Someone asked me, “How do you cope with your emotions when someone has been unkind to you?”
“I have a melt-down,” I said, “and then another one. But afterwards, I try to look to God. It’s hard, though, because all my attention is drawn towards that person, reliving the hurt and wanting justice. But as I read my Bible and pray, I find the strength to look away. I can forgive.”
“I suppose forgiveness lasts forever.”
“Not for me,” I said. “Something will happen and it triggers a memory. I’ll have another melt-down, because, an injustice is always unjust. But I can find God again. I can forgive again, and I can move on.”
“The important thing is to move on. Isn’t it?”
Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash
The other day I told someone how I had royally messed up, but that God had used it get me back on track, and good had come out of it. The person went silent for what seemed like a minute. “Oh no!” I thought. “I have offended them.”
When the person finally spoke, it was slow and deliberate. “That… is… exactly… what… happened to me… Thanks so much for sharing… It gives me hope.”
Isn’t this what God’s humour is like? It’s brilliant! The weak make others strong. The poor make others rich. The imprisoned set others free. Those who mess up, spread hope. God always finishes with a surprising twist. He says, “There is a… time to laugh.” (Ecclesiastes 3) Now is a good time!
You might remember… my memoir wasn’t published because of a threat of legal action. A full year later the threat still exists. Yup! It’s an accomplishment that deserves the equivalent of a boy-scout badge.
It was also a test to find out what is really inside me. Sure, I found anger and the desire for revenge, but I also found something else. The strength to get back up. The ability to forgive. The courage to consider that I might be getting another badge next year.
I find God does that with troubles. He uses them to teach us about ourselves. He uses them to make us deeper and truer. “It is God who arms us with strength and makes our way perfect.” (from Psalm 18:32) It is God.
Sometime I feel like that thief on the cross. “Jesus! Get me out of this mess! I’ve been hung out to dry! It wasn’t my fault, really.”
Jesus looks over from his cross. “You might not have noticed, but I am with you.”
“No!” I cry. “I don’t want you to stay with me. I want you to save me.”
Jesus tries to shift himself so that he can breathe. “You might not have noticed… I am!“
Joseph thought he could forget his past. Even if his brothers had sold him into slavery, and he spent years in prison as an innocent man, now he was the second highest leader in Egypt. He could truly say, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” (Genesis 41:51) He had conquered his pain.
Twenty-two years later he meets his brothers, and Joseph realizes nothing has been dealt with. He is so confused he throws his brothers into prison for three days. It takes Joseph several years before he says, “Brothers, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:19)
Joseph faced his past. I have had to as well, and get to that same final point. God takes evil, and uses it for good.