• DANCE IN THE RAINLife is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain.- Vivian Greene

forgiving+

 

 

She asks me about forgiveness.

I look up into her tear-filled eyes and know she isn’t looking for canned advice. She wants real help, honesty, depth.

I shift uncomfortably in my chair. This is a hard topic to talk about without sounding preachy. I want to be sensitive and I’m not sure what to say.

Glancing over at me, she asks, “So what was it like for you to forgive? Why did you do it? Was it hard? And was it worth it?”

My mind scans all of the offenses I’ve forgiven. They have ranged from small–not being invited to a friend’s party. To medium- dealing with an insensitive and critical relative during a painful struggle. To huge – burying my infant son due to a doctor’s careless mistake. Or losing the marriage that I thought would last a lifetime.

I know she is referring to a specific offense that I’ve had to forgive, that I’m still in the process of forgiving, but there is a commonality to all the offenses against me. They have all hurt. Some superficially, some deeply, some permanently.

I take the questions one by one, trying to be as transparent as I can.

Why did I forgive?

I begin slowly, choosing my words carefully.

“To be honest I didn’t want to forgive. I never do. But the Bible tells us to forgive if we want to be forgiven. And forgiving those who wrong us brings glory to God. It shows the world Jesus.

But forgiving has also helped me. When I carry around anger and bitterness over what someone has done, it eats at me, and almost controls my life. It’s almost like the bitterness follows me everywhere.

“I hate to admit it, but I take a twisted pleasure in replaying the offense, getting mad, being the victim. I feel entitled to those feelings- small consolations in the face of the injustices I’ve endured. But I know this pleasure is really poison. Poison that I am pouring into a gaping, already painful wound. That poison makes the wound fester, so I’m worse off than I was at the start. I’m in more pain, while the person who hurt me doesn’t even know, or care.

“I have found forgiveness is like a balm. It lets me heal. Keeps the wound clean. Enables me to move on.”

She looks at me. “I guess that makes sense. But it seems impossible when I look at my situation. Forgiving is too hard.” View full post »

  • May 11, 2017 - 2:59 pm

    Maggie Huffman - So encouraging!
    And when we do not have the strength ourselves it is so beautiful when we ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and give us wisdom and compassion – He totally comes through!
    But we have to have a desire to forgive – perhaps that’s the first prayer.
    I have had to forgive and be forgiven of SO much and I know that it all comes through the love and grace of my Savior.

    Thank you,Vaneetha, for the way you let God use you!ReplyCancel

    • May 11, 2017 - 8:44 pm

      Vaneetha - Love this, Maggie! I agree with everything you said, especially “And when we do not have the strength ourselves it is so beautiful when we ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and give us wisdom and compassion – He totally comes through!” Amen.ReplyCancel

  • May 11, 2017 - 6:25 pm

    Jude - I’ve been researching the topic of forgiveness for a few days now. It seems to be the ‘hot’ topic of the month. 1st I need to say this: I don’t like the assumption made that if one is not willing/able to ‘forgive’ means that they are angry or bitter. That’s 2+2=5. It’s also a judgement made against the person. This ‘forgive all, at all times, no matter what’ that seems to be the ‘hot’ Christian topic on line these days is bothering me. Something just not ‘right’ about it. I would never tell a woman that has been raped, victimized by years of trauma and/or incest, battering, or who’s child has been killed, etc.that she MUST forgive the perpetrator if the perpetrator has not repented…or… God will not forgive her.

    I read PS. 55 and I have to ask if God did not forgive King David. God never forgives anyone unless they repent or did something unknowingly as He did on the Cross. This ‘black & white teaching that one MUST forgive or God will not forgive you seems to be taken out of context. Obviously, God does not forgive everyone. If He did, there would be no hell. Does God require of His children that they do something He, Himself, does not do? I have not come to any conclusions. I am praying for Understanding from the Lord. I don’t like it when 1-2 Scriptures are taken out of context then presented as a ‘law’…that’s this is how it MUST be. I want the mind of Christ on this matter.

    For example…should a victim of the Holocaust be told that if they do not forgive Hitler, that God will not forgive them?

    Just some thoughts…(((HUGS)))ReplyCancel

    • May 11, 2017 - 8:42 pm

      Vaneetha - I’m sorry this post was upsetting to you- I know this is a hard topic. I think some of your disagreement may come from how you define forgiveness. I do not equate forgiveness with reconciliation. My working definition of forgiveness is “giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.”

      I agree with Wikipedia’s definition which says: Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).

