June 22, 2015

Beginning Again

Have you ever wanted a do-over? I mean, like a real "do over" after you failed miserably at something important. I am thinking of a "grand do over," the kind where you could perhaps repeat an entire day or say that speech again, you know, the one where you stood there looking helpless as the person you were speaking to either didn't understand or didn't appreciate your words of advice? I can think of a hundred other similar scenarios where it I came face to face with failure, with falling short, with missing the mark. Yes, over the course of my life, I have found myself smack-dab up against that horrible feeling of not meeting expectations and standards of my work, my school, my home, my family, or my life.

How do we handle failure? How do we face tomorrow after we have messed things up so miserably today?

Today's blog post is titled "Beginning Again" because starting over is something we do every single day of our lives. We live in a constant "do over" way. Every morning is new, every day is a gift from God to start over, to do better, to live more completely as He has called us to live. Lamentations 3:23 says it this way,

"Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning."

What great and wonderful news! Our Father in Heaven grants us new mercies every single day. He is faithful to give us the length of our days to learn this lesson. We are not stuck in the past. We can know that tomorrow will bring new mercy thus allowing us to begin again.

As I consider my day today, I am thinking about this truth from God's Word. New mercy. What does that mean? It means that God gives to me a fresh application of His mercy each new day. Every day that the sun breaks through the darkness, I can see the Lord's faithful application of mercy upon my life. I am alive. I am well. I am free. I am saved. I am loved. His mercy is new every single day, and for that, I am thankful.

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever" (Psalm 136:1 NLT).

Today is a good day, it is a very good day. Yet, I know that there is sorrow all around me. There are people who I know who are suffering through emotional hurt, painful experiences, and who are trying to "keep it all together." They may be facing financial uncertainty or even disaster. They may be dealing with a loss of a loved one (a human or a pet). They may be coping with cancer or some other life-ending disease. They may be struggling to overcome an addiction, a disability, or some "hurt, habit or hang up" that is seeking control over their lives. If we open our eyes to those near us, we will see the hurt, the anguish, the sorrow, and the suffering -- and we will know that there are individuals who are suffering all around us.

How can you encourage and build up someone who is wounded? Someone who is suffering through loss or struggling with addiction?

I think the best way to console someone is to be there for them. I am suggesting being physically available to listen, to hold, to hug, to be still -- not to give advice, not to say anything -- but rather just be with them in their silent place. Grief and hurt take time to heal, and for some people, the process is long-term, it is not something that can easily be "gotten over." Yet, in our rush-rush world, we want everyone to be happy, to be okay, to be smiling, cheerful, and passive. We do not want to see the explosive emotions that can come out of people who are hurting, who are trying to make sense of some injustice or some unfairness. Emotional pain wells up, and when it reaches the "point of no return," it comes out in powerful ways. 

"Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15 NLT).

Dealing with pent-up emotions can be a challenge because we are conditioned in this life to hide our feelings, to bury them down deep, and to repress our emotions so that we "appear" sane, safe, and sound. But for many who are dealing with difficult and painful experiences, the emotional backlog builds, and at some point, it needs to come out. 

I have always heard that it is better to air the wound out, you know, let the hurt come to the surface so that it can be set free. I get where this comes from, but studies have shown that physical wounds do not respond to "airing out" as much as we think. Just consider the recent social phenomenon that is taking place in our cities across this nation in reaction to police violence or other violence. We are seeing emotions well-up, and instead of providing healing alternatives for them, the media and society in general, encourages individuals to act out, to let these pent-up emotions "air out." The result has been violent chaos instead of personal healing. Thus, rather than airing wound (letting the air get to a wound), medical studies have shown that bandaging the wound, keeping it sterile, clean, and free from bacteria is the best way to encourage healing. Keeping a wound covered is a protective measure, and it can have significant impact on the overall well-being of the individual. 

But does this physical approach to healing work in the spiritual realm as well? Great question! I think the answer is yes, so long as we understand the general principle and use the proper tools given to us by God for our well-being.

Consider the words of Isaiah 61. In this famous passage, we read about the Spiritual Year of the Lord (or the coming of the Lord). Isaiah prophesies the Lord's anointing and His coming in this way,

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

The Lord is coming as healer, and He is coming to "bind up the brokenhearted." David says the same thing in Psalm 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds." 

