“Gratitude changes everything.” I bought a piece of wall décor with these words last week. I didn’t know how God would use it in the days that followed to work on my heart at a very deep level.
As the Holy Spirit worked on me, He brought to my memory the words from Philippians 4:8:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
During the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, many of us are forced to face people or be reminded of people who have caused us pain in the past. And, sometimes that pain is compounded by new offenses. When it’s ongoing, repeated and continual forgiveness is required.
I’ve had “my person” for a while. How about you?
I realized, though, that every thought I had about this particular person in my life was processed in the shadow of that mountain of hurtful memories. Because the threat of another offense was looming, I had constructed and worn armor to protect myself from further emotional pain.
“That’s just the way the person is, so it’s only common sense to expect more of the same.”
We’ve all heard, and probably used, the expression: “You can forgive, but that doesn’t mean you have to trust.” There’s truth to that. But maybe we use that attitude for an excuse that keeps us from truly walking in the light.
After all, God remembers our sins no more. He doesn’t base His decisions about us on our behaviors He’s already forgiven. That mountain has been removed. God is not walking in the shadow of our failures and sin. Nor did Christ protect Himself from the consequences of our sin – not by a longshot! He actually took them upon Himself willingly.
Instead of remaining in the shadow of the mountain of past and threatening offenses, what if we:
- Moved that mountain of painful memories and fears?
In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said,
“I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” It is, therefore, possible with His help.
- Removed the man-made armor we’ve constructed to protect ourselves?
(For clarity’s sake, this blog is concerning offenses – not abuse that places a person in danger.)
According to 1 Corinthians 13:5, love does more than forgive. It keeps no record of wrongs. In the New King James translation, it says it this way: “Love ‘thinks no evil.’”
So, rather than thinking about the “evil” the person has committed, we are called to have hearts of gratitude concerning the individual who has hurt us – even if we have to get a shovel and dig for positive attributes, good intentions, simple gestures, anything we can find.
For those of us who have been operating in the shadows for a long time, this process will be difficult and painful. It’s like digging through the trash for gems. Those gems might be covered in slimy, stinky rubbish. But we are called to determinedly search for them like hidden treasure and intentionally clean them off – so that we can fix our eyes on them.
Concerning “your person,” and “my person,” we can now “[F]ix [our] eyes on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.” Now, as you think about him or her, you can “[T]hink about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
In the next verse (Philippians 4:9), Paul says to put these things into practice, and that “the God of peace will be with you.” We don’t have to do any of this alone.
We can receive the gift of incomprehensible peace this Christmas season by allowing God to complete this good work He has begun in us:.
From offense…to forgiveness…to gratitude.