Why Won’t God Bless Me?

God Bless Me

My husband had a professor in college who responded to most, if not all, student queries with a standard phrase of, “Check the website.” The professor’s use of the phrase became a joke in our home. If I inquired about something around the house or asked my husband a question, he would often look at me and say (in his best imitation of the professor’s voice), “Check the website.”

Although humorous, the professor’s intent in using the same answer was most likely that he wanted students to do what they needed to before they could expect an action from him.

Spiritually, we can apply this same “check the website” principle when we start to feel that God isn’t blessing us. Although God isn’t as gruff as my husband’s instructor, and certainly wants us to come to Him and ask when we don’t know the answer in a situation, there are times that we can examine our actions against God’s Word and discover that we aren’t reaping what we want in a particular area because of what we are sowing.

In his devotional My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers explains how we should all “turn up” or check the “spiritual index.” According to Merriam-Webster.com, an “index” is a device (such as the gnomon on a sundial) that gives a particular value or an indicator that leads us to a conclusion:

Never say it is not God’s will to give you what you ask, don’t sit down and faint, but find out the reason, turn up the index. Are you rightly related to your wife, to your husband, to your children, to your fellow-students … Have I been asking God to give me money for something I want when there is something I have not paid for? Have I been asking God for liberty while I am withholding it from someone who belongs to me? … If we turn up the index, we will see very clearly what is wrong — that friendship, that debt, that temper of mind.”

The Blessing of Reaping and Sowing  

Essentially, Chambers points out that many of us are asking for a blessing when there is a reason we can’t have it, indirectly referring to the principle of reaping and sowing in the Bible. Just like the sun causes a shadow to fall across a sun dial when its rays hit the pointer (gnomon) in order to tell the time, God’s truth causes our own examinations or “gnomons” to point to a particular problem in our lives when we subject ourselves to the light of His truth.

This isn’t to say that God can’t bless us just because He wants to. And, obviously, there are times when we don’t receive blessing because it isn’t in God’s timing or He has delayed his response to work out our character or His answer is no.

However, I know I have been guilty of blaming God when I don’t get what I want out of a circumstance even when I haven’t exactly invested what I should to get the harvest at the proper time. As Galations 6:7,8 tells us: “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. From the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap, but the one who sows to the spirit will from the spirit reap eternal life.”

Although this passage is talking primarily about those who spend their money on worldly pleasures while neglecting to support the church, we can apply this to other areas of our lives. As commentator Albert Barnes notes, “Every kind of grain will produce grain like itself.” If I am acting in ways that are corrupt in my relationships or my finances, those choices will eventually come back to affect me.

I don’t know about you, but for most of my life I’ve worked on the external, making my outward actions look as good as possible for those around me, while hiding some secrets. But I hadn’t realized that this is essentially “mocking God” (v. 7). I can’t just pretend to be a good person. Merely assuming outward forms of “Christian” behavior does not deceive God. I may get away with my sin-hiding for a time, but the Bible is very clear that God notices my true motives even if I fool everyone around me.

In essence, Galations 6 reminds me that the good actions I do will bring good to me. The bad actions I do will bring me bad. And if I don’t act at all, I will reap nothing. Therefore, if I want a blessing or I know God has promised me one, and I’m not getting it, I need to check the “index” – look at some my deeds and what fruit they are producing in my life.

God Blessed Me Financially When I Obeyed 

A perfect example of the principle of sowing and reaping at work in my life is when we were attempting to sell our townhouse and move into a bigger home. Our house was on the market for a year and a half, and we hadn’t had a single offer. I kept telling myself it wasn’t selling because of the location, the cramped floor plan, the plain master bathroom, or the lack of a basement. However, those were not the answers that gave me any peace; there was something else, and I knew it. What came to mind when I prayed about it was an unpaid sum of money I had promised to the church.

I had pledged a sum over a period of four years to help pay for a church remodeling project, and after making a few monthly payments, I had gotten lazy and stopped paying on the debt. A few years in, I still owed money to fulfill my commitment. When I received a check for some training I had completed for work and it was almost the exact amount I needed, I handed over the money to the remodeling fund and felt an instant sense of peace. One month later our “unsellable” house was under contract, and we were in the joyful process of looking for a new place to live.

