Something broke inside of me and I slipped into a deep depression. I wrote:
Some months ago one judgmental remark from someone put me into a tailspin and brought me face to face with painful memories of past abuse. At first I disassociated from my feelings. I didn’t want to feel at all, because it hurt too much. I continued on in life like a robot. But I became more and more depressed until one day something inside me broke. I sobbed and cried, “I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m so sick of being strong for everyone around me…”
It was like I was sinking deeper and deeper into a sea of turmoil, gulping up water. In my mind Jesus was standing above the surface looking down at me and shaking his head. “Hopeless case, that one…” I felt so forsaken of God. His promises seemed bogus, and I could not grasp a single one.
The weight of depression stomped me down, down, down…
I couldn’t have made it that dark day without the grace of God. By the end of the day my heart was still heavy, but the care and compassion loved ones gave me lifted me up to see a pinpoint of hope. And the next day, God had a pleasant surprise for me.
“I will give thanks and praise the Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell aloud all Your wonders and marvelous deeds.”
My husband suggested I take my writing pad and go to the Falls. He knew nature often relaxes and comforts me. It helps me to remember God still has all things in His control. I sat on a rock and watched the water rush over the red rock formations. I let the sound of it sooth my weary soul. I imagined the wind as the breath of God kissing my face and telling me I will make it through this.
When I walked along the paths and around the Art Barn, I stopped in awe. There in front of me written in chalk down the front of the steps was a message that still impacts me today. “I will love you every step of the way. ♥” I knew it was God speaking directly to my despairing heart.
Then I remembered a song – “Steady My Heart” by Kari Jobe.
“Wish it could be easy
Why is life so messy?
Why is pain a part of us?
There are days I feel like
Nothing ever goes right
Sometimes it just hurts so much
But You’re here
I know I can trust You
Even when it hurts
Even when it’s hard
Even when it all just falls apart
I will run to You
‘Cause I know that You are
Lover of my soul
Healer of my scars
You steady my heart.”
Sometimes God sends the greatest comforts out of the deepest valleys, doesn’t He? My heart still felt wounded, but I knew I could run to Jesus and He would pull me up again out of the pit and set my feet upon the Rock.
“He reached down and drew me from the deep,
dark hole where I was stranded,
mired in the muck and clay.
With a gentle hand, He pulled me out
To set me down safely on a warm rock;
He held me until I was steady enough
to continue the journey again.”
Psalm 40:2 Voice
That toxic shame still often pierces the core of who I am and screams, “You’re worthless. How can someone like you ever make a positive difference? You don’t deserve comfort. You don’t deserve to be accepted. ”
Panic still creeps in and shouts, “Watch out! You’re going to be hurt again. Reinforce that wall.”
Healing is a process though, right? I have learned that many struggle with inadequacy, shame, and fear of trusting. And I know there are others who also do but remain silent onlookers. And that’s ok.
All of us have a story to tell, and there is not one story that is less important than another. There is not one hurt that is less painful than anyone else’s. Every story counts. Every. Single. One. So don’t let that bug bite you and tell you, “Your burdens are not as bad as someone else’s.” I know by experience that can stifle the grieving process. Every hurt needs grieving in order to start healing.
Remember! You are so special to God! You have been created uniquely for a special purpose only you can fill. Jesus loves you so much that He sacrificed His life for you. His arms are wide open with welcome, longing for you to run into them. Yes, life can be messy. Yes, it can hurt so much and be so hard. But He cares about broken hearts and delights to heal them.
Precious Lord Jesus, sometimes life can hurt so much and be so hard, but You have promised You care about our broken hearts and You delight to heal us. When shame poisons our perspective, please help us to see that in You, we are beautiful and valuable. When we feel like we’re drowning in the storms of life, please help us to reach up and grasp Your hand ever reaching out to us. Your hand of unfailing love and compassion. Please break all the chains that still bind us and keep us from dancing in Your victory for us. Heal us ever more deeply! Thank You for Your unconditional love and powerful grace!
Trudy’s passion is to encourage others there is hope in Jesus and His love in the midst of loss, heartache, and trauma. Jesus has become the needed oxygen for her soul as she continues on a lifelong journey of healing from past abuse. She lives in the midwestern United States and is grateful to be blessed with a loving husband and precious children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
“Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord: 6 blue, purple, and scarlet thread; Exodus 35:5-6
The color purple, woven into the curtains of the Temple, represents royalty: the perfect kingdom that is promised for us in God’s Heavenly Kingdom. But what if we could see the gift of royalty that our Jesus won for us, here and now, as we embrace Him as our Savior?
They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, King of the Jews. Mark 15:17-18 ESV
By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. Hebrews 10:20 NLT
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. 1 John 1:4-5 ESV
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. I Peter 2:9 ESV
So often in this life we find ourselves walking a broken path. We face wounding from those in the world, and even from those within the Church. Maybe your own loved ones have faced the effects of those woundings?
