Welcome GraceBreak Cycles, Embrace Grace
I’ve battled with anger issues off and on throughout my life, and underneath the anger lies shame. I’m ashamed when my temper gets the better of me. I’m ashamed at the words that fly out of my mouth that do more damage than a club. Words wound in ways that destroy the essence of a person. I battle anger and I battle shame.
We screw up or we make life-altering wrong choices. We doubt Jesus’ blood can truly clean our past. Anger rules us. Our enemy uses shame to keep us locked in a pit of hopelessness.
How do we get out of that pit? How do we exchange shame induced hopelessness for redeeming hope? By not letting the enemy win. By not letting shame rule your decisions or dictate your actions. Let the shame you feel guide you to the redemption Christ offers.
The First Reason
Shame indicates two things: an attack of the enemy or an issue that hasn’t been dealt with. The enemy deals with generalities and the Holy Spirit deals with specifics. When you experience overall shame and condemnation, the enemy is preventing you from knowing hope. Stand firm in God and resist the devil by speaking truth over yourself. Say, “Jesus’ blood redeems me, in his name I’ve confessed my sin and I stand forgiven. God chooses me. God makes me victorious and nothing can prevail against the God’s love for me and in me.”
The Second Reason
The second problem is a little bit more nuanced. Often when shame lingers over a particular incidence, we have a forgiveness problem. Many of us are quick to ask God for forgiveness and he grants it to us. (1 John 1:9). Often we will go to the person we’ve wronged and seek their forgiveness and whether they grant it to us is between them and God, but we’ve done our part. What keeps us trapped in shame is when we don’t forgive ourselves.
If God has forgiven you, why can’t you forgive yourself? God doesn’t treat us with “three strikes and you’re out” so why do we treat ourselves that way? If you’ve said something you’ve regretted and you’ve made it right with God, make it right with yourself. When you refuse to forgive yourself, you reject God’s redeeming forgiveness.
When you reject God’s redeeming forgiveness, you rob yourself of hope. And when you struggle through, you find your way to hope.
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5
When we wrestle through the suffering we build endurance. Endurance builds our character because we don’t give in to the easy way out of living in shame, but we battle through to victory over shame. Character produces hope because we’re changed from the inside out. Hope is an outward projection of belief and trust. And hope doesn’t shame us. Why?
Because of God’s love poured out into your heart through the Holy Spirit.
It’s God’s love that starts and ends it all, draws us to himself, and makes a way for redeeming forgiveness. That love resides in us. And when his love is flowing through us and out of us, shame has no place. Hope does.
Hope in God and rest in the confidence that he brings. You are forgiven. Your past is redeemed. Your love is God’s love.
Memorize Romans 5:2-5
Consider anything you haven’t forgiven yourself for and receive God’s forgiveness by forgiving yourself.
The New Year arrives and we hope and pray that it contains ease and blessings, but what if it brings you troubles? Do you think you aren’t blessed? Do you doubt God’s goodness? Do you decide hoping isn’t safe?
We think if we can scoot through life with minimal trouble, our lives are blessed. We wrongly judge another by the amount of trouble they face. And we judge ourselves by how much trouble we face. And often we determine our lives are lacking or wanting for more because we can’t see the hope that troubles potentially bring to our lives.
Hope is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it is a person, a feeling, or a thing. Hope as a verb means to look forward to with reasonable confidence, to believe, desire, and trust. Hope is action, it’s sustaining, and life-giving. It’s tangible and at times out of reach.
When I use my circumstances as a litmus test for hope, I feel like a pendulum swinging. Hopeful. . . hopeless. . . hopeful. . . hope-maybe? It’s exhausting and disheartening. If I were to look at merely my circumstances for hope, I would miss out on some wonderful blessings and teachings that my troubles bring me.
Hosea 2:15: “There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”
In this passage, God is planning on drawing his people to him. They have forgotten him and in his heartache he chooses to run towards them instead of from them. His mercy causes him to draw them near rather than rejecting them. And he uses the desert and troubles to do so.
The Israelites lost their first love. We can relate. It’s easy to forget the hope we had when we were first set free. The troubles of life, the cares of this world and the battle between our flesh and our spirit weigh on us. When we turn to performance and works for hope we lay burdens on ourselves, rather than resting in grace and abiding in Christ.
