People are both the joy and frustration of life, and nothing enhances this dichotomy more than a family feud.
Family feuds, like the Hatfields and McCoys, have cost lives. But feuds within families have a cost of life too. I know, but I’m not going into details.
These passive-aggressive, ignoring you until you die feuds have a cost because whatever you ignore will fester—either on this side or in eternity.
Except in one case…which we’ll get to shortly.
Feuds hurt like few other things even if you have the capability of stuffing the pain down deep for a while.
Brain studies show that emotional pain affects the same part of the brain as physical pain and often at a higher level. Except the emotional pain is worse, because it is always there. But we still have to live, work, and try to function. Until we can’t.
This personal example points us toward the freedom--just don't make the mistakes I did:
One of the ways I handled the pain before was to keep myself very busy and keep it, I thought, out-of-mind (plus I drank—neither path is recommended).
Lots of classes, lots of work, and then I got exempt from finals and had “extra time.” My body’s “mental stress alarm” usually blares in the form of fever blisters.
I had so many fever blisters that my face ached. Photoshop wouldn’t have been able to clear up my portrait.
I remember seeking out a school counselor, who luckily was also a Christian. I made the appointment for the next day, and when I returned, he had looked up my grades. He had assumed my “overwhelm” was related to the normal end of semester school stress. He was surprised I had really good grades.
As we talked I shared something which surprised me.
“I’m so mad. I could literally tear this room apart,” I said as I sat in the chair across from his desk in the tiny book-strewn room.
Later I learned that “angry” and “mad” are a common default emotion for men because our culture rewards this behavior. Being sad or depressed is considered more of a feminine response by most men, but anger is more accepted.
Anger gives the illusion of doing something due to the huge energy expenditure but often makes things worse.
That day, however, the counselor let me talk after asking me occasional questions. Then he interrupted me, caught me by surprise, and it stopped me in my repeating tracks of wrongs, injustices, and case-making.
Luckily, he eased into it.
“I hear you saying all these things about this problem, how things have gone, how you weren’t heard…and it comes down to one thing.”
That irritated me because I had more to say! He continued anyway.
“You need to forgive,” he said about the person we were talking about.
“Forgive!?” I said. “You don’t understand…” as I tried launching into the same stories I had said before.
Have you ever had a “Come to Jesus” discussion?
These are often direct, uncomfortable, and needed conversations about the issue to light up potential solutions and/or resolve the issue. That’s what he and I had.
I didn’t want to agree. I didn’t want him to be right. I didn’t want to do it either.
So here we are at our “Come to Jesus” moment, and here’s what I can promise: I have absolutely never, ever been disappointed by obeying God as I studied the Bible and applied it to my life. Ever. I have been disappointed by delaying that obedience. As some say, “Delayed obedience is disobedience.”
Even from here I have a pretty good idea you’ve got a Bible nearby, so that leads me to let the Holy Spirit help you out by saying, “Hmmm, I wonder what the Bible says about forgiving…”
Well, what did you expect? Did you think I would let you pedal through my life without me “meddling” in yours? Or do you want to do what I did for too long…keep repeating your injustices, your case, and those wrongs?
If you don’t want this, the Holy Spirit won’t interfere. You’ll just be trading the peace for the pieces of heavy chained emotional pain.
A personal friend and biblical counselor wrote a book about forgiveness. Along with the Bible, he combined his personal testimony and the thousands of hours spent counseling people with family problems. Yes, I can recommend it, especially if you are not comfortable seeking a counselor right now.
Of course, you can Google something like, “What does the Bible say about forgiveness?”
I knew even then what the Bible said about forgiveness, and I learned more. But first I had to let go of something. Care to guess what it was?
Here is the more direct answer:
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes,
and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
1 John 2:16
Impure and complex pride. With pride, I attempted to subjugate our Creator and the two greatest commands given about relationships. The first is about our relationship God. The second is about our relationship with our neighbors as self.
“They are wrong” and “I am right” are only applicable if we are standing pure and right on God’s words from the Bible. That is the foundation of rock. Doing something else? It’s the sinking sand of the world and man.
So where is this freedom I’ve talked about? While it may be entirely possible for you to forgive those you feud with, unless you first have the forgiveness of God for your own sins…you can’t begin to comprehend the immensity of what God has forgiven you of already.
To move to freedom requires this, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up…” James 4:10.
Freedom comes not from seeking full resolution, but from obeying God. We want results, but He wants obedience. Our obedience shows our love despite the uncertainty, despite our own desires, and despite the pain.
In essence, we are taking up the cross of suffering in obedience even if we want to “take it into our own hands” to “show them a thing a two.” Power and force transform into grace and faith. We love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19), and when we understand our own sin against his holiness, we have to forgive. We have to forgive or possibly forfeit his forgiveness (See the Lord’s Prayer for one).
So, here, let’s end with a prayer, because you may have heard things you knew already but didn’t want to know. You are at that point where you might be saying, “I can’t do this.” Good. Let’s humble ourselves together with a prayer:
“Almighty God, Thank you for your love and forgive me for not loving you as I should have and for the difficulty I’m having loving the others in this situation. You alone are the judge of all hearts; You alone are the one true God. Your word says blessed are the peacemakers, but I am not at peace with this and I need your help. I want peace, but I want to be right. Your word says to cast my cares upon You, but after I think I have, I pick them up again. Help me Lord give it all to you, to be still and quit fighting as I wait for your guidance on what to do. Let restoration occur, and if/where souls are not yours, let them find you that we may all glorify you in unison, in agreement of your authority over all, including our lives. Give us all the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it in the most loving way possible where You may be glorified, wounds healed, and relationships restored. Amen.”
If you would like to know more about having a restored relationship with God and finding the freedom mentioned in John 8:36, "So if the Son sets you free, then you will be free indeed," then please visit www.peacewithGod.net.