Relationships

A Question of Grace

I’m going to preface this post with this: It worries me that in today’s society we are so quick to pass judgment and that we collectively group our problems and cast them off on other people. I’ve been very guilty of this in and it’s extremely unhealthy and unfair not only to yourself, but to other people. I was once married and was not a good husband in that marriage, but God changed who I was and I am no longer that person. This isn’t to say that people should go running back to unhealthy relationships, that’s not at all what I mean. In fact, I think it’s a good thing that God gets us out of some relationships especially before marriage. I simply mean to say God can change anyone if they allow Him. My only hope is for everyone to recognize that through Christ we can all have victory over who we once were and over any situation.

 

I recently came across an inspirational quote online that stirred something within me. The quote comes from Heather Lindsey. I’ll admit that I am unfamiliar with who she is or her ministry, but that didn’t mean that I was passing any manner of judgment on her. I simply disagreed with the ambiguity the message behind the quote could derive in some people. The quote is as follows:

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At first glance you’re probably wondering what I could find wrong with what she is saying. When I first read it, it made me feel very unsettled on the inside, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Was I taking it too personally having gone through a marriage and a handful of relationships that didn’t work out, or was there something deeper poking at my heart? I took some time this evening to look at it further and tried to biblically find the answers to the questions it posed. I decided to write Mrs. Lindsey to express these concerns and ultimately ask her what her opinion of my questions were. Here is the email I sent to her:

Dear Mrs. Lindsey,

I recently came across an inspirational graphic online attributed to you as a quote about relationships that has left me a bit shaken. The quote I am referring to is this: “If your ex was so amazing, you would still be together. Isn’t crazy how the illusion of a person is amplified when you leave a unhealthy relationship? Then you run back to them out of loneliness & find out.. they are EXACTLY the same. Fill those voids with Jesus, not exes.”

There is so much about this quote that I both agree and disagree with. My first agreement, of course, is that Jesus is the only one fully capable of filling any void left no matter the circumstance. I also agree that far too often people do run back to unhealthy relationships out of desperation over feelings of loneliness or abandonment. I cannot disagree with any of that. Where my concern comes from is the connotation which this quote may be given due to certain ambiguities it has about the definition of an unhealthy relationship. Upon my first reading of the quote, I found it to be very unilaterally biased. Given that not every relationship that comes to an end shares the same cause-and-effect, I feel the quote could provoke a misguided sense of unity for one half and could project feelings of judgment on the other half. The root of what I am getting at is that I do not see any grace within the message you are sending.

In my experience I have known many couples, even myself, that have been in relationships that were considered to be unhealthy for many reasons. In today’s society, when someone hears the phrase ‘unhealthy relationship’, more often than not it will elicit feelings of abuse or neglect. That’s not to say this is the case every time, but we live in a very sinful world and these a very prominent problems that Satan uses to attack relationships, among many others. I realize I may be in the minority by disagreeing with your message, but coming from my own personal experience of having been in relationships that ultimately God did not want for either of us, I felt a sense of judgment wash over me when I read your quote. I asked myself why. Why would I feel judgment? This is the answer I came up with that I wanted to share with you.

As I mentioned before, I strongly feel that the quote lacks a message of grace. When you say: ‘If your ex was so amazing, you would still be together.’ To me, this is pronouncing a sense of false ego that says ‘I’m better than they are’. Romans 3:23 teaches us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. None of us are ‘amazing’ people. Asking ‘If your ex was so amazing’ immediately indicates that we are attributing the ‘amazing’ category for ourselves and should therefore be looked at as such. Two God-fearing, healthy people can both be in an unhealthy relationship, both equally contributing to a problem that is not within the will of God. The only amazing person that has ever walked the earth was Jesus. This isn’t to say that we’re worthless, on the contrary, Romans 3:22 says “We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.

This is also in tune with the part of the quote that reads: ‘they are EXACTLY the same’ when you run back to them. Saying this prevents us from doing two things: 1. forgiving them, and 2. acknowledging that Christ has victory over the situation. When a breakup occurs, if it’s done properly, both sides should take that time alone with God and with themselves to reflect upon who they are as individuals and allow God to show them what it was that wasn’t right and why it was not in God’s will for them to be together. We should be thankful that God has gotten us out of an unhealthy relationship, regardless of the circumstance, but we should also spend that time in prayer and ask for forgiveness and forgiving the other person and not assuming they are the same, in effect, creating judgement in our own hearts. It’s true, that some situations call for an immediate release from relationships because of potential dangers or exhaustive efforts to keep it going which hinders the other person, but that is why I feel it is so vital to reevaluate your quote so that it broadens the message that not every relationship is equal. Surely if I am one person that felt judgement from what I read, there has to be many more that might feel the same way and could potentially have wounds that were once healed be reopened, making them believe they are less than what they truly are in God’s sight.