Skeptics might look at this and say there was no correlation between our house sale and the church payment — labeling what happened as “coincidence.” However, I have seen the principle of the index at work enough times in my own life to know that when I fulfill a pledge, I prepare myself to receive a blessing. Chambers affirms this idea when he says, “It is no use praying unless we are living as children of God. Then, Jesus says — ‘Everyone that asketh, receiveth.’ ”

Checking the index in this case was not too painful; I had to give up some money I would rather have used on something else. However, there have been other times I have had to make awkward apologies or seek reconciliation with a friend after wronging them, and it was excruciatingly hard. Many times, I have not wanted to obey — I’ve wanted to just skip the process altogether.

Index-checking is not a ritual or a legalistic practice I do to obtain righteousness; the Bible is clear that righteousness is a gift (Romans 3:20-25). Nor do I need to constantly meditate on my wrongdoing or allow myself to feel condemnation for my sin. By reading His Word and allowing His truth to penetrate my heart, I can know those areas where I need to let go of anger, make an apology, confess an area of bitterness, or pay money on a debt.

In my own experience, God has offered me more grace than I really deserve. A lot of times when I think I know the problem but I am not sure, I’ll ask Him for confirmation, and He answers me. If we are seeking God intently, He will help us in the way to go. He will help us to know the areas we need to work on that are preventing us from receiving the blessing we are looking for.

I encourage you. Have you checked your index? What might Jesus be pointing out to you? If you already know of a relationship that needs to be mended or a grudge you have held against another, go immediately and right the wrong you have done.

“Whatsoever good thing a man doeth, this shall he receive again from the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:8 — KJV)

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How Past Wounds Turned Me Into a Fearful Control Freak

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I sit in the dim room with other women. As the video starts for the new Bible study, panic rises inside me like fast-moving mercury in a barometer on a hot July day. The speaker, Ann Voskamp, tells about the death of her sister. As she describes the delivery truck pulling up the drive, the screams of her mother, I grow uncomfortable. Tears surface, a softball-size lump forms in my throat. I rehearse in my mind, “Do not cry. Do not cry. Do not cry.”

I try to think of something funny. Like one of my daughter’s jokes that has no punchline. And it’s hilarious because she thinks it is. And she laughs like it is possibly the world’s best joke. When actually it may be the world’s worst one. Thinking about this helps me remain calm, though I am hysterical on the inside.

Why am I having such a hard time listening to Voskamp’s story? Why does it upset me so much that I want to leave the room?

It is not until a few months later that I realize why I had the reaction I did to Voskamp’s story. I reacted the way I did because I have control issues. I have been there in her story — crushed beneath delivery truck moments I didn’t see coming. And because of those occasions, I have had problems with trust and problems in relationships.

How I Became a Control Freak

I didn’t always have the need to anticipate things, the fear of the unexpected to the extent that I would try to micromanage my circumstances. But out of my childhood was birthed the need to be able to have a say, to be able to have some decision over the outcome.

I didn’t get to pick the fact that I lived in a house that I was ashamed of. I didn’t get to choose the fact that I didn’t have any clothes to wear in high school. I didn’t get to have a say when my father came home angry and yelled at us. Which happened a lot. I wasn’t asked when a person in a significant relationship chose to break up with me and leave me outside his house with nothing but a letter. So, I made the decision as a young woman to never let anyone hurt me again. (As if I could realistically manipulate every element in my environment.)

That choice probably didn’t appear pivotal, but it was. Because of that resolution, I put myself in the unrealistic position as one who can control what happens to me. And I really can’t. I can’t anticipate the actions of others and manipulate the people around me so that I can avoid feeling a certain way. But that’s what I’ve tried to do.

And although my struggles stemmed mainly from failed male relationships — my father who ignored me and the boyfriends who left me — this pain translated into destructive tendencies in all my relationships, particularly friendships with women. I asked God why this was, and He told me: I’ve been chasing after power. Because if you’ve ever felt voiceless, then you know that you never want to feel that way again.

