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Why Forgive?

I believe we all have encountered an experience when we felt as though we were treated unfairly. We were taken advantage of. Cheated. Abandoned. Rejected. Cast aside. Undervalued. Abused. Emotionally hurt. Ridiculed. Criticized. Forgotten. Persecuted. Bullied. Need I say more? The list could go on.

In times of deep hurting and pain we often find it easy to become angry and bitter. We hurt, so we want others to feel the same pain that they inflicted upon us. We want others to know the ache that they caused us and we seek to get revenge at all costs. We desire them to know the anguish they caused our heart. We don't feel as though we can feel okay again until God has brought ultimate justice. The pain feels like it is a constant burden to carry because we can't let go of the heavy ache that consistently drags our heart down every day.

We don't just grow bitter with our circumstances, lives, or even people, but when terrible things occur we look to God, the One who is in control of all things and question how He could allow this to happen. Even though forgiveness often needs to be extended to people, it deeply impacts our relationship with God. When we grow weary and angry in our circumstances, we often draw God into the mix and hold a grudge as to why He would allow pain like this if He loves us unconditionally. Sometimes we may not even realize that unresolved forgiveness is hindering our relationship with God. Take a moment and ponder if there are any areas you may be harboring unforgiveness in your heart. This may often involve some deep digging to discover areas we have been overlooking to seek out forgiveness in our lives. It could even be something from many years ago. Unresolved hurts from a painful past can sometimes feel resolved, when in reality, they are indistinctly haunting you in your present circumstances. Be sure to take some time in prayer asking God to reveal any harbored unforgiveness in your heart, because it truly does influence your relationship with God, no matter how far back the pain goes.

Forgiveness seems easy when the offenses are insignificant, until it requires us to let go of severe hurts and anguish that have tarnished our heart. This is something I have struggled with recently, and in all honesty, it's been something I have difficulty admitting my failure in. While sometimes we can find kindness to display to those who have hurt us, the ache grows deeper than the surface. We can put on a happy exterior and act like all is fine, while within us, we are battling our need to tightly grip the pain and not let it go. We seek to relive the pain because somehow it feels like by doing so, it's not being forgotten or overlooked.

I've heard it said many times that forgiveness isn't ridding someone of their actions, but rather, it is freeing you from the weighty burden it causes you to continue holding on to the pain. While I have found this to be true, it still definitely does not make the process easier. Offering forgiveness can often feel like it's taking that gaping hole in your heart and pretending like it never happened. It feels as though by handing over those hurtful experiences to God is like admitting that they didn't affect you in any way, when in reality those were the things that tore your heart in two, and in some cases, caused you to never truly be the same again.

It is here that I find myself selfishly wallowing. Self pity. Thinking only of myself and my hurts, instead of thinking how I would like to be treated if I was in that place seeking forgiveness. I would appreciate grace displayed. Let's look at a passage in scripture that relates to forgiveness.

Matthew 18:26-29

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 
"Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." 
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 
As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him.
Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. 
"Be patient with me" he begged," and I will pay back everything." 
The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go." 
But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. 
He grabbed him and began to choke him. 
"Pay back what you owe me!" he demanded. 
His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, "Be patient with me, and I will pay it back."

In this passage we are given the illustration on how we can interpret our actions when we choose not to display forgiveness to others when we have been extended the most undeserved grace Jesus has so freely offered. We often go around holding grudges and "choking" it out of those who have hurt us until we get our apology or desired justice. God's perspective can be interpreted as the "master" in the passage and looks at us gripping our circumstances "by the throat" and not releasing those deep scars on our heart. We expect to be forgiven, but when it comes to applying that to our personal relationships with others we expect a totally different treatment.

Looking even deeper into a love so strong that was willing to come and offer grace to us even when we didn't even desire to be forgiven. A sinner like me was offered forgiveness by a God who did no wrong and chose to love someone as lowly and imperfect as me. If a perfect God could display such grace and forgiveness to someone so undeserving as me, I too should be able to extend that same grace to others. We may never be able to fully understand the extent of God's grace for all of us, but God always sees the depth of pain that we have endured and knows the level of grace we have offered to others. Nothing goes unnoticed. Not even the deepest of pain.

