Finding Healing From Same-Sex Relationships

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In the novel The Color Purple, the main character Celie develops an intimate relationship with another woman, Shug Avery. Though she is a married woman, her husband abuses her, so she seeks respite in the arms of a kind friend who pays attention to her.

Though we might think this is the kind of scenario reserved for the pages of fiction, I believe this kind of situation is not uncommon. Though the details might not unfold in exactly the same way in every story, we may find ourselves more susceptible to finding love in a place we never thought we would in the wake of a rejection of some kind, abandonment, or other serious attack to our worth.

Certainly, same-sex relationships can happen because individuals have feelings for or an attraction to the same sex, but as The Color Purple illustrates, individuals who never struggled with a same-sex attraction can drift into same-sex relationships for emotional fulfillment and security, especially if those individuals are in a place of feeling unloved and insecure.

I would know — because this happened to me.

My Story of Same-Sex Relationships

When I was in high school, I had friendships with other girls that started off as regular friendships and then grew physical. This wasn’t a pre-meditated decision. I wasn’t struggling with same-sex attraction or unaware of what the Bible said about homosexuality. I grew up in a Christian home and knew the Bible’s stance on same-sex relationships.

But I was afraid of the opposite sex. I went through an awkward stage in middle school and early high school and was teased by a handful of my male peers. Sensitive and insecure, I internalized the criticism and determined something was wrong with me. I bought into the lie that no guy could ever like me. Even as I had interest from some males and friendships with males that developed into dating relationships, I secretly believed that they could not really care about me.

I needed an out for the pain I experienced when others rejected me and a place to boost my sagging sense of worth. I didn’t know how to place my identity in Christ or find in Him the love and acceptance I was missing. Therefore, these physical relationships evolved. I denied what was really happening and even thought that I was saving myself for marriage.

Even though this experimentation with the same sex ended before I graduated from high school, I carried a deep sense of shame for what I had participated in. I resolved that I would never tell anyone what I had done. I would keep my past sins a secret.

However, I didn’t know that stuffing down your sin doesn’t heal or liberate you. It places you in bondage. To get free, we have to do as the Bible says and choose to walk in the light (1 John 1:7-9). The Bible says that we are to confess our sins to others and bring out in the open what we are hiding (James 5:16). Although individual confession in our own prayer time is needed, we also find healing by sharing our sin struggles with others and asking others to pray for us.

Certainly, open confession isn’t advisable in every circumstance, and we shouldn’t run around and confess every thought and action. In addition, we should be wise about whom we confide in, as there are some who can’t handle the details of our story. However, we find a great release of guilt and shame when we choose to be transparent with others.

This could look different depending on our circumstance, but this might mean confessing to a fellow believer, pastor/church leader, or Christian counselor. This may mean telling others our testimony, as I am doing here. Whatever the case, God will lead us in the right way to go when we open ourselves to Him and choose to surrender over the dark parts of our life that need redemption.

Walking in the Light of God’s Freedom

Some time ago, I watched a documentary where siblings, abandoned by their mother, went on a search to find out their mother’s identity and the reasons for their abandonment. With the help of an agency, the agency found a relative in their mother’s family and set up a meeting to meet with her. The aunt, as she identified herself, gave details about their mother. Yet, after the initial meeting, when the agency pressed for further meetings and details, a truth immerged that no one expected: the “aunt” was actually the biological mother of the children. She was afraid to tell the truth because she didn’t want to inflict more pain on her adult children and identify herself as the one who had abandoned them. Yet, when the agency suspected the truth based on the details she gave, she finally caved.

Before her confession, her secrets were weighing on her so heavily she had been having heart problems, but when she chose to be honest about her shortcomings, the burden of guilt and shame she had carried lifted — and her heart problem began to improve.

I tell this story because confession is not easy. Those of us raised in the church may have the hardest time confessing sin because we know better, and it’s all too easy to play the perfect game by dressing up each Sunday and warning a pew, but no healing can come until we get honest with God and sometimes others, depending on the situation. Only then can healing come.

God Heals Us When We Turn to Him

If you are someone who has had same-sex experiences in your past, you don’t have to live in shame and condemnation. Maybe you have always felt different and have been attracted to the same sex. Or maybe, like me, you found yourself involved in a relationship with the same sex at a time in your life when you felt unloved or unworthy. Or maybe you are someone is attracted to both genders and consider yourself bisexual.

Whatever the case, when we veer outside of God’s plan for sex and relationships, our actions cause burdens of shame and guilt that we cannot remove on our own. God promises not to turn anyone away who comes to Him — and grants healing to those who call on Him and desire to walk in His ways.

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can do that now and ask Him to help you walk a new way. And, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you can approach Him with confidence as a beloved child of God. In either scenario, He is waiting with open arms.

Related Resources:

This is part of a 2-part series on same-sex relationships. Check out my first article in the series about what our approach should be as Christians to the topic. If you’d like to hear more details about my personal testimony, check out my podcast episode at the top of this post.

Feel a little confused about what it means to confess our sins to others and what the Bible says about confession? Check out this free resource detailing a few guidelines about confession (when to share and when not to) that I’ve learned on my journey.

Want to learn more about breaking free of sexual sin? Check out these following articles on severing unwanted soul ties: “Breaking Negative Soul Ties; Getting Rid of Emotional and Romantic Baggage” and “Breaking Unhealthy Soul Ties: How to Get Over Past Romantic Relationships.”

*Updated September 15, 2018.

 

 

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 love music 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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As Christians, How We Should View Homosexuality

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A few years ago, after the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage as constitutional, I frequently saw the phrase “Love Wins” on social media and other media outlets.

The meaning behind the words is that love between two individuals is the highest good that will always win out in the end. Such an ideology sounds good at the outset and one that a loving God would support, but what would the Bible say about the phrase?

A Biblical View of God’s Love

If we look at Scripture, we see a God who passionately loves His creation and was willing to send His Son Jesus in human form to die for us. Such an act made it possible for those who place their faith and trust in Jesus to live in eternal relationship with Him. We also see throughout the Bible a God who gives us desires and helps us to fulfill them.

However, while God loves us and is concerned with our personal desires and wants, He doesn’t always give us what we want. Instead, He gives us what is best for us, according to His will. This God who loves us and knows what is best for us set guidelines in place about how to do life and gave them to us in His Word — and this includes a plan for marriage and sexuality.

God’s Plan for Marriage and Sexuality

God designed both men and women with different biological anatomy to complement each other within the marriage relationship. God gave the gift of sex to be enjoyed within the marital union and the ability for man and woman to pro-create (Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 2:24). Christian marriage displays God’s love and glory to the world — as husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church, and wives are called to respect and submit to their husbands as the church is called to submit to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33).

As both a wife and husband have different, unique attributes that each brings to a marriage relationship, children benefit from being raised in homes with both a mother and a father. Understandably, in our fallen world, not every child has a mother and a father within a home. If you are a single mother or father reading this, don’t lose heart! God can work within your situation and bring about the right role models of the opposite sex that your child needs.

However, I say what I do concerning children needing a mother and father in a home to make the point that society is impacted when we ignore God’s plan for family and sexuality outlined in Scripture. (For more on this, check out this series of articles on homosexuality from Focus on the Family.)