When I Let Fear Turn Me into a Mean Girl

Underneath that need to control has been something larger: fear. When I find myself in situations where I don’t like how events are turning out, I get afraid. Afraid of getting hurt. And it’s in that place of fear that I act in ways I shouldn’t.

I circumvent circumstances or hurt people before they can hurt me.

Some time ago, after losing a baby, I felt like I had sufficiently healed from the wound. I felt that I was at peace with what had happened. There was another woman I knew who was pregnant at the same time as me. A woman whose belly kept expanding even as mine was shrinking. A woman who got to go through all the milestones that I would never get to go through with the baby I lost.

I was really struggling with the fact that we had gotten pregnant around the same time. I was angry that God would bless her and allow her to continue on with her pregnancy — and not me. But I knew I needed to do the right thing, so I called her up and told her that I was happy for her, and I wished her well with her pregnancy.

But weeks later, when we attended an event together, I struggled knowing she would be there — reminding me of a loss I didn’t want to be reminded of. Knowing that she would be looking very pregnant, I dressed in a form-fitting dress. If I couldn’t be pregnant, I wanted to out-do her in some way, knowing that she would be weary of her swollen ankles and protruding stomach.

After the event, I knew I had acted in the wrong way. I felt like God wanted me to admit to her that I was having a hard time with the fact that she had her baby, and I couldn’t have mine. So I apologized to her.

Flaunting my skinny body in front of her was about trying to get the upper hand in a situation where I felt helpless. My problem really wasn’t with her. It was about fighting with everything I had against the perceived injustice of a situation.

You see, that “harmless” vow I made as a young person to never allow a person to hurt me made me feel I had to manipulate that situation.

Giving up Fear and My Need to Control

Jesus knew a few women in His time who had difficulties with relationships. A few women who probably felt like me — that life handed them circumstances they didn’t ask for.

In John 4:4, Jesus initiates a conversation with one such woman at a well. She had had five marriages and was living with a man she wasn’t married to, though we aren’t told whether her previous marriages ended because she had committed adultery or her husbands sent her away. Whatever the case, she had no husband when Jesus found her. Maybe she had decided that she had had enough of marriage and had decided to live outside the boundaries of matrimony to preserve her heart.

Maybe like me, she felt that if she could just control x, y and z, she could prevent another heartbreak. Another catastrophe.

Jesus does two really important things when He talks to her. He tells her that He knows all about her past string of husbands and the man she is living with now — establishing Himself as the one who knows her secrets. And then, He gives her a solution when He brings up a conversation with her about “living water” (v. 10).

The solution He offers the woman at the well and offers to you and me is Himself. The ultimate power source. She doesn’t have to hope for a better situation or figure out how to make that happen, Jesus shows a better way — which is not to try to change those around her, but be changed herself. To allow His eternal wellspring of life to live in her.

When we recognize Him as the one in control, we don’t have to be in control. We don’t have to exhaust ourselves “drawing water” from our own wells that will eventually run dry. We have in Him a never ending source of contentment, peace, satisfaction and belonging that fills all those places of neediness where we were never loved or noticed by the people we counted on the most.

The woman at the well drops her water jar and runs to tell the village about Jesus, saying, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (v. 29). By leaving her jar behind, we see that she is leaving behind her old methods of satisfying her thirst and embracing Jesus.

As commentator Alexander McLaren notes, the interesting thing about this exchange between Jesus and the woman is that she has no idea who He really is at first, and the truth gradually dawns on her. So it is when we walk with Jesus. We don’t really understand Him or His ways until we get to know Him better.

Not only does the truth of who He is dawn on her, the truth about herself dawns on her as well.

My need to control has not really been a problem with control — it’s been about a problem with trust. I didn’t know that I could trust God in my situation with the pregnant woman. Even though it would appear that I was acting out against her, I was shaking my fist at a God who I felt didn’t notice or care.

But I don’t have to be Carol control freak. Carol walking around with past wounds. He says, “Come to me. I have all you have been looking for. You will find it nowhere else but in me. And your desire for stability, knowing what outcomes in situations will be — I know it all. I can help you better than anyone because I know the end before you know the beginning.”