Please know that I am not passing judgement upon you or your ministry. I am simply a fellow believer in Jesus that wanted to share with you my feelings on something I read that caused a stir within my spirit. I would love to hear back from you and to know what your thoughts are.

Have a very blessed day.

Travis Lickey

Like I said in my email to her, perhaps I am very much in a minority with my reasoning behind my concerns, but that’s why I felt it was important to reach out and voice them. We’re all students in God’s world and we’re each taught lessons very differently. We need to be bold enough to ask questions and humble enough to accept the answers. I’m ready to accept that my concerns might not be valid, or that perhaps I should look at them from a different view. Either way, I’m hoping for an email back and I will update this as soon as I receive one back.

Travis

Lost But Not Forgotten

Have you ever felt like all is lost? We will undoubtedly encounter painful situations in our lives that will shake us to the core. We will experience pain that causes us to drop to our knees and cry out with questions that may seem unanswerable. When we don’t understand what is going on in our lives and why things seem to be on a downward spiral, our first instinct is to become defensive and shutting out any voice of reason that might be coming our way, even if it’s from ourselves. These are normal behaviors that we experience, but they are not part of the solution.

When bad things happen we often feel like we’re being tested. Do I have enough strength? Could I have had more faith? Why is this happening to me? Why do I feel so alone? It’s a safe bet to say that if you’re experiencing something that is making you miserable, chances are you’re not alone. The old adage ‘it takes two to tango’ doesn’t necessarily denote negativity, but it does mean there is more than one side to your situation. A breakup, for example, is a classic situation where a person has immediate feelings of abandonment and rejection. Those feelings can ignite a range of passionate reactions that for the most part, usually never help to resolve anything other than furthering your own grief. So what do we do to help ourselves move forward when all we want to do is question the past in search of those answers that may never come? We turn to Christ.

It’s a far too often told lie from Satan that God doesn’t want us to be happy. If that were so, Christ wouldn’t have even bothered with humanity and would have let us perish. Everything we experience emotionally Christ also experienced. On top of that, He’s the one who created our emotions, so He absolutely knows how to help us handle them. There are five stages to grief that a person typically goes through when faced with a loss, and it doesn’t have to be limited to death. Losing a friend or someone who you love due to a breakup will garner the same result. Let’s take a look at these five steps and then apply what Jesus teaches us about each one.

1. Denial. Your first instinct is to refuse to believe this is happening to you. You were happy and things might not have been perfect, but you had faith and trusted they would get better. Now your world has shattered and you simply cannot believe what has happened and you feel like you could die. Let’s look at the word, ‘die’. Of course, you’re not going to die, (things aren’t that bad) but in effect, going through a breakup is the death of a relationship. What we need to focus on is what comes after. God has promised that death has no victory over us. This mainly applies to our physical death, but death is what it is.

1st Corinthians 15:54 is a good way to look at it:

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.

We don’t have to worry when someone or something in our lives dies. There is victory over it . The loss of something is the promise of something yet to come. Take time to grieve the loss and allow yourself a period of healing. Moving forward apart from what we’re used to is difficult, but God promises there is always life after death for those who believe in Him.

2. Anger. This is where a lot of people might want to stop reading. A lot of us want to be angry. We think it makes us feel better to get mad and allow ourselves this type of outlet. The reality is, there’s two types of anger: righteous anger and sinful anger. Anger itself is not a sin. It’s what we do with it that causes us to sin. This is an area of my life that I have struggled with deeply in the past. I would become angry and express it in ways that hurt people close to me, even myself. It never brought about a solution; it created more problems. How then, do we handle our emotions when they’re running on overdrive to the point of exploding? We follow Paul’s teaching in Ephesians.

Ephesians 4:31-32 teaches:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

These are not easy things to do because we must first acknowledge them in our own hearts. We can’t choose to put away bitterness if we don’t see it first. “But I have every right to be bitter!” you say. Take a step back and look at what it is that is causing your bitterness. Is it justified? If so, then take it to God first. Maybe it’s not justified and you’re just feeling angry because you don’t know all the facts. Lay it all at His feet and let God guide you. You may have every right to be angry, but God also tells us to get there slowly.