      Jesus has a lot to say about forgiveness, far more than just 1-2 verses, and it is all consistent. However, I did not mean to imply that we could not be saved if we were harboring unforgiveness.

      We cannot truly forgive in our own strength, but when we ask God to help us forgive, He enables us to do that. And I have found the freedom that comes with forgiving someone who has hurt me is life changing. It is ultimately a gift to myself. So I would not tell a victim of the Holocaust that they had to forgive Hitler, but I would tell them that if they did, they would probably experience God’s life-giving freedom in a startlingly new way.

      Praying for you, and for myself, that God would reveal truth to us all…ReplyCancel

  • May 12, 2017 - 4:32 pm

    Scott - Thank you for sharing Vaneetha and for your encouragement. It seems that I’ve been having to turn the other cheek more than I’d like(once is more than I’d like). Thanks for encouraging me to continue on and to pray for those and bless those who offend me. Suffering in this way is not easy either, even with minor offenses. You’re a warrior.ReplyCancel

    • May 13, 2017 - 3:31 pm

      Vaneetha - Its a challenge for me, for all of us, to forgive if we are totally honest! But I have found its such an amazing way to live out and walk in the freedom of the Gospel!ReplyCancel

  • May 12, 2017 - 7:33 pm

    Jude - Ty! Not upsetting, though. Just digging deeper into God’s Word to have the mind of Christ on this topic. The ‘popular’ teaching seems to be ‘forgive everyone at all times no matter what’. I compare that with how we are instructed to 1-approach someone in sin; 2- take witnesses; 3-if they remain in sin, take the matter before the Church and essentially have the unrepentant leave the Church and then treat him/her as a heathen. I also look at how Paul turned folks over to satan on two occasions. Then there is a differentiation as to how we are to treat a believer and an unbeliever. Also, Luke 17:3-4 clearly states to rebuke..then ‘IF’ they repent, we are to forgive them. Folks seem to bypass that little word: ‘if’ on many occasions. I don’t think there’s a cookie-cutter answer. The ‘forgive everyone at all times no matter what’ seems a bit over-simplified. It may make a good bumper sticker, but again, God certainly does not and we are to have the mind of Christ. Being willing to forgive everyone as God is, IS having the mind of Christ. But actually doing that at all times under all circumstances does not seem consistent with the nature of God. In my researching this, I found this article…food for thought. (((HUGS))) https://questions.org/attq/should-i-offer-forgiveness-without-repentance/ReplyCancel

  • May 13, 2017 - 5:05 pm

    Carolyne - Thank you for such challenging and powerfully positive thoughts!
    I am reminded of a life changing book I read years ago: “A Chance To Die” written by Amy Carmichael.
    The cost of living out True Faith is never easy.ReplyCancel

    • May 13, 2017 - 8:44 pm

      Vaneetha - That is an awesome book! And it has such a challenging and biblical perspective about true faith…ReplyCancel

  • May 14, 2017 - 8:47 am

    Jackie Harden - Thank you so much for this clear understanding of this topic. Forgiveness is a process and it starts with being willing. Your honest portrayal of all the emotions that can go along with various degrees of offences is so helpful. Bless you Vaneetha!ReplyCancel

    • May 14, 2017 - 10:38 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad it was helpful, Jackie. Thank you for writing!ReplyCancel

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failure+

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure, especially in these weeks after Easter. Even as Jesus moved toward the cross with courage and strength, the men around him crumbled, plagued with regret and shame.

As I look at my own life, I realize that I am no different than those men. I do things I regret, make bad decisions, hurt people I love. And when I do, I am faced with the same choices that the men in the Gospels faced. I see parts of myself in Pontius Pilate, Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter, each of whom displayed a different response to moral failure.

Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, so when the crowd wanted to crucify him, Pilate tried quieting them to prevent a riot. But when his efforts failed, he released Jesus to be crucified. Pilate rationalized his actions, publicly declaring, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” (Matt 27:24), but that was a meaningless declaration. Pilate was responsible for Jesus’ death, no matter how he tried to justify it.

Then there was Judas, one of the twelve, who betrayed the Lord. We don’t know why he betrayed Jesus, but we do know that Judas never acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, referring to him as “Rabbi,” and not “Lord.” After his failure, he went back to the chief priests and elders, but not to his friends or community. Scripture doesn’t mention him with other disciples after he left the Last Supper. Alone, riddled with guilt and shame, Judas hanged himself in desperation.

Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends.  Jesus warned Peter that he would deny him, but Peter insisted he would be faithful, even to the point of death. It must have been humiliating for Peter when hours later, after the casual question of a slave girl, Peter swore and for the third time denied ever knowing Jesus. But even after his heartbreaking denial, Peter remained in community, as he and John both raced to the empty tomb. Because he repented and sought forgiveness, Peter could unashamedly proclaim the gospel of forgiveness and grace.