When Bettie’s family walked through painful hurts at the hands of those who were in Church leadership, her sons later suffered a deep brokenness as the pain increased their wanderings. It felt like there was an attack being directed by those very ones who were supposed to be family within Christ’s Church.
Similar pain also formed a part of Anna’s wanderings as a Prodigal. Even after her return to the LORD, Anna’s heart still heaved with the pain of the past, exacerbated by the loss of her mother, who had served the LORD with such devotion, to brain cancer.
But then, one day, as she returned to the memories of her childhood, the LORD gave her a beautiful vision. In it she saw, felt and heard Jesus, as He picked her up and held her frail little body tight. He asked her to kick, scream and flail as a toddler and He promised to hold her tight through it all.
As she saw herself do so, she literally felt the tension that she hadn’t realized had held her body captive for so very long, depart her body, as she rested in her Savior’s safe and loving arms. And then, she heard Jesus speak such beautiful, beautiful Words of truth: “You can’t see it yet, Anna, but trust me, I am working all of this, all of it, together for good.”
Even now, this Promise from God’s Word brings tears to Anna’s eyes as she waits for it to be fulfilled in so many of her loved ones’ lives. She is already witnessing the LORD work such good into her own life and heart through the pain she has walked through in both the past and more recently. If anything this hurt and pain has shown her that she cannot walk a life holy and pleasing unto the Lord without the empowering work of His grace.
“our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 ESV
So, let us:
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; Ephesians 6: 16 ESV
Oh how much of this painful world doesn’t yet make sense, but we have a Savior who understands. A Savior who lived and walked a life of rejection and persecution on this earth at the hands of His own, and who is not aloof to our pain and our hurt. This loving Friend invites us into His arms that He may release us from our burdens and whisper the truth into our weary hearts.
A Friend who does not withhold His mercy from us, but wields it powerfully through us to bring abundant life.
5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 45: 5 – 8 ESV
So, what if we began to see that color of royalty woven into the hearts of those in our fellowship? And what if we could see that those hurtful attacks have not come from our brothers and sisters, but from the forces of evil that the enemy of our souls wields over this world? Forces of evil that have been overcome by the blood of the Lamb.
Where would our forgiveness lie if we would embrace each other as daughters and sons of the Most High God and see the truth of our incredible inheritance? What would happen if we lifted up our hurting hearts to our Savior and invited Him to wrap the Promise of HEAVEN (blue thread) and ROYAL PRIESTHOOD (purple thread) around us all?
The Lord has given Anna a beautiful poem to share with you. We pray that the Lord will speak to you of the beautiful inheritance that you and your loved ones have been promised:
NO POWER HERE WILL STAND
You sit upon the throne All in Your hands You hold All things to You they bow No power too great for You to fell.
And in this cloak Your Mighty Spirit We, your children stand We’ll stand and not be shaken.
All diseases All afflictions To You they bow For Your compassion faileth not.
No child Unwelcome here Us in Your loving hands You hold No hate too great for You to break.
You sit upon the throne All in Your hands You hold All things to You they bow No power too great for You to fell.
LORD send Your many laborers, Send out Your Love So bright, so great, so deep Into this, Your harvest ready, ripe.
All diseases All afflictions To You they’ll bow For Your compassion faileth not.
No child Unwelcome here Us in Your loving hands You hold No hate too great for You to break.
For You, You sit upon the throne Our Father, us in Your hands You hold All darkness to You, it bows No power here will stand, but Yours.
Is there a wound, inflicted by someone within the Church, which has been festering in your soul? Can you let the Lord of Heaven uncover it today? Will you let Him show you the beauty and royalty that dwells within His Body of Believers, and then bring to you His own sweet gift of forgiveness?
Perhaps the wound has been carried over into the lives of your loved ones who are running from the LORD. Can you pray for God’s Grace to begin a sweet work of uncovering and healing in their lives also?
As we bow our knees in prayer right now, let’s sit a moment with a Promise from our God’s Word that He spoke through Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel. Speak, O LORD, through this, Your precious Word, for Your servants are listening:
He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honor. For all the earth is the Lord’s, and he has set the world in order.
“He will protect his faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness. No one will succeed by strength alone.
Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered. He thunders against them from heaven; the Lord judges throughout the earth. He gives power to his king; he increases the strength of his anointed one.”
1 Samuel 2: 8 – 10 NLT
May we pray for you today?
Dear Lord Jesus, We come to You today and confess that we are a broken people. We have been wounded, and we ourselves have inflicted wounds. And, yet You still call us precious, royal members of Your own household of faith. Will you please forgive us where we have brought pain into the lives of our brothers and sisters? And will you bring to our own hearts a willingness to face forgiveness for those who have wounded us?
