Posts tagged ‘forgiveness’

What Bad Things Has God Given You?

Job replied, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”    Job 2:10  

When I was an OB/GYN resident at Bethesda Naval Hospital, we had morning rounds every weekday. During this time each resident would present the history, diagnosis, and treatment of each of the patients she/he had been assigned. There were times the attending physicians (those who were ultimately in charge of all patient care) would praise us for our technical abilities or diagnostic skills. But there were many instances of criticisms from the attendings, or even worse. Once I was asked to report the very next day on endometriosis, a benign gynecologic disorder that can cause pain and infertility. My attending wanted me to outline the causes of the disease, diagnostic testing options, and the therapeutic modalities. I was up most of the night preparing this paper due the next day. It was painful. It was humiliating to be called out in front of my fellow residents. And yet it helped me to not only learn about endometriosis, but to develop the habit of doing the necessary research to benefit my patients each and every day.

Job is described in chapter 1 as a man who was blameless and a man who had complete integrity. He loved God and followed His commands in his life. We read that Job was a family man who prayed and sacrificed for his children. He had been blessed with wealth as he was selfless, hard working, and humble. And then we read that he lost his farm animals, his sheep, his workers, and his children. If such losses weren’t enough, Job then lost his health. As he sat in agony with boils covering his entire body, Job responds to the the advice of his wife to curse God with a very insightful question, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”

This is a tough question. None of us ever want to receive bad things. But before I think about what it means to receive something bad from God, I think about what it was like to endure morning rounds at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Those were bad times. I dreaded the hour from 7-8am every weekday. And yet I learned to develop the intellectual discipline necessary to care for my patients throughout my career as a physician. I have even learned to accept the good with the bad from my friends which has taught me innumerable lessons about unconditional love, forgiveness, honesty, trust, and transparency that have made my life richer.

And so I resonate with Job’s rhetorical question. Some of the greatest blessings in my life have come to me when I have embraced the bad things from God. When I pray for humility, he brings morning rounds into my life. When I pray for a deeper love of humanity, he shows me the need to forgive. When I pray for insight, He uses the Word to expose my need to change a habit. And when I pray for forgiveness, he shows me how I need to confess my faults. Perhaps we should be thanking God more for the bad things He gives us than the good things!  

 

Love Covers a Multitude of Sins

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8

In this chapter, Peter is discussing what it looks like to live for God and suffer for being a follower of Jesus. Our lives change when we are touched by God’s love and accept His gift of eternal life. We begin to recognize the battle around and in us. And sometimes the battle can feel overwhelming. There are times we don’t know how we can keep going due to the stress of life or the anxieties that come from issues with work, friends, or money to name just a few. Life happens. It never takes a break. There are times we find it hard to catch our breath.

As I continue on my journey toward heart health, I find this passage to contain one of the greatest healing ingredients to be applied in life. In the midst of all the chaos around me that includes the trials of life, the discouragements, the deadlines, the stressors, and the temptations that can defeat me, Peter reminds me of what’s most important of all – LOVE! We were created to love. The interesting thing about love is that we cannot accept love from others until we give love to others. And so Peter doesn’t just say that we need to love each other, he tells us we need to show that love. I can love you in my mind, but if I never express that love, what good is it? It doesn’t help me and it certainly doesn’t help you. Love compels me to put my arm around you when you’re crying, to listen to you when you’re upset, and to remind you of your talents when you’re discouraged. And when I show you love, it is my heart that is healed as much as yours!

But Peter reminds us that if we were to experience the full healing power of love in our lives, it must be expressed towards those who have sinned against us. I feel the greatest strain on my heart when I am angry with someone who I feel has wronged me. Because of my coronary artery disease, I actually feel chest pain when I harbor ill feelings toward another person. This is when I know Peter is right. Love covers a multitude of sin. When I allow God’s love to fill my heart, He provides me with the spirit of forgiveness. Peace comes over me and my chest pain immediately resolves. Forgiveness may be the ultimate act of love and is certainly God’s remedy for a damaged heart.

 

How can you show deep love for another person today? What sins will your love cover today?

What Are the Stressors in Your Life?

Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins.  Isaiah 38:17

King Hezekiah was deathly ill and only had a few days to live. Hezekiah turned to God for healing. He did not go to the healers of the day. He did not ask to be taken to the Mayo Clinic of the ancient world. He turned directly to God who gave him 15 more years. As a result, we see Hezekiah’s response recorded in Isaiah. He recognized a direct correlation between his physical and spiritual health.

I have discovered that stress is a major contributor to my heart condition. I often develop symptoms at times of stress that are not present with even vigorous exercise. But what causes stress? And does it have to be deleterious to our health? Stress is the word we most often use to describe our internal response to stressors, which are external to us. So when someone cuts me off in traffic, that can be a stressor that can cause an angry response in me that I call stress. But what if that incident didn’t cause me to be angry? What if I were in a conversation with God at the moment someone cut me off in traffic? My response would likely be much different and the incident would not be stressful!