Those delivery truck moments — we can’t avoid them. They will come. We can’t waste time worrying and trying to avoid pain. We need to rest in the knowledge that Jesus will walk us through those trials.

What I can learn from Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well is that instead of controlling out of fear, I can trust.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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When It’s Not Wrong to Be the Center of Attention

I often find myself in a state of metacognition, a time of thinking about my own thinking.

My dad and I were in a tea house last year (yes, I’m a con-artist to get my dad to go to tea!), and there was a party of ladies sitting near us. The whole time we were there, I noticed that one woman totally dominated the conversation. She sat in the middle of the table and chimed in her own perspective on every topic. I didn’t know the woman, but I couldn’t help but think how obnoxious she was in comparison to her friends. Maybe I felt that because I recognized myself in the middle of that circle.

She was me, and the vision of that time in the tea house has haunted my memory since then.

May Beulah Girl 1000x600 (2)

I have no desire to be an introvert. I enjoy the fact that I can be bold. I like being the life of the party. I like being the center of attention. However, at the end of the day, I find myself replaying every word I’ve said and asking, “What crossed the line? What did people think of how I said that?” It’s not a cocky thing — it’s an insecure thing, an I-will-never-fit-in thing. Who would think that an extrovert who willingly draws so much attention to herself would regret most of the words she so carelessly tosses out? I wouldn’t believe it myself if I weren’t my own eyewitness.

Maybe you know me in real life, or maybe you just know me through the written word. Whether you’ve heard me say it or not, my life’s mission is to change the world. No, really. Some people just say that, but I will live and die by it—live abundantly as in John 10:10 or “die many times before [my] death” in the manner of Shakespeare’s cowards. I can’t rest (really I can’t) unless I feel like I’m accomplishing my mission, and for the task facing me, I need all the bold extroversion I can muster.

So how do I take what can be a vice and make it a virtue? If you’re in the same boat as me, with a personality too big for the room and the self-chastisement that follows, may I give both of us some advice?

Using the Center of Attention for Good

1. Let’s be slow to speak, and let’s make that speech important.

James is my favorite book of the Bible, and his words in the first chapter inspire me on this point: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (v.19). As long as what I have to say is carefully thought out, I don’t need to worry about it. That’s not to say that there won’t be consequences when someone takes me the wrong way, but I will be able to rest easily knowing that I planned what I meant for them to hear.

2. Let’s develop a group of protégés.

Surely we are not to be the only audience of our own wisdom. God has called all of us to do what author John C. Maxwell, author of The 360° Leader, refers to as leading up, leading across, and leading down. It’s in that leading down that we can really make an impact with our words.

Let’s call together a group that we can “do life with” and then regularly meet with them. I lead worship for eight years—maybe an upcoming leader needs something less painful than the school of hard knocks to bolster her own journey. Perhaps young women need to know that they don’t have to go through sexual impurity or depression; they can benefit from what I have to share instead and choose a different direction.

3. We have to translate speech into action.

No one wants to hear a ranty windbag go on and on about the way the world should be without ever seeing those ideas come to life and change the culture. To quote my brother John, I don’t want to be “a serial notrepreneur” for the kingdom. Ideas worth saying are worth doing, or we should keep our mouths shut.

4. We must seek humility as a lifestyle.

We are not the only ones with important things to say; that’s what the whole tea house scenario taught me. If I love an introvert, like my sister-in-law Rachel, I will give her time to think about what she’s going to say (which no doubt will be very profound) without running my own mental to-do list of what I’ll say next.

True love really cares about what the listener (aka victim) thinks and feels. We can’t think so much of our own opinions that we don’t remember what Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Love does not brag, it is not puffed up.”

5. I must be OK with me.

That means that we have to be OK with we as well.* The Bible proves the value of a bold lion’s heart time and again. After her idiot husband Nabal treated David’s men with contempt, Abigail’s boldness in restitution not only prevented death but also garnered her a future spot as a king’s wife. Peter walked on water, preached to thousands, and commanded a lame man to walk — these acts of boldness redeemed the times his brash personality got him in trouble even with His Lord.