Strengthen and invigorate us, LORD, with all power, according to Your glorious might, to attain every kind of endurance and patience with joy; that we may give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the Light (Colossians 1: 11-12)
Thank you for washing us clean, and inviting us into Your family. We stand in awe of Your great gift, and worship You, our true King. In Your precious name we pray, Amen.
This post was first published as a newsletter, sent to subscribers of the now closed downbelovedprodigal.com. It was co-written by Bettie Gilbert and the steward of shalomaleh.com, Anna Smit.
Bettie, blogs at BettieGsRASeasons, writes Scriptural based prayer prompts and shepherds the Prayer Pond at the Chronic Joy ministry. The Prayer Pond is a safe harbor, where the chronically ill and their friends and family are encouraged to share prayer requests, updates and shouts of praise.
In Psalm 119:71, David talks of learning (exercising) God’s laws through affliction (being bowed down). The word laws comes from a Hebrew Word meaning “to cut, inscribe, decree” (source: https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3925.htm). It reminds me of 2 Corinthians 3:3 ESV: “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
Beautifully, trials and affliction cause us to drop down to our knees and cry out for God’s perfect understanding and His perfect living and breathing law – Jesus. It is then that any stones of pride, idolatry, doubt, unbelief, bitterness and unforgiveness that have been allowed to hide away in our hearts are exposed, dug out and removed.
Sometimes we can allow the enemy to accuse us in these moments of exposure and removal. But when we still and listen, we will be able to hear Christ’s heart calling us to come to Him, just as we are. To come boldly before His throne of grace in our time of need.
To help us distinguish His Voice from the enemy’s, God may also choose to repeatedly lead us in and out of places that trigger trauma in us. In doing so, He teaches us to recognize and release the lies we once embraced (as children). For, He longs for us to know who He truly is: a loving High Priest, who knows our every weakness and kneels down to extend kindness and mercy to us in our time of need.
Only He truly knows what we have been through. His heart breaks for us, and He longs to free us from the trauma and idolatry of our past. He longs to lift away the stones that are stopping the Word from rooting in our hearts, so that we might lean, no longer on our own or others’ understanding, but upon Him: our Rock and Redeemer.
When those stones are removed and piled up, one upon the other, they become – no longer a hindrance to the Word taking root in our hearts – but proof of Christ’s abiding work in us. They become a living monument to His saving grace, a testimony to His perfecting power in our weakness.
The cold stone tablets of the law prove us guilty of breaking the laws of God and make us deserving of death. But Christ has fulfilled the law for us. He became our sin and died on the Cross to annul the charges that once stood against us. And He rose again that He might take up residence in us to unveil His soft heart in us.
He has overcome the grave, rolling away the stone to rise in victory over sin and death. Now, we can walk in daily repentance, turning to our accuser and the accuser of our brethren to declare:
Romans 8:33-39 (ESV)
33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And with each stone lifted away, Christ roots His Word ever deeper in us. Our hearts hearken more readily to His living Word speaking in us, to us and through us. For, rather than interpreting the Word from our own or other’s fleshly understanding, we learn to recognize and obey Christ speaking His living Word to us, from moment to moment.
Yes, through every trial sent our way, Christ shows that we are a letter sent from Him, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Thank You, Father, that like Paul, we can “count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled].”
Father, bring us to the point, that we, like Paul, may also be able to declare in response to Your patient pruning: “For [Christ’s] sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him [believing and relying on Him], not having any righteousness of my own derived from [my obedience to] the Law and its rituals, but [possessing] that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from [You] on the basis of faith.”
Thank You that through the trials we face, You are helping us to “know [Jesus] [experientially, to become “more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way [to] experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that [we] may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; [a]so that [we] may attain to the resurrection [that will raise [us] ] from the dead.”
Father, we know “that [we] have [not] already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] [n]or have [we] already been made perfect, but [we] actively press on [b]so that [we] may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of [us] and made [us] His own.(A)”
Thank You that You have promised to complete the good work You have begun in us. Help us not to become discouraged through the repeated trials and losses, but to recognize and bless You for the stones You are removing from our hearts through Your patient gardening. Thank You for making room in our hearts for more of You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
(Quotes from: Philippians 3: 8 – 12 (AMP) )
[a] Philippians 3:11 Lit if somehow.
[b] Philippians 3:12 Lit even if I may. Paul knew that he could not really reach perfection in this life, but his goal was to “press on” as if it were attainable.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This verse captures one of my greatest desires for both myself and others. Paul records this as a prayer (note the use of “May”) and as we read it we too can pray it both into our own and others’ lives. It is a powerful verse that reminds us of both the origin and source of Peace, as well as our remedy for disquiet, anxiety, fear and worry in this broken world.
“from the verb EIRO which means to join or bind together that which has been broken, divided or separated! Eirene is the root of our English word “serene” (free of storms or disturbance, marked by utter calm). EIRENE literally pictures the binding or joining together again of that which has been separated, the result being that the separated parts are set at one again.”
