“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10 (NIV)
On our date night, my husband Art and I bought a birthday card for a friend we hadn’t seen or talked to in a long time.
It was a hard choice because this friend was no longer in my life. During a season when I needed them most, they’d been strangely absent. And they’d recruited others to be the same, which hurt even more.
So, in a deep-down place, I decided this person no longer got to hold space in my heart, in my calendar or on my list of cards to be sent on holidays.
But there we were making an exception. I was making space for them, and I wasn’t entirely sure why.
Over our meal, we decided together what to write inside. And then at some point, Art sealed the envelope. I put a stamp on the outside, and I remember thinking, Wow … look at me. I’m the bigger person here. I sure am doing well with all this healing stuff.
That is, until an hour later, when I read an email with some frustrating news that was totally unrelated to the person we’d sent the card to earlier. I felt wronged. And that feeling of “wrong” was like a magnet calling forth every other feeling of undealt-with wrongs. Though the person I’d sent the card to had nothing to do with the unexpected email, the emotion I was feeling was connecting the two events as one.
And as much as I didn’t want to admit it, bitterness was boiling up.
Bitterness isn’t just a feeling. It is like liquid acid seeping into every part of us and corrupting all it touches. It not only reaches unhealed places, but it also eats away at all that is healed and healthy in us. Bitterness leaves nothing unaffected. Bitterness over one thing will locate bitterness hiding inside of us over other things. It will always intensify our reactions, skew our perspective and take us further and further away from peace.
Instead of talking about fun and positive things on our date that night, I got very vocal about how frustrating it is when people are mean and hurtful.
Art listened to my venting. And then he calmly asked me, “Lysa, are you angry that you haven’t seen evidence of God defending you?”
And there it was.
A moment of absolute clarity. Was this about God?
I swallowed, hard. And answered him: “Yes, that’s why I’m angry. I don’t understand why God hasn’t shown these people how wrong it was to do what they did and to feel convicted by all the devastation they caused.”
Art then asked, “How do you know that He hasn’t?”
Refusing to let my spiritual maturity perfect my answer, I blurted out, “Because they haven’t ever come back me to acknowledge it or apologize.”
Art calmly replied, “And maybe they never will. But that’s not evidence against God. It’s just where they are in the process.”
The process. They have a process. But so do I. And I think it’s time for me to make progress in my own process.
And as I’ve let it sit with me, I’ve realized there’s something that needs to be added into my process: humility.
James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Humanity rises up and demands that I be declared the right one. Humility bows low and realizes that only God has what I really want.
Turning my heart over to bitterness is me turning away from God. So I bow low, not because I want to. Because I need to. I prayed, “I release my need for this to feel fair. Show me what I need to learn.”
I have a choice to keep adding my anger and resentment into the equation, or I can make the rare choice to add in my own humility. My anger and resentment demand that all the wrongs are made right. It also keeps me positioned to get emotionally triggered over and over.
I know I’m stuck in pain when I get emotionally triggered at the mention of that person who was the source of the hurt. I know I’m healing when their name is mentioned and a life lesson is what I think about, and with a better perspective, I make better choices. It’s all such a process … a process that has to start somewhere.
I knew we were supposed to send that birthday card. But when we placed it in the mailbox, my emotions had not yet voted yes. And that’s okay.
Our emotions will sometimes be the very last thing to catch up to where we’ve healed. The card we sent felt like I was just going through the motions, but maybe it was walking out obedience.
This card was all part of the healing process.
I don’t have to know if it will ever make a difference in that person’s life. It made a difference in mine. It’s part of my process of cooperating with God. And it is necessary. And it is good.
God, I give this situation to You. I release my need for an apology. I release my need for this to feel fair. I release all that my flesh begs for so I can embrace what You may be teaching me through this situation. Give me Your peace in place of my anger. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Psalm 25:9, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (NIV)
You don’t have to keep allowing triggers to hijack your emotions. Disempower them by embracing the two necessary parts of forgiveness with Lysa TerKeurst’s new book, Forgiving What You Can’t Forget. Preorder your copy here today, and start reading the first three chapters immediately!
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
When has releasing your need for an apology or for things to feel fair helped your heart in the healing process? What might God be asking you to release today? Join in the conversation here.
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