Even through the hardest of circumstances when it seems like you can't let go of something that is just seems "unforgivable," we should remember these truths:

01. We are just as guilty

When we compare our life with another and determine that we haven't committed as many "dreadful" sins as that person, we must remember that in God's eyes none of us are worthy of eternity in heaven. We cannot achieve perfection without God's grace. It is only through Him that we are considered worthy to accept His free gift of eternal life. When we choose to judge others and hold a grudge or seek revenge on another, we are in fact, taking God's role of judgement. We are bearing that burden that we never were truly created to carry. God sees us all the same, no favoritism. If God can look at all of us equally and not seek revenge, shouldn't we too?

02. Don't let Satan win

Shifting the perspective on our circumstances can help us see things in a different light. When we choose to hold the bitterness within our hearts and cease to offer forgiveness it truly affects our relationship with God, others and even ourselves. When Satan deceives us with his underhanded schemes he is drawing us away from the true Source who can help mend our brokenness. Satan wants to get us so caught up on the pain that we won't let go. He wants us to continually wallow in our self-pity just like a snowball rolling down a large hill, accumulating and growing as it picks up speed over time.

03. There could be more than meets the eye

Sometimes there's more to a circumstance than we can see. We only see one side of the story, while God sees the whole picture. We don't always know what others are going through and what they're dealing with. It isn't our place to judge them and seek revenge when we don't know what is fully going on. You never know what battles they may be facing.

04. This circumstance isn't about me, but rather about how God is displayed

This is a tough one. Our circumstances aren't about us, but how we handle them. Did we become angry and seek revenge or did we display love and compassion? It's a hard thing to do. In every circumstance we should focus not on how we've been hurt, but rather how we acted through it. Did others see Christ displayed in us? Did they see a difference in us? Did we choose to act how Jesus would? Or did we let our feelings get the best of us? Choose to react how Jesus would. Display His love towards others even when it goes against your feelings.

05. Offer your forgiveness, it's up to them to accept it

Sometimes people aren't aware of the deep wounds they caused on your heart. Sometimes people don't want to admit to their actions. Sometimes the pain of the circumstance is hard enough to endure, let alone when you never got that apology. When it didn't mean enough to that person to make it right. When they didn't realize how their actions hit you harder than they realized. When the pain you suffered through felt like it went unnoticed and unheard. When someone who deeply hurt us doesn't offer an apology it makes the process that much more difficult. When we display forgiveness, even to someone who isn't sorry for what they've done, we aren't letting what they did slip through the cracks and get overlooked. God is still taking care of it. It's just one less thing we need to burden our heart with. We are giving it over to God and letting Him handle it. We aren't choosing to seek revenge or harbor on the hurtful things anymore. In result, we are setting free that "disease" that was contaminating our soul. When we feel unable to offer forgiveness we can seek God for strength to be able to offer them grace even when we don't have the love to display it on our own. We no longer have to feel infected with that "sickness" eating away at us anymore. Christ has healed our heart filling it with His love, so in result, we can display it to others.

Forgiveness is something that doesn't happen overnight. It's not something that we can check off our list and mark it as "complete." Sometimes true forgiveness from a hurtful circumstance can take immense time to overcome. Offering up forgiveness isn't often just a one time thing, in many cases we need to do it repetitively until we finally are able to hand it over to God and move on. Even though the pain of the circumstance may seem like it's being "forgotten" by offering your forgiveness it never goes unnoticed by God. He sees the pain and the effort it took to forgive that person. He sees. He knows. Go to Him and ask Him to reveal to you any unforgiveness that you may have been harboring over time. Don't let it come between you and Him. Your relationship with Him is more valuable than that circumstance you can't let go of. Ask Him to help you let go of the grip you so tightly hold and release the situation into His hands. He's a fair Judge. He'll take care of it in the best way possible. 


