I had just cheerfully entered my dentist’s office for more extensive repair work. It started like the other dental visits. But this time, as I hoped, while Mercedes, his dental assistant prepared me for the work, Dr. Azarbal asked about the source of my joy and positive demeanor. I had only been a patient for a few months, and he and his staff seemed perplexed that my disposition was consistently favorable and upbeat – not that of the typical dental patient.
“Doc”’ often commented to his assistants that I meditate while he works on my teeth. Mostly, I pray, focus on scripture verses or sing to myself, to divert my attention away from discomfort and the dreaded drill.
“You always seem to be in a good mood – how do you manage that?” he asked.
Anxiously anticipating the opportunity to share my testimony, I responded instantly, “I don’t have any bad days, because every day is a gift from God to me. I am a bona fide miracle. Less than two years ago, I was dying after a brain aneurysm. By God’s grace, I survived brain surgery, my memory has been restored, and my healing is nothing short of miraculous!”
As I completed my statement, Mercedes’ swift retort pierced my heart, pinning me to the chair. “My Mom didn’t make it.”
Her words, so matter-of-fact, stunned me into momentary silence.
Certainly, I could not expect her to share my joy, but I sensed the Lord wanted me to connect with her sorrow.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 (NIV)
“Oh Lord, I thought, what can I say to her?” Taking a few deep breaths, I turned my face to meet her eyes and asked, “Can you talk about what happened?”
My own gratitude and enthusiasm on hold for a moment, I listened as she spoke easily and freely, recalling the events of her mom’s last hours, following a brain aneurysm. I marveled at the calmness of her voice as she shared that her mother’s friend was present when her mother collapsed, yet panic paralyzed her, delaying a lifesaving 911 call. It had been seven years since she lost her mom, her best friend.
“I am so very sorry; this has to be extremely difficult for you,” I offered. Then I asked if she had been able to open her heart to release forgiveness to her mother’s friend.
After a pause, she stated, “I was angry with her for many years because she wasted precious time calling family members when she should have called the paramedics…but I have forgiven her.”
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” Matthew 6:14 (NLT)
Hers was not the first incident shared with me about a family member who succumbed to the very affliction I had survived. Yet, each story amazed me, further confirming the unexplainable sovereign move of God. The more stories I heard – Felicia’s younger brother, Diane’s mother, Cynthia’s older brother, Mildred’s sister, a 17-year-old student, and many others – the more awed I became of God’s bountiful grace to me. While I have no answers for why so many lost loved ones, I can encourage them to do the difficult, yet necessary, healing work of forgiving.
Lord, losing a loved one is one of the most difficult, painful experiences to understand. Sometimes that pain has caused me anger as I searched for answers. When I am honest, I realize I am most angry at you for not healing them. Help me to trust your sovereign wisdom, releasing all bitterness and unforgiveness. Lord, help me to rejoice with others whom you choose to heal. Amen.
Forgive Like God
By: James Merritt, Touching Lives
January 7, 2021
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
One of the reasons why the Bible is so valuable is because it gives us real life examples and shows people who faced real hurt and heartache just like we do. Rather than becoming victims, they became victors. Rather than sinking into the quicksand of bitterness, they were able to get to the oasis of forgiveness. They set the standard for what it looked like to overcome tough times with the right heart and the right attitude.
The poster child for forgiveness is a man named Joseph. How did Joseph keep from being burned by the fire of bitterness? Avoid drowning in a sea of bitterness? Becoming immune to the poison of bitterness? It is because he refused to take the place of God.
Joseph understood something about forgiveness that you need to understand. God is like us in that He has to forgive others who do wrong to Him. He is continuously in the position of the forgiver, but He is unlike us in that He never needs to be forgiven like we do. The simple reason why we always need to forgive others and we must forgive others is because we are not God. Joseph has no desire to play God and he is not going to take the place of God.
What Joseph was saying was “I may be the Prime Minister of Egypt, but God is the Preeminent Master of the Universe. Since I sometimes need to receive forgiveness then I must always be willing to give forgiveness. C.S. Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” You can forgive, you must forgive, and you will forgive when you remember just as God has forgiven you, you are to forgive others.
Dear Lord, thank you not only for the example of forgiveness that Joseph set, but also the example you set for us in selfless forgiveness. Give me the grace to forgive others the way you have forgiven me and help me to let go of any bitterness that I’m tempted to hold onto. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Contentment – Streams in the Desert – January 7
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11).
Paul, denied of every comfort, wrote the above words in his dungeon.
A story is told of a king who went into his garden one morning, and found everything withered and dying. He asked the oak that stood near the gate what the trouble was. He found it was sick of life and determined to die because it was not tall and beautiful like the pine. The pine was all out of heart because it could not bear grapes, like the vine. The vine was going to throw its life away because it could not stand erect and have as fine fruit as the peach tree. The geranium was fretting because it was not tall and fragrant like the lilac.
And so on all through the garden. Coming to a heart’s-ease, he found its bright face lifted as cheery as ever. “Well, heart’s-ease, I’m glad, amidst all this discouragement, to find one brave little flower. You do not seem to be the least disheartened.” “No, I am not of much account, but I thought that if you wanted an oak, or a pine, or a peach tree, or a lilac, you would have planted one; but as I knew you wanted a heart’s-ease, I am determined to be the best little heart’s-ease that I can.”
Others may do a greater work,
But you have your part to do;
And no one in all God’s heritage
Can do it so well as you.
They who are God’s without reserve, are in every state content; for they will only what He wills, and desire to do for Him whatever He desires them to do; they strip themselves of everything, and in this nakedness find all things restored an hundredfold.