February 27, 2008

Will power or Won’t power?

Yesterday was a tough day. I was tired (battles are not well fought when fatigued). As I cleaned up some files in my computer, I read a seven-year-old journal entry about a time when someone betrayed me. The deep hurt spilled on those pages leaped off to stab at me all over again.

This was an odd experience because it happened before, about 2-3 years ago. Both times I had forgotten all about the incident and felt sideswiped all over again by reading about it. Both times I had to work through the emotions of dismay, anger and sorrow. Both times I had to remind myself that I had forgiven the person for doing this to me.

Forgiveness is not forgetting (even though I had). Forgiveness is not the absence of pain or emotional wounds. Forgiveness is not saying “it didn’t matter” and brushing it off. None of those things bring relief. Instead, forgiveness is the choice to not hold the sin against whoever committed it. Jesus died for that sin. What more can be done? I’d made that choice.

As I talked to myself about these things, the sadness worked on me like a wrecking ball. By the end of the day I had no energy at all. I thought a good night’s sleep would help, but woke up still feeling bruised.

As I talked to the Lord and opened God is Enough, He spoke to me from the title of today’s reading. It said, “Surrendering, not Destroying.” The rest of the reading didn’t quite line up with what the Holy Spirit told me to do with my sorrow. It was about the power of having our will line up with the will of God, but because Jesus said, “Not my will but Thine be done” I don’t think that ever happens. If Jesus had to surrender His perfect will, who am I to think mine will ever be in line with God’s will?

Besides that, my will is from the old sinful nature (something Jesus didn’t have). The will of God is worked out in the new nature, and there will always be a conflict between the two. Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

When someone hurts me, the flesh wants retaliation, but God says no to that. The flesh also wants to be pitied, and this is where God spoke to me. His Spirit told me to quit feeling sorry for myself. He knows what it is like to be betrayed and sinned against, and He doesn’t wallow in the pain of self-pity. He told me the way to conquer the pain is by surrendering to it, feeling it, and finding out that it would not destroy me.

God is utterly amazing. As soon as I gave in to the wrecking ball, it stopped battering me, or at least I stopped feeling the blows. My reaction to this old wound had been fleshy and as soon as I ‘gave in’ and said ‘not my will,’ the Holy Spirit took over. Galatians 5:16 describes what happened: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

As I sit here shaking my head in amazement, I can see how selfishness works. If I can feel enough pain, I can justify getting even. If I can be upset enough about this thing, then my fleshy desires to fix it, hurt back, or even just have a pity party will be legitimate.

God says no. He tells me that if I am going to follow Jesus, I can expect to experience the same things Jesus experienced. One of those was His friend’s kiss of betrayal. No doubt Jesus felt pain, but He never used it as an excuse to fight back or be unforgiving. 1 Peter 2:19-23 puts all this in perspective:
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.
Surrender this to God. Suffering the pain of betrayal was His will for me. He allowed it to happen. What will I accomplish by resisting His will? Instead, I’m to commit myself to Him and let Him deal with the injustice.

What amazes me is that when I yield to Him, He also replaces the pain with peace.


darien said...

well THIS was a timely post for me....I am at the moment, in a similar situation.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

LC said...

Wow. I'm also so amazed that yielding to God does not mean that what He is allowing to hurt me then wins. It is like that Abraham putting Isaac on the altar thing. God is so good!