Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.” ~ Proverbs 29:25

I don't know about you, but I worry too much about what other people think. Perhaps I assume what they are thinking and perhaps they aren't thinking of me at all. Sometimes it's made all too clear what people think of me and it's not good. Other times it may be good things...but I guess it's human nature to focus more on the bad than the good.

In general, I've been blessed to be surrounded by loving friends and family. But over the years there have been people who've come into my life who caused hurt feelings and caused me to question myself and my behavior and my beliefs. I don't like feeling hurt. Nobody likes feeling hurt. I know that I don't like hurting people, but I also know that I've done that very thing at times.

Sometimes we lash out at those we love because we're hurting inside and don't know how to ask for the love we need. Or perhaps we don't understand why we feel a certain way or act in certain ways. Sometimes we want to hurt other people in the way that we've been hurt. Sometimes we don't realize that our behavior has a negative reaction.

“Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them into nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.”
~ Mister Rogers

I've always been drawn to the "bad guy" in stories - specifically the ones who don't necessarily start out bad but live with a lack of love or support and that eventually drives away the good. I especially love to see the struggle, the back and forth, the hope - it makes for fascinating characters in books or movies or TV. Some of my favorites include Heathcliff from the book Wuthering Heights and Lex Luthor from the TV show Smallville. Unfortunately, these characters do turn evil and while that was a matter of choice, I truly believe there was a tipping point and had some love and affection and support been provided a different result could have occurred.

In real life, with real people, I believe what makes a difference is Christ. When one comes to know who Jesus is, and the sacrifice He made on our behalf and can come to believe and trust that gift, it makes all the difference in the world. To know you are so loved. To know you are so unworthy, and yet chosen anyway. To know that you will always have Someone on your side, in your corner, loving you unconditionally - how can that not make a life-altering difference?

Sandpaper people, the people who rub us the wrong way, are not only a reality of life, but they are a gift from God. Now stay with me on this.
God has used these difficult relationships as catalysts in my life through which He has lovingly upset my comfortable plans and purposefully redirected my self-ordered steps. The results have often been chaotic and unsettling, but always life changing.
God is not committed to our comfort. God is committed to creating the character of Jesus Christ within us. One way He accomplishes that transformation is through the abrasive and coarse work of sandpaper people as they grind off and sand away our rough edges, even to the point of breaking. Suffering comes in many ways, but always with the purpose of making us strong enough to endure pain, and weak enough to rely upon God.
Difficult relationships and the brokenness they bring will make us bitter or better. It is our choice. We can insist on comfort and forfeit character, or we can embrace the brokenness, knowing God will use it for our good.
~ Mary Southerland

I know I have definitely had sandpaper people in my life. I have not always reacted to them well. I have gotten too angry, too upset, and too frustrated. I haven't been able to see the good or the ways in which God might be using them to refine me. Especially in the midst of the difficult interactions, my faith and my hope was not around. I was hurt and angry and annoyed. I wish I could have reacted better. I hope that in the future, I will make better choices.

“But I mustn’t encourage you to go on thinking about her: that, after all, is almost the greatest evil nasty people can do us – to become an obsession, to haunt our minds. A brief prayer for them, and then away to other subjects, is the thing, if one can only stick to it.” ― C.S. Lewis
“It’s also useful to think ‘Either [name] is not so bad as, in my present anger, I think. If not, how unjust I must be. If so, how terribly [name] needs my prayers.” ― C.S. Lewis

I wish that I had read these quotes a few years ago. I suffered for several years with a person who was an almost constant sandpaper person. It was difficult and it was frustrating. I tried lots of things to try to deal with them. But I focused too much on my hurt and basically obsessed about it. I definitely didn't pray for them enough and while I didn't do anything I regret like losing my temper or saying hurtful words, I didn't make things any better and my passive aggressive behavior probably made things worse.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” ~ Romans 12:17-18

“If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge.” ~ Ephesians 4:26

Living at peace with everyone is hard. I know I rarely succeed in this. Maybe it's human nature. Maybe it's because it's easier to be angry than to forgive. But easy isn't right. And while my head knows this, my heart and my feelings don't always match up. This is where it becomes necessary to depend on God. To be able to give up the anger and the hurt to Him. With His help we are able to let go and forgive.

