The morning I arrived at her house was different from our previous meetings. The female extended family had showed up at her house, and in the chaos of her three children, her nieces and nephews, mother, and sister, the noisy tv, and cigarette smoke, I tried to pray with her and talk, but my friend was obviously embarrassed by my presence. I eventually realized it wasn't working and decided to leave. Though I know I must go with the flow and trust God completely for circumstances, I felt the unloving sting of rejection. "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved." the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:15. When the love of God and the Gospel of Jesus is rejected by unbelievers, I am not surprised, but it is much more difficult to be rejected by brothers or sisters in Christ. Though I must remember it is for Jesus' sake that I love, not for my own benefit.
Recently I made another move out of obedience to what I felt God wanted me to do to love someone. I felt nervous, and I prayed fervently beforehand. Because of circumstances, I was rejected again. I had to pray over and over to God about the circumstances and trust Him in them. I had to lean on Jesus to help me see my needy friend, and not my own sad sense of rejection. The scene has been playing out in my head, and I remembered the wise words from Jim Wilson in his booklet, "How To Be Free From Bitterness." He wrote:
Before we can get rid of bitterness, we have to realize that we are bitter. How can we tell if we are bitter? One good rule of thumb is this: Bitterness remembers details. You have had thousands of conversations in your life, most of which you have forgotten. But this one took place five years ago, and you remember every single word, his intonation and the inflection of every part of his voice. You know exactly what happened--which means you are bitter. Someone might object and say that it is also possible to have a good memory of a wonderful conversation. Is this possible? Yes, but not likely. Why is this? Because memory is helped by review, review, and more review.
Am I bitter when I am reviewing these troublesome details in my memory? Probably. This morning I prayed out loud: Lord, I choose to forgive __________. Help me to forgive _______. I pray that you will break Satan's attempt to tear apart relationships in Your Body (the Church). And I tell Satan, "Be gone, in Jesus' name. You have no power over me to destroy me. I am bought with the blood of Jesus, who has defeated you." Thank You, Lord. Lord, have mercy. Amen.
That prayer shone the light into the darkness and sin of my heart. Jesus took every sin and every bitter word and action upon Himself when He died on that cross. He defeated sin and death and the devil when He rose again from death and walked around after the Resurrection. By Jesus' power, we can walk in newness of life, and in forgiveness.
Sing to the Lord. Sing of His marvelous deeds. Sing of His forgiveness. Sing praises to God.
Fear not, little flock, He goeth ahead,
your Shepherd selected the path you must tread;
the waters of Marah He'll sweeten for thee,
He drank all the bitter in Gethsemane.
Only believe, only believe;
all things are possible, only believe.
-Paul Rader, 1921.