This morning, as I was browsing facebook, I came across this status:
Everyone has difficulties. It is part of the test of mortality. Yours are different than mine. But neither is easier than the other. I don’t know how I would respond if I traded places with you. And you don’t know either. For every battle you see, there are 100 more on the inside that you will never see. It is our God given responsibility to lift each other … not squash someone into the floor and spit as we leave the room.
If you want Heaven to help you, you gotta be willing to be His hands to help others.
So the next time someone is doing the best they know how, look for a way to encourage. And some of your own burdens will be lightened in the process.
I just wanted to share it here, because it reflects, very much, my struggles of this past weekend.
I have been put into a place that I never thought I would be. Thankfully, I don’t believe anything substantial will come of it, but the internal struggle has been more intense than I ever thought something like this could be. This past Thursday was the worst day of my life, second only to the day I heard about Dad’s melanoma diagnosis.
And no – it has nothing to do with Dad, or any other loved one.
No, I will not elaborate here, because that is not the point of this post.
The point of this post is to illustrate the simple saying “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.”
Just because you can’t see a person’s struggle with your eyes, doesn’t mean it’s less real than external, physical struggles. In fact, internal ones often manifest themselves externally – I had the physical sensation of being kicked in the gut, though no foot was present to do that kind of damage.
It has driven me to my knees in prayer like I’ve never experienced, because, like Job, I know that I stand before God with my integrity intact. I have examined myself thoroughly, and asked God and a mentor to show me if my persecutor had any foundation for what they were saying. There is none. My feet are planted firmly, and my conscience is clear.
Through this, I now know the meaning and the application behind Jesus’ words, as I never have before:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ~Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV – emphasis mine)
I have never yet been the victim of any real persecution, but I can honestly say that I have been, now. Along with the pain, the grief, and the self-questioning came a great weight of conviction. “Pray for those who persecute you” reverberated with great force through my thought process. So, I did. And I keep doing it, over and over.
I prayed blessing on the head of my persecutor. I thanked God for this horrible experience, because I know that this will produce perseverance, leading to character, leading to a hope that does not disappoint, and who am I to turn down hope?!
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” ~Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)
My emotions (a physical, chemical reaction in my body, over which I have no control) have been surrendered to the God who created them. I am grieving a certain loss of innocence – my belief in the best of people – and I am grieving the attack on my integrity. But I am laying all of it at the foot of the Cross, as often as it comes up, knowing that these feelings will, indeed, pass, and that they are merely the means God has given us to cope with what we face.
Surely, God has poured out his love into my heart — a fact I cannot deny — and my desire is to pour that love out, in turn, on even my enemies. God knows that it is only his love that can achieve this, and I can honestly say that it is because he loves me that I will not withhold my love and graciousness from my attacker. After all, my persecutor is not really my enemy. I war not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers that keep sin alive and well in this world. (Ephesians 6:12)
One more thing I also know to be true: God will not let the righteous fall. (Psalm 55:22) Not really. Not if the righteousness is the righteousness of Christ, worn as a white robe covering our sin. He will not let the Name of his Son be disgraced.
He holds me up – not because I have any merit whatsoever (and I don’t), but because I bear the Name Above All Names as a garment. I may be persecuted, but ultimately, eternally speaking, I will never fall. It is God who holds me up. It is God who has saved me by grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-10). It is God who is responsible for sustaining me and testing me and helping me to grow.
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV)
Not only has he allowed this in my life, he has carefully orchestrated it. I have not handled it perfectly, by any means. I have no illusions on that point. But I keep giving it over and over again to the One who can handle it perfectly, and I’m choosing, moment by moment, to let him do what he needs to do to sanctify me through and through.
I’m opening my arms and my heart to this, and letting the pain roll through. After all, it’s light and temporary, compared with the eternal glory that far outweighs it all. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
I thank God for the encouragement of dear friends, who reminded me of all of these things. Dear sisters in Christ, you know who you are, and I want you to know your words did not fall on deaf ears. They went straight to my heart, grew new roots, and are gaining strength by the minute, through God’s love and grace.
You have not spit on me and left me. You have not condemned me for my very deep emotional upheaval. You have not offered false comfort through trite cliches or preaching. You have encouraged me and lifted me up. You have helped me to keep my eyes up, fixed on the eyes of my Lord Jesus Christ. You have held me up, and kept me from being at the mercy of my emotions. You have spurred me on to keep running my race well. You have done exactly what you are supposed to do: You have loved, encouraged, and exhorted me well. And I pray the Lord blesses you richly for your love toward me.
And thank you, faithful readers, for your prayers and your encouragement. You are a gift to me from a loving God, and I thank you for “listening” to me as I write.
Grace & Peace,