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” ~ C.S. Lewis
“Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” ~ Colossians 3:13

When we think about forgiveness from the perspective of how much God has forgiven us, it becomes all too clear why we should forgive others. This doesn't make it easy to do. I know I tend to hold on to my hurt feelings much longer than is good for me or for anyone else. It's almost like I hoard the feeling of being wronged or hurt. I struggle with this because I don't want to do it, but it seems to be my default. I guess it's the desire for justice, for an apology, for the situation to be fixed. The problem is, these things don't always happen. And honestly, the person usually hurt by the lack of forgiveness is me and not the other person.

"Forgiving requires us to let go of our anger, of our desire to punish and of the need for an apology. In forgiving, we're ultimately seeking to free ourselves." ~ Alex Lickerman, M.D.
Forgiveness isn't a once-and-done act; it involves choosing, again and again, to replace anger and resentment with understanding toward someone who has done you wrong. ~ Prevention magazine

It is a matter of choice. And it is a process and not something that happens once and is done forever. It requires examining your feelings, recognizing the hurt someone has caused, and eventually realizing that letting go of the hurt and forgiving is better in the long run. I had the opportunity to do this once. My best friend had been going through a very difficult season of life and in that place of hurt chose to push aside many relationships. It was incredibly hurtful and upsetting. What helped me was to keep a journal of my feelings as they happened. I could let go of each feeling as it occurred and over time through that process was able to come to a place of forgiveness. By the time she contacted me and asked forgiveness, I was already willing and able to do so. And my journal allowed me to be completely honest about my feelings with her so that we could move forward in our relationship from an honest and real place of forgiveness and starting over. And it was an incredible miracle to have her back in my life and to see our friendship deepen and become more honest and free than it has ever been before.

“When we forgive, we don’t deny the hurt that we have received. We don’t deny that it was wrong, but we acknowledge that there is more to the offender than the offense.” ~ John Cordrey
“People are gonna disappoint you sometimes. We’re flawed creatures. Not one of us is perfect, not even you, and you’ve gotta let people mess up and then you’ve gotta forgive them. That’s just life.” ~ Jenny Han

We all hurt people. Maybe not always intentionally. But we do. And we hope that others will forgive us. Yes, it's hard when we are the ones who need to forgive. But this is when we must depend most on God. He is the only one who can help us to forgive and truly let go. On our own we are incapable of doing so completely. 

“It is when we come to the Lord in our nothingness, our powerlessness and our helplessness that He then enables us to love in a way which, without Him, would be absolutely impossible.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot

Without God, we cannot love others completely. Without His example of true forgiveness, we cannot truly know forgiveness. When we accept and receive that forgiveness, it reminds us of how much we don't deserve it, and yet there it is. When we know such forgiveness, how can we not forgive others? I know it's a struggle. For me, it definitely continues to be. But I want to forgive. I want to let go. I want to trust God with my hurt feelings. I want to trust God with my anger toward others. I want to trust God and His ability to help me to let go and forgive. I want that peace that only comes with forgiveness. Do you want it too?

“Dear LORD, please help me not to harbor resentment and bitterness in my heart. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, enable me to let go of my bitterness and forgive those who have hurt me.” ~ Our Daily Bread devotional 2/5/13

Lord, please fill my heart with Your love for the sandpaper people in my life. Please let me see them as You see them. Use them, Father; to refine me to the place that I am the woman You created me to be. I choose to thank You for the difficult relationships in my life, knowing that through these abrasive people, Your work is accomplished in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen. ~ Girlfriends in God devotional 6/19/14

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for Your ultimate forgiveness. Thank You for the gift of Your sacrifice on the cross. Help me to remember this in the times I need to forgive those who have hurt me. Help me to see others as You see them and to see the ways that You are using others to mold and shape me into the woman You want me to be. Help me to grown in faith and knowledge of You and to be able to let go of my hurt and anger and to instead pray for others. Not in a holier-than-thou way, but from a place of realization that they are hurting people. Please be with those reading this and help them to know You and the love You have for all of us. Help them to place their trust in You in all circumstances and with all their feelings. Thank You for loving us. We love you. Amen.


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