This beautifully captures what Christ has achieved for us through His death on the Cross, namely: “the binding or joining together again” of our brokenness, the severance of our union with Him, birthed in the Garden of Eden, at the Fall of humankind.
And yet because we still live in a fallen world, the remaining brokenness keeps trying to pull us back into a lack of peace. And therefore Paul’s prayer speaks of our need to “trust” in the “God of hope”, so that He might “fill” us. The word “trust” in this Scripture was translated from the Greek word “pisteuo”, which according to the sermon, “Text Sermons : Greek Word Studies : Believe (4100) pisteuo”:
“means to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust. To accept as true, genuine, or real. To have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something or someone. To consider to be true. To accept the word or evidence of.”
And that’s why we can pray and read God’s Word with anxiety, fear and worry only growing, where we fail to “accept” what He tells and promises us. The peace that passes all understanding can only flourish in a trusting, accepting heart.
This is something I’ve been reflecting a lot on because I’ve noticed that I have periods where peace and joy flow freely and times where they don’t. And if I look at the times where darkness clouds me, I see a lack of trust at the core. I’ll read His Word and pray, but my mind is not stayed on His promises and truths, but on my current struggles and discontents. I’m choosing to live as if the here and now is the be and end-all, rather than the birthing ground of freedom in Christ, a freedom that is founded on the hope of eternity with God and His Beautiful Bride, The Church.
Lately, my discontent, my lack of peace, has been festered by what is no more: the love and presence of my Mum in my life. And yet, if I really truly accepted God’s Word this discontent can be exchanged with an overflowing abundance of joy, peace and hope, through the power of the One in me. His Word tells me that all that has been taken has already been restored. All that I need is His Eyes to see it – the unseen (Hebrews 11: 1, NIV):
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Which is why Jesus calls us to “live wide-eyed in wonder and belief,” so that our “body fills up with light” (Luke 11: 34, The Message). If we let His Eyes direct us, then we will see eternity before us, we will see a world already “overcome” by His Glory, Majesty, Power and Wonder (John 16: 33). And where broken peace attempts to stifle us, His Perfect Peace will secure and hold us.
“When missionary John Paton was translating the Scripture for the South Sea islanders, he was unable to find a word in their vocabulary for the concept of believing, trusting, or having faith. He had no idea how he would convey that to them. One day while he was in his hut translating, a native came running up the stairs into Paton’s study and flopped in a chair, exhausted. He said to Paton,
It’s so good to rest my whole weight in this chair.
John Paton had his word: Faith is resting your whole weight on God. That word went into the translation of their New Testament and helped bring that civilization of natives to Christ. Believing is putting your whole weight on God. If God said it, then it’s true, and we’re to believe it.“
And so, in those moments I feel His Peace being stolen from me, He has the power to restore it to me. All He asks is that I lean into Him, that I believe Him at His Word. And even then, He tells me that where I struggle to trust, He will not abandon me, yet patiently teach me because “saving” me is all His idea and He will bring it to completion (John 6: 35-40). And in teaching me He is, ever so patiently, yet also firmly, reminding me of the hope I have in Him that can never be shaken. A hope overflowing into an abundant peace.
“It will not save me to know that Christ is a Savior; but it will save me to trust him to be my Savior. I shall not be delivered from the wrath to come by believing that his atonement is sufficient; but I shall be saved by making that atonement my trust, my refuge, and my all. The pith, the essence of faith lies in this—a casting oneself on the promise.”
This is an excerpt from my in May 2016 self-published book, Love Embraced: A Journey in and through Suffering. Seven years ago today (it is the 8th of April in New Zealand already) my Mum entered heaven’s gates to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” To celebrate the life and love of Jesus that continues to flow through my Mum’s very much living testimony to Jesus and her Spirit-led prayers, I would love to send you a free copy of my book that is no longer available on Amazon (message me at: AnnaSmit@shalomaleh.com).
Have you ever experienced the sting of rejection? If you are human, then most likely you will have. Perhaps like me, you too have received man’s rejection as God’s rejection. As a little girl, I internalized lies about myself in the sting of human rejection. These were lies that deeply wounded the core of my being. I stopped looking at Jesus. Instead I bowed to my idols and walked in the sin of pride and unbelief, giving birth to the accuser’s fruit of pain and shame.
I defined myself as a failure and as one unworthy of God’s love. I believed myself to be rejected by the very One who died to give me life. And then, as my pain and shame just grew and grew, rather than speak up and cry out to God, I kept silent. I found refuge in hidden sin, numbing the ever-growing pain and shame whose presence I fervently denied. I tried to keep up the appearance of righteousness, parading my self-righteousness, until I finally couldn’t take my double life anymore. I fled the hypocrisy I so loathed. I became a Prodigal, no longer just in my heart, but also in my public actions. I ran because I believed myself too far gone for the grace of God.
