by C. Harmon
Springtime. A time of renewal, of forgetting old, dead blossoms and focusing on the growth of new, brightly adorned flowers. Sometimes these flowers become bruised or battered by animals, people, or weather. Similarly, as children grow into adulthood, they may carry scars from their childhood that make it difficult to become the people God designed them to be. Following are the true stories of two men (their names changed) who struggled to move beyond the effects of their past and forge better lives for themselves.
Brett was a born-again, battered believer. Verbal and physical abuse from his father had left Brett with a quick temper and low self-image. After a decade of living on his own, he had not established himself in a career and was barely paying his bills.
Brett’s life took a positive turn when he married a kind woman who supported the two of them while he worked toward a college degree. Others became aware of his gifts in exhortation and oratory. In a few of his college classes he polarized the students by arguing with the professor against his beliefs. Early in his senior year, Brett became convinced that God wanted him to become an evangelist. His pastor recognized his talent and mentored him in developing preaching skills.
A few months later, Brett started classes at a leading seminary, trying to prove to his father and himself that he could make something of his life. However, he didn’t know how to deal with the negative effects of his father’s abuse. Despite his wife’s urgings, Brett would not seek counsel. His bitterness and hot temper continued.
During his second year of seminary, Brett took his eyes off the Lord and onto the weaknesses of others. He decided that the professors and the pastor of his church were hypocrites. Without the steadying hand of a mentor, in disgust and disillusionment he quit seminary and the church. Sadly, he never returned to a place of worship, nor did he find his niche in a career. Nearly twenty years later, angry with God and himself, Brett died of heart failure.
Jeff also experienced abuse from his father. Jeff grew up in a large family with few financial resources. At age 12, he excelled in school and daily delivered newspapers to residences and businesses. One day he came home disheveled and dirty from handling newspapers but with a fistful of coins and bills from his sales. He proudly held out his cash love offering to his father to help with family expenses. But Jeff’s father saw only the ink-stained hands and grubby appearance. He didn’t recognize the worth and sacrifice of his son. Without warning, he slapped the money across the room and stormed off!
Bruised in spirit and body, Jeff retreated in silence. In the following weeks, months, and years, resentment toward his father entrenched itself in Jeff’s heart. Unlike Brett, however, Jeff eventually talked out his hurt and bitterness with his wife and sister, gradually yielding to the Holy Spirit’s work in his life. A supernatural peace, love, and forgiveness replaced his bitterness. Jeff approached his father with a visibly changed attitude. New softness came across as Jeff said, “Dad, I’m sorry for my coldness toward you all these years. I’ve been angry and hurt over the harsh way you treated me long ago. Please forgive me. I love you and forgive you.” Tears streamed down his father’s face, and he chokingly replied, “I love you too, son, and I’m so sorry for the many times I hurt you.” The two men embraced in a bear hug, starting a new relationship between them that lasted the rest of their lives.
Perhaps we cannot relate to either of these men, but is there something holding us back from becoming the disciples God designed us to be? John 10:10 quotes Jesus saying, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10) Instead of experiencing an abundant life in Christ, are we currently buffeted by Satan’s attempt to destroy us and our effectiveness for God? Do past hurts, shame, or bitterness still haunt us? Have we been knocked down by a major financial set-back, a serious illness or injury, an addiction, a devastating marital or family conflict, or some other difficulty that has left us disheartened and questioning God’s Word?
Most of us probably know that first and foremost we need to turn to Jesus and His Word. Unfortunately, we sometimes run the other way, trying to fix the situation by ourselves. We might let depression get the best of us, isolating ourselves and laying aside our Bible and prayers. But these choices don’t solve our problems.
Oh, the sweet release awaiting us when we get away to a quiet place, a comfortable spot free of distractions, where we can ask God what He wants us to learn through our difficulties. It is there we can immerse ourselves in Bible study and prayer, and we can pour out our hearts to Him. It is vital to then wait in expectant silence for Jesus to speak to us—perhaps through a verse of Scripture, perhaps in a growing conviction of the next step He wants us to take. If no answer comes at that time, we can choose to wait in faith for His guidance.
If we cannot leave that quiet place with peace, perhaps we are holding on to our worry, discouragement, unforgiveness, or some other disobedience. Maybe we didn’t spend sufficient time with Him, or possibly we aren’t really willing to do whatever He wants us to do.
Now and then we need help from a fellow Jesus-follower. God didn’t design us to go it alone but to live in fellowship with one another and to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). It can be humbling to ask for help, but we need to be humble. Another believer can help us see things from a different perspective and can aid us in problem-solving, looking at several alternatives, and choosing the next step in accordance with the Bible’s directives.
If it is an addiction or bad habit that has us in its grip, we can take fresh hope from (Romans 8:2)—“And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” When Satan whispers that we are going to yield to that temptation or habit again, we can respond with, “No, I’m done with that!” A new behavior can replace the old one.
(2 Corinthians 5:17) says, “Therefore if any person is (ingrafted) in Christ, the Messiah, he is (a new creature altogether,) a new creation; the old (previous moral and spiritual condition) has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!” This is not just a one-time event at salvation; we must mature in our walk with Jesus, let go of the past, embrace changes, and obey new guidance from Him. We can take heart that trials taken with the right attitude will produce perseverance and endurance in our spiritual journey (James 1:2, 3).
Now is the time to focus on Jesus and discover the newness He wants to produce in our lives this season. Let’s move forward in His work with a renewed mind, fresh perspective, and revived faith.
Suggested reading and study:
Getting Past What You’ll Never Get Over, by John F. Westfall, Senior Pastor of Harbor Church in Seattle, Washington.
Healed and Set Free from Past Hurts, a 9-week Bible study and workbook, by Tammy Brown, wife of Pastor Rick Brown, Watersprings Church, Idaho Falls, Idaho.