Measuring Success

How do you measure success? Is it in the grades you received in school? Is it based on your paystub? Is it determined by your job role? Is it how popular you are? Is it how many likes you get on Facebook? Is it by how many friends you have? Is it in a relationship status? Is it by a flawless appearance? Is it by knowing all the answers? Is it by rising to the top and being the best? Is it based on how many awards you've received?

We all measure success in various forms. We compare ourselves with others whom we think have reached success and we grow weary when we look at our lives in comparison. We become so caught up in trying to meet up to everyone's expectations and approval that we forget that true success isn't found in a lofty job title or how much our yearly income is. It's not based on knowledge or understanding. It's not even being the smartest or knowing all the right answers.

True success is attained when we humbly realize that there's more to life than what we see. Our purpose here is so much more than getting good grades or rising to the top. It's making the most of our opportunities and using the gifts God has given us, even in the smallest of things. Success is when we can look at our dark circumstances and trust that God is using them to display His light, even when it is beyond our understanding.

I can't count the times that my focus has been clouded and my attention gets focused on material possessions or acceptance from others. How often I cling to find my place here in the world, when in reality, this is not my home. God has placed each of us here temporarily and we have the choice of whether we will use this time to invest it for something eternal, or something temporal. I want more to my life than the fleeting whims and acceptance this world distracts me with.

Even when the world rejects us. Even when we are the only one doing what's right. Even when our paycheck is measly. Even when we don't have a friend to stick by our side. Even when we don't look like that super model. Even when we occupy the lowliest job. Even if we feel untalented. Even if we are single. Even if we are invisible to the world. Our success isn't measured by those things. It is measured in our heart. It is measured by our intentions. It is measured deep within, a place only God can see. Success can't be seen or visibly noticed. It is something that reaches to the inmost part of our heart.

Let your success rather be defined by how you reacted when you endured through that tragic circumstance. Your trust in God when it felt like He was more silent than ever. Your work ethic when nobody else was watching. Your determination when everything was screaming at you to give up. Your courage to stand up for what was right, even if you were rejected. Your joy even when you had every right to be discouraged. When you offered love when it was most difficult to give. These are the things that I like to use to measure true success.


Why Believe?

Have you ever felt like you were beginning to feel close to God and your trust in Him was beginning to strengthen to a deeper level. Then all of a sudden it seemed as if all your dreams and desires were dashed and it was like God left you empty handed. It was like He turned His back on you just when you were beginning to trust Him the most. You thought He wanted your best, but it felt like He abandoned you, leaving you with nothing but a broken heart, resulting in an endless amount of weighty questions.

What once felt like a close and personal relationship with God left you feeling like He was distant and unconcerned. The One who proclaimed to do the impossible, and was in control of it all, left you feeling more disappointed than those who chose not to follow and trust God. You trusted in Him, so why did God lead you here? Why are you suffering for believing God? Why are you feeling more lost than when you first started? Why does God feel so far away when He promised to be close to those who seek Him?

While I don't have the answers to God's reasoning for why He does certain things, I have found that while we're in the midst of our mess we are blinded to the fact that God is using even the most traumatic experiences to perform His greatest miracles. Miracles aren't always amazing performances of wonderful bright and sunny experiences. Miracles sometimes occur even in the darkest of valleys. In fact, I've often found that God works the most in me when life feels the darkest. I've heard it said that we should only be worried when we aren't struggling through something. If everything is going good, then maybe we should begin to get concerned. Satan likes to use both the good and the bad to get us to trip up. Can I say that the times I feel farthest from God is in those good moments of life where things seem to be okay and I don't feel as though I need God for direction. God performs miracles in our lives through the darkest of times, but sometimes we just don't see them until we come through the darkness and into the light.