Since God brought me home to Him, He has taken me back into similar situations of rejection all over again, not to harm me, but to bless me. Each time, He has gently showed me that I have a choice to arise in Him to new life, freed of the lies in my open confession and repentance, or to slink back and hide in the dark. Sometimes I have trusted Him, at other times, I have not: choosing to tell lies and deny the truth of the living Word to be approved of and remain acceptable to those around me. But through it all He has continued to lovingly and patiently lead me forward, as I have fallen and gotten back up again, in His strength.
Part of God’s training in righteousness, has involved following His uncomfortable prompting to open my mouth. He has compelled me to speak openly of the wounding being inflicted and the truth and grace being denied me and others, rather than staying in the dark to be the “good girl”. In my doing so, He has also invited me to allow Him to unravel my heart and search and know me, seeing if there be any wickedness in me: not to condemn me, but to free me from its hold.
His gentle, yet firm training has also required me to depart from religious communities and friendships that defined me according to my past or according to the sins and weakness I was openly confessing before them. For, God has wanted me to deep down know that He has created me to flourish in godly community, where I and others are seen and loved in the light of His love, compassion and grace for us.
CHRIST is doing in me what I could never do in and of myself. He is shifting my focus from man’s approval to His approval.He’s uprooting more and more things I have chosen to put my trust in, to reroot my trust in His love and grace for me and His love and grace for others. The very love that abides in me – Jesus Himself- is teaching me to abide in love myself.
Jesus has lovingly shown me how my fleshly focus is so much on the here and now. For example, if He tells me to do something and it doesn’t produce the result I expect or in my timing, my flesh causes me to think: “See, Anna, God doesn’t love you.” But it’s in that sting of rejection in response to the accuser’s lies, Jesus is teaching me to step back, get real silent before Him and listen for HIS Word to me.
Oh yes, I still struggle with the accusations of the enemy. I hear his lies that tell me God could never love or work through someone like me, who keeps messing up and falling back into fleshly thinking. This always happens just after I have openly confessed my sins and have turned toward the light of Jesus. The enemy then hisses at me to hide myself and retreat in the shame of who I am, but it’s then God reminds me to arise and shine in the light and truth of who HE is inside of me.
Patiently, with me falling and getting back up again, my loving heavenly Father is teaching me to declare myself covered by the blood of Jesus, to resist the accusations of the enemy, so that he will flee from me. My Abba Father keeps reminding me that the open confession of my sin and weakness is in fact proof that I am His child, His child who hides herself in nothing but His beautiful righteousness.
It is then I place my trust in my Savior, the man of sorrows, who walked toward us, His children – the joy set before Him – to shed His very own blood for me and for you. And though I may look foolish to this world, and to my ego, in God’s strength and prompting, I am learning to take up my Cross, lay down my fleshly life and ego, to arise in Jesus: my Alpha and Omega, the One who was and is and is to come.
Christ longs for me and for you too, to walk forward into His irrevocable purposes. Purposes that compel us to arise from the tomb of our sin into Christ’s resurrection life. Purposes that call us to share what the Good News truly means with those who, just like us, are facing the cruel accusations of the enemy. For it is not that we are strong and mighty, it is that the Word in us is unwrapping strength and might in us:
I pray that as you read (listen to) this poem God inspired me to write after I sat with the story of Lazarus, that you too will feel the light of Jesus rising upon your face and see His resurrection life being unwrapped, moment by moment, in and through you.
UNWRAP HER HERE
Death you know
All you ever thought you were
All you ever dreamed
All you ever loved.
But, My child
To flesh alone.
Has he but laid you there.
You, my Lazarus
Wrapped in sacred linen there.
That he has purposed
To steal, kill, destroy
I have purposed
Here is where I call
Arise and come
Unwrap her here and
Let her loose.
For I have spoken
Might know my Father
Sent me here.
Anyone who walks
Does not stumble
Plenty of light from the sun
No glory here to see.
But you, My child
You walk the night,
And here’s where eyes will open
Not just your own,
But many more.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in a dark land,
The light has shone upon them.
Death you know
All you ever thought you were
All you ever dreamed
All you ever loved.
But Life has now entered My death
Gone here the old
The new has come
Ugly to beautiful
Broken to whole
Poor unto rich:
Unwrap her here and
Let her loose
Christ has risen
He has risen indeed!
John 11:14-15 ESV
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
John 11:44 ESV
And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
When the Body of our LORD was laid upon that Cross, He didn’t stay there. Wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb, just like Lazarus, Christ’s Body would be raised unto glory three days later. Death could not hold the Body of Christ. And today also, death cannot hold us – the Body of Christ – either.
