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THE HARDEST QUESTION


A former pastor once said, “There’s no pain like family pain.” I would agree, as I’ve seen my share of it. It just feels so in-your-face because in my mind, these are the folks who are supposed to love me the most. A false expectation? I don’t think so… not in the Biblical sense anyway. Plus, it’s how I was raised. When other people fail you, family stands beside you, no matter what. When a family conflict erupts, it’s a huge breeding ground for the enemy of our souls to wreak havoc & long- term division.

This week I was in contact with a gal from Ohio, who e-mailed to thank me for confronting the issue of gossip. As I read her story & shared my thoughts, I realized that now was the time to share a challenge my faithful Father put in front of me a few years ago. I could easily identify with her expressed emotions & her desire to let Christ live through her while experiencing long-term family pain. Family dynamics are most certainly a refining “tool” because, as the saying goes, you can choose your friends but not your family. That’s God’s call. That being said, you tend to assume you know what the other person/family member means by their words or by their actions, because of past dynamics. The irony is, you don’t even have to see family regularly, to grapple with living the truth in these hard relationships. For my long-distance sister in Christ, her struggle has been going on for 50 years without reconciliation. As the brunt of the gossip, she has tried for the last 20 years to allow Jesus Christ to respond through her. And to not believe past lies.

In my quest to love my “sandpaper” people, God brought the truth of I Peter 4:12-19 to my attention. In summary, we are called to share the sufferings of Christ & entrust our souls to our faithful Creator in doing what is right. Jesus was pretty much rejected throughout His entire ministry, in one form or another. Some folks experience that with family or friends. Despite changes for the better in their lives, they are viewed through old labels from the past & held guilty. Jesus lived under constant scrutiny. In His greatest hour of need, in Gethsemane, His disciples slept while He sweat blood, agonizing over what He knew to be His Father’s will. (Luke 22:44) My point? He understands relational pain. He was preparing to die for His accusers who unjustly hated Him & misunderstood Him. And He chose the path of obedient submission to His Father’s plan of the Cross, ultimately setting those who believe Him, & receive Him, free for eternity! What an indescribable gift!!

Secondly, as much as I’d like to coddle my hurt & wallow in self-pity when I’ve been hurt & misrepresented to others, God continually confronts me with this question: “What am I teaching you, about yourself, in this situation?” This is the hardest question, for me, to embrace. It applies to everything in my life…relational dynamics, hard circumstances, & irritating inconveniences. It keeps my eyes off other people, or what’s happening to me, and forces me look at myself – be it my sinful reactions, my insecurities, or the lies I’m believing that caused me to emotionally “tank.” I will admit, it’s difficult to wrap my arms around the truth of honest appraisal. {Sigh} But in the long run, this great sifting tool of the Lord actually frees me, as long as I embrace what the Spirit reveals through the Word & prayer & sometimes, other mature believers. I’m left without excuse if I’m going to walk in the truth of who Christ is in me.

I think ill-spoken words reap some of the most devastating effects in life. Flesh thrives on gossip. It is its natural bent to be drawn to it. We are presently witnessing the ever-increasing effects as social media allows the revolving door of lies to increase. Every detail is just so available! What’s right is now wrong & vice versa. It’s confusing & makes my head spin. What a great forest is set afire by the tongue! We bless the Lord, on one hand, while we curse men made in His image, on the other. (Read all about in James 3:1-12)

It isn’t easy for me to love people who I know have delighted in erroneously passing on information about me for no helpful/useful purpose. Honestly, it isn’t natural for me to forgive them either. I don’t have the wherewithal, for either, in my own strength. But Jesus does. He’s had more experience in loving & forgiving than any human ever will! When I let go & ask God to change me, Jesus Christ is free to love & forgive through me. Recently, I was reminded by scripture to pray for the folks that are deliberately hurtful. I’ve wondered if it’s possible for the Holy Spirit to truly reside in a heart that takes “delight” in a destructive, lifestyle pattern of gossip? Is it possible for someone to be indwelt by the life of Christ, & still enjoy seeing other people hurt? Personally, I don’t think so. No one is perfect but I think you know what I’m trying to communicate here. Individuals, organizations, & churches have been irreparably destroyed by gossip. So, God has lead me to pray for these folks, in my life, to know Jesus Christ, intimately, in whatever way they are lacking. This prayer habit is also a good check for my own speech. Do my words reflect, & honor, my Savior? Not always. But I’m thankful for His leading, teaching, & refining. We are all a work in progress. My focus & energy are better spent praying for the confirmed salvation of my verbal persecutors. In the end, that’s what matters for eternity. Who knows? Maybe God is using my life for their good after all. And they don’t’ even know it. <3


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