The anguish in her voice broke my heart.
She had just confirmed her father’s affair with another woman after months of speculation, separation and conversation. Hers is a version of the same story I’ve heard before from others I love, and it stings my heart to listen again.
She asked me hard questions, the kind that don’t really call for answers, the words that help you wrestle through Things That Ought Not Be. Questions incensed with fiery righteous indignation and understandably so.
How could he do that to her? How could he do that to us? How could he…?
I was angry for her, once again a witness to the fallout and consequence of someone else’s selfish, self-serving choices.
It comes packaged in so many ways–
- You learn your teenage daughter – a leader in her youth group and a missions trip veteran – has been sexually active at the same time you discover she’s pregnant.
- You find your spouse has been making risky financial decisions for years without your knowledge or input, destroying your credit and bringing you to bankruptcy’s cliff.
- Randomly deciding to use the car your son’s been driving, you find cigarettes and a lighter tucked away in the side of the door…and you can’t decide whether or not to be relieved that “at least” it’s not what your neighbor found in her son’s room–illegal drug paraphernalia.
- The friend you considered your best, your secret keeper, your kindred, curiously drops out of your life, becomes close to others, never explains why.
- Your parents’ marriage crumbles when your dad confesses his involvement with another woman, and his profession of love for her poisons your relationship.
No man is an island, no woman lives in a vacuum, and as much as we’d like to compartmentalize, our actions and decisions affect those around us…even if that’s not our intention.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. ~ Colossians 3:12-15 (NASB)
There’s a reason God commands us to love and forgive; if it were optional, I’m convinced we wouldn’t.
But people make it so hard, don’t they? And in response, aren’t we inclined to make our love and forgiveness conditional?
When your life is rattled or upside-downed by the decisions and actions of others, how are you supposed to move beyond the immediate offense, pain and betrayal? Is that even possible?
I believe love and forgiveness are possible and even in every circumstance.
I’m not talking about Christian cliche or pat answer; this is no easy response or simple act of the will. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
Love and forgiveness are possible when we surrender our right to have rights, when we relinquish any sense of entitlement–
- to expect others to behave how we want them to
- to withhold a loving/forgiving response until they’re truly repentant or compliant
- when we’re the wronged party, or in any obvious sense, are “right”
The ability to love and forgive without condition demands that we practice what we profess.
Supernaturally – because I don’t see how I can do this in my own strength – I have to take God at his word and believe that his ways are better than mine.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:8-9
In every situation, there are as many different stories being written as there are people being touched by the circumstance.
Does it help you to know that God is accomplishing his purposes in each of them?
There’s redemption in awful circumstances to trust that God is accomplishing his purposes in you, in me. It gives us hope to cling to, even when our feelings are screaming the opposite. My perspective has evolved over a number of years during hardships I’d rather forget; I’ve said it before and it bears repeating here:
God is good, only good, and I fully believe out of this goodness, he has shaped my thinking to trust whatever circumstances occur in my life – the good and the difficult – are intended for my good, his glory, and in some way, the advance of the gospel.
The battle my friend is fighting finds her trudging through the mud and muck to claw for a way to honor, love and forgive her father when his behavior gives her reason to sever their relationship. Hers is one battle in a sea of countless…like the battles you’re facing…and I offer you what I’m praying and speaking over her–
- Consider what you can learn about yourself and others in the midst of the circumstance…
- Trust that God can redeem this for good in your life, especially as you enter into greater intimacy with him…
- Realize your testimony is being told through your response to the situation.
Be mad. Get angry. Scream and cry and punch all the pillows in your house.
And then love and forgive.
Because you are loved and forgiven.