Certainly, as the Bible states, not everyone is called to marriage. However, individuals who never marry are called to lives of celibacy. This may sound like an incredibly oppressive and outdated plan for sexuality, but when we understand that God put boundaries in place in regards to our sexuality to protect us and live lives with the most fulfillment and purpose (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 16:6), we understand why it benefits us not only in terms of community, but individually, when we live according to what it says even when the way doesn’t feel easy or comfortable or desirable.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul answers some in the church who thought that it was acceptable to engage in sexual immorality: “ ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say — but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ — but I will not be mastered by anything.” In other words, he says they may have the cultural or legal right to participate in sexual immorality. However, because they belong to Christ, they need to recognize that not everything that they are free to do is beneficial to them. And we can very much take away the same principle in regards to our culture.

The wisdom of the world tells us that what we desire will bring us freedom from bondage and will make us happy. However, allowing our desires, in the area of sexuality or any other area, to dictate our course leads to bondage and destruction (Matthew 7:13). Proverbs 14:12 (ESV) tells us, “There is way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Similarly, Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I read a piece just the other day written by a woman who grew up in the church but was attracted to the same sex, even as a child. As a 17-year-old, she announced she was a lesbian, immersed herself in the lifestyle, and left the church. But as an adult, she felt God speaking very clearly to her that she was on a course of destruction. She made the painful decision to break up with her girlfriend and pursue God and now is a Christian song-writer, speaker, and author.

As this young woman learned and the Bible tells us, submitting ourselves, even in the area of our sexuality, to His plan for relationships and marriage, is that which brings freedom. When we live according to our own whims only, we will find ourselves in chains, but when we living according to God’s way, we find freedom and life.

Matthew 11:28-30 tells us, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Though initially harder, taking Jesus’ yoke upon us and learning to walk life His way is that which brings blessing and peace into our lives — and this includes all areas of our lives, not just the area of our sexuality.

A Christian Approach to Homosexuality

This wasn’t an easy piece to write. It was, in fact, a little intimidating because I know so many of us in the church have approached this topic — myself included — in the wrong way.

But Scripture gives us the key to how we should approach this issue: As my pastor emphasized recently, Jesus lived a life of both grace and truth (John 1:14). He never compromised God’s standards, but He was also loving and compassionate.

I believe that is why we have such a difficult time with this topic: We either err on the side of truth and pound it into our loved ones and those we encounter in an attempt to live out and uphold the standards in the Bible or we err on the side of grace where we are so loving and accepting that we don’t speak the truth to those embracing a homosexual lifestyle.

Jesus lived out both truth and grace, perfectly. We will never be perfect this side of heaven, but with His help, we should attempt to emulate His approach. Ephesians 4:15 tells us that we are to speak the truth in love. I believe that many in the LGBT community are so turned off by Christians, they run when we come near because we speak the truth with no grace — but it is in choosing to engage with truth and grace that we can truly be the Christian influence we’re meant to be.

My Story of Experimentation With Same-Sex Relationships

In wrapping up, I want to tell you while this was uncomfortable for me to write about because I wanted to strike the right tone, I am not someone who is coming at this issue as a stranger to the topic. I am talking about this issue because, as a teenager, in order to cope with my feelings of low self-worth I experimented sexually and allowed some of my friendships with other girls to become physical. I carried the shame from my choices into adulthood and God healed me of the shame and guilt associated with the choices I had made as a teenager. (More on this in episode 2 of this series.)

But here’s the thing: In order for me to be free, I had to open myself to God’s truth. I knew as an adult that my conduct had been wrong and even knew while I was doing it. But I didn’t face the reasons for my choices until God prompted me. So, for me, facing the truth wasn’t just agreeing it was wrong because I already knew that. Facing the truth was allowing God to show me the root of my problems and allow Him to work on my tendency of turning to others for my sense of worth.

You may have a similar story as me or know someone else who does. Whatever the case, part of God loving us is that He reveals to us the truth about ourselves and this truth sets us free (John 8:32). While my behavior was tied to a desire for love and approval, other individuals may struggle for other reasons as I shared in the story of the young woman who announced she was a lesbian — and only God can reveal those.

It’s offensive to many that Christians would suggest that we need a way out of a homosexual lifestyle — but when we see that God tells us the truth about ourselves and our behavior so that we can be free, we begin to see that the solution to helping ourselves and others in a homosexual lifestyle or struggling with same-sex attraction is to open ourselves up to God’s healing and truth and help others do the same.

A God Who Loves Us Won’t Leave Us in Our Sin

It’s never easy to face certain truths about our lives, but Proverbs 27:6 tells us that “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” In other words, sometimes people who love us have to tell us things that hurt in order to help us. And that is what God does. While our closest friends can see things we can’t, God is more than our close friend. He is our ultimate friend. He tells us the truth to rescue us. John 3:17 tells us that Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, but rather, to save. God can show us the way out of homosexuality or any other harmful behavior we are involved in — if we let Him.

Friend, perhaps you are in a same-sex relationship or perhaps know someone who is. Whatever drew you to read this article today, you are not too far gone for God to save. All of us have sin in our lives. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God in more ways than one, but God’s desire is that we come and let Him make right what we cannot make right on our own and help us live in a way that benefits us and glorifies Him.

Related Resources:

For more on God’s design for sex and choosing to not allow our hearts to deceive us, check out the following resources from family counselor Amy Owen: “3 Scriptural Truths That Reveal God’s Plan for Sex” and “When the Heart Leads Us Astray.”

Are you currently in a same-sex relationship or struggling with a same-sex attraction and looking for a way out? Check out this further resource by Sue Bohlin, member of the Board of Directors for Living Hope Ministries, that details some helpful steps for recovery from same-sex attractions. Also, check out our next podcast episode about finding healing from same-sex relationships.

 

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 love music 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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Helping Others in the Midst of Your Pain

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An ultrasound when you’re not pregnant has to be just about the saddest thing ever.

That was my thought as I walked into my doctor’s office a week after a devastating miscarriage. I was scheduled for a follow-up ultrasound to check on me after a surgery at the hospital the week before.

I could visualize it now: my empty uterus blown up on the screen, its rounded walls encircling life no longer. No comforting blinking blip of a baby’s heartbeat — just a yawning expanse of gray fuzz where a fetus had been just a few weeks earlier.

To make matters worse, I was not feeling great. I had a racing heartbeat and low iron levels. Walking from the car up to the office was an effort for me. I felt sorry for myself, and I was prepared for others to feel sorry for me too. I figured God had arranged a motherly ultrasound tech to do the ultrasound, perhaps a kind nurse to minister to me in my time of brokenness.

But God had other plans.

Telling Our Story Helps Others Find Healing

The ultrasound tech who found me in the waiting room was not the maternal tech I was hoping for. She was younger than me, thin. There was a vulnerability about her. Although she gave me instructions in a most professional way about what clothes to remove and where to position myself on the table, I felt a sensitivity immediately in my spirit, a prick.

We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes. As pleasant as a conversation about a lost baby can be. Yes, I did just lose my baby at 11 1/2 weeks. Yes, I was supposed to have my 12 week ultrasound today, but instead they changed it to my post-miscarriage ultrasound. No, this was not my first pregnancy. The conversation then took a rather innocent turn. I had mistakenly thought that my ultrasound was going to be after my doctor exam (and urine sample) and had filled up on water. So, I commented on how excruciating it can be to have an ultrasound with a full bladder. She began to relate a story to me of an ultrasound she had had recently where she was in intense discomfort.

I assumed she had children and asked how many she had. She quickly explained that she had no children but had actually had an ultrasound to look at a cyst on her uterus that she had been having problems with for the past few years. The moment that she said “cyst” a word dropped into my brain, and I tried to shake it off, but it came again. Unforgiveness. She continued to talk and the word came again. Unforgiveness. It drowned out all other sounds and kept interrupting my thoughts like an incoming message chime in an email.