Why did these men respond to failure so differently? 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

Pilate showed no grief. Judas displayed worldly grief. Peter had godly grief. What kind of grief do you have when you fail? Which of these three men do you most identify with?

View full post »

  • April 27, 2017 - 11:08 pm

    Jacob David - Another beautiful article. We are all afraid of failure although we face it many times in life. How do we respond to failure? Like Peter we turn back to our Lord. Yes it needs a lot of courage to accept our failure in front of our friends. Thank you Vaneetha.ReplyCancel

    • May 1, 2017 - 11:40 am

      Vaneetha - It does take courage for all of us…thank you for writing.ReplyCancel

  • April 28, 2017 - 9:31 am

    Art Mealer - “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.” Prov 27:19 Thank you for being one of those still waters for us.ReplyCancel

  • April 29, 2017 - 7:24 am

    Cindy Brown - This is lovely, Vaneetha. The moment that stands out so much to me is in Luke 22:61, when the Lord Jesus was at the house of Caiaphas, being questioned and mocked and spit upon. He turned and looked at Peter at the moment that the rooster crowed. That in itself is heartbreaking. I can only imagine the love and compassion that must have been in the Lord’s eyes as He looked at Peter. I would rather hide my sins than confess them to The Lord, but in my heart, I can see Him looking at me in the same way, which serves to drive me to repentance. I don’t deserve His love but He loves me anyway. That is Grace!ReplyCancel

    • May 1, 2017 - 11:42 am

      Vaneetha - I love that moment too…He always looks at us with eyes of love and compassion. Grace is truly amazing!ReplyCancel

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 pray life falls+

 

In the midst of broken dreams and riveting pain, how should we pray?

Should we pray for healing and deliverance, believing that we just need to ask, because God can do anything? Or should we relinquish our desires to God, trusting that even in our anguish he has the perfect plan for us?

Yes. When life falls apart, God invites us to do both. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced unimaginable suffering. Sweating drops of blood, he fell to the ground and prayed: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Jesus, in his agony, is teaching us by example how to pray when we’re desperate.

Abba, Father

Jesus does not begin with, “Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth.” Of course, God is Lord of all and deserves honor and reverence.  But Jesus chooses a term of endearment: “Abba.” While “Abba” does not mean “Daddy,” it was used as an intimate, personal term for Father. Jesus is asking his Father to do something for him.

I grew up calling my father “Daddy,” and still do to this day. “Daddy” was a great name when I was happy with him, but when I was upset, I wanted to call him “Sir.” I could feel distant and defiant on the inside when I called him “Sir”, but there was no separating myself from him when I said “Daddy.” And my father, who wisely knew that, insisted that I call him “Daddy” after our disagreements. When I was able to use that name sincerely, he knew our reconciliation was complete.

In a similar way, I need to draw near to God in my pain. He’s the Almighty Lord, but he’s also my Abba Father (Rom. 8:15). I need to approach him as such.

Nothing Too Difficult

Jesus knows God can do anything. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps 50:10). All things are his servants (Ps 119:91). Nothing is impossible with him (Luke 1:37). While I know those Scripture verses by heart too, I often functionally doubt God’s ability to change my situation. I scan my circumstances and assume things will continue as they are. Even as I pray, I don’t look for miraculous answers; my prayers become rote recitations of requests more than earnest petitions of faith.  

But in Gethsemane, Jesus knows his Father can grant his request. God gives life to the dead and summons into being things that don’t exist.  And I need to remember his limitless power when my situation looks insurmountable. View full post »

  • April 14, 2017 - 7:26 am

    Because I Believe – Melinda Inman - […] And this: How to Pray When Life Falls Apart […]ReplyCancel

    • April 18, 2017 - 6:17 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much for writing, Georgia. A dear friend of mine has said to me numerous times that God’s refusals are always his mercies. And I remind myself of that frequently when I find myself frustrated that God hasn’t said “yes” to my every request. His will must be done and not mine!ReplyCancel

      • April 21, 2017 - 8:55 am

        Georgia - You’re 100% right and it reminds me of that verse in John 6:38 when Jesus said “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”

        Awesome blog, keep up the great work!ReplyCancel

  • April 17, 2017 - 3:43 pm

    Georgia - “His refusals are always His mercies to us”