Perhaps an active prayer life, one in which I “never stop praying” (1 Thes 5:17) is the key to reducing stress and adding up to 15 years of life! That was Hezekiah’s experience. He was a man of prayer. He immediately turned to God in any situation. And even when Isaiah later told him that his kingdom would be conquered by the Babylonians and that even some of his own sons would be taken as exiles to Babylon, he still had peace. 

I am comforted by Hezekiah’s experience for two reasons: 1) Staying in touch with God throughout the day, living in an attitude of prayer, is the key to overcoming the stressors of life and living in peace.  2) I don’t have to be perfect. Forgiveness is part of the stress management package God offers me. When I accept God’s forgiveness and live in His grace, I can forgive others. When I refuse to forgive others, I compound the stress in my life. When I get angry at the guy who cuts me off in traffic, I am not forgiving him. This produces stress! But when I am connected to Jesus, forgiveness is my first response and the incident isn’t even a stressor!

I have discovered that the expectations I internalize in my life are often the root cause of the stress in my life. Anything I see as preventing me from meeting the expectations I have adopted for my life become threats to my success and thus major stressors. But when I accept God’s expectations for my life and live in His will, then what I otherwise would see as a stressor becomes an opportunity for growth or even an outright blessing. Yes, God can turn a stressor into a blessing when I live with His expectations and in His calling.

What are the stressors in your life? Identify them this week. Give them to God, and never stop praying. You might just add 15 years to your life.

Healing for the Helpless

The people of Israel will no longer say, “We are sick and helpless,” for the Lord will forgive their sins.  Isaiah 33:24

It is easy, perhaps even natural, to feel helpless when you are sick. And sickness comes in many forms. You can be sick emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or physically. When one part of you is sick, it insidiously affects the other parts as well threatening to make your whole being sick. And this is when helplessness sets in. You feel helpless, which becomes a disorder all its own.

Of all the illnesses we can have, helplessness is perhaps the most deadly. When we feel helpless, we cannot move, breathe, or act. When we feel helpless, we become paralyzed and are in danger of dying no matter how hopeful our situation may be. If we cannot see the hope, we cannot grasp the help.

Perhaps this is why read this response of Jesus in Matthew 9:2, “And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.'” Jesus knew what this man needed. He knew the utter despair that comes with the feeling of helplessness. He knew that the man had lost all hope in his life. And so Jesus restored the man’s hope by forgiving him. When we are forgiven, when we are loved and accepted, when we feel the warmth of a loving gaze into our eyes, nothing else matters. Hope is restored because we have been helped in ways that transcend any physical ailment. 

It is tempting to blame ourselves for anything we perceive as bad that happens to us. And so when we are sick, we feel helpless, alone, and a burden to others. When we don’t get a raise, we feel unworthy. When a brother ignores us, we feel rejected. When a colleague takes advantage of us, we feel cheated. When a friend gossips about us, we feel unloved and even unloveable. We then begin to feel helpless and unable to accept any healing touch. It prevents us from accepting love, forgiveness, and even friendship.

No wonder Isaiah writes that God forgives us when we are sick and helpless. No wonder Jesus first forgave the paralytic. He knows exactly what we need. We need to be accepted and loved no matter our physical or mental or emotional condition. The path to true healing goes through God’s love.

Do you feel helpless? Has something happened in your life that has stolen your hope? God understands. And He is with you today to forgive, accept, and love you. The only question to be answered by us today is, Will I accept His forgiveness? When you do, you will receive all the help you need!

 

Unworthy to be Called

Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”  Isaiah 6:8

Isaiah witnessed the glory of God sitting on His lofty throne in a dream. He heard the angels calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord. The whole earth is filled with His glory!” Isaiah immediately recognized himself to be a sinful man with “filthy lips.” To have filthy lips as a prophet would seem to disqualify him from being a prophet. There are many days I feel the same way. I am a sinful man, and just like Isaiah, my lips are filthy. I recognize how unworthy I am to be a pastor. But this is not the end of the story. God is love. God is the One who calls. God is the One who empowers. God is the One who forgives. 

Because God is love and He is the One who calls, it is my response to Him that matters, not my sin. The angel took a coal from the altar and touched the lips of Isaiah. He is then told, “Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” This is when God asks, “Who will be My messenger?” Isaiah’s transformation from a broken man not feeling worthy to even receive God’s salvation to stepping up to be God’s messenger began with his recognition that he was a sinful man. The transformation took place when he fully accepted God’s forgiveness.

When I focus on Jesus to see His love, His holiness, and His glory, I see my own unworthiness. But He doesn’t leave me there. He picks me up and forgives me. And then He calls me into His service! When someone asks you to partner with them, you really feel accepted. And this is exactly what God did for Isaiah, what He has done for me, and what He does for each one of us. So why not take the first step in accepting God’s call? Focus on Jesus and recognize your unworthiness. You will be reminded of it everyday. But you will also receive His forgiveness, which when accepted, qualifies you to boldly step forward into His calling for your life. In my experience, you will always feel unworthy at some level because you will always make mistakes. But it is the recognition of your unworthiness that makes you fit to be called. May you experience the joy and peace of God’s call today.

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