We understand that the correct method for caring for a physical wound is to bind it up, to bandage it, to protect it until it heals.  Clearly, the word picture given to us in Scripture is that Jesus is our healer, the caregiver for our wounds. The bandage is the Word of God, and the Healer applies the salve of the Holy Spirit to help heal the wound so that we can be set free from the pain, the suffering, and the sorrow accompanied by it. I think the picture of a Physician, skillful in surgery, as the perfect example of this concept. Jesus is the Great Physician. He is able to excise a wound, to cut, to clean, and to clear it up so that our bodies (spiritually and physically) can heal properly. The bandage must be applied, and that is the sterile dressing of the Word of God, which covers our hurt, and helps us to understand the nature of the affliction. Through the blessed application of Scripture, and the gentle care of the Healer, we are able to find freedom and complete health and vitality.

Why Is This Necessary?

In my own life, I can say that I have been healed from many spiritual and physical afflictions. I have experienced the merciful and skillful excision of the Great Physician as He removed years and years of scar tissue from some of the wounds I suffered as a child. I experienced complete healing after the Lord began this work, but it took time for me to understand the social and psychological ramifications of my childhood wounds. For example, because of the abuse I suffered as a young child, I struggled to control my emotions for many, many years. In fact, I often exploded when I was pushed too hard, pressed too tightly, or punished too severely. I lost control of my anger, and my emotions fueled by pain, exploded in violence. I tried to hide my emotions, to bury them, and I created a system of coping mechanisms that I used to deal with the hurt. Unfortunately, my coping mechanisms were not healthy ones so I replaced emotional pain with unhealthy practices in order to diminish and control the outbursts. This process of coping only provided temporary relief because in the end, something would come along to set me off, and I would explode.

Thankfully, the Lord helped me identify the source of the hurt. Then He helped me understand where that hurt came from by seeing the person who hurt me through His eyes. It was through the eyes of compassion that I realized that "hurting people hurt people" (Hawkins, 2010). Dr. David Hawkins says most people "are wounded people who unwittingly continue to hurt each other" (para. 10). In my case, this realization helped me see that the abuse I suffered was at the hands of someone who had been abused. The abused became an abuser who abused other people. It was a sad truth, but looking at the abuser from this perspective helped me give them grace, to realize that they didn't ask to become an abuser, and because they had not experienced the life-giving healing that comes through a personal relationship in Jesus Christ, they were unable to stop the cycle of abusive behavior. They continued to inflict pain as a coping mechanism to bury their own pain. 

Please know that I am not justifying abuse in any way, shape or form. I am simply saying that for me to be healed, I had to look at my abuser and then give them grace and mercy. I had to forgive them for what they had done to me. In doing so, I stopped the cycle of abuse in my own life, and I was set free from the pain that had been buried so deeply for so many years. As the Lord healed me from the trauma, I came to see the hurt and sorrow in other people around me. I came to see people as wounded individuals, people who needed to be healed from the damage inflicted upon them by other people. This process helped me understand the nature of the pain I was suffering as well as see the nature of the pain that other people were suffering. I believe this is what it means when we are called to mourn and to weep with those who are suffering -- we share in their burdens, their heartaches, and their sorrows.

As I think about all of this today, I realize that because of God's grace and mercy, we are able to experience a blessed "do over" every single day. We are able to experience His healing, His grace, and His mercy to begin a fresh, to consider a new, and to walk in a way that allows us to see others through His eyes of compassion. We all need love. We all need mercy. We all need grace. As Christian brothers and sisters we must put on love (John 13:35). We must take the difficult road and walk beside those who are suffering, and like Jesus, we must bind up their wounds. If they do not know the Lord Jesus Christ, their Healer, we must introduce them to Him. We carry with us special medicine, and that is the power of the Lord to save them from their sins. We must offer to them the way of life so that they can experience forgiveness and freedom from the penalty, the power, and the  future presence of sin. However, if they know the Lord, then we must encourage them with the Word of God, standing beside them to help them carry their burdens (whenever possible) so that they can grow strong in the Lord, become healthy in the Lord, and finally, live freely in the Lord. We are called as witnesses to share the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we must do it with all diligence, perseverance, and commitment until the day of Christ's return. Selah!

Dear Lord,

I celebrate your mercy this day. I thank you for the grace to know that I have been born again, and that as a child of God, I am granted new mercy every day. May your blessing fall afresh on me, and may I walk in a manner worthy of your calling, committed to doing your work, and seeing the fruit of your Holy Spirit as He moves in me and through me for your Name, your praise, your honor and your glory. Amen, so be it. Thy will be done! Selah!

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