As much as I would like to say that I am a wonderful Christian and that I wanted to speak to this woman and tell her about my own past struggles with unforgiveness and the physical problems it caused me, I really didn’t. However, I also know that God gives me very specific words for people at extremely inconvenient times, and when I ignore His assignments I always regret it. Feeling a thin film of sweat develop on my brow, I made my way off the table and into the bathroom to get the rest of my clothes on. God, do you want me to tell her that her condition may be caused by unforgiveness in a relationship? I only heard silence and the efficient hum of the ultrasound tech’s movements on the other side of the door.

I already knew the answer.

In the least awkward way possible, I opened the door, smiled at the woman and said to her, “I am not a medical professional, and this may not even be for you, but when you were talking about cysts a moment ago, I got a word in my mind for you.” I then proceeded to tell her I was a Christian and how my decision to hold onto hatred for a friend after she had hurt me had caused a problem with bleeding.

The issue continued for over a month until I felt convicted and apologized to my friend. The very day I forgave her and sent her an apology email the problem went away. I told the ultrasound tech that sometimes we just get physical problems (we live in a fallen world and experience illness as a result), but at times we get physical problems as a result of emotional or spiritual problems. I offered her my story and told her I did not want her to suffer, so she could weigh out if what I said applied to her.

The awkward thing for me in that moment was I could very well have been wrong. I could have imagined the words in my head and imagined that it had anything to do with her. I could have greatly offended her and made a stressful situation worse. Yet, Jesus was bold with people. He gave them actions to complete and didn’t mince words. He was compassionate, but he didn’t just stand around and lament the condition people were in. He healed them.

I wasn’t Jesus and I didn’t even feel much like Him in that moment, but if He was indeed giving me these words for this woman, He was offering her a step to healing. And a step to Himself.

I was just a flawed woman in a doctor’s office after the loss of a pregnancy. A woman feeling dizzy and lightheaded and sad for my baby. But when I began talking, I felt such strength and power, as only Christ can provide, and I didn’t feel sad at all. My problems were so far removed from me at that moment. And I really felt that there was something sadder than an ultrasound when you aren’t pregnant: a person without the hope of Jesus Christ.

Even in my condition, I had a hope to lean the weight of my sadness on.

She didn’t say much in response, but I could tell by the look in her eyes that my words had moved her. And because nothing else came to mind and she looked like she needed a moment to process everything, I gave her a hug and stepped away. I didn’t know what was going on her life or what was going on with her body, but God did. And all I could do was offer Him.

Helping Others Helps Us Heal

The lesson I learned in the ultrasound room is this: God wants to use me even when I feel that I am at my lowest and weakest point. He always has others on His mind. While I mainly have myself on my mind — reaching out and ministering to others in my own broken state can heal not only the other person but can help to heal my own heart. As Shelene Bryan notes in Love, Skip, Jump, “It is in sacrificially loving others that God can use us and fulfill us in a way that nothing else can. By surrendering our plans and desires to Him we can be part of something He wants to do.”

Is there something right now that the Lord might be asking of you? Something that makes you a little scared, a little uncomfortable? You may have to push aside your own desires or even reach out in the midst of your own suffering, but if you do, you may be able to forget your own sadness and feel the goodness of God in the midst of your pain.

Related Resources:

As stated in the article, physical illness is not always a result of an emotional issue or sin in our lives. Physical illness is part of the fallen world we live in. However, sometimes our physical illness can come as a result of emotional pain or sin struggles in our lives. If you’re interested in learning more about illness that comes as a result of an issue in our lives such as unforgiveness, check out this series on healing: Part One: Is There a Healing Formula in the Bible?, Part Two: How Confession Brings Healing, Part Three: How Repentance Brings Healing.

Have you missed hearing co-hosts Suzy Lolley and Carol Whitaker talk through the points of our posts on our podcast? We’ve taken a break from the podcast this summer, but we’re coming back in September, so mark your calendars! Our first podcast for Season 2 will cover what our view as Christians should be on homosexuality.  Check out our podcast archive from Season 1 if you would like to circle back and listen to any episodes you missed.

*Updated and adapted from a post originally published November 8, 2014.

 

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 love music 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 Forgiveness Helped Bring Unity in My Marriage

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“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’ ” (Matthew 18:21, 22).

Years ago, when I married I thought I would have a match made in heaven. I was a divorcée at the time, so I came with an extensive list of do’s and don’ts that I thought led to success and failure in a marriage. I soon discovered that forgiveness was not on my list of do’s.

In the first year of our marriage, we walked hand-in-hand enjoying our new relationship, but then disagreements began to surface. I questioned if I had made a mistake in marrying again. Marriage was not looking so good, and I began to battle thoughts that I would fail again in this new marriage. When I prayed, I asked God to fix my husband to make him into the man I desired. I certainly didn’t understand Colossians 3:13, which says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Even though I was a Christian when I married, I held onto wordly ideas about marriage and hadn’t learned to surrender to God’s plan for my marriage. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, I believed that I could be independent and make my own choices, yet I didn’t realize that when I stepped away from the principles God had given me in His Word for making a marriage relationship work, such as forgiveness, those choices would only lead to strife.

Depending on God in the Marriage Relationship

When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, there were two trees in the middle of the garden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God warned them that they must eat only from the tree of life, but Satan came along and challenged God’s statement with a lie, “‘Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from every tree of the garden?’ ” (Genesis 3:1)

God’s plan for them as individuals and in marriage was to stay attached to Him and depend on Him in their relationship. However, Satan tempted Eve with a different path — one in which she could do what she pleased. And we still face that temptation. What Eve didn’t know is that the choice she made would not be without consequences. She did eat the fruit of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil with her husband, and because of the choice, she and her husband were banished from the garden.

Humanity no longer lives in the Garden of Eden, but rather in a world full of sin because of Adam and Eve’s sin. However, God gave us a way to be restored and live how He originally intended us to live with one another. We have a tree of life in Jesus that we must choose daily. As the tree of life stood in the middle of the garden, so we must position Jesus — our “tree of life” in the center of our marriage, as He holds the knowledge of how we should do life within His Word.

In particular, as I mentioned, forgiveness, as well as some of the other commands in God’s Word, weren’t on my list of “do’s.” Yet, slowly, when I began to learn the importance of choosing not to “eat” from the wrong tree, but instead choose the tree of life in my marriage, I began to change my list of do’s — and forgiveness, as well as other biblical principles, became a priority. Doing so helped me change my perspective of my marriage and kept me connected to my spouse.

How I Learned to Forgive in My Marriage

In particular, in regards to forgiveness, I can recall a situation when I needed to ask for and receive forgiveness from God and my spouse. In this situation, I spent too much on an outfit for myself. Lured to purchase something that I knew was too expensive, I quietly put it in my closet, knowing I didn’t need it. My husband and I had agreed on our family budget, but instead of honoring our agreement, I spent more than I should have.

The day the bill arrived, my purchase was disclosed and my husband confronted me. I defended myself with words of justification, and he returned heated comments.

In my purchase of the item and attempts to justify my purchase, I broke the boundaries my husband and I had both agreed on for our finances. My husband was hurt because he trusted me to be faithful to the guidelines we had established. When he voiced his displeasure to me over my actions, I stormed off from the conversation, so filled with my justification of wrongdoing, that I refused to accept responsibility and admit my mistake.