When God seems silent it is our first inkling to assume that He's not present. When we fail to see any "activity" we begin to question His presence. We often forget that God is different than us. When people seem distant and inactive in our lives, usually we derive that they are uninterested. If they really cared they would be more involved with our life. Although that is not always the case with everyone, we can rest assured that God operates on a different level. Even though God seems silent, it isn't determined by His love and involvement in our lives. Sometimes God's silence is used as a tool for us to strengthen our trust. God doesn't always display His presence in our lives through dramatic terms, sometimes He speaks and works in our lives through moments of intimate silence.

In I Kings 19:12 God causes a fire and earthquake to occur near the cave where Elijah was hiding out due to his fear of Jezebel's threats. God had asked Elijah to come out of the cave so he could stand in God's presence. Although the wind, fire and earthquake all were great forms of power and God's handiwork, it is clearly stated that God's presence wasn't in any of them. It was the silence after the great powerful acts that God's voice was clearly heard through a gentle whisper. Although God does use great acts of manifestation to display His presence, sometimes God chooses to speak to us in the humblest of ways; only to be experienced when we are willing to listen and wait for God. Sometimes God's presence comes in the most unexpected of times and conditions. It may not be how we expected, but God is trying to teach us something special.

I can't count the number of times that I've struggled through a trial, wondering where God was and questioned what He was doing. When I reached the other side of the trial and took a glimpse of my past, I was astonished by how He protected and led me exactly to where I am. Things don't always make sense when we're in them, and sometimes things don't always make sense looking back over our painful past either. We often try to make sense of our "little world" and interpret what God is doing in our lives as if it were something harmful. If we could only see the awesome plan God is orchestrating far beyond our comprehension. When God feels like He's trying to break us, He is rather trying to break open our heart and keep chipping away at the rough edges to produce a heart that is softened and refined.

Let's not forget the God whom we serve. His promises are secure. His character is flawless. He never changes, and in result, all He has spoken and all that He is will never alter depending on condition or time. With a world constantly changing it is impossible to find a steadfast foundation to rest in. With people's opinions and intentions changing momentarily it causes us to become hesitant in opening up to anyone or giving much of ourselves because we're afraid of the uncertainty of our acceptance. We are afraid that while someone may love us today, that love may fade in an instant. With God we can be certain that His love for us will never change. Sometimes it is difficult for me to comprehend how God cannot change. He won't love us today and forget about us tomorrow. He isn't surprised by our present circumstances and isn't trying to keep up-to-speed with our future plans. He's not aimlessly throwing things into place in our lives. It is all carefully thought out, organized and prepared. Not a few days in advance, but way before we even began life on this earth. We can have full confidence knowing that God has got our life under control.

Don't let your past, or present, circumstances consume you. Let them be covered by the hope of God's amazing future for you. Learn from the past, but don't live there. Let your past be the launching pad of the great things God has taught you and use it to overcome the present and the future. Don't let Satan cloud your view by making you believe all the hard circumstances you have faced were useless.

Satan is a great deceiver. He causes us to doubt and lose our faith. If Satan gets you to believe that God is your enemy you will never be able to overcome effectively. With a recent struggle I felt as though it left me questioning God's love for me. It wasn't until a few months later that He allowed my heart to change and I realized that even though I felt alone, He was never against me. He was working through those difficult times and He was fighting through it with me. I was never alone. God hadn't rejected me. He didn't forget about me. Satan was filling my head, and heart, with lies to tear me down in the weakest areas of my soul. He wanted me so worn out and stripped down so that I would keep crawling and falling deeper into his deceptive schemes. He wanted my perception to be clouded and me believing that God was my enemy. He wanted my trust to be shaken so I would question God's provision and purpose of my life. He wanted my heart to become bitter with God so that I would believe He was against me, when in reality, He's the only One that could ever truly save me from my brokenness. That's how Satan works. That's how he gets us.

God is never our enemy. He's not looking for ways to harm or hurt us. He's not actively wondering how He can get you to fall, trip or mess up. That's Satan's department. God's not secretly withholding things, that would benefit you, out of His need for control. God has promised to supply all our needs and offer His unfailing love to us. Even though God does allow painful circumstances to occur in our lives He is using even the most traumatizing things to be used for something extraordinary. Even though He may not grant us with the desires on our heart, He is protecting us and allowing us to draw into a deeper relationship with Him than if we had all the desires of our heart. He sees the painful scars on your heart and knows the all-too familiar ache that it causes because He went through it with you. He's the Friend that never forsakes and the Father who's always there protecting you.