James 1:19-20

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

God wants us to move slowly when it regards our emotions, especially with anger. Our emotions can take off and run on their own as we try to catch up to understand what’s going on. Chances are, we probably don’t understand what’s happening fully

Proverbs 3:5-6 hits it home for us:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight…

Okay, so what do we do when we’ve gotten there slowly? There is no definitive answer to this because every situation is handled differently, but if we are aligned with Christ and what His Word says, we will already be at a place in our hearts where we are no longer a slave to our anger. It’s at that place where we will be right in the sight of God and it will be easier to forgive.

Remember what I said before, you’re going through a rough time and you’re probably not alone. Pray for yourself, but also offer up anyone else involved in prayer that you may be reconciled to them. God calls for reconciliation, and that doesn’t always mean what we want it to in terms of relationships. Reconciliation can simply mean to have peace.

Hebrews 12:14

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

3. Bargaining. “Okay, God. Listen, maybe I’ve got this all wrong. Maybe if I just pray differently things will get better. Maybe if I stop doing this or start doing that, everything will work out.” Sound familiar? It’s our go-to play in our little book of tricks we keep in our mind’s back pocket that comes out when the chips are down. The thing is, you can’t bargain with God. We tend to think that we can influence God and sway His will. Not going to happen, my friend. It’s as simple as that. If we had the ability to bargain with God, then what we’re truly saying is we think we know better than God. We don’t.

Psalm 139:2-4

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.

It doesn’t matter what we say to God to try and get our way, He already knows what you’re going to say before you think it. God knows we’re still going to try, but He wants us to do is come to Him with a different approach. Instead of bargaining for what we want, tell Him how you feel and pray. Prayer isn’t a bargaining tool, it’s our open line of communication with God. If we’re so down that we don’t know where to even begin, ask for the Holy Spirit to intercede.

Romans 8:26

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

God knows what our hearts want because He gave us those desires, and they are not fully revealed to us except through prayer. Rather than trying to find a quick fix, take joy in what God is allowing you to go through, thank Him for you what you have and…

Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

4. Depression. This is something that many people experience every day, and I firmly believe that it is caused by a supernatural attack on our spirit from Satan. Satan doesn’t want us to be happy. Misery loves company, and trust me, Satan’s miserable. He knows his ultimate demise and he wants to take as many people down with him as possible.

Sadness comes on when we feel that we’ve lost all hope. It can cause people to fall into very deep and dark holes in their lives where nothing else matters. It can cause us to have feelings of complete self worthlessness even up to the point of wanting to end life itself. It is a delicate topic to handle, because when we see people who are depressed our first reaction is to try to cheer them up. Sometimes the best thing we can do is just be there for them to listen and to offer support. We don’t have the ability to fix them, and sadly, neither do they. Ultimately, God has to intervene and bring healing.

Hopefully you’ll never have to experience those levels of depression, but if you are feeling down in any way, it’s a good place to start by remembering that God is our joy and our hope. In the bible, David dealt greatly with depression. There are many scriptures in the book of Psalms that are open cries out to the Lord, Psalm 23 perhaps being the most well known:

Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

There are many promises of hope in this passage. First, David acknowledges that he lacks nothing, God has given him all he needs. He promises peace, or a time of quietness. The thoughts a person can have during depression can often be very loud and overwhelming. God goes on to promise a time of refreshing, or renewal. He makes things new! He promises guidance even in the darkest of times. David acknowledges that he will not be afraid because God is his comfort. God also promises a proper place to rest at during our hardship. Depression can leave us feeling like we don’t belong anywhere. God says we do, and He has given us that place! God promises good things, so much that they will overflow. There is hope through Jesus because what He has promised us He will give to us. It’s difficult, seemingly impossible to do at times, but we must not listen to the lie that there is no hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

5. Acceptance. If we’ve come this far through the last four steps and have applied the teachings of Jesus in our lives to them, then acceptance should come pretty naturally at this point. That’s not to say that we will have just forgotten everything that we’ve gone through, rather, it should be looked at as an experience that God as allowed us to go through that has brought us closer to Him.

God prepares our hearts for the things He has in store for us. Our life is like one big classroom with many subjects being taught simultaneously. We may graduate from one thing only to find that we’re several grades behind in others. Count everything you go through as a blessing. There is nothing that God allows to happen in our lives to ultimately cause us to be unhappy or wanting for more.

Acceptance is nothing more than having trust in Jesus that our lives are in His hands.

Hebrews 13:5

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

We may feel that all is lost, but we are not forgotten.

-Travis