John the Baptist didn’t hold his tongue to religious or secular leadership, even when it meant his head would be served on a platter, and by such boldness became the forerunner for Jesus. If you and I are in such good company with those who “loved not their lives unto the death” and who “overcame [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11), maybe our big mouths aren’t such a bad thing. *That’s not bad grammar. That’s Babyface reference. 90’s music anyone?

The bottom line: If you or I find ourselves the center of attention, let’s use that platform for good. What about you? Are you a spotlight person or more of a wallflower? I’d love to hear your answer in the comments below.

Photo Credit: The featured photo, “Tea Party,” is copyright (c) 2005 Jay Ryness and made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. It has been modified for use on this blog.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Obeying and Yielding to the Holy Spirit

obeying the holy spirit

How many times do we run from the task God has called us to do?

Not long ago, I felt the Holy Spirit impress on me to make a phone call, but a busy schedule was holding me back. Many of the things on my to-do list were godly things: taking food to a family, helping with a Bible study, and going to choir. However, they were distracting me from God’s will. As Christians, how many times have we done our godly agenda but not the agenda God has called us to do?

The person I felt a prodding to call was my Uncle Larry. He had colon cancer, and his health had deteriorated over the past few years. At first, I felt I should pray for him. I would wake up with him on my mind, so I would pray. A week later, I heard a strong voice from within say to call my uncle. But I had a full day. A Bible study to help lead. I didn’t act.

Acts 8: Philip and the Ethiopian

As I shared with my husband about what God wanted me to do, I had another stirring within. I was reminded of a passage from Acts in which the Holy Spirit instructs Philip to proceed to a particular road to intercept a chariot:

But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Rise and proceed southward or at midday on the road that runs from Jerusalem down to Gaza. This is the desert [route].’ So he got up and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship. And he was [now] returning, and sitting in his chariot … reading the book of the prophet Isaiah. Then the [Holy] Spirit said to Philip, Go forward and join yourself to this chariot. Accordingly Philip, [went] running up to him … ” (Acts 8:26-30 — AMP)

Just like Phillip, I needed to “run” toward my uncle. However, I had many obstacles in my path that day. I had to meet the son of a choir member to give him dinner since his dad was in the hospital, and then I had choir practice. But to appease the Holy Spirit’s overwhelming prodding, I decided after I delivered dinner, right before choir practice, I would contact my uncle. Surely that would take this spirit of urgency away from my soul!

Standing in the entrance of the church doors, I called my uncle and told him that I thought God wanted me to come pray with him. His reply was something unexpected. He exclaimed, “Well, get your butt over here!”

His reply was out of character for him.

I said, “I can’t tonight. I have choir practice; we are practicing our Christmas music, and we are starting now!”

My mind was racing because the next day I had a Bible study. So I asked, “How about tomorrow at 1:00?”

He agreed to the time. The next day, I went to see Larry, and told him how God had directed me to call him. He said, “Yesterday, for the first time, I fell on my knees and cried out to God and told Him I wanted to give up. I could not do this anymore!”

He said it was the lowest point of his life because his pain was so great he felt his purpose in life was over. But, he said my phone call had given him hope.

I felt awful that I had delayed in calling him. I realized I had almost missed a God assignment.

The Holy Spirit Spoke Through Me

As I sat there with him, I suddenly became fearful because I didn’t know what God wanted me to say or do. So, I did the best thing to do when fear attacks. I prayed. I began praying for healing and for strength for Larry to fight his illness. As I prayed, I had a prompting to pray for a person (no name was given) that God wanted my uncle to speak to for Him. After our prayer, I sat across from my uncle looking into his eyes and asked him questions – questions not from me but from the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor … ” (Luke 4:18).

I wasn’t sure where those questions were leading, but it became clear that God was relaying something important for my uncle to hear. I said, “Isn’t it amazing how deep and great God’s love is to bring us together to pray for this person that you are to speak to?”

My uncle looked at me and said, “I don’t know who it is. Each morning, I ask God to show me who I am to speak to and share a message. When I go for treatments, I have prayed with people and for people. I have tried to go back to some of the people in my past and apologize for any wrong doings. I just can’t imagine who I am to speak to.”

I told him that God would tell him. I also said I would be praying for a name, and if I got one, I would let him know. Driving home, I asked God to reveal the name to my uncle, and a name came to me: David. David. God had given me the person’s name!

