Sometimes it can be hard to understand where anger comes from, but the aftermath of an angry storm is never hard to miss. You lash out at your sister, brother, best friend and then you wonder why it happened.
Sometimes these things happened because our hearts are heavy, full of hurt and pain from out past, but sometimes it happens because we haven’t followed God’s commands to rest and care for our hearts and souls. Maybe you have never heard of this soul care before. Read on, see how it can change your life.
It was the beginning of summer. I had landed an internship out in Denver earlier that year and was eagerly anticipating the start of something new. For me, summers can be confusing. People say, “Oh, what year are you in school?” Summers are like no man’s land. The land of not a junior anymore, but not a senior quite yet. So, this was the summer before my senior year of college.
I was pretty excited to be headed off to Denver, doing something different, new, exciting. I wasn’t sure exactly what all the internship included, but I was ready to learn and see what God had in store. If I had only known then how he would forever alter my life.
A little background: I enjoy moving, doing things, running around, harassing my friends and doing life. I love trying new things and may or may not over commit myself on a regular basis. The past two years of my life had been hectic: 18 credit hours, golf team captain, two jobs, FCA, family, friends, boyfriend, another campus job, weekly volunteer work, campus events and…oh I remember, homework! Lots of it. I thought I was doing pretty well. I mean, I was; I did everything and I did it well. I didn’t have the luxury of a lot of spare time, free time or down time, whatever you want to call it;, but I was happy.
At the end of my junior year I really struggled. Did I want to keep my campus job or not? I really liked the idea of the position; I had done it the past two years…but…in the end, it was a lot more grunt work than I cared to do; my heart wasn’t in it anymore; I didn’t feel like I was able to use my strengths the way I wanted to, and I recognized that maybe I needed to slow down. I chose to pass on the job to someone with fresh energy, passion and excitement. This would free up seven or eight hours a week for me. Time to do something new!
When I made it to Denver I was tired from the drive. My boyfriend helped me unload my car and we said good-bye for the summer. The first week there was training week. We went on a retreat to the mountains and learned all about our positions. Second day of the training trip, things are going okay. I’ve made my assessments of each intern and I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. As we head inside I feel my phone ring. We had a short break and I recognize the area code as one from school. With curiosity, I answered.
When I hung up the phone I was in shock. Then it hit me; they had cancelled the golf program.
For those of you who don’t realize the impact, they had just cancelled four hours a day of my life for both the fall and the spring, not including tournaments each weekend, most of which were road trips away to different nearby states. 16-20 hours of practice each week and at least one whole day a week for tournaments. Poof. Empty space. Looking back I don’t know which hurt more, the pain of losing the team and everything it meant to me or the thought of all that down time with nothing to do. All those hours, plus the giving up my campus job. I had practically 40 hours a week with nothing to do! That’s like a full time job!
I was upset, trying to process everything, but I got into the rhythm of things in Denver pretty quickly. My internship was time consuming, but not strenuous in any way shape or form. I had to be there, but often I had nothing to do. I expected to work, but they just wanted to hang out…
It was tough! For someone who just wants to move, check things off and find newer, faster, more efficient ways of doing things, I felt lost, uncomfortable and crazy doing next to nothing. Looking back though, God was with me. I would even venture to say that God was trying to teach me something.
You see, I got a lot done and got it done well, but in those past two years, I hadn’t spent much time with God. I hadn’t written anything in my prayer journal, something I had been doing since 7th grade, and I could probably count on two hands the times I had cracked open my Bible for my own personal growth. I had good friends, but my relationships weren’t great, deep, personal and challenging. They were friends to hang out with, but most importantly, I had been running myself dry. I was supposed to be pouring spiritual guidance into others with my campus job and volunteer work, but I was empty. My relationship with my family had always been good, but I would find myself getting angry more than I care to admit. It was easier to keep to myself than to invest in others because I was a firecracker ready to explode. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had spent a few hours, went outside and just done something fun for me.
