Every Spiritual Blessing

The Scriptures declare the true followers of Christ are blessed in Him “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). Notice, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing, not necessarily physical blessing. We are not promised earthly wealth, great health and longevity of life, popularity, or freedom from suffering. Yet, regardless of one’s position/condition here on earth, the person who is in Christ has every spiritual blessing. But what does this mean?

In the first chapter of Ephesians we are told that the true people of God are chosen in Him. We are made holy and blameless (that is, cleansed and made new). We are predestined for adoption as sons and daughters of God. We are redeemed, forgiven, and granted an (eternal) inheritance. And we have been sealed with His Holy Spirit.

In the second chapter of Ephesians we are told that we were once dead in our sins, followers of the devil, and children of wrath who lived in the passions of body and mind. But God, in His marvelous love and grace, made us alive in Christ. All of this is given to us by His grace. We do not—cannot—earn it. All of it is given to us as a gift.

We were once separated, alienated,  and at enmity with God. However, in and through Christ, we are brought near and reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus. Through His cross He killed the hostility.

I do not know what your circumstances are, but I do know that life is difficult. Look upwards to Christ, cling to God’s promises, and remember your identity and position in Christ. All of this is by His great mercy and grace, not by our doing. Regardless of how lowly our position is on earth, every spiritual blessing belongs to each person who is in Christ. Be encouraged, my friend!

The Emotionally Cancerous Choice and Its Path to Healing

Each of us have been hurt, betrayed, or abused by another at some point in time. This comes with being human, living among other humans, in a fallen world. Nevertheless, the manner in which we handle and respond to our hurts, betrayals, and abuses is vital.  Our immediate emotion is anger. This is a natural response—especially if the wrong done was neither provoked or justified. However, to hold onto anger and the unwillingness to forgive is injurious to one’s own wellbeing.

“Why should I forgive him? He does not deserve forgiveness! I will never forgive him!” How often such words are spoken with gritted teeth. Yet, such words reveal great misunderstanding. Forgiveness is not about letting a person off the hook and acting as though the offense had never happened; rather, it is the freeing one’s own self from a self-imposed prison, and finding healing from an emotional cancer that will grow. As for not deserving, none of us deserves forgiveness, but each of us need it.

The emotional cancer resulting from an unwillingness to forgive can affect a person’s relationship with others—especially if the bitterness towards the unforgiven one is constantly vomited onto others. The refusal to forgive will also strangle inner joy. However, the most detrimental aspect of stubbornly refusing to forgive another is the way it affects one’s ability to hear and relate to God. Here, the pretense of religion can be very deceiving, because a person can believe he is in good standing with God, but completely oblivious to the warnings of the Scriptures.

Jesus says,

But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. ~ Matthew 6:15 (ESV)

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” ~ Matthew 18:32-35

The apostle John writes:

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. ~ 1 John 3:15

So, as one can see, forgiveness has much to do with the wellbeing of the one who had been offended. But let’s be honest, many of us have permitted the emotional cancer of resentment to eat away at us. Some who are reading this probably still have not had it “treated.” If we would be healed, then we must be willing to forgive. This form of “chemo” is no easier than the physical kind.

So how does one begin to forgive?

  1. Be honest about the offense and the hurt, as well as the possibility of the perpetrator not being honest about the offense. Your healing is not for the perpetrator but for you. Be honest with God about your feelings, anger, hatred, disgust, shame, etc. Be honest with Him about the pain and turmoil you feel, and take the time to cry.
  2. Ask God for the courage, grace, and ability to extend forgiveness. This might need to be prayed several times. Yet, this process will help flush out some of the infection, so to speak. As you experience the anger, ill-will, etc., confess these. John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  3. Be open and willing to forgive, and leave any judgment in God’s hands. Allow yourself to heal and to move on.
  4. Try not to dwell on the offense. Living through it is quite enough; there is no need to keep reliving it in your mind.
  5. Repeat the steps as needed.