I called my uncle and said, “It is David. Do you know any David?”

After a long pause, He whispered in a voice so soft I could barely hear him, “Yes, and he needs prayer.”

“Who is this David?” I asked.

He said, hesitating, “He is my son.”

Later, I found out that David was in jail, and had been there for a while. I had not seen him in forty years.

I said in a quiet and slow voice, “I forgot you had a son named David.”

“Isn’t it amazing how God wants you, his earthly father, to let your son know how much God loves him, and how He sent God’s love to him?” I told my uncle I would be faithful in praying for him to have the opportunity to tell David how much God loves him.

In response to my words, I heard only silence. As it grew uncomfortable, I got the impression that Larry did not want to talk anymore. I said my good-byes and hung up the phone.

Submitting to the Holy Spirit’s Nudge

I do know that God used my call to Larry to share His love for his son. Since our conversation, I have not asked about David. I am waiting for the Holy Spirit to lead me to do that if He wants me to. I was just the messenger, and it is up to my uncle to decide whether or not he will share God’s message of love He wanted to give to David.

I was honored that God used me in this instance, and I learned something about my response to the Lord: I felt His nudge several times but didn’t respond as I had my excuses. But praise God, He kept prompting me even though I was fearful to obey. Like Philip in the Acts passage, I didn’t know what I would find when I acted, but I got more details after I went ahead and proceeded toward the “road” the Holy Spirit was directing me down.

Many times we don’t want to act when the Holy Spirit stirs us to move unless we know all the steps and the outcome. But – just like in my story with Larry – that is generally not how God works. He gives us the small act to do – and then He opens up the rest as we move in the direction He has asked us to go.

I had to trust God. And even though I don’t know the ending to Larry’s story with his son, I was still rewarded in knowing that the Holy Spirit used me to encourage and speak to my uncle. I felt peace because I had responded to God’s nudging in my spirit.

My challenge and prayer for each one of us is that we would be open to the Holy Spirit and not be too busy doing great things to do the greatest thing that God would have us to do!

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ” (Isaiah 30:21)

Sheila Michael

Sheila Michael

Sheila is a retired elementary school principal and educator. She spent over thirty years in education and has a specialist degree in educational leadership. She is also a wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of 12 amazing kiddos. Sheila enjoys cooking and teaching her grandchildren how to cook. Family gatherings are essential to the Michael “herd,” as they gather to share life with each other. Residing in Georgia, Sheila calls herself a “Southern belle with a twist,” since her husband is from Iowa. Sheila’s personal journey with God has created in her a desire to write and share the “God moments” she has experienced in her life. She loves mentoring young women in their walk with Christ and encouraging families to serve and love the Lord and each other as they navigate through life’s challenges.

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How God Helped Me Forgive My Father

Christian forgiveness of my abusive fatherI grew up amidst domestic violence and drug abuse. My most prominent childhood memories are of my father’s violence toward my mother and, on a few occasions, toward me. Needless to say, my childhood was chaotic.

As you might expect, I harbored a great deal of anger against my father. In addition to being abusive, he was anything but affectionate. My father never said to me, “I love you.” Truly, I cannot recall a single tender moment between us.

Instead, I can only recall conversations like the one we had concerning what I planned to do upon graduating from high school:

Me: I need you to fill out some financial aid forms so I can apply to college.

Father: Why? They aren’t going to accept YOU.

Me: My guidance counselor says they will. My grades and test scores are good enough.

Father: You don’t have money to pay for it. They aren’t going to let you go for free. No one’s going to give YOU money.

Me: My guidance counselor says I can get financial assistance and scholarships, but we have to fill out these forms first.

Father: Come on, this isn’t going to work. Be real. You can’t do this. Get married, and start having kids. THAT is what YOU need to do.

Me:

After this particular conversation with my father, my anger toward him reached a new level; it was at an all-time high and possessed every fiber of my being.

I consoled myself with thoughts of revenge: I was going to college. I was going to get financial assistance. I was going to be successful. And when I achieved all this, I was going to take my bachelor’s degree and shove it in his face!

And then, I found Jesus. I found new life. I found forgiveness.

