or do you deny it and stand with them regardless of the truth? You know what I’m talking about. You exclaim that the stories can’t be true. You insist that your hero can’t have done anything wrong. How could they? They’re heroes. They know better. They know people are looking up to them, following them. They wouldn’t have made such a horrible choice. They couldn’t have.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but everyone fails. Even your heroes.

8ZB9C03AIJToday’s verses are Romans 3:10-20.

As the Scriptures say,
“No one is righteous—
not even one.
No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.
Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
Their tongues are filled with lies.
Snake venom drips from their lips.
Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
They rush to commit murder.
Destruction and misery always follow them.
They don’t know where to find peace.
They have no fear of God at all.”
Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

The truth about following Christ is that everyone needs grace, from the worst of us to the best of us. No one is perfect. We know that, but knowing it and living it are two separate things.

It’s really, really easy to fixate on the “good” Christians, the ones who know the Bible, the ones who talk to God, the ones who have the answers. They’re the people we go to when we have questions. They’re the ones we ask when we’re afraid or uncertain or when our faith is faltering. And in our minds we think there’s absolutely no way that they would ever turn against God. They would never disobey. They would never do anything God says is wrong.

No one is righteous means that no one always does the right thing. Does that mean you shouldn’t trust anyone? Does that mean you shouldn’t build relationships with people? No, that’s not what it means at all.

It means that even your heroes need grace. They need the same grace from you that Christ offered to them.

Not excuses. Grace has nothing to do with making excuses. Grace doesn’t live in denial either. Grace recognizes that you’ve screwed up royally yet doesn’t hold it against you.

It’s good to have heroes. It’s good to have people in your life to run to when you’re scared or feeling vulnerable. Just remember that people are people. Don’t put your trust in people. Don’t build your foundation on any person other than Jesus Christ. Because He is the righteous one, and He doesn’t change.

What people say about you doesn’t matter

Have you ever discovered that someone has been telling lies about you? Maybe they haven’t been spreading lies about you around, but they believe a lie about you. Maybe it’s something you did or something you said, and somehow it got lost in translation or it got turned around. Regardless of how it happened or even what happened, you end up the butt of someone else’s antagonism.

It’s easy to believe lies about other people, especially if you don’t know them well. That’s why it’s so important to check all your facts before you take someone’s word for it. Not that anyone would willfully mislead another person (even though some people do). But it’s like those crazy news stories that float around on the internet that can’t possibly be true. It’s always good to check them out on Snopes.com or on other reputable news sites before you start spreading them around. The same is true when it comes to stories about people you know.

But that’s how you handle it when you’re hearing a rumor about someone else. What do you do when you find out that someone is spreading rumors about you?

nature-person-hands-girl_1577x1044Today’s verses are Psalm 109:1-5.

O God, whom I praise,
don’t stand silent and aloof
while the wicked slander me
and tell lies about me.
They surround me with hateful words
and fight against me for no reason.
I love them, but they try to destroy me with accusations
even as I am praying for them!
They repay evil for good,
and hatred for my love.

There are lots of ways to handle rumor spreaders. In my experience, it’s often good to address the person directly and kindly. Most of the time, the whole situation has developed because of a misunderstanding. More often than not, no one is truly at fault. There isn’t really a bad guy in the case of a miscommunication.

But every now and then you run into people who just want to hurt people. You can’t reason with them. You can’t explain anything. And even if you try to reason or explain, they won’t listen. They only hear what they want to hear, and they’re deaf to anything else. Ever run into one of those folks? They’re not a lot of fun to talk to, and they’re really not much fun to get into an argument with.

It’s always a good idea to address conflict when it arises. Address it immediately and address it to the person who has a problem with you directly. Address it humbly and graciously. Accept responsibility where you’re responsible, and ask forgiveness if you’ve done wrong. That’s your job as a Christ-follower. Beyond that, you can’t do anything else.