We can believe that God is in this battle with us. We aren't alone. We aren't forgotten. His silence is being used to strengthen us. His silence doesn't define His presence. We can believe that He's working and present even through the numbing silence. We can believe because He's not finished working yet. There's more to our lives than the daily struggle we face each day. There's more to our lives that the eye can see. Our circumstances have a much deeper meaning that we may never fully comprehend until we reach eternity. We can believe because God's promises are trustworthy and His Word stands true. We can believe because nothing surprises God. Nothing ever passes through His hands that He knows that you and Him aren't capable of getting through together!

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. // Isaiah 41:10

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. // Exodus 14:14

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. // Isaiah 43:2

Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee. // James 4:7


Why This?

Have you ever encountered a struggle that left you devastated, leaving you in a place where you questioned your faith and God's reasoning for the pain? Maybe you've endured a circumstance that left you empty-handed and utterly broken. Just when it seemed like God was working and your life was finally making some progress into a direction you were desiring, everything came crashing down and all you were left with was the numbing pain of what to do with the pieces of your shattered heart. It is during these times that it is difficult to process why God leads us to dark places such as these. Maybe it seems like your journey consists of tiny glimpses of light that quickly dissipate into the darkest of nights with no end in sight. Just when it seemed like God was about to do something miraculous, it felt like your dreams were dashed and you were left with the shattered pieces of your hopeful heart.

Maybe occurrences in your past still make your heart ache and break beyond what seems like nothing could ever repair. Some hurts just run so deep that nothing can seem to ease the pain. Sometimes hurts like these feel like time will never heal the dark scars that were engraved on a battered heart. It's during these times of bitter suffering that are the most difficult to find God's presence and purpose for the situation at hand. It's hard to accept that "all things do work together for good." It's hard to trust that He's working it out.

There have been times in my life that I thought God was providing direction in my life and I placed my trust in Him thinking He was leading me a certain way, and then out of nowhere the opposite of what I thought God was leading me toward occurred and it led me into intense questioning.

Knowing God can do anything and having a faith that He is capable of all things can sometimes lead us into discouragement when He chooses not to provide the way we were desiring. We know God is capable of doing the impossible, but in this case He chose not to and it leaves us in utter confusion and bewilderment at His decision.

In these dark moments I have found my heart aching and my mind asking God:

Why did this happen? 
Why are You allowing this? 
Why did You not provide the way I wanted? 
Why did You choose not to do the impossible when You were capable? 
Why was Your direction so clear, only to leave me in this uncertain dark place? 
Why do You keep stripping my life of what I desire the most? 
Why do You withhold things from me that others are so freely given?

Some things just do not make sense now. I cannot tell you how many times I have questioned God's purpose and why He chose to end certain seasons of my life that I wish would have continued; or why He chooses to end certain loved one's lives earlier than others. The biggest struggle for me to comprehend is God's reasoning. I have often questioned if the pain I have experienced is worth the purpose God is using it for.

While I don't have an answer that accurately relates to everyone's circumstances I have found this to be true: God identifies with our pain. He sees the deep wounds that scarred us. He sees it all. That is one of the attributes I love most about God. He knew us before we were born and He's been with us all along. He knows our full story. He is not just viewing our life in snippets or snapshots, but He sees our life from beginning to end. Nothing is overlooked, missed or forgotten. He knew what caused our first heartbreak, and knows how those same struggles have been digging deeper into our hearts over time.

God is not just someone who listens, but He understands. He gets it. He has been there before. He knows what it is like to suffer. He has gone through rejection. Immense physical pain. Emotional trauma. Torture. Persecution. Betrayal. Loneliness. He has not just experienced the emotions, but He is the one that has been with us, experiencing the pain as we endure through it. He's the one that has been by our side helping us along. Everything that broke your heart, broke His. Every worry that you've faced, He knew the weight it caused. Every heartbreak that continued to dig deeper into your soul, He was there taking every hit.