Forgiveness tends to feel counterintuitive, but it really is for the emotional and spiritual health of the forgiver. To refuse to forgive only permits the emotional cancer to grow and spread. Forgiveness and letting go is the only cure. It seems like a cruel irony: the refusal to forgive will not harm the person the grudge is held against, but will cripple and destroy the one holding the grudge. Your willingness to forgive is not for the benefit of the one who hurt you, the benefit is for you. Do yourself well—forgive. You are worth it!

The Crucible of Taking Ownership

The issue of accountability might seem unrelated to depression, but bear with me. Shifting and deflecting blame is a universal human tendency. Most people will readily admit that everyone has faults, but owning up to personal faults is not acknowledged so willingly. The problem with blame-shifting is many people’s lives and relationships remain fragmented and broken. Only when genuine ownership and forgiveness (or repentance) take place, can healing and growth take place.

We read that the proneness to blame, versus taking ownership, occurs very soon after the first couple partook of the forbidden fruit:

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” ~ Genesis 3:9-13 (ESV)

God asks the man if he ate of the forbidden fruit. The man blames God for making the woman, then blamed the woman for giving him the fruit to eat (as if she made him eat). God then turns and questions the woman. She blames the serpent for deceiving her.

Neither person humbly acknowledged their disobedience to God’s clear instructions. Instead, they became defensive and deflected blame. One can only wonder what would have happened had they humbly confessed. Certainly there would still have been consequences, but would the world know the depths of suffering it knows? I suppose we will never know.

Modern American society encourages blame-shifting, deflection, and “victim mentality.” We want to blame our parents, teachers, the “system,” and anything else for our poor and foolish decisions. Oh, many of the hurts are real, for sure. These might, indeed, make progress difficult. However, none of these can force us to continue to make poor decisions.

Some people remain in depression, in part, because they choose to curse the day they were born, blame others for their miseries, and refuse to let go of the past in order to move ahead in the present.

Sometimes real hurts happen to persons. Dealing with this requires honesty about the pain; however, one cannot blame anyone for their own choice to refuse to get better. On the other hand, some people want to blame the “system” or others for their own poor decisions. No one else is to bear the blame if an individual refuses to put the work involved to get to where they want to be.

If you’re dealing with depression, these words are certainly not intended to add to your hurting nor are they to ignore any genuine hurts. However, take an honest inventory: are some of your woes your own doing? Regardless what others might have or might not have done, they are not responsible for your present decisions. Someone’s actions may have angered you, but you choose to remain angry or not. Someone might have deeply wounded you, but you make the choice to remain crippled or not. You might not be in a position to move ahead at this time, but no one else is responsible how you view and respond to today’s circumstances.

Hurts hurt, no doubt about it. Yet, we do not have to be defined, hindered, or paralyzed by them. To forgive, let go, and move on is each person’s choice to make alone. No one can make this choice for us. Taking ownership is difficult, but necessary. Mind you, doing so will not necessarily take away the hurt or depression; however, it will begin paving the path leading to freedom and living.

“But they don’t deserve forgiveness!” some will defy. No, I do not suppose they do. Then again, none of us do. “But I can’t forgive!” some will argue. Pray! Ask God for the willingness and help to forgive. And remember, forgiveness has little to do with others but more to do with you. Forgive, because you are worth it!

Dealing with the Wounds of Betrayal

Betrayal. A unique kind of intense pain that cannot be inflicted by a known enemy. No, betrayal is an emotional blade that impales the heart, thrust in by one whom we thought to be a friend.

Consider the situation of Nehemiah:

Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. ~ Nehemiah 6:10-12

This was not an act of betrayal. At least not in the truest sense of the word. Shemaiah might have been an acquaintance of Nehemiah, but his deception does not seem to take Nehemiah by surprise. In fact, Nehemiah does not even appear all that upset with Shemaiah personally.

Yet, we come to the Gospels and we read Jesus’ words:

“Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” ~ Luke 22:48

In today’s vernacular it might come out, “A kiss, Judas? Are you kidding me? Really?! Wow, that is low!”

