As believers, our goal should be oneness in all relationships. Join me for an explanation.
You’re going to hurt people and people are going to hurt you. As John Ortberg says living with people is like “dancing with porcupines.” So what will you do when you get hurt?
As soon as I read the email from my pastor, my heart skipped a beat: “Mark, come to my office first thing this morning.” You know that feeling when you sense something isn’t right? I told my wife about the odd email, then I drove to the church.
As I walked into my mentor’s large office, he said, “Hey man, why don’t you close the door?” My heart was pounding. I shut the door and sat in the green wingback chair facing his desk. This man whom I’d worked alongside for twelve years began reading a prepared letter. Apparently, there would be no small talk. I didn’t know it, but he was about to make a shocking announcement and instantly end our friendship.
The man reading this prepared letter was not just my pastor; he was one of my best friends. We genuinely loved each other. That’s what made his announcement so gut wrenching.
Due to a philosophical difference, he announced that I needed to have my office cleaned out by Monday morning.
When he finished reading, he looked up and calmly asked, “Do you have any questions?” We sat without speaking, a moment of silence for the death of our friendship. Then I said the only words that seemed appropriate, “I hate that it’s ending this way.” He agreed.
I stood up and slowly walked out of his office. I already felt something hurting deep inside of me. My mind raced in a thousand different directions simultaneously.
“Mark, you keep looking back. You need to forgive and start moving forward.” My coach had heard my two-year-old sob story before. On this day, as we sat across from each other at Smokejack BBQ in Alpharetta, GA, I chided myself for yet again rehashing what should have been ancient history. I took a deep breath and nodded my head in agreement, like you do when someone says something completely true but completely unhelpful. “Forgive and move forward?” I thought. “Sure. No problem. While I’m at it I’ll solve world hunger and negotiate world peace. I want to move forward but I don’t know how. That’s the problem. I’m stuck! What specifically can I do?” I thought. I was exhausted. Something had to change.
Maybe you’ve experienced something much more painful. Your ex-spouse, a parent, a co-worker, or a close friend hurt you.
Your hurt may include a divorce, bankruptcy, a job loss, betrayal, abuse, or broken trust. The day you’re hurt is a bad day, but the unrelenting weight of a heavy grudge is even worse, isn’t it? When you want to forgive but don’t know how, you feel stuck.
In a nationwide Gallup poll, 94 percent of people said it was important to forgive, but 85 percent said they would need outside help in order to forgive. Apparently, many of us are stuck.
As a pastor who couldn’t forgive, I spent three searching for real steps to take toward forgiving someone who has hurt you deeply.
Stop telling your story as a victim
Forgiveness isn’t found in speaking but in surrendering. (Isa. 53:7)
Assess your Injury
“General forgiveness does not heal specific hurts. It’s important to pinpoint what was taken from you.” -Andy Stanley
Value your offender
You do not condone what they did, but you recognize that they are more than what they did. (Luke 23:34)
Intercede for your offender
“The more I pray for an idiot the less idiotic they become.” –Daniel Hahn (Matt. 5:44)
Own your part
As long as you remain 100% focused on their guilt, you will remain 100% stuck.
Release their debt
“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” -C.S. Lewis
What have you found is helpful in releasing anger and bitterness?
This is a guest post by Mark Riggins. Mark is the Community Life Pastor at ENCOUNTER | Bible Fellowship Church in Ventura, CA. His new book STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How is available now on Amazon. Sign-up HERE for a FREE 30-Day Online Forgiveness Devotional. You can follow Mark on his blog: www.markriggins.org.
True friendship is rare.
I have had many friends in my life, but finding one that stands the tests of time — that’s hard.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
“For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Those kind of friends — are hard to find.
If you have ever gotten in a bind, had a major failure, or somehow lost your way, then you realized just how rare true friendship really is in our lives. The true friends show up at your doorstep ready to help.
To me, the difference in a true friend and one who calls themselves a friend, but is really an acquaintance is fairly easily identified.
Unconditional love – A true friend loves at all times. Regardless of what you do, what happens, or where life takes you, a true friend loves at all times. On your worst day — when you aren’t even fun to be around — a true friend still takes you to lunch. (And likely pays.)
Unwavering support – True friends are in it for the long haul. Even when you’ve fallen — or agree with you completely — a true friend is in your corner. When you call — even when you’re in trouble — they come. True friendships may only be for a season. I have many of those. But, if we run into each other again we pick up where we left off. Trust is already established. The relationship is just as strong. True friendships are consistent.
Willingness to challenge – Love and support is not ignoring the words you need to here. A true friendship makes you better. The Bible says “iron sharpens iron”. True friends will correct you if needed. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better an open rebuke than hidden love.” Friends won’t let you injure yourself or others if they can intervene. They won’t remain silent with what you need to hear — and it will be shared in the deepest of love.
Full of grace – True friendship weather the sometime difficulties of relationships, forgiving when needed, and loving each other even when it hurts. A true friendship isn’t one-sided. Both friends are willing to lay down their life for the other. Grace is freely and generously given.
I have a number of friendship I would consider true friendships. Of course, Cheryl and my boys make the list, but there are others. We’ve been through life together. I can’t imagine my life without them.
What makes a true friend in your opinion?
Years ago I became fascinated with the questions of Jesus.
It occurred to me that if Jesus was asking a question it must be an important one.
In fact, depending on our response, they could be life-changing questions.
I realize that in the culture in which Jesus lived asking questions was a method of learning, but Jesus always knew the answers. He didn’t need to ask them. He IS the answer. What does He need to know?
His questions were to cause His listeners to think. And, they do.
Consider some of these 7 questions of Jesus.
“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28)
“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26)
“What do you think about the Christ?” (Matthew 22:42)
“Do you love me?” (John 21:17)
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)
“What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41)
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)
To which of these do you most need to consider your answer?
I only read one statement of Jesus, but I couldn’t go any further in my reading.
It was a statement I had read hundreds of times before, but this time it hit me differently. Deeper. More impacting.
I love when that happens.
I realized I often take a statement like that from Jesus for granted.
Jesus — the Son of God — said something. Something so profound, so life-giving, and yet it has become so familiar to me that I almost gloss over it when I read.
This time I stopped.
I stopped and thought about the many other truths Jesus shared — often in a single sentence — which are life-changing.
Perhaps some of these will be meaningful to you.
Read through the list — memorize a few of them (you probably already have many of them.) But, don’t read them as familiar quotes that are usually written in red. Let them soak deep into your heart and mind. Let them add life to you. Be better with truth.
“Take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37)
“Go and learn what this means ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice'” (Matthew 9:13)
“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2)
“Ask and it will be given to you…” (Matthew 7:7)
“If the Son has set you free you are free indeed” (John 8:36)
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 6:14)
“Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)
“The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)
“Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
“I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:7)
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
“If you love me you will obey what I command” (John 14:15)
“Your give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37)
“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8)
“This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” (Mark 7:6)
“You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)
“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…” (Matthew 6:25)
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do to them” (Matthew 7:12)
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29)
“It is finished.” (John 19:30)
I realize some of these can be misunderstood if out of context, so feel free to read the context of each of them. But, the fact is these are things Jesus said.
The Son of God — who is God — said them. Spoke them. Revealed truth to us.
And, every word He said has life-changing value.
I wonder, if we really understood the magnitude of these words of Jesus and believed them — if they would change the way we lived our life? The confidence we have? The assurance in which we find hope?
Which of these do you most need to apply to your life today?