I was restless all day after our argument. I knew I had to clean up my relationship by asking for forgiveness from my Heavenly Father in the marriage, and I needed to ask my husband to forgive me for my unkind words and reckless spending. It says in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV): “ If my people who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”

It was not an easy choice to go to God to confess, but when I asked God to forgive me, I discovered my anger was gone. I began to see how my behavior was wrong and my words were hurtful. After going to God, I knew I had to approach my husband and not just say the words “I am sorry,” but ask him to forgive me. I needed to be specific, telling him how I realized I had broken our agreement and tried to hide it, plus defended my actions with hurtful words.

Just as God was faithful to forgive me when I confessed my wrong, my husband was faithful to forgive me. But like Adam and Eve had to walk out steps of repentance and confession, I had to do the same. Adam and Eve initially tried to hide from God because they felt ashamed of their choices and even tried to fix the situation by covering themselves with fig leaves.

But God went after them and initiated the repentance process. He asked them what they had done not because He didn’t know, but so that they could confess openly and be healed. When they confessed their wrong, He made a way for them to be cleansed of their sin by making the first animal sacrifice (Genesis 3:21).

Now, on the other side of the cross, we no longer have to make sacrifices for sin as Adam and Eve did. We have Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Jesus makes it possible for us to come to Him without sacrifices and be forgiven of our sin, but we still have to repent and confess when we wrong others (including our spouse) to make things right in our relationship with God and others (1 John 1:9; James 5:16).

Choosing to Put God at the Center of Our Marriage

Practicing forgiveness in marriage is not only that which brings healing and restoration to our relationship, our action is one that helps to put God at the center of our marriage because it glorifies God rather than ourselves. In our day-to-day living, our decisions and responses to life cannot be based on our desires, but on how we can glorify God in a situation. When I made the purchase, I made it out of my selfish desires, knowing I was going against our agreement. My spending decisions led me down the wrong path, which later erupted into fights filled with words and frustration that didn’t bring God glory in our home.

However, forgiveness restored the unity between us and helped us move past the incident. In our marriages, no matter the conflict, we have to seek God’s guidance on how to deal with it. Just like the first married couple post-Eden, we will have moments of marital bliss and we will have unhappy moments. But to have a match made in heaven, we have to understand and live out the principles God gives us in His Word for making relationships work — including confession of sin when we’re wrong and forgiveness of our spouse.

In choosing God’s way, we choose the tree of life, rather than our own way. Now that’s giving God the glory!

*This article was written in collaboration with Carol Whitaker.

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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Why It’s Hard to Forgive

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I love a good hero or heroine, don’t you? One of my favorite heroines of all time would have to be Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She is relatable, completely human, yet smart and charismatic. While Elizabeth shares the spotlight with her sister Jane in the book, as the two have parallel romances, it is arguably Elizabeth who captures the hearts of readers.

However much we love heroines like Elizabeth in a story, though, the other characters (even if more minor) help bring interest to the story and are still crucial to its development. Much can be learned if we focus not only on the protagonist, but if we also shift our gaze to the less-mentioned characters in a story.

This is certainly true in the parable of the prodigal son. In the parable, most of us are most familiar with the youngest son. Although I am not sure we would call him a hero (at least at the beginning of the story), we can all relate to the rebellion of this presumptuous lad, the poor choices, the change of heart, and the return home. Even if we haven’t had a major “run” from God in our walk with Him, chances are we can all point to seasons where we strayed or were unfaithful and experienced His grace and forgiveness.

However, if we turn our focus for a moment not on the younger brother in the story but on the older brother, we can learn much from his reactions to his father’s lavish forgiveness of his younger brother. Rather than rejoice when his brother returned, the older brother grew angry and resentful. Notice the exchange between the father and the older brother in Luke 15:25-32:

Meanwhile the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of his servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

2 Lessons About Forgiveness We Can Learn From the Older Brother

1. Forgiveness costs us.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easily for any of us. We find it difficult to forgive. Why? Forgiveness costs us. This is a parable, so the story is one Jesus made up to illustrate a point. However, let’s say for a moment the events actually transpired.

The older brother might have had to console his distraught father after the younger son left — repeatedly. Maybe the older brother had to take on added responsibilities after the younger son was of out of the picture. Perhaps the older brother had to continually answer pointed question from neighbors and friends about the antics of his irresponsible brother.

Therefore, when he came in from the field and saw that a celebration was taking place for this same brother that had caused so much hurt to the family, no wonder he couldn’t get past these memories and inconveniences caused by his brother’s sin.

And we’re the same way. Maybe a person’s continued sin in our lives is that which has caused us terrible pain and heartache. While I am not suggesting that we put up with abuse or condone wrong actions, we are asked to forgive those in our lives that hurt us and at times bear with their grievances — whether they are repentant or not.

Forgiveness doesn’t give them a free pass to mistreat us and it doesn’t mean that we don’t put up healthy boundaries at times to protect ourselves, but it does ask us to release into God’s hands our desire to have the person pay for the wrong done to us. It also requires us to override our gut impulses and bless someone who doesn’t deserve our blessing. And that, friends, is a tall order!

2. We may be self-righteous.

The other reason it’s tough to forgive is that like the older brother, we might be offended by the idea of a person who has hurt us receiving grace and forgiveness. I heard a pastor once say that we like to receive God’s grace — but want God’s judgment for others. How true those words are!

Having worked faithfully the entire time the brother was gone, the older brother could not believe his father was throwing a celebration for his younger brother. He pointed out that he had “slaved away” and yet had not even been given a goat to eat with his friends (v. 29). Yet, his brother — or “this son of yours,” as he labels him — was given a fattened calf after he had been out spending the father’s wealth on prostitutes (v. 30). The other brother is so angry here, he won’t even use the word “brother,” but instead uses the phrase “this son of yours.”

However, the father responds, saying, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (v. 31). In other words, the father points out that the older brother would have nothing if not for the generosity of the father. Because of the wealth of the father, both sons could receive — but it is clear by the older son’s reaction that he felt himself more deserving of the father’s lavish love because of his works. But the father corrected him and let him know that neither brother could benefit were it not for the father.

Similarly, we may feel that we are more deserving of our Father’s forgiveness than a disobedient brother or sister in Christ. But the story reminds us that we would all be destitute if not for the Father’s generosity to us. Our adoption as sons and daughters has nothing to do with our merit, but because of the love of our Heavenly Father (Eph. 2:8, 9). As the story illustrates, we can offer forgiveness to others because of what the Father has freely given us.

Conclusion:

Why did Jesus tell the story of the prodigal son? While we can view the story from the lens of forgiveness given by the father and received by a wayward son, we also see that the story is also about how we as believers must model the love of a Heavenly Father and forgive those who don’t deserve it. Rather than take on the pharisaical attitude of the older brother, we can remember our Father’s forgiveness of us in those moments when it’s tough to forgive an offender  — and do the same.

As the Bible reminds us, even sinners treat their friends well, but it is our task as Christ-followers to show love and mercy not just to the people we like, but also those who we might consider our enemies (Luke 6:27-32). When we do, we release ourselves from resentment and bitterness. Though initially harder to do, forgiveness costs us less than unforgiveness in the end.

Related Resources:

With Father’s Day coming up, perhaps you are reminded of past issues you have had in your relationship with your father. Read about Jamie Wills’ story of forgiving her father.

Today’s post is part of a month long series on forgiveness. Check out last week’s article on forgiving from the heart, by Rachel Howard.

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 love music 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 I Learned to Truly Forgive

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Has God ever spoken to you in a dream? While some dreams have no meaning or make absolutely no sense — probably most of mine — I can recall a small handful of dreams in my lifetime that I felt were truly from God. I believe that one in particular was used to teach me about the importance of forgiveness.