When you experience those hard struggles and wonder what God is doing, just remember that God sees. You may wonder why certain things are occurring (or the lack thereof), but God has purpose. Even if we did get answers to our many questions, His plan does not always make sense to us. Our finite minds were not made to fathom the vast and great plan that He is using to fulfill His purpose through our lives. This is where faith comes in to play.

Faith is one of those words that we all know, but few really take full advantage of it's full intent, me included. Faith is knowing God has a special purpose and finding rest in knowing that He has got it under control and knows what He's doing. It's trusting His wisdom and acknowledging that we do not need to have all of the answers to be able to find joy in our circumstances.

When we're experiencing the pain and amidst the struggle it is hard to get a clear perspective. We become so engulfed in the situation that it clouds our view. Sometimes we do not realize that the darkest of times is allowing us to grow the most abundantly. It gives us the opportunity to discover God in a more intimate way than we ever could have if everything was going as we desired. Instead, what we thought was breaking us, was in fact, strengthening and refining us beyond our hopes and dreams. You may not see it in this life on earth, but I believe one day we will see that the relentless raging fires that we withstood, were being used to refine us to God's perfection.

If you are looking to your present circumstances and asking God "why this?" remember that He sees your pain and understands your past. It might not make sense now, but nothing we experience is wasted. Nothing. Everything is teaching us something, impacting another's life and strengthening us beyond our greatest hopes and dreams. We may not be happy with our lives or see the results now, but one day we will be surprised by the amazing purpose God was using us to be a part of.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. // Proverbs 3:5-6

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us. // Ephesians 3:10 

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. // James 1:2-4


Living in a Broken Mess

Looking back over this past year has left me with bittersweet emotions. While there were times that bring a smile to my face, I find my memories often being dominated by a numbing pain that seems to endlessly persist. Although it's not always constant, but when the waves of pain do come, they crash and flood in like an overwhelming powerful surf.

At times it felt like God was working and my life was finally making some progress into a direction I was desiring. Then all seemed like it was stripped and I was left with the broken pieces. It seems like my journey consists of tiny glimpses of light that quickly dissipate into the darkest of nights with no end in sight. Just when it seems like God is about to do something miraculous, it seems like my dreams are dashed and I'm left with the shattered pieces of my hopeful heart.

I honestly can't say I've found an answer. I don't know the reasoning. One thing that allows me to hold onto hope, even when the future appears so foggy and uncertain, is resting in the fact that God is working. I may not understand the reasoning for my dashed dreams and broken heart, but God is using this broken mess for something. Sometimes I question whether His reasoning is worth the deep anguish that my circumstances have brought me and it feels like there is no purpose that could seem worthwhile for the suffering it has caused.

Occurrences in my past still make my heart ache and break beyond what seems like nothing could ever repair. Some hurts just run so deep that nothing can seem to ease the pain. Sometimes hurts like these feel like time will never heal the dark scars that were engraved on a battered heart. It's during these times of bitter suffering that are the most difficult to find God's presence and purpose for the situation at hand. It's hard to accept that "all things do work together for good." It's hard to trust that He's working it out. And the hardest of all, is to let it go. Letting go feels like you're losing control. You're overlooking the pain. You're allowing the hurts to be forgotten.

I believe the first step in moving on from a painful past is to find forgiveness in your heart to let it go. Let go of the pain and set it free. Don't let it control you anymore. Don't let those circumstances dictate your happiness. Letting go allows you to give it up to God and find peace in knowing whatever you experienced will be worth the pain and is being used in some miraculous way. Letting go takes the weight of the burden off your heavy heart and into God's almighty hands.

