I have to tell you that our Bible studies at the shelter are pretty awesome, we don’t work out of a book study or book, we just talk about issues that our residents need to talk about. So each meeting can be vastly different from the last and is typically unplanned, but designed of the Lord to minister to each of our hearts.
Recently a man spoke up about how amazingly dysfunctional his family is and how emphatic he was that it would never change. I asked him if he was comfortable talking about it and he was. To make a long story short, his mother was a terror and the kids have lived a hard life. He was the oldest of three and he left the home as soon as he turned of age- not to look back. His sister, the middle child, has turned out to be just like her mother and both of the brothers avoid her. The youngest brother has followed the footsteps of the older brother and avoids the mother and sister as well.
I understand the desire of the boys wanting to get out of the house. Pro 21:19 says; “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” As a child, it is a struggle to be under an abusive parent and there is a need to find peace or normalcy in life, but the heart of the Lord is always toward reconciliation. I told this young man, that if I were to spend a short time with his mother, and if she were to open up, which most everyone does, we’d most likely find that she is struggling with the same thing he is. I would expect to find an abusive relationship, most likely a parent or parents, and she is living and reacting out of bitterness herself. The details change from case to case, but the problem is bitterness and it works its way down the family lineage. It’s difficult, because we look upon our own circumstances and hurt, and it’s hard to see beyond our hurt. It’s only when we can rise above our hurt, that we discover they are acting out of their hurt. Our true hope is to obtain healing that can only be found in Jesus, and as we heal, it is important that we love and help heal our “enemy” like they’ve never been loved before. This is a true sign of our own healing, because lingering bitterness will not want to love the one who hurt us.
I’m going to share a “top five” verse in the Bible. Heb 12:15 says, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” There are three important points that I would like to focus on in this passage. 1) Bitterness will trouble you. 2) Many will be defiled by your bitterness. 3) Our only hope for healing is the grace of God, and I can assure you that His grace is always there to help you go the right way.
I suspect (1) bitterness troubled his mother, (2) He became bitter and defiled over his mother’s bitterness, and (3) his only hope of healing is to forgive her by the grace of God. And his best hope of restoring his life and their relationship, is to invest in healing her. This will, in turn, bring further healing to him. She so longs to be healed and loved, but she has no idea how to obtain it, as she only knows what she has lived. But the Lord offers a different life and future. I know I tell this story as if I know his mother, but I do so because I encounter this repeatedly.
So how do we love the ones who have hurt us so? I believe that we must see ourselves as we really are, as we’ve done the same thing to Jesus. I have seriously rejected, despised, and betrayed Him. All the pain, rejection and suffering that Jesus experienced, He experienced because of my sin, and because of His desire to redeem and forgive me. It’s easy to look down at the Jews and Romans, at their crucifixion of Jesus, it’s harder to receive the truth that He chose to face that suffering because of my sin. On my own, I tend to hold on to bitterness, but in Christ I can choose to walk as my Savior and forgive those that are hurting me. I can also help them heal of the same hurt that I have. This will break the family curse, this will bring fruit and healing to mother and sons. This may be a slow process and may require short conversations or visits, or even pulling back if she is aggressive, but it is so important to show her the love that she has never experienced. Even writing loving notes, sending gifts or having heart to heart conversations in a safe way. But, the key is not working from a defensive or reactionary position which has been the norm of the past, but one of showing sincere love and care for her well-being. Some shells are hard to crack, some may never crack, but it is the Lord’s will that we love our “enemy”, and we’ll be better for it, and we’ll know we tried. It is imperative to show her the love of Jesus, to show her the love she has possibly never experienced and to show her that the healing you have experienced through forgiveness is real and is possible for her. This is best accomplished through continuous and faithful love, and should not be pushed upon her with words.
Growing up, my father left our family and never really pursued us. I was the one who always had to do the pursuing. As an adult, there was a time that I became bitter and thought that I’d let him pursue me or let him go, sadly he never pursued me. But the Lord convicted me that I was the one who had Christ in my heart, and I needed to pursue him as Christ pursued me, so I pursued him and built the relationship. It’s alright if the relationship goes that way, the one with the love of Christ must love the one lacking it, that’s what the Lord does with us. There were hurts along the way, but my bitterness went away. In his latter days, we were closer, and it changed his love toward me. This lost and lonely world needs to see the love of their Creator, and He wants to use us in loving them, as He has loved us.
We, by our sin nature, tend to react to the shortcomings of others, whereas Jesus always acted upon the will and love of His Father. Humanism, or man’s wisdom is a “reaction” based faith, it reacts to circumstances or people. Christianity is an “action” based faith, it acts upon the Word of God. Our hope is to pursue healing and forgiveness through Christ in our own heart, and as we obtain it, we will find ourselves in a place to love our enemy and to bring healing to their heart also. This in turn is continued healing for us. Mat 7:5 says; “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” As we are healed, we can heal, but our healing must come first. We repent of “reacting” and we learn to “act”. Our God is rock solid and everything He teaches, comes out of what He lives! Jesus walked this with the Hebrews, with the Romans, and with our sin also. He’s a good Lord to follow- we can do this! Amen? Amen!