I wrestled with God yesterday for twelve hours.
I fought, argued, wept, laughed, and rejoiced. I would say it was the first of my up-close encounters with the Lord but I would be lying (I have encountered God twice before, once up on a mountain and the other when I was visited by an angel and if y’all wanna hear that story let me know). But God revealed even more to me and I wanted to share it with you guys today.
I wanna add a disclosure before I dive in. I am not at all a perfect Christian and the topics I talk about are topics that I struggle with every day. To live for Christ is a choice I make but that does not mean that my feelings are always on board. It is a constant battle for me to say yes to God’s calling on my life. With that being said, let’s take a look.
I was always aware that being a follower of Christ would be hard. I was never lied to about this path; from the beginning, I knew that it would be extremely difficult. I never could have imagined how difficult it would become. I never knew how rough this season of my life would be. So many hardships have been thrown at me and if I am being honest, it has been very hard for me to continue going. There have been so many moments in the past month alone where I have become so close to just giving up. There was this weight on my heart and I just could not name it. I couldn’t put my finger on what was slowing me down until yesterday when God decided it was time we address this issue. “Ione”, He said to me, “You need to forgive.” No. NO. No. Anything but that please! This was the start of my battle with the Lord.
Guys, forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do, especially to people who have wrongfully hurt you. But yesterday, with the strength of the Lord, I was able to forgive all of the people I had on my list of those I deemed “unforgivable.” Let me explain how this all went down for me. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” We are followers of the Lord Jesus and what does that mean? This means that you have accepted that free gift of salvation and the Lord has forgiven you of your sins. If this is not true, then you cannot forgive others. If you do not understand or receive the forgiveness of God, you will find it almost impossible to forgive those who have deeply hurt you or who have failed you. Assuming you have done this already (and if you have not and are wondering about this, PLEASE message me), we can move onto the next part. We have this gift of forgiveness and God has shown us his mercy, so who are we to hold unforgiveness toward others? God calls us specifically, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” This is not easy you guys, but it is what we have to do. As a Christian, we have to die to ourselves and live for Christ. I can confidently say I fully grasp this concept. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature (the flesh) with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24-25). I was able to finally let go and forgive all those who have hurt me. Healing came in. But I did not feel like doing it and in fact, I still don’t feel like doing it. In my human heart, I think these people do not deserve forgiveness but what if God had said that about me? He was in the right to do that. I have messed up big time in my life, but yet God did not shun me from his presence. Who am I to make that judgement on those in my life? And this is why this is so gosh darn hard! It is so against our human nature to think this way. It is not what we as human want to do, we do not want to admit our own faults in relation to those faults done to us. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us…” Remember, forgiveness is matter of your will, to obey God regardless of your emotions. When you can truly come to a place of forgiveness, you will be able to love that person. WHAT? This upset me so much when God revealed it to me. I told Him I can try my best to forgive these people but to love them? There is no way. But you cannot genuinely forgive someone if you still hate them, if you are still angry at them, if you still harbor bitterness in your heart toward them. The wrestling match continued.
The next part of this twelve hour process dealt with my anger. And boy was I angry! But God told me something that broke me. I wept like a little child and I thought I would share it with you all in case someone needs to hear this the same way I desperately needed to hear this. It came like this: I was reading a story about a horrible situation. This ladies father had been sexually abusing her and she got pregnant three times, the first time getting an abortion, and the other two who children were deformed and died. When she tried to commit suicide, they sent her to the mental hospital where her parents told the doctors she was insane and was trying to blame these births on her father. This lady said “I cannot forgive my dad.” I could not believe what I had just read! She is totally justified in not forgiving her father, right? The lady writing this story looked at that woman and said “that makes me so angry.” The woman turned to her and started to cry, “No one has ever said that to me before.” “Well, it makes God angry.” I read that line and I started to weep. I never knew that God was angry at the same people I was angry at, at the same people who have hurt me. Just read that line guys. It makes God angry. Whatever hurt has happened in your life, whatever horrible trauma has been done to you, it makes God angry that someone would hurt His precious child. This changed me. I continued to read on about all the moments in the bible where God’s wrath is shown. I loved learning this new side of God. He is a just God! He is our protective Father and He will be angry for us. We do not have to be angry you guys! That is not a burden we have to bear. We can hand that over to the Lord and He will actually be able to do something about it. Check out these sections where you can clearly see what angers God and how He will handle it.
Exodus 22:22-24 // Deuteronomy 29:18-21 // Psalm 106:34-40
Jeremiah 25:6-11// Psalm 78:21-22 // Hebrews 3:7-12
God’s anger is His response to sin. When we read God’s anger,we need to remember that He is never controlled by His anger. It is always kept in balance by His holiness. Therefore, when God expresses anger, it is always within the realm of his character. “His anger is in harmony with His grace, His love, His mercy, His compassion, and His long-suffering. “For his anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a should of joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) God is also slow to anger, which lets us know that He will not get angry with us when WE are the ones in sin, that is as long as we repent and ask for forgiveness. But anger is such a hard thing to let go of. I struggled the majority of the twelve hours just trying to release this. My body was in physical pain as I fought God on this. Then He showed me Psalm 37. Read it. I realized, as I read through most of the Psalms, that God is a good God and He will get my revenge for me. I need to take that leap of faith and trust that He will. He made us that promise and all He asked us to do was trust Him. He told me that I do not have to worry over those who do me wrong, I do not have control of justice, I do not have the ultimate power. He does. “In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.” Anger brings in sin, you will act in ways you do not want to act when you are driven by anger. When you let anger stay in your heart, you are giving Satan a means to wiggle his will into your heart. Don’t let him do it guys. There are many verses in the scriptures that tell us to get rid of anger, rage, bitterness, and all things associated. So here is what you need to do to follow this command.
- Turn from anger. Don’t let it control you. Be angry but do not sin. (Proverbs 29:8, Ecclesiastes 7:9)
- Be willing to overlook others transgressions against you. This is meekness my friends. (Proverbs 19:11,19)
- When people say or do something which makes you angry, give them a gentle answer. (Proverbs 15:1)
- Deal with your feelings. Don’t just stuff them down! (Psalm 4: 4-5)
- Trust in the Lord. (Psalm 37, and basically the bible)
- Never take your own revenge! (Romans 12:19)
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7) Take a moment to pray these verses back to the Lord. If any of you is living with anger, or unforgiveness in your heart you my friend are the one who is suffering, not them whom you are angry at. As I struggled through this process, I came to the conclusion that I should not be the one who has to carry this burden, that God will be angry for me, and that I can trust God will keep His promises to me. My prayer is that you all will read this post with an open heart and an open mind, that you will not have to do as I did and wrestle for twelve hours and live in this for months. Guys, God is so good! And it is worth it to die to ourselves. “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain!” I NEVER understood that verse until this week. But I have decided to follow Christ’s call on my life, no matter how hard it gets. My hope is that those who see my life will see Christ. That I would just be a vessel of God’s grace and mercy.
If any of you needs more information regarding forgiveness or letting go of anger, talk to me. I have gone through this process and found a sweet joy and peace that can only come from Christ. I want to end with this. Once you have been able to get rid of all anger and the unforgiveness in your heart fill it with these instead: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…And over all these virtues put love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”