We can begin to find beauty in the mess by reminding ourselves of God's promises. He sees all things. He knows the pain. He will bless you for your obedience. He will provide exactly what you need. He will be with you no matter what. He is a fair Judge. His love for you will never cease. He will never abandon you. You are irreplaceable. God's plan is perfect. He doesn't make mistakes.

Even amidst the circumstances of our past, we can find hope in knowing that God is working in our future and nothing passes through His hands without a purpose. Nothing is too big for God that He can't handle and there's nothing too small that He's not aware of. Even when we feel like our life is out of control and going nowhere, God is up to something and He's directing us exactly where we need to be! 


Grieving through the Holidays

You know it's that time of year again when Christmas rolls around and you're bringing out the decorations and turning your home into a festive wonderland. You find yourself listening to the cheerful peppy tunes on the radio, but somewhere deep inside your heart is aching. You may be able to fake that "merry and bright" attitude, but within you feel a heavy weight tugging your heart down.

Although it's been over 18 years since my dad went home to be with the Lord on that dark November night, every year I still feel a heavy weight nagging at my heart and competing with the joys of the season. When family gets together I somehow always leave feeling like I'm missing that one important piece of me that seems like it will never be fully replaced. Something I see others blessed with, and often take advantage of, and I'm left with an empty heart longing for it to be filled with that same happiness.

People often think that time heals all wounds, but in my experience it definitely doesn't. Within time we can heal, but like with all wounds they are sensitive and can easily be reopened. The tiniest memory can open up that deep dark wound we thought mended years ago. Any loss of a close loved one causes heartache to follow, not just immediately after, but depending on our love for them, it could last a lifetime. Even down the road when we experience another similar loss, all those same memories come flooding back in allowing us to pull up those recollections from the past. Even the happiest of memories can cause the deepest pain because we are quickly reminded that we can never enjoy those cherished moments with them again. They are gone, and it hurts to recall the good times knowing they aren't here to reminisce.

Others often think the pain of losing a loved one is best to be left unspoken. They try to avoid any remembrance of the pain it might cause. They don't know what to say. They don't want to feel awkward. They don't want you to become emotional or upset. Although by ignoring your loss, it sometimes deepens the pain. You feel alone and the one you love has been forgotten as well. That part of you that was so deeply touched by your loved one has been silenced. Since they are no longer here, it feels like their memories have been nullified as well. The deep pain your heart feels weighted down with is left unseen and unheard. If only they knew that you've been craving for someone to ask about them. Your heart has been holding onto the pain and everyone else has so easily moved on.

I have heard that how much you grieve displays how much you love. The deepest of wounds on our heart often are caused by those we love the most. Over the years it often has seemed like those whom I grew close to were either taken away or God took them home to be with Him. It was difficult knowing God knew what was best when all I wanted was someone who would remain by my side without doubts arising whether they would be sticking around for long.

I can honestly say that even amidst the grieving, many funerals and pain, I have come to realize that even though God blesses us with friends and family, we shouldn't be come too dependent on them for our satisfaction. I remember many seasons of my life feeling like God had stripped everything from my life and I felt so alone. I questioned what God was doing. I didn't understand how it could be His will to leave me so empty handed and heart-broken. Looking back I can see how God was using those darkest of moments to strengthen my relationship with Him. Because I didn't have those relationships with others I went to Him with my worries, problems and tears. Unlike everyone else whom I questioned their commitment and acceptance, I was able to fully open my heart up to God and rest assured He would never leave or reject me. Even through the darkest of nights and the endless questions of my past, God has provided me with hope of an eternal home where I will spend eternity with Him and also see all those who have gone before me where we will live pain-free and not be limited in our time with one another.

Even amidst the pain and heartbreaks you have faced, you can rest in the promise that God works all things together for good. He's got an amazing plan for your life and every step is perfectly planned out. Nothing is being overlooked or misguided. There's purpose to those darkest of valleys God has led you through, and He's been by your side all the way. God could be using those deepest wounds to influence and prepare you to provide comfort to others who are enduring similar struggles. Let God use your broken heart, shattered life and find joy knowing He is strengthening and using you to display His power and glory!