    That is my quote of the day, thank you Vaneetha. I just heard a sermon yesterday (and I admit that I cringed because the pastor kept emphasizing a type of “name it and claim it” faith in God and the “if you ask it and believe you’ll get it) faith in God and I think he misinterpreted where God was coming from. I certainly could be wrong but I think that one of the most important parts of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was that Jesus prayed according to God’s will. As you said, Jesus ultimately was willing to relinquish His own will in favor of God’s sovereign will even though He asked for it to be different. And to me, another prayer – the Lord’s Prayer – the most important part of that was when Jesus said to God “Thy will be done.” I remember another great post of yours a while back that said that God calls us to a kind of duality where he wants us to come to him always with our prayers and we are always free to ask him to remove our thorns and sometimes he will do that, BUT he also wants us to trust him enough to relinquish our will in favor of his even if his ultimate answer to our prayers is “no” and we don’t understand it or like it. That message of yours along with this one really has encouraged my heart (despite decades of hearing “no” from the Lord on a certain issue) because you are one of the few who I feel who allows God’s real truth and sovereignty to come through in your commentary and you don’t just write the feel-good fluff stuff that a lot of folk insist on hearing all the time. Real faith has both high mountain peaks but also many valley lows…thorns that are removed and some that may stay but ultimately we are called to trust our Father’s plans like you said. They are always best. Yours is a real faith and you have real insight into Scripture (a rarity these days) and I thank God for you, God is using you in a mighty way.ReplyCancel

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faith in good+

 

What good is God?

This may sound like a startling question, but if our lives aren’t what we expected, if our cherished dreams aren’t coming true, if our prayers are seemingly unanswered, many of us will ask that very question at some point – or maybe you have already.

A dear friend recently walked away from faith with that question on her lips. What good does God do for us anyway?

Her newfound atheism is based on her experience. To her, ‘You go to church, read the Bible, believe in Jesus and try to live by godly principles. But when life comes crashing down around you and you sincerely cry out for help, God is strangely silent. He doesn’t help at all. So you begin to wonder if he ever was real in the first place. The Bible sounds like nonsense and Christianity looks like a massive hoax that in the end delivers nothing but empty promises. It gives people false hope. And that is the cruelest part of all.’

Have you heard that line of thinking before? Or more importantly, do you feel that way yourself? Did you build your life on a faith that you assumed was strong, only to find that what you were counting on, namely prayer answered swiftly in accordance with your will, feels more like a mirage than an oasis? Are you tired of hoping and waiting because you’re not sure what you’re hoping and waiting for anyway? Maybe it’s easier not to believe and just to play the cards you were dealt without waiting for a miracle. That way you won’t be disappointed. And you’ll be in control of your own life.

If those words resonate with you, I understand, at least partially, how you feel. I have not walked away from my faith, but I have felt let down by God. Wondered where he was. Felt my prayers bouncing off the walls.

I thought that the only way God could make things right was to change my circumstances. My prayer list was made up of the things I wanted God to change. Change my circumstances. Change my relationships. Change my health. Make it all better.

And so when it didn’t happen, I questioned God. Why didn’t he answer my sincere prayers? View full post »

  • March 30, 2017 - 7:01 pm

    Oseias Rodrigues Feitosa Junior - Hi Vaneetha I am a member of a reformed Presbyterian church here in Brazil. Also I run and write for a Christian blog. We have a good team made of a group of young men and women.
    I recently started to follow you on facebook after reading a text and watching a video posted on desiring God from John Piper.
    Your words really touched me and as they are powerful in God’s words. Wish other people that are non english speakers could also read what you have being writing. So I’m here to ask if you can authorize me to translate and publish some of your texts in portuguese on my blog cristourbano.
    May God keep blessing your work and words and thoughts!ReplyCancel

    • March 31, 2017 - 10:49 am

      Vaneetha - So glad this was helpful! You are welcome to translate this for the blog cristourbano. If you email me at vaneetharendall@gmail.com, I can give you the “used with permission” info I usually give people who repost my writing on the internet.ReplyCancel

  • March 31, 2017 - 7:51 am

    Tamlyn - Thank you for this beautiful, uncomfortable, hard-hitting, and powerful post.ReplyCancel

    • March 31, 2017 - 10:50 am

      Vaneetha - So glad this was helpful! Thanks for writing.ReplyCancel

  • March 31, 2017 - 9:29 am

    John B - I enjoyed this very much. I know I need to hold things with an open hand and not with a closed grip on my wants.ReplyCancel

    • March 31, 2017 - 10:52 am

      Vaneetha - I need to do the same thing, John! I often have a closed grip on my wants and God has to pry my fingers open!ReplyCancel

