Trying to back out of my friend’s curved driveway, I had to make several attempts to keep from running over several bushes. Even with a dashboard back-up camera, it was a challenge to maneuver my car safely onto the street without doing any damage.
My friend, seated on the passenger side, admitted she wasn’t very good at backing up either. Her solution was to turn her vehicle around in the wide drive so she could leave the premises facing forward.
How often do we navigate life’s challenges, clinging to our mistakes, regretting our choices and failing to move forward because we haven’t released our past to the One who loves us more than life itself? God never meant for us carry that weight.
Holding onto the past
Letting go is one of the hardest things we face. It’s easier for us to hold onto regrets, mistakes, guilt, failures, hurt, fear, anger and worry than to allow God to use them for His glory.
British author C.S. Lewis once said, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”
Are you a doubting Thomas? Maybe you’re a believer, but you doubt God could ever love someone like you. Maybe you’ve been ridiculed or bullied, struggling with your self-worth.
As a child, were you told you weren’t good enough? Did you become a performance addict with a need to prove you were likable, lovable and valuable? Do you know you’re not alone, today?
Pastor Chip Ingram says, “Many of us struggle with conceptualizing the enduring, sacrificial, infinite, and unconditional love of our heavenly Father. I think this is because we always try to put God’s love into our own human terms—and our terms always fall far short.
“Our human relationships have conditioned us to measure love by ‘ifs,’ ‘maybes,’ and ‘becauses,’” he adds. “‘I’ll love you if you do this.’ Or, ‘I love you because you did that.’”
Slipping through my fingers, the delicate dessert dish shattered as it hit the counter top. What else could go wrong? The small, stemmed dish was one of six, a set belonging to my mother.
Earlier that day, the chain of my favorite necklace broke. The next day, I was cleaning, rearranging and organizing my office when I accidentally knocked my computer printer to the floor. Broken into several pieces, I tried to reassemble it. It was beyond fixing. I had to order a new one.
When we invite Christ to be our Savior and Lord, we’re made new. However, that doesn’t mean we’re automatically perfect. It means we’ve accepted we’re imperfect sinners in need of His amazing grace.
In an imperfect world, perfection can never be achieved by human effort. But, as the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.”
While I was a believer, I wasn’t a Christ-follower until I accepted His gift of grace in my late 40s. Before then, I was a perfection addict. Striving to achieve that goal meant denial of my imperfections.
Good Friday has passed, but Jesus’ prayer on that fateful day should be taken to heart. One take-away from the day Jesus was crucified was His willingness to forgive those who persecuted Him.
Looking down from the cross on the Roman soldiers who were gambling for His clothing, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
But it wasn’t just the Roman soldiers He referred to during this distressing time. On either side of Jesus were two criminals who belittled Him. As the religious leaders mocked Him and the crowd jeered at Him, what did Jesus do? He prayed for them—a prayer of unmatched mercy and redeeming love. Even in His agony, Jesus’ concern was not for Himself but for the forgiveness of His enemies.
Is there someone you need to forgive?
Did you know withholding forgiveness from someone who has wronged you does more harm to you than the one you refuse to forgive? Refusing to forgive not only weighs down the spirit, it can also affect your physical health. Whether it’s a minor spat or long-held resentment toward another, unresolved conflict can go deeper than most realize, especially if it’s a family member or friend.
Refusing to forgive ups your risk of high blood pressure, the risk of heart attack, sleep problems, increased pain and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. As we age, research reveals a greater increase in the connection to forgiveness and our health.
“To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory”—Isaiah 61:3(TLB).
Photo by Carol Round
Bright yellow daffodils began to appear in late February in northeastern Oklahoma. Because of the mild winter weather, trees are budding, snakes are slithering and mosquitoes are buzzing.
While I don’t welcome the snakes or the bugs, I love the sight of flowers and trees announcing the upcoming spring weather. Even without a harsh winter, these sights bring renewed hope, especially for those, like me, who are struggling.
Out for a walk recently, I spotted a cluster of sunny daffodils sprouting from a tomb of rocks around a large oak tree in a neighbor’s yard. The contrast between the yellow flowers and the gray and brown mottled surface of the rocks drew my attention. The flowers, pushing their way through the harshness of the stone, reminded me of God’s promises.
In Isaiah 61:3, God promises the Israelites that He will give them beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning and praise instead of heaviness. They faced challenges, but God offered hope.
In the midst of our trials—the fear, the uncertainty, the weariness, the suffering, the mourning—we can take heart in God’s promise to give us beauty for the ashes of life. We can find the beauty in these hardships if we seek Him. In 1 Chronicles 16:11 we read, “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”
“The whole earth is full of his glory”—Isaiah 6:3(KJV).
Listening as our associate pastor read the familiar words, I marveled anew at God’s love for us. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
God didn’t have to create anything. He didn’t have to create the birds of the air or the flowers we love to pick or the other multitude of creatures and plants for our enjoyment. Just as He created us for His pleasure, He wanted us to enjoy and take care of His creation. Oh how we have failed—all of us. I take comfort, however, in the fact that He never fails us.
As I glanced out my kitchen window this morning, I was surprised by God. A large red-headed woodpecker was enjoying the suet at the feeders hanging on the edge of my deck. This beautiful creature, along with the various other birds that visit each day, are stunning. The variety in their size, shape and color leaves me breathless. How easy it would have been for God to make them all alike. How boring would that be? But, He didn’t.
Clear distractions, focus on each moment.
God loved us so much that He went out of His way to create, to spend five days deliberately preparing a Creation He called “good.” In today’s world, it’s sometime difficult to find the good in the midst of all the chaos.
A recent quote by an unknown author gave me pause. The author said, “The New Year is a time to learn to rely more heavily on the grace of God.”
To do this, I’ve realized I have to let go of some things to make way for His work in my life. Here are some suggestions to help all of us unclutter our lives:
Why are you a Christian? Is it because your parents are Christians? Is it because of the church you attended as a child?
I began to ask myself these questions after I was confronted by a nonbeliever on a social media site. He said, “I bet you were raised by Christian parents who made you go to church.”
Actually, although my parents were raised as Christians, they had drifted away from their faith. They didn’t attend church by the time my sister and I were born. However, when my parents purchased a house in a new subdivision in Louisiana, my sister and I, alone, began to attend a small church down the block, along with other neighborhood children. Looking back as an adult, I know it was part of God’s plan. I don’t believe in coincidences.
I believe in an Almighty Creator of heaven and earth.
I’ve shared before that I drifted away from the church many times over a 40-year period. It wasn’t until I was almost 50 that I became aware of the difference between religion and relationship—a relationship with our Heavenly Father through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
So, let me ask you, “Why are you a Christian?” If I were to answer that question, I would first share the wonderful things that God has done for me, in me and through me since I answered His calling on my life.