We look for our hope in blessings and our effort. But hope is Jesus (noun) and it’s trust (verb). Hope takes us from despair to belief when we take our eyes off ourselves and our troubles and onto the God who is within us and who guides us through our troubles.
In our safety conscious world, we think of trouble as bad. But really? Sometimes it’s your door to hope. Placed secure in God’s hands, our troubles become blessings.
They become blessings because they become the catalyst that draws us nearer to God. Troubles often produce a humble heart because we cannot affect change in our own strength. The Valley of Achor becomes the doorway to hope because God gives us eyes to see and ears to hear his will, his way, and his voice.
This New Year is fresh with promise. It’s filled with the promise of God’s presence: his hope, his love, and his joy. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to look at your valley with fresh eyes. Eyes to see God within it, pointing the way through it, and bringing beauty from it. You can look back on your troubles and see them for what they were: the doorway in which you moved closer to God.
Our greatest times of growth are often in the valley where we feel the rain and the wind and the storms. At times, fire sweeps through, and then new growth comes and our hearts become this beautiful landscape of beauty. Fresh green shoots look brighter on a deep black background.
Think of the testimony you become when you allow God to lead you to the desert place so that your trouble becomes a door to Hope. Your troubles become the way you meet God intimately. And guess what? You don’t have to wait until you have a major trouble to know this kind of hope. All of life is filled with daily little troubles. Don’t dismiss the small things. Let the small troubles teach you hope so that when you face the big ones, you’re ready to receive the blessings God has for you on the other side.
1. Read Hosea 2
2. Consider your valley of trouble.
3. Ask God to show you how it can be a door of hope.
The New Year is like a blanket of freshly fallen snow. The snow covers everything brown, at least in my neck of the woods. It sparkles in the sunlight. The coyotes have left their mark. The little sparrows leave charming tracks. And then there’s me–frozen in indecision–do I really want to mar the beauty? What if I take a wrong step? What if my snow angel ends up unrecognizable because I’m a klutz hauling myself to an upright position?
That fresh new year use to find me creating a long list of resolution. But I stopped making resolutions years ago. I couldn’t take the discouragement January 15 brought when I looked back and saw the mess I’d made out of the New Year. There were no cute paths or snow angels, but a chaotic effort at creating change.
I appreciate all the tools out there to help set goals rather than resolutions, but I still struggle. I adore planners–to look at–not implement. I’m still looking for the perfect system that will help me corral all my thoughts and hopes and dreams and what I actually need to do in my actual life.
Psalm 33:17-18: “The war horse is false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.”
A fully trained warhorse in medieval times was able to carry a fully armored knight, respond to the legs of a rider rather than relying on the reigns, and bite and kick on command. In our times of modern weaponry, the idea of using a horse for war is incomprehensible, but they were part of the valuable team of horse and rider. A knight could not have accomplished what he did without his partner, the war horse.
You can imagine with me the deep reliance a knight or solder had on his horse. And how easy it would be to place their hope in this well-trained animal. One would feel invincible.
Sometimes, our systems and goals become our war horse. We begin to rely on the plans we have in place to carry us through. And plans, goals, and systems are good things, and we should discover what works for us so that we can fully step into God’s purpose for us. But those systems won’t save us. They cannot rescue us.
God can. Our hope needs to be placed in his steadfast love rather than our resolutions. Only his love can keep us secure when our plans fall down or a storm erupts in our life. Build your systems, but place your hope in God.
It is good and right to make plans. But when we turn to our goals to control our life, we have placed hope in the very thing that will disappoint us. Our goals then become a source of discouragement because goals cannot rescue us. Goals guide us because they become a tool that God uses to bring about his plans for our life.
Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
1. Consider what’s going on in your life: are you caring for aging parents? raising a young family? juggling ministry and vocation? Your real life affects your goals.
2. Pray and seek God for his direction.
3. Choose 1 or 2 goals to work towards rather than half a dozen. It’s so tempting to wake up January 1 and decide that your life needs a revolution. And for some, this might be the year for that, but for other’s the revolution comes about in one small step at at time.
4. Make your plans, but let go. Let God establish you. Place your hope in him and not your effort.