Oh yes, we may be led into what seems like a tomb and it really is a tomb too. But in that tomb Jesus will open our eyes to see the newness arising, to see His lordship over us and others, to see HIM at the head of HIS chosen, beloved and resurrected Body.
Can you now see, with me, what Jesus means with 2 Corinthians 4:11 ESV: “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” It’s in fact when the accuser comes calling that Jesus is inviting us to die to ourselves and to live unto Him. He longs to reveal the power of His abiding love – His living Word in us.
It’s then we discover that our worth is not in the applause of man, but in the worthiness we find at the foot of the Cross, in the surrender of our all for Christ’s all:
John 8:12 ESV
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Will you join me as I come before our Father in prayer, today?
Thank You, Abba Father, that the love and life of Your Son abides in us. Thank You that even though we did not choose You, You chose and appointed us to go and bear fruit that abides (John 15:6). Thank You that even now, Your Spirit is touching our spirit to affirm who we truly are: Your beloved children.
Thank You that it pleases You, through the folly of what we preach, to save those who believe. Thank You that You have made foolish the wisdom of the world to glorify Your Son in us and through us (1 Corinthians 1: 20-21).
For, You have chosen to shed Your love abroad in our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), a love that abides and remains in us, even in our own unfaithfulness (2 Timothy 2:13). Thank You that because You have given us Your Son – the Word made flesh – and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we shall come to know You, our Abba Father, more and more. Thank You that we shall see the reward of Your Son’s suffering on the Cross.
We shall watch in awe as You turn our hearts to love, where we first hated. To extend mercy, where we first held tight to pain, unforgiveness, bitterness and shame. We shall watch in awe as Your compassion flows from our hearts and hands and feet, because we have come to know Your compassion for us, at the foot of the Cross.
Thank You that we are Your chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Your special possession, that we may declare the praises of You who called us out of darkness into Your wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). Thank You that we are always being given over to death for Your sake, so that Your life also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:11).
Forgive me, Father, for every moment I have denied the abiding love of Your Son in me. Forgive me for agreeing with the accusations of the enemy and birthing the fruit of unrighteousness. Forgive me for clinging to the tomb of my sin and not seeing and taking a hold of Your outstretched hand of kindness and grace.
Forgive me for counting my weakness and missing of the mark as proof of my eternal damnation and as a reason for others to see me as less-than, rather than as an invitation to grow in Your truth and grace. Forgive me for not stilling to hear and obey Your Word in me and to me. Forgive me for bowing to my pride and to my accuser. Forgive me for not believing in, declaring and living out the truth of Your abiding love in me.
When the enemy tries to silence us and speak of the stench of our grave clothes, help us, oh Father, to arise in the truth of Your mercy and grace, not only for us, but also for those the enemy is accusing us through. Help us not to turn away in shame, or to turn toward others in anger, as the accusations come, but embolden us to let You unwrap our grave clothes, right there, as we confess our sins and our weakness, before You and before others, openly and freely. Unwrap Your Son in us, Shalom Adonai! Our rock, our shield and the lifter of our head.
Thank You that we, the people who walk in darkness have indeed seen a great light; thank You that we who live in a dark land, have seen Your light shine upon us (Matthew 4:16). When You lead us to the Cross, help us to bow our knees in prayer and to clasp Your hand – the hand of Your healed and whole Body. Help us to arise and put on our new clothes of love, faith and hope. Thank You that You say blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Therefore, we shall suffer according to Your will and entrust our souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (1 Peter 4:19). In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
When my wounds ache and I tell God I can’t bear it, Christ’s love bears all things for me.
1 John 3:1 (ESV)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Have you ever stood looking up at a tall tree and seen a circle etched into the trunk or a kind of circular bump, where a branch was once cut off. That is a tree wound.
A photo I took in our local forest
Yes, even trees carry wounds. Next time you are near one, place your hands on the callus: the wound that has healed, but can still be seen and felt.
WHAT DOES A WOUND LOOK LIKE?
As children and as adults, we go through much wounding, just like these trees do. When we have already walked through traumatic (shocking or abusive) experiences in the past, this new wounding can be extra painful.
Have you ever been told you can’t do something because someone only sees your weakness and your struggles and not your abilities or calling in Christ? Have you ever been rejected, called names, treated meanly?
Have you ever not been chosen for a sports team or for a part you wanted to play or a task you wanted to do? Have you ever had the one you love and trust most, not show up for you, or not be fully there for you, when you have needed them the most? That is a kind of pruning – a deep wounding – too.
GROWING IN GOD’S LOVE WHEN WE ARE HURTING
But how can we grow in God’s strength and love when we are hurting? That’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus carried our sin and the wounding of our hearts (our invisible disease) to the Cross, so that we would never have to carry that heavy weight ourselves.
So, every time something hurts us, Jesus is right there beside us. He wants us to come right to Him instead of holding in our pain and anger. He wants us to stop trying so hard not to think, do or say mean things. He wants us to be honest and tell Him everything, even things we feel bad about.