The dream centered on an offense that had happened about four years prior. I will not share the details, but it was a big one. An offense that the world would say is unforgivable. Although many people would tell me that they completely understood why I would be hurt, as a Christian, I knew I couldn’t harbor bitterness in my heart. I needed to be like Jesus. I had had several conversations with one of the offenders and had prayed many prayers about forgiving everyone involved. In my mind, I was good. But this dream told me otherwise.

In my dream, I saw one of the people who had hurt me. When I saw them, I felt my face and chest get hot. I was overcome with rage and began running towards them, screaming. Obviously, I hadn’t forgiven this person. But then came the even stranger part. As I was screaming, I started punching MYSELF in the face. Blow after blow after blow.

“Whoa, what was that!?” I thought to myself as I woke up in a sweat. Then I felt the Lord speak to my spirit, “You haven’t forgiven them, and your unforgiveness is hurting only one person … YOU. Let it go. Put it under the blood of my Son. These are the kind of things He died for.”

Jesus died for all sin. His death and resurrection was for all the penalties of sin, for the offender and the offended. To set us free from our own sins, as well as from the hurt and pain the sin of others can cause us. His redemption is for both ends of the spectrum.

It’s no wonder then that in Matthew 18:21, 22 Jesus explains to Peter that there is no limit to forgiveness: “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’ ”

The world will tell us that only certain things are forgivable. If someone crosses over the line, then we are to write them off as a person and to ban them from our lives and our love. This is not what the Bible teaches us. Should we sometimes set up healthy boundaries to protect us, our families, and even those who wrong us? Absolutely. However, we are called to be like Christ and to allow His love, truth, and forgiveness to flow from our lives.

Through this journey of learning to apply genuine forgiveness in my own difficult situation, here are a few more specific things that I took away and now try to think about when an occasion may arise.

1. Forgiveness is a heart issue.

Through my dream, the Lord revealed to me that I was still hurting on the inside. In my situation, I had “forgiven” these people. I had prayed about it, and even told them that I forgave them. But there were still wounds I was holding onto inside that became evident in my dream. I realized that I needed to “forgive from the heart” (Matthew 18:35).

This means that I couldn’t just say I forgave these people with my words and allow wrong feelings to fester. In all honesty, in my attempt to forgive, instead of dealing with my pain and anger, I had been simply pushing down the angry thoughts, allowing them to sink down deeper. To forgive from the heart, I needed to choose to let go of my resentment and bitterness and turn these thoughts and feelings over to Jesus.

2. Forgiveness is often an ongoing process.

Even after we have chosen to fully forgive a person, one of the enemy’s schemes is to remind us of the wrongs that others have committed against us at a later time. He whispers in our ears, “Remember what they did to you? They haven’t changed. How can you love someone like that?” When these kinds of thoughts arise, we have the choice to either agree with him or to instead align ourselves with God’s Word.

We must take those thoughts captive each time they surface and remember that Jesus can redeem anyone. Forgiveness is often not simply a one time thing. We have to continue to forgive. In every instance that follows where wrong thoughts arise, we need to challenge these thoughts and replace them with truth so that we can continue to walk in forgiveness.

3. Forgiveness releases Christ’s power and glory.

Forgiveness does not only bring healing and a positive change in our lives. When we offer forgiveness to others, we invite them into the same love and grace that we have found in Christ ourselves. We invite those around us to change by becoming a display of His transforming grace in situations that would otherwise be a mess. When we bear with each other and forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13), we will stand out and bring other people to ask the question, “How could you forgive something like that?!”

In my own situation, when I truly gave my offense to Jesus, He set me free to live in His love again, and to reveal Him in a mighty way. Forgiving my friend genuinely from the heart enabled me to be filled with love and compassion for them. And this extension of God’s love brought about a change in our relationship. Shortly after, I also noticed a change in my friend. Within a few months, we found ourselves in a place of full restoration, hugging, crying, and praying together.

Only my Jesus could do that.

Not every relationship will necessarily end this way. Sometimes people may not even see that they have hurt us. Sometimes people may feel that they are justified in their actions. Regardless of the response or outcome, our call to forgive is the same.

Knowing this, whether the offense is big or small, let’s forgive those who hurt or wrong us and allow Christ’s forgiveness to change us all.

Rachel Howard

Rachel Howard

With a degree in music education, Rachel Howard is a middle grades chorus instructor who has a passion for teaching students about her love for music. In addition to inspiring adolescents in the public school system, Rachel is currently taking piano lessons and also enjoys photography, scrapbooking and Francine Rivers novels. A small-group leader at her church, Rachel also leads worship on occasion. In addition to these roles, Rachel is a wife and mom to two kids, Isaac and Evelyn. Rachel currently resides in Georgia with her husband and kids.

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As a Mom, Why You Don’t Have to Have all the Answers

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As a blogger, I love to dive deep into the why’s of human nature: Why do I act in a certain way in a scenario? Why do I feel this particular emotion in a situation? I read many articles from psychology and health sites to help inform me when I write articles. And yet, there are times when my research has not been able to provide me the answers I needed at crucial moments in my life, particularly in motherhood. At times, I have no idea why I act the way I do or what to do in a particular situation with my kids.

Some time ago, I was plagued by a nagging question that I couldn’t answer: Why do I get so angry with my oldest daughter? She is such an easy-going, smart kid. She is always eager to please and a great helper around the house. When I correct her, she immediately attempts to remedy what I point out. And she is super responsible with her own homework and schoolwork. And yet, I often fuss at her over miniscule things like leaving her wet towels on the floor or not putting the vacuum cleaner away. I feel irritation when she comes downstairs in a mismatched outfit or says a comment that might raise an eyebrow. Then I overreact, feel bad, and do it all over again.

God Answers My Question

After her younger brother was born, my daughter went through a phase where she asked me repeatedly if I loved her as much as her brother. I couldn’t understand why she would even ask me this question until I watched a video of myself around her and her then infant brother. In the video, I sat on the floor holding my son. My daughter, a 3-year-old at the time, hopped around me trying to get my attention. But each time I looked at her, I had a scowl on my face. The way I looked at my son and the way I looked at her was different and evident to me even in the video.

I know I love her, so why the difference in how I treat them? I prayed about the situation and discussed it with friends at my mom group. Some time went by and I didn’t get an answer to my question. And then, as I was reading an article on worth, God’s answer came to me and hit me like a tidal wave: You are deeply afraid your daughter will be unwanted.

Say what? My fear for her was causing me to get angry? I sat in that moment, reeling from the truth of that statement. I read once that anger is a secondary emotion. Often, anger can mask another emotion such as fear. As clinical psychologist Leon F. Seltzer, PhD, explains, we may get angry when another person cuts us off in traffic, but that anger is actually masking an underlying fear we have that we will be hurt in a car accident.

As only God could, He revealed with unnerving accuracy what my irritability was concealing all along. I feared my daughter wouldn’t grow up knowing how much she was worth or feel like she was wanted. Expecting perfect behavior from her and becoming angry when her “performance” faltered was me attempting to mold her into someone who wouldn’t be rejected. But as I have done many times before, I was attempting to “help” and control a situation that I needed to put in God’s hands. I needed to trust God that He had designed her to be the way He wanted her to be and that there would be friends for her in His provision.

God Confides His Secrets to Us When We Walk With Him

Certainly, my daughter needs my guidance and correction, but the kind I was giving her was beyond what was needed. God giving me that nugget of information helped me understand my own emotions and make a change in becoming more patient with her. A verse that has become a life verse for me is Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and He will make your paths straight.”

