As I’ve walked through this difficult season of my life, I have experienced the most amazing gifts.
Freedom and Peace
And not for the reasons you might think. This, my friends, is applicable to everyone.
There is freedom in knowing how to handle pain.
We all struggle at times, and each of us has a different profound lesson that can bring healing. In my case, it is a host of things (like surrender, trust), but as I reflect, I think the most healing of all has been FORGIVENESS.
Let’s be honest. I’m going through a divorce. When anything goes wrong in a key relationship in your life, it doesn’t take long to look back and create a laundry list of the ways that you were wronged. That’s the easy part. I’ve found that the hard part comes in two forms – forgiveness and forbearance.
Let’s start with forgiveness. Those who read my blog with the news of our divorce know that I set out from the very beginning with an intention to walk through this with as much grace as I could muster. In reflection, though, while my intention was noble, it was based in my own strength. And times such as this require more than our own strength.
What I noticed was this: no matter what my intention was, I would catch myself talking to a friend and… there it was – out of my own mouth, I would hear a complaint. Maybe a ounce of blame. Or criticism. And I would feel convicted. My heart was bringing me an important awareness. The complaint, the blame, the criticism could only come from one place.: unforgiveness. The worldly view would say “Cheryl, this is a tough time and you have every right to feel this way.” Well, maybe I do, but like everything that goes against God’s ways, it didn’t feel good… to me, and so I wanted to address it. But in my own strength, no matter how much I wanted to, I just simply couldn’t find myself in a place of total forgiveness.
Enter the power of prayer. On my knees I went. “Lord, show me what that looks like. Show me how.” For sake of brevity, I'll just say that answers came over time. Words of encouragement. Scriptures. Messages in devotionals. “Gut feelings”. And ultimately, a new perspective.
God calls us to completely forgive because we have been forgiven.
And here’s where forbearance came in. When I stopped focusing on how I had been wronged, and got real about how I’ve also wronged, now I was getting somewhere. This too is a whole separate long story of lessons unfolding, but suffice it say that getting real about our role in conflict brings a whole new perspective that opens the door to forgiveness. What if married people tried to resolve their problems not by talking about what each spouse needs and how to meet those needs, but rather came to the table with a sincere heart that acknowledged how each wronged each other, asking for forgiveness and with an intention to do each other right? Not what you can do for me, but what I can do for you. Now we have a real place to start discussions. I often use the phrase “God’s upside down Kingdom”.
I’ve wandered a little off my trail because forgiveness has been such a healer for me, and because this is only a small fraction of my story over the past few months, but ultimately when I think about where I started:
There is freedom in knowing how to handle pain….
For me, it’s been everything about “grounding in” and rooting into the most basic truths in my life.
1) That God loves me perfectly, and my identity is found in Him and nowhere else.
2) That God’s Word will give us valuable instructions for living that are a gift to our wellness, our psyche, our highest good, our health. The answers are in there.
3) That there is power in prayer, and if you ask, you will be answered.
4) That trusting that things are perfect just as they are, and even if we don’t understand, there is a purpose and a plan – and it’s a perfect plan.
5) That we are never alone.
As with anything, it’s been a journey, not a process of waking up one day feeling freedom and peace ushered in on a virtual red carpet. It is with great gratitude, though, that I take these lessons from this particular trial, knowing that these basic truths can be applied in any trial. My personal discovery of how to handle pain.