  • March 31, 2017 - 9:36 am

    Cynthia Burgess - Thank you, lovely Vaneetha, for more difficult truth that nudges me closer to the savior, our precious Lord Jesus. I plan to share this with my Bible study ladies. When we pray for others aloud, I’ve noticed, we seem to always ask God to smooth the way and give them the best outcome ( no pain, no tears, no struggles). This year I have been trying to shift the focus from asking God to “fix it” and move to asking God to open their eyes to see how God will “use it” to change the ones they are praying for, to change themselves (including me!), into the person who desires God above all else. I see Him working in this area! It is hard to change prayer habits that have taken years to form, but God uses willing hearts!
    I have shared many of your writings with the ladies, and I am deeply grateful for your honesty and vulnerability. Thank you. Keep writing!ReplyCancel

    • March 31, 2017 - 10:55 am

      Vaneetha - I so agree Cynthia. I do the same thing- my prayers, especially public ones, are so focused on God fixing the problem that I don’t pray that God would use it. Thank you for that reminder!ReplyCancel

  • March 31, 2017 - 12:31 pm

    Crystal - Awesome commentary Vaneetha. I so wish more ministers would preach messages like this instead of constantly intermingling faith with aspiring to achieve earthly prosperity, success, money, connections, comfort etc… Life is extremely hard and oftentimes there is no easy fix or answer for the various pains we have to go through. It can be so hard to reconcile these difficult pains of life with a good God, but that is exactly what faith calls us to do… to look beyond our circumstances and lean not unto our own understanding… to place our confidence in God (and specifically in his character and wisdom) and in the fact that he always loves us and he always knows what is best for us even if he doesn’t take away the pain and leaves the thorns in our earthly lives. He sees our end from our beginning and he knows that all the pains we go through in this life will be worth it when we get to live in eternal glory with him… in fact, these pains we go through can help point the way for others to be saved through his son Jesus; offer encouragement to fellow Christians; and help us become more and more like Jesus ourselves. I love that verse in 1 Corinthians 2:9 you quoted and I also love the verse in 2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” That’s the real good news and goodness of God like you said. Great post!ReplyCancel

    • March 31, 2017 - 1:46 pm

      Vaneetha - Love your perspective, Crystal! I totally agree with this- “He sees our end from our beginning and he knows that all the pains we go through in this life will be worth it when we get to live in eternal glory with him… in fact, these pains we go through can help point the way for others to be saved through his son Jesus; offer encouragement to fellow Christians; and help us become more and more like Jesus ourselves.” Thank you for writing.ReplyCancel

  • April 3, 2017 - 9:46 am

    Julie Warner - Thank you Vaneetha, for sharing the outflow of insight and wisdom that has ruptured from the tremendous pain you’ve experienced. We can see how God has redeemed all of your suffering for so much good, for so much of His glory. It cheers us all on to keep going, to keep trusting Him in the affliction. One of the most difficult elements of chronic pain is how isolating it can be mentally and emotionally. Even if others can’t see the pain, it’s the greatest irony for the one suffering – we don’t want to be a burden to those we love with the daily pain and so we try to hide it to protect them… and so it adds to the isolation and the spiritual pain intensifies.

    Learning how to let go of control along this path has been the hardest lesson for me: to yield to the isolation (Jesus will meet me in it), to be honest with my family when I’m in pain (Jesus will be their sufficiency); and with no end it sight, hoping on God instead of healing (He will not disappoint!).

    Much love and esteem for you in our faithful Father!! XXOOReplyCancel

    • April 6, 2017 - 10:49 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much for writing, Julie. I loved the lessons God is teaching you: “Learning how to let go of control along this path has been the hardest lesson for me: to yield to the isolation (Jesus will meet me in it), to be honest with my family when I’m in pain (Jesus will be their sufficiency); and with no end it sight, hoping on God instead of healing (He will not disappoint!).” Great wisdom for all of us!ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2017 - 3:28 am

    Rudina - Thank you so much sister for sharing and ministering so faithfully this spirit-filled truth. This whole article became a prayer to me. And I also pray for an ever increasing of Jesus in you. May he grow ever stronger in you and may He sustain you in his never-ending love! Much love and appreciation.ReplyCancel

    • April 6, 2017 - 10:49 am

      Vaneetha - So grateful this was helpful, Rudina. Thank you for writing!ReplyCancel

  • April 7, 2017 - 8:38 am

    Weekly Grace and Links – Abounding Grace - […] you ever felt let down by God? Wondered why God is always silent? What Good Is God? by Vaneetha Rendall Risner is a good read for anyone in that place right […]ReplyCancel

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