Some things frighten me – especially another’s anger. I can wake up in the night, my heart aching over how a person’s anger manipulates me and those I really care for. For anger actually blocks me from freedom of choice.
The other day I read how Jesus reacted. “Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him” (Luke 20:47). Angry people opposed Jesus, but he didn’t crumble with fear. He lived with an audacity that surprised me.
He did what God wanted him to do. He sat where those leaders said he shouldn’t. He didn’t flinch.
It released me to live with the same audacity – to take bold risks despite the blocks.
What if someone told you, “Forget about your God and just do what I say”? What would you do? Would you listen?
God knows that many voices shout out, confusing us, but he still speaks: “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention. Forget your people and your father’s house” (Psalm 45:10) Those near and dear might try to control, might want to keep us ‘safe’, but God wants to take us where we have never gone before.
He asks us to trust him, to take a step into the unknown. He stretches out his hand and invites us to grasp it. “Come, follow me,” (Matthew 4:19) he calls. And we can, into his adventure, individually designed for each one of us.
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The other day someone asked a good question: “Do you feel scarred?”
At first, I wanted to say, “No, all is well now.” But no matter how much I dreamed of returning to those pre-trauma days, my heart-scars had altered me. They still affected the way I responded in certain situations.
So, I said: “Yes, I do have scars. But just like the physical scars many of us endure, we learn to work around them. We get on. And in the end, they no longer take centerstage in our lives. They are there, but they don’t hold us back from life.”
And this is a most beautiful part of our human heart – we can find a way to live.
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We may have done everything properly as we grieved:
- Gone through the five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance*.
- Committed our broken hearts to God and asked him to heal us.
- Trusted him for our future, that he would help us through.
We moved on… but then something happened to remind us. A conversation. A situation. An emotion. And we grieved yet again.
I have learned to lay each flashback at Jesus’ feet, to sit with him in the night for as long as I need. I have learned to accept his precious promises as my own. “The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm” (Zephaniah 3:15). We don’t have to be afraid. Jesus is with us. We can get up and live.
*1969, psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
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I used to think that power comes from self-confidence, of knowing my mind and fulfilling my dreams. But if I fall into the hands of a manipulative person, they can change my reality. And sometimes it takes years to come to my senses. Then grief overwhelms – How could I have been so deceived? Anger – This was wrong! Shame – Why didn’t I see it before? Guilt – I let my life get ruined.
But I forget where my true power lies – not in capability, cleverness, or even my goodness. It comes from God, who says, “At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honour in every land where they have suffered shame” (Zephaniah 1:19)
God puts us back on the road so we can relearn to walk. He enables us to lift up our heads without shame and live.
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I tried to get home, but Satnav led me down a narrow country lane, straight to a “Road closed” sign. I found another another road – a dead-end!
I backtracked and found a workman. He pointed out the detour. But, that road was CLOSED as well! Not only a sign, a huge truck blocked the way.
Now I was truly lost, but as I sat there trying to figure out where I was, the truck moved. The driver waved. I could get on my way.
How I laughed. This was like God. Sometimes I get so disoriented by the blockages in my life, but God steps in when my efforts don’t work. HE opens the way.
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When I am broken-hearted. “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
Whenever I am afraid and overwhelmed. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God…” (Isaiah 41:10).
When I am truthful in my prayers. “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).
When I am sad over what I have done. God says, “…I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit” (Isaiah 57:15).
When someone accuses me. “He who vindicates me is near. Who then can bring a charge against me?…” (Isaiah 50:8).
Because HE is GOD.
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I was 27 and didn’t know how to cope. I thought my life should revolve around pleasing others, but I was never good enough. I could never be enough. Finally I had a breakdown. Sure, I acknowledged that God was all-loving. I agreed that he had created me unique and beautiful, but I didn’t know how to live it.
All pretending stopped as I lay there shivering on my bed. I could no longer be strong, brave, or even good. It was just me and God, and to my astonishment, he still loved me. And he came to me, just as he has come to millions of others, “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 63:1). I would live again.
Six months later I went back to work, and it took another three years to recover, but, I finally knew who I was – BELOVED.
We instinctively respond to someone in distress. It is natural. But what if it’s someone with a demand or an unmet expectation, and they want us to fulfil it?
On occasion people have cried, “I want this and that, and you have to do it.” And because of their insistence, I forgot about God’s voice in my life. Through unthinking compassion, I lost my way.
I have learned the hard way that blind compassion hinders them and me. It’s my responsibility to not instantly respond. Three times the Bible says, “Do not be hasty…”* And even though it might be hard to stand still in the face of another’s strong emotions, we owe it to ourselves and God to pause and think. There might be another way.
*1 Timothy 5:22; Ecclesiastes 5:2; Proverbs 19:2
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I still can’t quite grasp the enormity of how unprecedented each one of us is. No one out there is like you or me. And each of us is unparalleled. No one has ever spoken with my voice. No one else has my heart and mind.
Yet, it is a fragile fact and evaded my grasp for years, because I had concluded that I didn’t matter, that my voice had little worth. But, in the silence of this past year, our individual uncommonness, our unrivalled uniqueness is hitting home.
The Bible puts it so well. “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!” (Psalm 139:14)
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