Here was a man that Jesus poured His life into and ministered to for three years. They traveled together through thick and thin. In Matthew’s account, it is interesting that Jesus, even while knowing He is about to be betrayed, calls Judas, “Friend.”

Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” ~ Matthew 26:48-50

The psalmist prophesies about this betrayal:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. ~ Psalm 41:9

I do not think Jesus was being facetious or sarcastic when He referred to Judas as “friend.” I believe He was driving home the point that, on His part, He considered Judas a friend. Furthermore, Jesus was letting Judas see the reality of his betrayal to that friendship.

Betrayal. The piercing of a heart by the hands of one who was considered a friend; one for whom sacrifices were made; one who was loved. What is a person to do if blindsided and emotionally slashed by betrayal?

First, give yourself permission to feel, and to acknowledge those feelings. Do not pussyfoot around acting as though you do not care. It is okay to cry, to be angry, to scream into a pillow, etc. There is nothing “weak” about acknowledging the pain of betrayal.

Acknowledge all your flooding emotions to God. Be real about your feelings—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Consider the psalmist who wrote:

Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock! ~ Psalm 137:9

To say the least, this was not a happy camper! Now, this was not a sicko who took a morbid delight in infanticide. Rather, it was a man expressing his grief and anger due to cruel captivity. I highly doubt the psalmist would harm even a hair of the head of a little one. Yet, he was able to truly express his various feelings to the Lord.

Too often many of us bury our feelings deep within. However, the feelings neither die nor dissipate. Instead, they may seem to be like lifeless articles forgotten in an attic or basement, but in reality are like living organisms eventually causing infections in our souls. By being honest and open about one’s feelings, and taking the time to cry and grieve, helps one’s heart and soul to detoxify.

Do not seek vengeance. Sometimes people threaten, “Payback is hell!” What is not realized is the fact that payback is just as much a hell for the one getting revenge–as the feelings eat away inside a person like deathly parasites.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” ~ Romans 12:17-19

Betrayal wounds a person. Deeply. Betrayal incites a riot of emotions within a person, it is a spark igniting the flames of grief and rage. Betrayal is a pain all its own, and ones response to it is critical. One’s initial reaction is to retaliate—to confront the person head on. However, this will never ease the pain; instead, retaliation will usually start a series of cause and effect—none of which is good. If one chooses to nurse and nurture the hurt and resentment, it will grow to strangle the very one nurturing it. Resentment and refusal to forgive will rob one of light, love, joy, and peace. Although the temptation to hate is strong, hatred destroys the one who possesses it.

Romans 12:17-19 gives us five pieces of sound advice:

  1. Do not repay evil for evil. Just because someone else sins, do not add sin to your account. Just because a monkey flings its pooh, do not in turn behave like a monkey!
  2. Do what is honorable. People observe what goes on. Continue to do what is right and kind. Do not tarnish your character because of someone else’s lack of integrity.
  3. As much as depends on you, live in peace. This does not mean you become bosom buddies with your betrayer; however, there are tribes who have warred for centuries simply because one will not say, “Enough!” So blood continues to be spilled.
  4. Do not avenge. Adding violence and harm only adds more violence and harm.
  5. Let God repay. Understand, God’s desire is reconciliation; that is, persons unto Himself, as well as unto one another. Of course, this will not always happen. Regardless, persons will not get away for betraying love and friendship. There will be a payment. Leave this in God’s hand. He knows every reason and motive for the betrayal, and He will deal with the situation justly. Perhaps the hardest part is waiting on His timetable.

The process of dealing with betrayal is neither quick nor easy. It is a painful and difficult process. However, if one reacts and chooses to disregard the Scriptures’ instructions, and instead chooses to resent and/or retaliate, the person betrayed will be destroyed by their own devices. As difficult as the process might be, go through it. One has already been injured by one whom they trusted. Why add further hurt by reacting and holding onto inner poison?