The verse cautions us to lean on God rather than our own wisdom. However, this default to our flesh — this drift to fix and handle every situation according to our own wisdom, when it comes to our kids or otherwise, is a constant temptation. I can’t control all the circumstances of my daughter’s life so she won’t face rejection or receive challenges to her worth, although I have certainly tried. I can be a support to her, teach her the lessons I have learned, and guide her using biblical principles and God’s wisdom — but I can’t ensure by being a vigilant mom that she will avoid every heartbreak or only have only good things happen to her.

But I needed God’s wisdom to know how to improve our interactions. How awesome that God used an ordinary experience of reading an article to reveal the deep places of my heart to me. Psalm 25:14 tells us, “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” The King James words it like this: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.”

While many of us view God as distant and stern, the psalm tells us of a God who wants to be our friend. As the NIV puts it, He “confides” in those who walk with Him. Or, as the KJV says, His “secrets” are with those who fear Him. Both words are translated from a word in Hebrew that means “couch.” If you can believe it, God converses with us much like a friend with another friend on a couch! Each revelation of His is like a specially wrapped gift He presents to us. And He counsels us so that we might know how to better know Him and ourselves — and adjust our behavior so that we can allow our paths to be aligned with His.

We Don’t Have to Know Everything as Moms

A few years ago when we moved, I discovered a surprise behind our new house. One day when I was out in the yard, I caught a glimpse of blue between the trees. As I peered to look closer, I noticed a lake — or in actuality, a small pond. Though such a discovery might not be a big deal to someone else, I grew up on the Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. One of the hardest things for me as a young wife in moving to Georgia was leaving behind the soothing blue of water that I saw daily in my hometown. This little pond was like a hidden treasure!

I couldn’t help but think when I came upon it how the treasures God reveals to us in our walk with Him are like that sparkle of blue I saw behind my house. His secrets are those we don’t always expect to find but are those that delight us as they give us knowledge that make our way clear — and help us to make sense of the problems and dilemmas we have no answer for in motherhood and otherwise.

Often as moms we sometimes forget that we’re not alone. Though we may feel overwhelmed at times, God is not far off and is waiting to tell His secrets to those who will choose to trust Him in the journey. We don’t have to know all the answers as mothers; we just need to stay connected to Him as we move through our days. Though He won’t always answer a question we have or immediately respond, He will guide us in the way we should go when we make it our aim to fully know Him and rely on Him.

Related Resources:

As a parent, do you find it difficult to trust when it comes to your kids? Former blog member Jamie Wills shares a hilarious story about her daughter’s antics one day before church — and how what started as a really bad day turned into a really good one.

Sometimes, we struggle to help our kids with their own self-image because ours is so poor. The following resources offer help for boosting feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth: “Healing Your Low Self-Worth and Wounds of Rejection,” “Self-Worth: How to Start Accepting Yourself,” “Self-Worth: How to Feel Better About Yourself.”

*Updated May 15, 2018.

 

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 love music 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 We Get Trapped in a Cycle of Rejection

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Rejection is perhaps the deepest pain we can feel as humans. Years ago, before there were limitations on the kind of studies you do, they tested babies and the importance of human contact. In the study, one group of babies was fed and their basic needs attended to, but also held and nurtured. Another group of babies was fed and their basic needs attended to, but not held or nurtured with human touch. As the study continued, the group of babies that had the benefit of human touch thrived, whereas the babies that were deprived of human contact died.

Clearly, you can see why these types of studies are not allowed any longer! But the results of the study show us how our Creator intended for us to be loved and be in community with other people. When we feel rejected or unwanted by others, such rejection can have a serious impact on our physical and emotional health — and these impacts reach beyond the infant years.

In fact, if you take a look at the details of many of the high school shooters who have turned against their own classmates, you see a common theme: rejection. These individuals sought retaliation against others who had laughed at them or belittled them. So great was the sting of others’ rejection, they sought revenge with gunfire. The bizarre and violent retaliatory tactics utilized by those who have been rejected or feel unwanted aren’t limited to the high school shooting category. If you choose to investigate other crimes, you will see that in many cases, horrific acts of murder or harm against another person started with a rejection of some kind.

Clearly, then, its important that we take a look at rejection and how to react when we are rejected — because otherwise, we can fall into a cycle of unhealthy behavior that can have negative impacts on our physical or emotional well-being.

Individuals in the Bible Who Suffered Rejection

There is no better place we can turn to than the Bible for vivid examples of individuals who experienced rejection. Leah was someone who wasn’t wanted by her husband. In fact, her husband, Jacob, was tricked into marrying her by Leah’s own father. Jacob actually desired her sister and had been promised her sister, Rachel. So, after the wedding night when Jacob discovered that he hadn’t been given Rachel, but rather Leah, he demanded the sister that he had worked for. He did get Rachel as his second wife, but he never loved both of his wives equally.

Leah spent much of her marriage trying to earn the affections of her disinterested husband. In fact, she didn’t have much leverage in the relationship, so she clung to the one thing that would get her some measure of attention: she bore children. She birthed son after son in an attempt to win her husband’s heart, saying things like, “Surely my husband will love me now” (Genesis 29:32), and, “At last my husband will become attached to me” (Genesis 29:34). But her husband just loved her sister, Rachel, despite Leah’s attempts to gain his attention. At last, we see a reprieve in Leah’s striving when she says after the birth of her fourth son, “This time I will praise the Lord” (Genesis 29:35). Here, she looks to God as her Source, rather than her husband. However, her rivalry with her sister didn’t end, and she did continue to have more children in an effort to “out-do” her sister.

Similarly, we see in the story of Zacchaeus a man who was rejected by his community. His rejection was due to the fact that he was a tax collector and cheated those he collected from, getting rich from the extra profits. However, although it doesn’t tell us this expressly in the story, maybe Zacchaeus’ rejection started long before he became a tax collector. Maybe Zacchaeus always felt like the odd man out because he was so short. Maybe he relished his power over others in his role as tax collector and liked being able to tax those who had rejected him in the past. Or maybe, as advocated in a study I read on rejection, each time Zacchaeus cheated someone, he was rejected — and with each rejection, he took money from the individuals who rejected him. Again, this is just speculation, but it is possible.

What both of these individuals show us is that rejection is painful, but people who are rejected aren’t without sin of their own. In the case of Leah, she got caught in a cycle of approval-seeking and people-pleasing, as each time she had a child she presented the child to her husband with hope that he would love her. She finally broke that cycle when she began looking to God for approval. Similarly, although we’re not expressly told this, Zacchaeus’ rejection by the community may have been that which contributed or even started his pattern of cheating others.

Getting Caught in a Cycle of Rejection

As I mentioned in my last post, in Mike Riches’ book Living Free, he talks about the idea that often in our rejection, we give the enemy access in our lives because in our anger over the rejection, we turn to ungodly reactions or fleshly coping mechanisms to deal with our pain. As the Bible tells us, we are not to anger in our sin and give a foothold [topos] to Satan (Ephesians 4:26, 27). As Riches explains, when we allow our anger to fester over a rejection and don’t resolve it, we may allow that anger to cause us to react in wrong ways to our rejection. In doing so, we give territory to the enemy.

