I am winning. But I have a confession to make. I can hold a grudge like nobody's business. My whole life I have been a grudge holder.
A few years ago I didn't accept the FaceBook friend request of a childhood friend because in 5th grade she hurt my feelings. I am confident I could win a medal in the Grudge Olympics, if there was ever such a thing. I recognize this about myself. I am working on it. I know it is not a very good thing to deal with when you are in ministry. I have battled it for years.
Let me give you some background for why I am thinking about this today. For over a year I have harbored offense in my heart. It has been a year and a half since we left a church that my husband and I poured our heart and soul into. And poured our kids into. I think the fact that our kids poured their heart and soul into as well, has made it even more painful. I could write a book about the journey of the past couple years. Today, I just want to write about the victory. I am winning in my battle of offense.
When our family first left this church, I was consumed with offense. Leaving a church even under the best of circumstances is very challenging. Things didn’t really make sense to me. The truth was never clear to others. I knew the Lord did not want me to fight but to let Him be my defender. And He really was. But no matter what, I couldn't shake being terribly offended by those who hurt me and by those that chose to look the other way.
Offense does something to you. To be specific, it cripples you. It takes away your powerful anointing in ministry. You can't fully minister when you carry this with you. You want to build walls of protection so you don't get hurt again. You don't say this out loud, but in reality it exposes a lack of trust in God. God, why did this happen? Where were you? What did we do wrong? Are we even meant for ministry? I had to ask myself bigger questions than those. Is God not big enough to provide for us? Is he not able to minister to our son who thinks he never wants to get involved in church again? Is God not big enough to open doors and make a way? He is a big God and nothing is too difficult for him.
John Bevere wrote an amazing book about how damaging holding onto offense is. It is called The Bait of Satan. He says “If you stay free from offense you will stay in God's will. If you become offended you will be taken captive by the enemy to fulfill his own purpose and will. Take your pick. It is much more beneficial to stay free from offense.” Wow! That is what I am letting into my life?!? John also talks about how some offenses will be more challenging to be free from. The big ones will cause a wound or injury and we will have to exercise spiritually to be free and healed. That takes work and much effort on our part. But it is so worth it. Obviously it is easier for me to deal with my offense over my friend in 5th grade than to deal with an offense that I feel hurt my whole family.
But look at what else John says in his book. “You may have done nothing to provoke the wrong you incurred at the hand of another. But if you contrast what was done to you with what you've been forgiven of, there is no comparison. It would not even put a dent in the debt you owe. If you feel heated, you have lost your concept of the mercy extended you. “
This statement really grippes me. When I look at what the Lord has done, my perspective changes. He forgives me. He wipes my debt clean away. I don’t deserve it. How then can I not forgive so freely? God is always in control. He holds our destiny.
The Lord is at work right now. He is pruning. He is molding. There is an opportunity for the refiners fire to make us stronger and better. People will mistreat us. Injustice will be done. We have an amazing and priceless chance to take these challenges and make them something that builds our character to be more like Jesus.
In ministry it doesn't matter where we go, as long as God has us there. Where are you going God? Because that is where I want to be. Where do you have me God? Because that is where I am running. Bring me there. Lead the way. We need to be less focused on the hurt and more focused on God and what He is saying.
A year and a half. And the Lord is setting me free. Offense keeps you bound up. The Lord could have stopped this. But He is so much more interested in my heart and character. He is not here to make it nice and comfortable for me. He wants me to grow. If my foundation is built on him, then no matter the storms, no matter the church, no matter the offense, I will stand strong. I may feel crushed. I may feel beat up. But if the Lord is for me, who can stand against me? I would rather go through the storm, the trial, the pruning, the loss, and the pain of seeing my kids in pain, and come out stronger in my walk with him, then stay in a place the way I was. I want to grow.
How then can I be offended?
What offense are you holding onto? Do you realize how that offense is paralyzing you? It can be something really big or the littlest thing. I have carried many things around with me. From the small offenses to the large. I would put them in my backpack and carry them wherever I went. It got heavy and my back would ache. I couldn’t serve anyone. I couldn’t care and love people fully. The backpack was too heavy. It wouldn’t let me walk in the plan God had for me. It made me walk hunched over and burdened. One by one I gave them to the Lord. The small ones. The really heavy ones. And the relief that I felt as the weight fell off has caused me to jump for joy.
Ministry has a cost. It is a giving of ourselves. But it is worth it. God does such a better job at soothing our hurting heart and helping us to live free from offense than we can ever do on our own. We are not capable. He is everything.
I am still running the race against offense. But I am winning.
Give me the one my soul delights in
Give me the one in whom my heart is securely found
Give me Jesus
You can have all of this world
Give me Jesus