Okay, so I have noticed how people speak about other people in their lives that may have hurt them or caused them pain, both in and out of church, and most times it is pretty easy to tell if they have gotten over their hurts or not. You can tell by the way they speak about them or their current situation, and it also shows up in their tone of voice and their mannerisms whenever those particular subjects come up. For a while there, I was no different.
Yes, I do have a past. Yes, I have been hurt, very deeply. But it does not get me down and it does not control me. The enemy has no power over me and does not dictate my life and how I will react to certain things.
So how did I do it? How do I keep on doing it? Well, because you asked (and even if you didn’t) I will tell you.
I found a passage in the Bible that has come to mean so very much to me and is the focal point, or beginning , of how I tie so many other scriptures together to make sense of my life.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
This is how I explain how people can know God’s will for their lives. I am convinced that if you do these three things, then God’s Will, will become apparent in your life.
Now, I like the NIV, but it is important to look at other translations to get the full picture of what God is telling us here.
First, “Rejoice always”. Other translations say this as “be joyful” – always. This is because God never says anywhere in scripture that He wants us to be happy. In fact, all Bible references to the word “happy” tell us that happiness is a feeling. It is an emotion and it is fleeting, it is temporary, and it does not last. However, the Bible DOES tell us that we are to “know joy”. And you know very well that “joy comes from knowing the Lord”. Rejoice, be joyful, always. You see, joy is something you know, it is a decision you make, it becomes a state of mind, a condition of your heart. So, just “know”.
And about that word “joy” – a friend of mine described it this way: The word JOY is an acronym that means: Jesus, Others, and You. If you prioritize your life this way, then you will understand JOY. Remember, when asked about which commandment was the most important, Jesus answered “Love God”…first, then He said to “Love others”.
Also, Philippeans 2:3 says,
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests
but each of you to the interests of the others.”
So, 1) Jesus, 2)Others, 3) You. That is JOY.
Pray continually. That one isn’t so easy, so I figured a way to do it. Like most people, I’m sure you pray first thing in the morning. So do I (most days). I ask God to help me live my life today in ways that are pleasing to Him. And I fail at it each and every day. But, when I finish praying in the morning, I do not say “amen”. This way, my entire day, everything I say and everything I do is a constant prayer to Him. There have been days when I am so ashamed that, “Oh man, I cannot believe that I just prayed THAT to God”. I don’t say “amen” until I am ready to go to sleep at night. Praying continually.
The hardest one though, is “give thanks in all circumstances”. Give thanks in everything, and for everything. No need to explain this one. You know for yourself how hard this can be. “Seriously God? I’m supposed to be THANKFUL for THAT?!?” Yeah. Everything.
So how do I keep from talking badly about those who may have wronged me? How do I keep from thinking bad thoughts about them? I pray for them. It isn’t easy to be angry with someone if you are praying for them. Go ahead. Try it and see for yourself. Also, I have some really good guys who hold me accountable, and they have my permission to do so. They are the kind of friends that I need and that I want in my life. I don’t need anyone to offer comfort and a pat on the back, I need strong Christian men to speak truth into my life when I need it, and to give me a Holy Spirit butt-kicking when I need it or deserve it.
Here’s another verse that helps me not speak ill of others:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.”
I think it is important that we not misunderstand what this verse means by “according to their needs”. I strongly believe that we need faithful people in our lives that will speak truth to us, God’s Truth, when we need it. We need to trust that those people will tell us what we “need” to hear, not what we “want” to hear. There is often a huge difference. “….that it may benefit those who listen.” Think about it, if people only tell us what will makes us feel better about ourselves, what benefit is there? We have learned nothing, and we have not grown, and have no opportunity to grow. I want to grow (and not just because I am vertically challenged).
And one thing that was very difficult for me was to forgive.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.”
I had been beaten, punched, kicked, pushed around, bullied, spit in my face (seriously, that was just gross), had obscenities hurled at me, screaming and yelling at me. Good grief, all I tried to do was have a conversation, but I suppose you cannot disagree with some people without setting them off.
And I still had to forgive.
With all of the above, one scripture passage kept appearing in my daily devotionals.
“But mark this:
There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves,
lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control,
brutal, not lovers of the good,
treacherous, rash, conceited,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—
having a form of godliness* but denying its power.
Have nothing to do with such people. “
(2 Timothy 3: 1-5)
With that in mind, particular individuals are no longer in my life.
*Oh, and about verse 5, “having a form of godliness…”, Paul is talking about Christians here. These are people who attend church, claim to be followers of Christ, attend Bible Studies, and may be active in church. But their lives do not reflect what they say they believe, they are lukewarm Christians (see Revelation 3:15-17 to see what happens to lukewarm Christians), and they are only “good” while they are at church or surrounded by their “church friends” (and sometimes, not even then!). Remember, you may be able to fool the people around you, but you cannot fool God. He knows your heart.
I now sleep better at night, and people around me have said they have noticed that “dark cloud” is no longer hovering over me. All I ever wanted was peace.
A few years ago, some very dear friends became concerned and asked, “Why is the guy who was always smiling, no longer smiling?” Then recently, they came up to me, hugged me and yelled, “He’s back!” I hadn’t even noticed, but apparently others did. And they do.
I’ve basically been alone for quite some time now, and I don’t mind telling you – it sucks.
But, if I had my choice, compared to what I’ve been through, I would rather be alone.
You may have already figured out that I am pretty much an idiot and have terrible luck with women.
But God loves me anyway, and everything will heal over time. And believe me, I have learned my lesson about rebounding and rushing into a new relationship way too soon.
As Andy Stanley pointed out, the perfect woman for me is out there somewhere, and God knows who she is and He knows where she is. So the best thing for me to do is to get and stay as close to God as possible and He will make things happen according to His perfect timing, not mine.
So I spend my time serving Him and serving others in His name, and drawing as close to Him as I can. I hope His timing is soon, because all that nonsense is far behind me and I am ready to move on.
I am still alone. But I am at peace.