Over the course of the summer and over my last year at school I followed God’s lead and did something different. He had given me the time, like I said, about 40 hours a week. Now was my chance to try again. I thought I had been fine before, running at full speed everywhere I went, but when I slowed down, filled those hours with life giving things, new things, fun things and time with God. I became a new person. My friendships deepened in ways I never thought possible. I tried dance and coaching, two things I had always wanted to do, but never had the time or courage to try and I loved it! Those are two things that fill me with joy, things I will do the rest of my life. Then I started spending time with God again. He has been teaching me great things, things about love, patience and about letting go.
I still get angry sometimes, but not like I used to, because I have been following God’s rhythm for life. I work, I rest, I play; and when I get angry, I go back to that rhythm. I work hard, rest well and play often, and my anger eases.
When we look at Ezekiel 20, we see another group of people who didn’t understand God’s rhythm for life. The prophet Ezekiel is talking to the Israelites, reminding them of all that God has done for them because they have forgotten his commandments again.
Look at what God keeps bringing up. I think it’s interesting that God chooses to focus on their breaking of the Sabbath. You see the Sabbath was a day of rest, a day when the Israelites were commanded not work. To us this may not be a big deal, but for them, for that time, it was. No other nation had that day of rest. It was something that set them apart as God’s chosen people. What’s interesting is what God says after commanding them to obey his laws, which includes resting on the Sabbath. He says to follow his laws, “which bring life to anyone who obeys them.”
Have you ever thought about rule following as life giving? I hadn’t, but God says it over and over again through the prophet Ezekiel. Check it out!
Thank you for the rhythms you have created. I think about the Israelites and how they didn’t get it. Help me to see and understand your ways better. I have been running at full speed for awhile now. Help me to slow down; to understand that it is okay to slow down, good to slow down. This task seems impossible to me; we live in a world where success, efficiency and money are valued much more than the things that you value. Remind me of the things I have learned. Teach me your ways. Guide me and protect me as I continue to seek your face.
I pray all these things in Jesus’ name,
Check out Ephesians 4:31-32
Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort.
Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.
Did you know that in the original Greek language, “Get rid of” means “to remove, to separate yourself from.” Drives home this verse well doesn’t it? Don’t just get rid of these things, remove yourself from them; stand apart from these things; don’t be associated with them.
How can you do a better job or separating yourself from these things today?
Forgiveness can be a tough thing. Where do we start; what is it? Check out this short article to see what Rose Sweet has to say about what forgiveness really is and remember that secrecy and denial keep anger raging; forgiveness brings back joy and life. The challenge is to look at these things and to be honest with yourself. Which of these things did you know; which were a little confused? Challenge yourself; learn what true forgiveness is and apply this to your life today.
Forgiveness and Restoration
by Rose Sweet
Why Do We Find It So Hard to Forgive?
One reason we resist forgiving is that we don't really understand what forgiveness is or how it works. We think we do, but we don't.
Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scot-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We also may think that we have to be friendly with them again, or go back to the old relationship. While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us.
The first step to understanding forgiveness is learning what it is and isn't. The next step is giving yourself permission to forgive and forget, letting go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries.
Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.
Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice. By refusing to transfer the right to exact punishment or revenge, we are telling God we don't trust him to take care of matters.
Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again. We don't have to tolerate, nor should we keep ourselves open to, lack of respect or any form of abuse.
Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, "What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me." Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.
Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with him again.
Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. As soon as we can, we should decide to forgive, but it probably is not going to happen right after a tragic divorce. That's okay.
We have to forgive every time. If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person that sets us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused.
Forgetting does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses. Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, apathetic, or unreliable. They never will change. We need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.
Forgiveness is not based on others' actions but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life. We either can look outward at them or stay stuck and angry, or we can begin to keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good.
If they don't repent, we still have to forgive. Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. We should memorize and repeat over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
We don't always have to tell them we have forgiven them. Self-righteously announcing our gracious forgiveness to someone who has not asked to be forgiven may be a manipulation to make them feel guilty. It also is a form of pride.
Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.
We might have to forgive more than the divorce (Or other life event). Post-divorce problems related to money, the kids, and schedules might result in the need to forgive again and to seek forgiveness ourselves.
We might forgive too quickly to avoid pain or to manipulate the situation. Forgiveness releases pain and frees us from focusing on the other person. Too often when we're in the midst of the turmoil after a divorce (or other life event), we desperately look for a quick fix to make it all go away. Some women want to "hurry up" and forgive so the pain will end, or so they can get along with the other person. We have to be careful not to simply cover our wounds and retard the healing process.
We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it's not true forgiveness — it's a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, "I want to forgive you, but right now I'm struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it."
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It's normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurts occur, it's what we do with them that counts. When we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we can learn to say, "Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is."
Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive.
From A Woman's Guide to Healing the Heartbreak of Divorce, published by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2001, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.
Forgiveness is something we all need and all need to give. When we forgive we set ourselves free. Free from bitterness, anger, rage. It’s strange really, how it all works. Check out this quote from C. S. Lewis. See what he has to say about forgiveness.
“Forgiving and being forgiven are two names for the same thing. The important thing is that a discord has been resolved.”
Take a few minutes and think over these questions after reading this quote.
- What are some things that come to mind when you read this?
- Do you agree or disagree? Are their times when forgiveness is impossible?
- Is there something in your life now that you need to seek forgiveness for? Do you need to forgive someone?
Exodus 34:21 - No matter the season of your life, remember to rest as the Lord has commanded.
Exodus 20:11 - The Lord set the example for us; he gave us a rhythm to live by; six days of work and on the seventh day, a day of rest.
Mark 2:23-28 - The teachers of the law were upset with Jesus because his followers did not obey God’s law for the Sabbath, but Jesus shares with them that the Sabbath was made for people to rest and be restored, not to burden
Ephesians 4:26-27 - Sometimes we will get angry; it’s a reality of life; but when you do, do not stay angry all day; give it to God and forgive so that you don’t sin.
John 10:7-10 - Jesus offers to be our shepherd, to be with us and to guide us. His desire is to give us a life that is full. We can have that when we follow him and follow his design for life.
Into The Wild: Here we see two friends sit down and talk to each other as one prepares to leave. Ron shares with Christopher why forgiveness is so important to living the life that God truly desires for you.
The Interpreter: Here we see Silvia share with Tobin an African ritual that takes place when one life is taken, something that has happened to her and her family. She ends the scene with these words. Vengeance is a lazy form of grief. See what you think.
The Karate Kid: In this part of the movie Mr. Han tells his student that he must rest. While I don’t think that his student truly understood the purpose of this rest, why do you think Mr. Han told him to rest? If you know the movie you know the answer. Maybe a better question is why should Mr. Han have told his student to rest?
Check out this song from TobyMac and Lecrae. Listen to the lyrics. What do you hear? What comes to mind? What does it make you think of? Do you find truth in their words? Are their words hard to hear? What really stands out to you?
Listen to the song a few times, allow the truths shared to sink into you, penetrating your heart and soul. What will you take away from this song today?
As I read the following passage, I feel many things: understanding, sorrow, joy. Each of us goes through seasons where God seems far from us, seasons where God feels miles and miles away from us. Even people in the Bible felt these things. For Israel, the people have been taken captive by their enemies because of their disobedience. The author longs for the days when he felt God near, but those days are past. He mourns the loss of those days. We have talked a lot about forgiveness, but know that it is also okay to grieve, to feel loss, to be unsure… However, even in those times, know that God is always with you. Even in your sorrow and hurt, follow the author of this psalm’s example and praise the Lord; he is faithful and he will walk with you.
Read over this passage a few times. The first time just read through it slowly, picture the author and the setting he writes in. The second time, see what stands out to you. Pray that God would be with you just as he was with the writer of this psalm. Read it over one more time; think about the words; let them wash over you. How does it relate to your life?