He is not ashamed of us. He hurts with us and invites us to call on Him. Jesus knows we can’t be good by trying harder ourselves, but only by coming to Him. When we do, He comforts us and helps us to love and forgive those who hurt us. And He helps us to confess our sins. Then Hispure goodness pours out of us, without us even trying.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THE STRUGGLE
But can I tell you a secret? I sometimes forget that God wants to help me too. I start trying to be good all by myself. Then, I wonder why I am feeling so grumpy.
But do you know what God has started doing when I forget? He reminds me of a song I used to sing in Sunday school: https://youtu.be/Hx3n53d3aH8
When I start singing that song, I remember that God is right there with me. I tell Him all about my pain, the things I am worried about. I begin to confess my sins one by one, asking Him to lift their weight from me. I stop trying so hard and let Him wash me clean and be good and strong for me.
Have a listen to that song today too and let Jesus remind you that He wants to be good and strong for you too.
JESUS IS OUR GOOD GARDENER
Strangely, wounding a tree, by cutting its branches, helps to keep it healthy and strong. A good Gardener will cut away weaker and dying branches, so they don’t snap in a storm and fall on our heads. But He also prunes (cuts away) healthy branches, so the tree becomes stronger, not having to carry so much weight.
Did you know that Jesus also talks of pruning in the Bible? He tells us that He is our good Gardener. So, like the good Gardener, He also cuts away weak, dying, and even healthy branches to make our hearts stronger in Him.
Sometimes this cutting away can feel like a punishment, but actually it is a sign that Jesus cares deeply for us. It may look like He is only cutting good things out of our life. But can you now see how He is actually making room for evenmoregood things to grow in our hearts and our lives.
He is making room for Jesus to grow and flourish in us: the God who is love. A love that is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; is not arrogant or rude; does not insist on its own way; is not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. A love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
JESUS IS ALWAYS SPEAKING, EVEN IN THE SILENCE
But what if we have called out to God, but He seems real silent? When my wounds hurt real bad as a little girl, I remember thinking: “God mustn’t love me, like He does others. He hasn’t answered my deepest cries, nor seen my many tears.” Maybe you know that feeling of abandonment – of feeling all alone in your pain- also. As a little girl, I thought God was ignoring me, in my crying out. I thought God stayed silent to my many pleas. But now I know, He never ever stopped loving me or speaking to or singing over me: even the twenty plus years I turned my back on Him, as I hardened my heart in sin.
You see, He was speaking to me through the songs I sung, through the stories my Mum read me aloud at night, through the stars in the sky, the sunshine on my face, the butterfly that planted itself on my head, the leaves changing color in the fall, even through the meaning of my name and the meaning of my friends’ names each place we moved to.
And when all I could see was nothing changing in my circumstances in response to my many tear-filled prayers, He was working still. In my heart and in my loved ones’ hearts, until He then began to unveil His beautiful and much bigger answer to us all, twenty years later. An answer filled with a full measure of love, compassion and mercy that only God could give us.
JESUS INVITES US TO COME, JUST AS WE ARE
Will you join me this week in taking time to cry out to God, to tell Him all about your pain, your sins and all that scares or worries you? And will you join me in also taking the time to listen for His answer?
Get out your paintbrush, or pencils. Grab your soccer ball or your journal. Or put on your favorite song. Go for a walk. Or sit in your garden or look out the window at the sky. Or sit with a friend to chat about life. And listen. What could Jesus be wanting you to see, to know, to feel, to share, to do?
Record His answer to you. You can do that in any way you want. Journal it. Paint it. Draw it. Tell your favorite person about it. Dance it. Sing it. Oh how He loves to see you praise Him!
A PRAYER FOR TODAY
Can I pray for us all today?
Father, when we are hurting from all the cutting away, will You please remind us that You are for us and not against us? Will You remind us that You – love Himself – are here to hold us and heal us. Help us to come to You with our pain.Thank You that when we call on You, You always answer us. For, You are the God who is with us and never forsakes us.
Thank You that You are the Lord who comforts Zion and all who belong to her, through Christ Jesus. Thank You that You are He, who comforts all our waste places and our wilderness like Eden, our desert like the garden of the Lord; thank You that joy and gladness will yet be found in each one of us, thanksgiving and the sound of singing (Isaiah 51:3, Galatians 3:29).
Oh Father, thank You that You are not ashamed of us in our weakness or in our sin. We are so tired of all the ways we have tried so hard to be good for You. Will You help us to come to You just as we are?
We invite You to uncover the wounds we have hidden from You and to comfort us in our pain. We invite You to convict us of our sins and wash them away. We invite You to help us love and forgive others freely and without expecting anything in return. Show us the goodness You are growing in us through every wound.