And as it says in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

I knew I had to forgive my father.

I spent time in prayer and asked God to take my anger toward my father from me. I told God, “I forgive him, for everything.” I even prayed for God to reveal Himself to my dad in a mighty way. Surely that was evidence my grudges against him were gone. I had been obedient and forgiven my father of his transgressions!

However, the day I graduated from college, something happened that made me realize I had NOT truly forgiven my father for his abusive past.

As soon as I got my diploma in my hands, my first urge was to seek him out and wave it in his face, and so, that is what I did. Surprisingly, he had come to my graduation, so I didn’t have to go far to find him. Out of all the relatives that had come to see me that day, he was the first I approached. I walked haughtily up to him and announced my achievement while wielding my prized diploma in my hands. I got it as close to his face as I possibly could and proclaimed that I had done it despite him saying I never could.

His response? I saw tears in his eyes, a smile on his face, and he gave me a hug. He said, “Good job, Jamie Lynn.”

It was in that moment I knew I had not really forgiven my father.

In the days after my graduation, the Lord began to speak to me about what it means to truly forgive someone.

To truly forgive someone, you must let go of your anger.

After my graduation day outburst, I realized I was still holding onto a lot of anger toward my father. However, to completely forgive someone, you must let go of your anger.

Ponder this: God let go of His anger toward us. Charles Swindoll’s Insight for Living Ministries puts it like this: “At the cross, God poured out His judgment on His Son, satisfying His wrath and making it possible for Him to forgive us.”

Anger (wrath) has no place in forgiveness. After I had this epiphany, I sought out a way to relieve myself of the anger I was obviously still hanging on to. How was I ever going to “satisfy” my wrath and make forgiveness possible? This brought me to the next component of true forgiveness.

To forgive, accept that the other person is imperfect.

Consider the woman of adultery who was taken to Jesus in John 8. The Pharisees insisted that she be stoned in accordance with the law of Moses, but they asked Jesus what He thought should be done with the woman.

In response, Jesus says to the crowd, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her.”

And as the Pharisees walked away one after the other, their anger tempered, Jesus turned to the woman and said, “Go, and sin no more.”

It took some time, but I have learned that to forgive, I must accept a stark reality: the person who sinned against me is not perfect and neither am I. This was clearly the message the Pharisees received that day from Jesus.

It is a message I had to receive from Jesus as well: I was wronged, but I, too, wrong others. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. The acceptance of this reality can temper our anger and make it easier to truly forgive the ones who wronged us.  

Jesus saw Mary Magdalene that day. He saw her for everything she truly was, and despite the sin — perhaps, BECAUSE of that — He offered her forgiveness. You see, Jesus didn’t try to dismiss the claims that she had committed adultery or pretend like she wasn’t guilty of what she was accused of. What He did do was turn to the others and ask which of them was without sin — making the point that we should show mercy considering the mercy we’ve been shown. A point that enabled those in the crowd that day to walk away from their anger, leaving forgiveness in their wake.

My anger toward my father slowly dissipated as I came to accept him for who he is — a human with many flaws, with many personal demons, and with many sorrows. Not unlike myself, really. Upon accepting this, I felt I finally had the capacity to truly forgive my father. And although forgiveness does not mean you have to continue a relationship with the person who wronged you, my father and I stay in touch. Only the power of true forgiveness could heal such a broken relationship.

Are you wounded? Friend, let me share with you what I have learned: navigating the wounds of our pasts must begin with forgiveness of those who wounded us.

Jesus, our great physician, wants to help us heal, but to do so, we must obey the doctor’s orders. I can testify that although the medicine may be hard to swallow, the result is a peace that passes all understanding.

Jamie Wills

Jamie Wills

Jamie is a high school English teacher, wife and mom. She is a marathon runner and writes regularly in her spare time on miscarriage, running, spirituality and everyday life on her blog -- posting things that God shows her that she doesn't want to forget, or "forget-me-nots." Jamie holds a master's degree in education and sponsors speech and debate at the high school level. Jamie is the mother of three children -- two beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah; as well as Angel, a baby she lost in August of 2010. She currently resides in Georgia with her family.

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