In our wrong responses to others, which might include lashing out in anger, gossiping, talking maliciously about the person, etc., we may open our lives to the enemy and then continue to give him space to operate by developing patterns of thinking and behavior that become strongholds in our lives. These strongholds serve as obstacles in our Christian walk and must be demolished in order for us to walk in freedom (2 Corinthians 10:4). Not only that, but our ungodly responses can help us get caught in a cycle of rejection. I am basing this term on what Riches calls an offense cycle, but basically what the cycle looks like is this:

  1. We experience a rejection or hurt.
  2. In our anger, we react in ungodly ways in our thoughts and actions.
  3. By acting in wrong ways in our anger, we give topos to the enemy — a place of access for him to influence our thoughts and behavior.
  4. Our ungodly behavior — whether it be bitterness, anger, resentment, negative thoughts about ourselves, etc. — causes more rejection.
  5. When we are rejected again, we react again in ungodly ways in our thoughts and actions, and the cycle continues.

For those of us caught in such a cycle, we may wonder why we are constantly rejected and wonder what we can do to stop being rejected. However, as Riches says, most of us won’t be able to see the role we are playing in the rejection, and we’ll simply blame others for the rejections and take on a victim mentality. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit, if we are willing to come to Him and allow Him to pierce through our defense mechanisms and open ourselves up to His help and healing, we can break out of the cycle of rejection that we are caught in. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever be rejected again, but it does mean that we aren’t inviting those rejections with our own behavior, and we’ll be able to handle rejection in a healthy way when it comes around again.

I’ll be discussing the particulars of how to break out of a rejection cycle in my next post, but to touch on it briefly, we can begin to break out of the cycle when we forgive those who have hurt us in our past and ask forgiveness of those we’ve hurt. In addition, when new hurts and offenses come up, we refuse to retaliate or turn to fleshly coping mechanisms, but instead turn to God for healing and choose to forgive those who hurt us — and even bless and do good to our enemies. Luke 6:27 says: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

I’m not saying that there is never a time that we don’t confront someone or call someone out on their behavior. We need the counsel of the Holy Spirit for that, but we do so in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), and we do so in love (Ephesians 4:15). Blessing others and seeking not to retaliate against our enemies will help us avoid falling into a cycle of rejection. And, if we have already been caught in a cycle of rejection, we can find an out by choosing to take part in the steps of forgiveness I outlined above.

Living Lives Free of Offense

God wants us to live lives that are free (John 10:10). He does not want us to succumb to heavy chains of unforgiveness. The Bible tells us that “Satan prowls like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We can resist his schemes by refusing to get trapped in a cycle of rejection and instead taking the biblical response to offense. Although harder initially, this refusal to retaliate against our enemies and insistence on blessing and forgiving them keeps our mind and bodies at peace, and out of torment and distress.

Related Resources:

Not only can we get caught in an unhealthy rejection cycle when rejected, we might also attempt to strive for others’ approval in an unhealthy way. Check out the following resources on giving over our relationships and stresses about our performance at work to God: “Learning to Depend on God” and “Spiritual Rest: Letting go of Trying so Hard in Our Work and Relationships.”

Want to hear more from co-host Suzy Lolley from the Beulah Girl Podcast? Check out her blog and Facebook page to read her work and connect with her.

 

 

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 love music 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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Embracing Your Child’s Differences

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Earlier this year, my older daughter was working on a submission for a PTA Reflections Contest at her school. Each year, the PTA holds a contest for different grade levels and encourages students to submit artwork, photography, and writing. My daughter, a budding artist at age 9, gets excited each year about the new piece she will submit.

This year, she came up with a cat reaching for balloons concept to meet the requirements of the “Aim Upward” theme. And, just as happened last year, we got into a tussle about her submission.

“Oh sweetie,” I said coming up behind her as she sketched out her cat and balloons, “make the cat bigger.”

I watched her face crumple as she erased and changed her picture to incorporate my suggestion. I left and came back to check on her progress. I could see that she wasn’t happy by the frown on her face.

“I just don’t like the cat that big,” she complained, putting her pencil down in frustration.

I could see where this was going. I leaned in and said, “Draw it like you want then. It’s your project.”

She happily got to work on a fresh sheet of paper and began filling her paper with not only a miniscule cat but miniscule balloons. Each night before bed, she colored a few more balloons, and I caught her humming happily in the midst of her work.

Though I had serious doubts about the winnability of her picture because of the too-small (in my estimation) proportions of her cat and balloons, I chose to hold my tongue because it was her project. When she submitted her piece, she waited an agonizing two months to hear back on the winning submissions. Unfortunately, her piece wasn’t selected as a winner, and I watched her face fall during the ceremony when another girl from her class won the art division prize. Would she have won had she changed up her picture? Possibly. But the more important lesson I felt was that she learn to make her own decisions and be allowed to express her vision in her picture.

Allowing Our Children to Be Who God Made Them to Be

The situation was just one of several I’ve struggled with over the years (in varying forms with all of my children): relinquishing my tendency to form them into the people I think they should be and letting them be who they are.

Because though my daughter grew in my womb and has been entrusted to me as a daughter — she belongs to God and needs to flourish into what He always intended her to be. Because that person, frankly, is going to be far better and do far more than what either of us could imagine.

Jeremiah 1:5 tells us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” God spoke those words to Jeremiah about the ministry he would have as a prophet, telling him that he had selected him for this task before he even created him. Just as God knew Jeremiah before He made him, God knew our children before they were even on our radar.

David says a similar idea in Psalm 139:13-16:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

When David speaks of being “woven together,” the words are translated from the Hebrew word “raquam,” which means “weaver” or “embroiderer.” David identifies God as the ultimate Weaver — One who bent lovingly over the work of forming him. In the same way, God knit together our children in the secret places of the womb with careful care as to the length of their days, what they will accomplish on earth, and their temperament and gifts (which, by the way, are the perfect ones needed to carry out His call on their lives).

When I approach parenting with the knowledge that my children were intimately formed and loved by God before I knew and loved them, I realize I am, in the words of Matthew Henry, an “instrument” — an instrument in the hands of God to raise this oh-so-valuable little person to both know God (Psalm 78:4-6; Deuteronomy 4:9) and fulfill the plans of God (Philippians 2:13, Romans 8:28). In response to this knowledge, I have to let go of some of my own plans for my children and my desire for control.

I’m not saying we as parents don’t provide structure for our kids or make choices for them at times that go against what they want. Today, kids’ rebellion against the Word of God is often seen as merely letting them be who they are — when their choices are far from what God desires for them (Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 29:15). As Christian parents, we must train them to adhere to God’s ways and walk in right paths, as part of knowing Him (Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 22:6; Psalm 119:1). But what I am saying is that we attempt to consider our children’s preferences and interests along the way, rather than stunt their growth with our own often stifling expectations and demands (Colossians 3:21; Ephesians 6:4).

This may sound like a relatively easy task, but it’s not so easy when our kids express ideas that veer from our own, show interest in activities we have no interest in, or perhaps want to follow a track that is different than we envisioned for them.

A former pastor of mine shared in a service about the time when he had to let go of the baseball dream he had for his son. As an avid baseball fan and high school athlete, the pastor hoped his son would follow suit. But to his dismay, his son told him one day during a baseball game, “I hate this.” Though his grown-up son enjoys watching baseball, he never “took” to playing the game. It was a moment where his pastor-father had to evaluate and asses that as a father he could try and force his son to live out the dream he had for him, or he could instead look for ways to bring out the son’s God-given talents and abilities. As you can guess, he did the latter.

Awe for Our Kids as God’s Creation Helps Us Be the Parents We Should Be

I don’t believe any of us as Christian parents enter into the parenting journey hoping to be rigid narrow-minded tyrants that get into constant conflict with our children. However, we can’t always foresee how our children will affect us with their distinct personalities and differences, and frankly, we don’t always best know when to assert our authority or when to let our children have their way.