When we forget You are with us and for us, will You bring songs to our mind and heart that remind us of the truth?
Thank You precious Jesus for who You are: always true, always good and always faithful to us. In Your Name we pray this now, Amen.
POSTSCRIPT: apologies for the delay in posting the final recording of this post. I was convicted to edit a portion of the text to rightly divide the Word of God. I have now rightly placed the focus back on honoring Jesus and His work of salvation in us, and not on honoring us for our crying out. Please forgive me for this error in my first version.
My name is Anna Smit. I am a dual New Zealand – Dutch citizen, who was born and partly raised in Aotearoa / New Zealand, but has been living in the Netherlands since 2003. I left the Land of the Long White Cloud in 2000 to become an au pair in Germany, but never came “home”. Falling in love, I followed my Dutchie to make a new home for myself in the land of the clogs, where we still live, with our two dual citizen girls.
I remember my early days in Germany, as the eldest daughter of New Zealand missionaries, filled with love: with the life and presence of Jesus. Tragically, as a preteen and teen, walking through trauma back in New Zealand, I began to believe the many lies spoken over me and turned to sin to numb my pain.
From then on, I went through life believing that my God had abandoned me as someone who was inherently mismade. In my early years as a Prodigal, I was even afraid that one day God would strike me with lightning and kill me.
Yet, now, I can look back and see the hand of God lovingly guiding me, protecting me and keeping me all those years I believed He had abandoned me and was out to hurt me. Every place I moved to, He remained with me, surrounding me with people in whom I now recognize His face.
When my Mum was diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer in 2013, God’s peace descended in power upon me. At the time, I was a mother of two young children (1 and 3 years old), living in the Netherlands with my Dutch husband and visiting my very ill mother in New Zealand. I wasn’t looking for God, but He came running for me. Like the little lost lamb caught in the thorn bush, He came to rescue me and bring me home.
I felt that same palpable peace again upon my Mum, in her final weeks. I was absolutely astounded at the beauty and kindness of this God, that I now recall from my younger years, before I let pride, the yoke of religion and the worship of man begin to choke me. God’s kindness toward me and the peace He covered me and my Mum in, compelled me to begin to seek Him and His Word afresh, like never before.
My Savior has given me a hunger and thirst for His Word, so that now I wake up hearing Him call to me. He is teaching me to slow, recognize and savor His Presence with me.
God is patiently leading me, piece by piece, to shed my pride, religion and the worship of man for an intimate relationship with Him, I am slowly (re)awakening to the childlike awe and wonder I see (and have seen) on the faces of so many beautiful souls God has given me on my life journey thus far.
May God bless us here, as we gather to read and share the stories, poems and heart stirrings He awakens in us. May we see His face in each other, in our past and present and future that He may make firm the paths beneath our feet, as He lifts away every accusation of the enemy in the light of His love and grace. And may the word of our testimony to His love and grace in our lives and His blood shed for us all at the Cross overcome the accuser of our brethren, just as He has promised us in His Word.
May we and our families feel the warmth of Jesus wrap around us like a shawl here as we visit with each other. May He open our eyes to see His face in ourselves and those around us in our past, present and future. As we acknowledge Him in all our ways, may He make firm our paths, as His Word flows like fresh water toward us, to grow bountiful leaves of healing and abiding fruit, not just in our own hearts and in our family’s but in many more. May the Spirit of the living God write His Word on each of our hearts, awakening us to the abundant life He has set before us.
May we and our families always leave here refreshed, with an ever deeper desire to know and be known by Jesus. May His living and breathing Word become ever more precious to us and our loved ones, so much so that we cannot help but recognize His face and savor His presence with us on every path God sets before us.
May we and our families deep down know that even though we did not choose God, He CHOSE and appointed us – His beloved children and Bride – to GO and bear fruit that abides. May we shake off the dust of the old and enter into the new He has for us. May we shine brightly in the light of His love and grace, together as One, so that this yearning world around us may see Jesus reflected in their own hearts and faces also, and be filled with joy.
Shalom is a Hebrew word that speaks of all parts being joined together to make a whole, of healing, health and peace. Aleh is a Hebrew word that means leaf, leaves or leafage.
I believe, as we speak up of the healing and peace Christ is bringing us, we silence accusations of condemnation that keep us tethered to fear and shame. The trauma that was sent to destroy us becomes a gift, awakening us to recognize the face of Jesus in ourselves and others, in our past, present and future. For, the word of our testimony and the blood of the lamb carry the power to slay the accuser of our brothers and sisters in Christ (Revelations 12:11).
The name Shalom Aleh has its roots in verse 12 of Ezekiel 47 (ESV):
And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
In 2 Corinthians 3:3 (ESV):
And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
And in the prophecy spoken over Ninevah in Nahum 1:15 (ESV):
Behold, upon the mountains,
the feet of him
who brings good news,
who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you;