The Beautiful Plan
Can you and I stop for just a moment and ask ourselves this question; “How have I gotten here?” “Here” in this question is the place where you and I never wanted to end up, but somehow did. “Here” is where we feel separated from God and alone because of the half truths and little lies we’ve placed into our core and fundamental beliefs of who God is, and how He desires us to be. As this question is really put to our minds we start coming up with all the same old cliche answers that drove us to this place to begin with. “I was wronged by religion!” “My parents were two faced hypocrites.” “No one really believed in me.” “I was abused by people who should have loved me.” While all of these answers we continue to give ourselves may be true, the REAL truth is that we feel empty. We have convinced ourselves that if the religion or people who wronged us would finally come their senses and apologize to us, we would be free!
Since we are all alone right now while reading this, let’s just be completely honest with ourselves, no matter how many times we’re apologized to, it will never be enough! The mental struggles that rage within us won’t just magically come to an end. We will still be hurt and alone. We are alone, afraid, confused, hurt, and full of doubt. We are angry, and maybe even bitter at this point because we haven’t allowed OURSELVES to forgive. Even more than unforgiveness though, we’ve allowed ourselves to become so blinded by our emotions, that we can’t even see how God uses our pain as a part of His plan to make our lives beautiful.
I think that most of us would never have believed that God had suffering in mind as a part of His beautiful plan for our lives. Let’s be even more honest here, the main reason we even came to God in the first place was because WE WERE SUFFERING and we wanted it to end!! So why would a loving God make suffering a part of His overall beautiful plan for my life? At this point some of you may be considering stopping here because this is just to much to take, but please allow me to clarify myself before you give up on this post and stop reading. The fact is, God never intended for you to be wronged by a religion or pastor. God never wanted someone to abuse you and make you feel like you were less than human. It was never a part of His plan that your parents would care more about themselves and less about you or your needs. This type of suffering is born out of the selfishness of others, and those who hurt you in these ways were in fact selfish! These emotions you’re carrying around with you of hurt and shame, fear and doubt, anger and bitterness, are all dealt with in one truth, “I must forgive, no matter the pain.” Forgiveness is the wrapping paper and freedom is the gift. How do you forgive someone who doesn’t care that they hurt you? You come to the understanding that your freedom is more vital to your survival than your desire to see them suffer for what they’ve done to you. And just in case you are curious if God has anything to say on the matter, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT.
(FYI, this next portion has some very graphic content)
You see, the tricky thing about suffering is that while God is almost never behind the reason you ended up in the place of suffering, He is always right there to use the pain for our good. Some of the best lessons we learn in life are born out of suffering. I remember a time when I was younger and met a complete stranger who, because I challenged her reasons to become a social worker, ended up telling me her life story and how she became a social worker. She was raised in a two parent family where mom and dad were around all the time. She had some siblings who she had a good relationship with. She even lived in a nice neighborhood where you could play outside at all hours and not have to be afraid of bad people. But among all the beauty was something very ugly. Her uncle, dad’s brother, was molesting her every time he would come over. This happened many times and he would threaten to hurt her every time if she ever told anyone. Finally, one night when she was around 10 years old, while her mom was tucking her into bed, she finally worked up the courage to tell her mom what was happening. Needless to say her mom was shocked. Her mom told her that she would have a talk with her father about it that night. She assured her that everything would be okay and that there was no reason to be afraid anymore. The next evening her dad came into the room with her mom to tuck her in, what happened next decided the rest of her life. Her dad told her that he couldn’t believe she would make up such lies about his brother. He said he always knew that she didn’t like him and that she was just trying to get him in trouble. He asked her how SHE could could do something so terrible to someone, and then, just like her abusive uncle, he threatened her too. He told her that if she ever said any of these lies ever again to anyone he would send her away, because no child of his could be such a lair and live in his home. Her mom just sat on the bed next to her as her father accused and threatened her. She never said a word of defense. And of course, her uncle kept molesting her, and did so until she was 16! She told me she remembers how a darkness crept into her life that night as her father accused her of being a liar and believed his brother instead her. She told me that she started wearing all black clothing and painting her nails black. Her friends at school began to change as well. She no longer wanted to hang out with the popular pretty girls; she felt closer to the other damaged girls who also hated their parents. She became reclusive and quite, and her grades went from A’s to failing. She told me that everything in her life screamed out “failure!” One night, when she was 17, she decided life was no longer worth living. She drew a bath, got in, and held a razor blade to her wrist. She said all she could think was that she hoped her mother and father would find her lying there in a pool of blood and finally realize that they had failed her. She said just as she was about to slice her wrist open she had another thought. She began to picture other young girls who were in the same situation who were being abused and molested. Young children who had no one to believe in them. She told me that in that moment, sorrow for others began to fill her heart. Who was going to be THEIR voice? Who was going to say, “I believe in you and I’m here to protect you.”? She realized that her life of brokenness could be the beauty that someone else needed. She told me that from that moment on she was a new person. She threw out all her black clothes and started focusing on her grades so that she could get into college. She went on to pursue a career as a social worker, and ever since that night in the bathtub she has saved over a hundred kids lives from hands of destruction. I couldn’t help but ask, “did your uncle ever get caught? Did your mom and dad ever end up believing you?” The answer to both was the same, “no!”. She told me that it’s still very difficult to be around her parents, and when she is, neither of them will look her in the eyes. She sees her uncle from time to time, and when she does he taunts her with disgusting looks. In disbelief I asked, “how can you even stand to be around them?” Her answer shocked me, “when I’m around them, I’m grateful! I’m not happy that I had to suffer at their hands, but because I did, I’ve had the opportunity to save lives that may not have had someone there to save them if I didn’t understand their suffering. It’s these things that make me continue to love my parents and forgive my uncle.” Tears were rolling down my cheeks as I understood, for the first time, what true forgiveness really looked like. How could a girl, who never even mentioned God and church, be able to forgive so deeply? Not only forgive deeply but turn that pain into love! I’m older now and I’ve told her story to many people throughout the years. At times when I have felt wronged and mistreated by others, I’ve reminded myself of her pain and how she came out a champion. Even now, as I write her story for you to read, tears roll down my cheeks. Not because I feel bad for her, but because I’m reminded of my own ugly emotions of unforgiveness and the shallow reasons I continue to hold onto them. I want to be better! I want to do better! I want to love deeper! I want to look at those who have wronged me and love them. Not because the Bible tells me that I have to, but because I can see the beauty in loving those who have wronged me.
The Bible talks of a man named Isaiah. He was the greatest prophet in the old testament. God said these words to him, “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” Isaiah 48:10 NIV. And in the new testament we see a man named Peter saying these words, “Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory” 1 Peter 1:7. While it may never have been God’s plan that you suffer, it is His plan to use that suffering to make beauty out of ashes, and give strength for fear! The Bible is riddled with men and woman who were plagued with suffering. King David and Queen Ester are two that come to mind whose suffering ended up being the source of their strength. Forgiveness isn’t just words spoken, it’s actions taken and feelings mended. It’s seeing those who hurt you as a source of strength rather than an object of anger and sorrow. Try forgiving and see what is waiting on the other side, it will be beautiful.