While we won’t always get it right, if we attempt to remember that our children were uniquely made by a creative God, as told of in Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139, we can better evaluate situations and let some minor things go when it comes to our kids’ ideas about how they want to draw a picture for a project — or perhaps spend their free time or style their hair — and we can save our energy for drawing the line on the issues that really matter.

In addition, it’s when we acknowledge that we don’t have all the wisdom and we’re in a position of humility and dependence on God and His Word to best learn how to instruct our children that He can speak to us and help us navigate the issues that arise between us and our children.

Dependence on God and knowledge of the value our kids have will help us approach even our most challenging days as an opportunity to be ever aware of the awesome task we’ve been given as parents: to help raise God’s kids!

Related Resources:

For a more in-depth look at Psalm 139 and the value each of us have in the eyes of God, check out my previous article on being known and loved by God.

Don’t have time to read? Listen to the corresponding podcast episode where I talk with co-host Suzy Lolley and blog member Rachel Howard about the idea of being intimately known by God.

 

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 love music 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 to Better Love Your Spouse

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I hesitate to compare marriage to football, but there are a multitude of meaningful parallels. Many people love the game because of the suspense. No two games are the same. No two marriages look the same either.

My husband and I often talk about how some couples love to attend every event together. Where one goes, you will see the other. That’s not us. He needs social time; I need quiet time. When he is social, I get my quiet time. I don’t resent the time he spends away from me, and he doesn’t resent me for not needing him every moment. However, in the beginning of our marriage, we did try to make our marriage look the way we thought others expected it to look. We were so busy trying not trying to be ourselves that we could not function as a whole. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the quarterback get up when they call the defense in. It isn’t his role. In football, it is called a “team” because each player fills a special role, just like a husband and a wife each fill a special role in their marriage.

One term I know from football (and I don’t know many) is a “turnover.” One team can have the ball in the opposing team’s territory, close to scoring, when the defense intercepts a pass. Or the offense fumbles the ball, and the momentum falters. Sometimes a team has a chance to win a tied game just by kicking the extra point, yet they still miss the field goal. Marriage, like football, can have turnovers.

Preventing Turnovers in Marriage

In my marriage, our first “turnover” happened quickly. We were married in December and had our first child the following October — unplanned. We hardly had time to get used to being married before we also had a baby to love. Then there were all the small things that presented themselves as obstacles, like his mom’s perfect cooking. How could I compete when my specialties were Ramen noodles and frozen pizza? And then there were his buddies — friends from high school, friends from college, softball friends, basketball friends (for the winter months when it was too cold to play softball), deer hunting friends, dove hunting friends, turkey hunting friends. Let me be fair by stating that some of these friends spanned multiple categories.

His multitude of friends meant that we were constantly invited to cookouts, weddings, and birthday parties. As I already mentioned, I like my quiet time. The problem was that I was in a new city and home, newly married, and rapidly gaining a lot of weight, not just from the baby. I felt discouraged and insecure and was overwhelmed by my new role as wife and all of the new demands on me. I wanted to be excited about all these social gatherings, but I wasn’t. I wanted to like deer meat as much as my husband and his friends, but I just couldn’t bring myself to put it in my mouth; I started gagging when I even thought about it.

For my own iniquities, it was probably much worse for my husband in our first year together, though you would have to ask my husband for details. The point is that, as soon as we found common ground on one issue, the more problems we had to work through. These didn’t even include the larger issues that presented themselves like money struggles, family dynamics, sickness, and death of loved ones.

Perhaps for you in your marriage, the threats look different. Turnovers can come at a marriage in many forms. Our phones, tablets, and computers can put a barrier between our connectedness to each other. Other people and obligations can be a barrier. However, the Bible tells us how to protect our unity and avoid “losing the ball” to the opposing team (the enemy). The strategy is simple: We love God first, then others as ourselves.

From Matthew 22:37 we read, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” It’s one of my favorites to meditate on. Follow that one up with Matthew 22:39,Love your neighbor as yourself,” and it gives a clear depiction that life focused on only on myself and my needs is not of the Lord. My ability to love my husband intentionally — who is much more than a neighbor to me — comes first from my love of the Lord. I can’t love him well when it is all about me. Honestly, I don’t even like myself on those days I don’t spend with the Lord, so I certainly can’t expect him to. However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t care for ourselves. As the verse suggests, it just means that we care for others (i.e. him) just as well.

From experience, I can tell you that when I do not begin my day with my Bible, my devotional, and my prayer journal, my husband is likely to pay the price. And that is because I begin those days focused on myself. Conversely, when my first moments of each day and my identity are grounded in the Lord, my actions and reactions to my spouse are more likely to come from God’s description of love — patient, kind, selfless, humble, forgiving, persevering (1 Corinthians 13:3-13).

One morning when I was spending time with the Lord, I recognized a yearning for unconditional love. I remember thinking of all the ways I wish I could receive it from my husband. Life would be so easy if this was a state we could actually reach as humans. I would never feel judged. I wouldn’t have to feel that I was under-performing. I get on these (really short-lived) binges where I feel like I am Wife-of-the-Year material at times, but the reality is that I probably wouldn’t even qualify for Wife-of-the-Moment.

God impressed upon me amid this daydream of unconditional love that this is what HE offers us. Of course! How could I have been so apathetic to His love? I can’t expect it from others, but I can expect it from God. In realizing this each day, I don’t need to get down when my husband can’t meet all my needs. Because God does. It’s freedom! Through accepting the love of my Savior, I am freer to love my God and my husband.

Furthermore, this same love given to me by God is offered to my husband and, with it, the same freedom. While I may be a secondary source of love and support for him, I am not personally responsible for meeting his every need. He must have his needs met by God. When we are both receiving God’s unconditional love, our strength and connectedness is much greater, not to mention our ability to defend against turnovers.

Marriage Is About Going Through Life Together

When issues interfere within the marriage, we play opposition. We actively protect and strategize to work out the issues. When outside interference initiates problems, we play defense by drawing our strength each day from God and His Word, protecting one another as naturally as our own instincts to protect ourselves. There’s a plan for dealing with the next turnover. The effort is made — holistically — for a purpose much higher than a single individual. Otherwise, a husband and a wife may grow apart from focusing on individual, selfish goals. Marriage should be played to win, and that means going through life together.

When we take on marriage this way, I can stomach a few more social gatherings than I am comfortable with. My annoying habit of gagging over deer meat won’t matter so much to my husband. I will be able to praise his mother’s cooking with him instead of feeling inadequate when my cooking doesn’t measure up. What do these things matter in a world that is — first and foremost — about God? Loving Him first fuels us with the love inside to persevere in marriage — so that we can in turn love each other. No one likes defeat, but can you imagine a football game where one team goes home at halftime simply because they were losing for moment?

There will be moments when you feel like you are losing, but we must see the game through to the finish. God hasn’t given up on us, so let’s not give up yet on our spouse.

Rebecca Lindsey

Rebecca Lindsey

After “retiring” from teaching in 2013, Rebecca is currently back at it as a high school Teacher on Assignment where she is able to help students identified as at-risk for not graduating on time. The in-between years, she worked as a therapist in private and public practice. Her interests are in helping others, hiking, kayaking, gardening, dancing, and reading. She loves exercise, nutrition, and natural healing. After completing her doctorate in organizational psychology, she plans to lead others to improve leadership, career, and personal life-skills and maybe even author a few works. In every role, she feels there is an opportunity to model the grace and redemption given to us by Jesus. Rebecca lives in Dallas, Georgia, with her husband and three boys (the middle child is a Weimeraner).

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