If that person continues to lie about you and spread rumors about you, there’s not much you can do about it. Not to be a downer, but that’s their choice. And it’s not your responsibility. The only recourse you have in that situation is to live the kind of life that contradicts everything they say about you.

Well, that’s not the only recourse, I suppose. You always have the same option David did, just like in this Psalm. He took it to the Lord. He asked God for help, for intervention.

But no matter if that person forgives you and lets it go, or if they continue to hate you and tell lies about you, it’s your job to love that person and pray for them. Honestly. Sincerely. Genuinely. Pray for them. Ask God to bless them. Ask the Lord to be real and apparent in their lives. That doesn’t mean you need to go out of your way to be kind to them, although if you can manage it, you might really shock them (which might be funny). But definitely love them as best you can.

And from there? Just keep moving forward. It’s hard for a people-pleaser like me to accept, but not everyone will like me. Not everyone will love me. The same is true for you too. But it doesn’t matter what people say about you; it matters how you choose to live.

Where would you be today without your team?

One of the things I’ve always loved about camping is the teamwork. Everyone has a job to do, and as much as possible (when we were younger) we were given jobs that matched our skills. I mean sometimes you just had to wash the coffee pot out, even if you didn’t drink coffee or didn’t like washing dishes. But it was your turn, and coffee pot needed to be cleaned. By doing your part, you helped the whole team.

Sometimes I think Christ-followers forget that we’re on the same team. We hurt each other by what we say or by what we don’t say. We misunderstand each other. We jump to hurtful conclusions. We take sides. We point fingers and exclaim that if the offender was a good enough Christian, he or she would know better than to behave like that. And we forget about grace and mercy and forgiveness, and that without them, we’re just like those who have no hope. And our little team falls apart.

21503D358DToday’s verses are Hebrews 10:23-25.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

The whole world doesn’t belong to the same family. We aren’t all children of God by birth. We become children of God when we choose to follow Jesus. When that happens, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you’ve done or where you’re going. You are immediately adopted into God’s family. And that means the Christian who’s sitting next to you in the church pew is your brother or sister, and you’re going to spend eternity with him or her.

That’s great news if you like the Christian sitting next to you. But what if you don’t like them?

Oh, unscrew that halo. There are plenty of Christians in your life that you don’t like. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s not a sin to dislike someone. But as a Christ-follower, you are called to love them. Period. There’s no discussion. And love means something a little different than our culture believes. Real Love takes a lot more focus and energy and sacrifice and endurance than what our culture calls love. Real Love is only possible with God’s help.

People fail. Even Christians fail. They will disappoint you. They will hurt you. They’ll reject you and betray you and falsely accuse you. And in the face of all that, you are to love them in return. You are to respond to their anger and hurt and misinformation with grace and peace and patience.

If you’re a Christ-follower, you shouldn’t respond with name calling or rumor spreading. You shouldn’t call names. You shouldn’t lash out with angry accusations. And you shouldn’t threaten. Please, please don’t threaten. Threats never help anyone, and they certainly never deepen a relationship. People who are on the same team should never threaten each other.

Instead of threatening, lashing out, trying to hurt your brother or sister in Christ, think of how to approach them with love. Try to consider how they feel. Think about where they are in their life and what might be causing them to act the way they are.

It’s so easy to misunderstand. Are you willing to destroy another person simply because you assume you know what he or she is feeling? Remember, we’re on the same team. Remember, Christ died for that person too. Remember you aren’t perfect, and you’ve probably made as many or more mistakes than the Christian you’re angry at. Where would you be now if the Christians in your life had just given up on you?

Maybe you’re hurting, but don’t hit back. Believe it or not, the whole situation probably isn’t about you anyway. Hurting people hurt people, and none of us are perfect. It’s up to you whether or not to be gracious.

Just know that God has enough of a sense of humor that if you don’t let it go, He’ll make you be next door neighbors in heaven for all eternity. Wouldn’t you rather sort things out down here before He comes back to get us?

We all need each other. So give teamwork a chance. God’s got us on the same team for a reason.