Monday, September 30, 2013

When We Are Wounded By God's People

Some of the worst hurts in this life come not just from family, friends, or the general population but from God's people.  The problem?  We expect more from those professing to be like Jesus.  What's more, we also oftentimes let our guard down more around fellow believers.  And why not?  Christians should be the people we expect our hearts to be the safest with, the ones we can trust to act justly more than any others on the face of the earth....right?


Somehow, we get it in our minds that when a person chooses to become a follower of Christ, he is hit over the head with a Fairy Godmother-esque magic wand of salvation that transforms him in the twinkling of an eye into the spitting image of Christ.  We expect his struggle with that old fleshly nature to be done away with, his propensity towards sin to just vanish.  In short, we expect every Christian to go to sleep a sinner and wake up as a perfect clone of Jesus. 

But the salvation process doesn't work that way. 

The concept of salvation is a past, a present perfect, and a future action.  I was saved.  I am being saved.  I will be saved.  And because of that, a newborn, middle-aged, or even long-tenured Christian will spend a lifetime in a state of becoming like Christ but never, not ever, completely achieving that level of perfection.  In short, every Christian will plod down life's path of what Scripture refers to as "sanctification," a ten cent word meaning "the process of becoming holy." 

Yes...note that word process.  Becoming holy, like Jesus, is not instant.

And yet, even if we understand this concept, the knowledge doesn't help our hearts be any less broken when God's people fail to act in accordance with how Jesus would act.

In her latest book Wounded by God's People: Discovering How God's Love Heals our Hearts, Anne Graham Lotz pulls a few skeletons from her own emotional closet as she explores how many of her most painful hurts have been inflicted by the hands of God's people.

Lotz begins with the Biblical story of Hagar, using it as a starting point for exploring how everyone is wounded and how that pain can cause the wounded to lash out and wound others in their path. 

The majority of Lotz's book is an attempt to show the "what happens next" after we have been wounded.    Do we run from God?  Do we inflict pain in return?  Do we wander around aimlessly in rejection? Do we reject God and all his people? Turn our backs from him in stubbornness? 

Or do we choose to move forward, turn towards God, forgive, and be reconciled?

The book explores each of these choices as they are demonstrated in the Old Testament story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac.  In fact, each chapter begins with a specific printed Scripture passage, followed by a personal example from Lotz' own life, then a deeper look into the specific Scripture and how it can relate to each of us who has been wounded.

While I did not find this book as deep as many of Lotz' previous books (such as her Just Give Me Jesus or I Saw the Lord), I do believe that was part of the point--to present a familiar, simple story and connect it to every man and woman, guiding them to Jesus in a culture when professing Christians are all too often driving them away from Christianity and anything associated with Jesus.

Perhaps you are like Hagar.  Perhaps you have been wounded and rejected by God's people.  Perhaps you have been sent "into the wilderness" and are blind to God's presence (Gen. 21:14).  Perhaps you even blame Him for what has happened in your life. 

When we are there--helpless, hopeless, abandoned, and alone--we should remember well this story of Hagar, how God stooped down from heaven and found her.

I can't help but think of that old Fanny Crosby hymn, the second verse and chorus of which reads:

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away,
He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand.

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