We are in a series called Sticks and Stones. Have you ever heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” It’s a lie. Words can cut deeper and last longer than what sticks and stones can do to you.
This is a relationship series that teaches how to be in emotionally healthy relationships. There are three parts to this series. Each Sunday we get together and we talk about in on Sunday mornings. We also have a 40-day discipleship book for you called ‘Day by Day.’ Five days a week, two times a day, for 40 days, there is a thought and a prayer. We encourage you to walk through this discipleship as an individual, couple or family. Also, after church, we are running a DVD course that teaches the practical part of what it means to be in emotionally healthy relationships. Last week, the DVD showed us a five part template of how to communicate with each other.
Real quickly, we opened this series and defined what it meant to love someone. In the Day to Day book, the man who worked with folks struggling with mental and physical disabilities shared what it meant to live in community and love these folks. He discovered that loving them meant he would spend time with them and work on trying to reveal to them how great or how beautiful they were. Imagine that. Spending time with your spouse, your kids, your parents or others with the intent to listen to them and reveal to them what makes them special.
We said that you can’t love others well if you have a cold heart. We looked at the older brother in the Prodigal son story. He did everything right. He was a hard worker. He never failed his father. However, as he worked heart and did all the right things, his heart grew cold. When his younger brother came home asking for forgiveness, we see that the older brother had become selfish and angry. How does that happen? How do you do all the right things and your heart become cold?
The story revealed that he wasn’t in a relationship with his father. The point for us was, if we aren’t in a relationship with God where we experience His love and grace, our hearts will grow cold and we won’t be able to love others well.
We said last week, you can’t love others well if you make assumptions of others. We said that when you make an assumption of others, you leave reality and you create a fake, make believe world. We called it a world of lollipops, unicorns and fairies. In this fake world, it’s important to understand, God isn’t there. God is a God of reality. If we stay in this fake world, we can create enormous damage in our relationships. We said we won’t be able to love others well as long as we live in our fake world of assumptions.
Today, we talk about something real, it’s very heavy, can feel very difficult. The hurts and wounds from our past and the hardships that we face today, can make it hard for us to love others well. When we feel like we are suffering from the things of our past or the things of today, it is hard to see things clearly.
Example 1: Maybe we left our family with hurts. You grew up and left your home, in that process of adulting, maybe you left your family with feelings of shame or never being good enough. That doesn’t mean your parents are bad. However, as you leave your family, there might be hurts in your heart. Not only can we pick up hurts but maybe you left home and the cycles of sin in your family continue in your life; alcoholism, workaholic, harsh words, etc. You can that what was normal for your family can be normal for you.
As you move from being a kid in your parent’s house and grew up to leave the house, what are we tempted to do? We tend to ignore the hurts or sin in hopes that it will go away. We hide our past. We don’t go there. We think, ‘that will never happen to me.’ Truth is, that stuff impacted our hearts and we just continue walking through life with a limp. We can go from relationship to relationship and struggle to be in emotionally healthy relationships.
Scripture talks about this.
18’The LORD is slow to anger and rich in unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. Even so he does not leave sin unpunished, but he punishes the children for the sins of their parents to the third and fourth generations.’ NLT Numbers 14:18
Let’s think about this. If your father was a workaholic, didn’t prioritize time with you, had only harsh things to say to you, what do you think your natural default setting will be? You can try to ignore it all you want, you can try to hide it and not talk about it, but that wound will come out in your behaviors. Chances are you will struggle to have boundaries, prioritize your family and praise your children.
The saying, “God might be in your heart, but Grandpa is in your bones” is true.
Example 2: Maybe we have wounds from previous relationships. In your past, you had a relationship. You allowed them into your life. They meant a lot to you. You served them. Maybe in a marriage you gave your heart to them. You liked them or loved them. Then something happened, the relationship went bad, real bad. Maybe you know why, maybe you don’t. Maybe it was a family relationship and now you never see them at Christmas. Whatever happened, the relationship ended. That relationship ending has created a deep wound in you. And today, you carry that wound with you; every day. You feel betrayed. You feel rejected. You feel hurt and lonely. Like the stinger from a bee, that hurt just doesn’t stop hurting. Have you ever been stung by a bee? Like a for real wasp? That stinger stays in you and it hurts. That’s what’s like emotionally. That pain doesn’t leave you, it stays and it hurts.
To avoid that hurt, it almost makes sense, you think, to build a wall around your heart. The problem is, you were built to love others and allow others to love you. You are at your best when you are in relationships. The wall you build that you think will protect you, is actually going to do more damage to you.
David in scripture talks about this. He was deeply wounded by his son.
4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. 5 Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. 6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest – 7 I would flee far away and stay in the desert. ” …12 If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, 14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God. NIV Psalms 55:4-7, 12-14
What is happening? Many people believe that David is writing about his son Absalom who rebelled and tried to kill David. David is just destroyed in his heart over this. How could this happen from someone so close?
David said, “If it was an enemy like that Philistines, I could deal with that. But it’s you, someone very close to me. I’m really struggling with this wound.”
After you are deeply wounded by someone, how quickly are you to open your heart to the next relationship? That’s the point. The wounds delivered by people, if not dealt with, will stop us from loving others well.
Example 3: Maybe we are walking through pain and suffering today, right now. It’s so bad, we don’t feel God. In fact, we wonder if God even exists. It’s like you hit a wall and the wall has smashed you. And the struggle could last for months or years or decades. Nothing makes sense. It leaves us dazed and confused.
Paul wrote about this. Remember, Paul is starting churches, talking about God’s grace. Paul is literally advancing God’s kingdom and doing all the right things. Paul tells us, he has a physical issue and it feels like Hell is tormenting him.
7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. NIV 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Paul basically says, I live a life and it feels like Hell is tormenting me. I have a physical issue and it torments me. I prayed to God three times to remove it. God’s response, ‘No.’ Let’s just say it. To us that isn’t fair and it doesn’t make sense.
What I am about to say can be alarming if you aren’t familiar with scripture. This is a very hard truth. God didn’t come to make our life an American success story of prosperity and comfort. He came to forgive us, heal us spiritually and walk with us as we walk through the mess of life. If you believe that God came to make your life an American success story, Christianity probably won’t make sense.
Think about all these examples I gave you. Hurts or wounds from your family or relationships from the past. Maybe you are walking through pain and suffering today. All these examples appear to hold us back in life. We can believe that they stop us from loving others well. We think, “It’s my families fault and I won’t be able to overcome it.” We think, “I have been so wounded by others, I will never be able to trust and love again.” We think, “God allowed my current pain and suffering so I can’t trust Him, it’s His fault.”
I want to share with you that there is hope and there is healing. However, I want to warn you that what I am about to tell you will go against everything that makes sense. I’m not kidding. As I say what I am about to say, something in you might think, ‘Ya right, that will never work.’
The very thing that you think limits you, the wounds from your past or suffering you are experiencing today, might be your greatest source of experiencing God. Paul called it strength. Paul said, he was proud of his weaknesses because that is when God had a chance to show up. Instead of avoiding God, or being angry with God, truth is, God is the very person we should run to for healing.
Here is what it looks like.
Those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. NLT Isaiah 40:31
Here is why that doesn’t make sense to us. Reading those words don’t fix our problems right away. Our wounds or sufferings make us feel like we need to take control and protect ourselves now. God is asking us to wait on Him. It goes against every natural instinct. We think, I need help today so why would I wait for God in hopes that He might, maybe do something tomorrow? It makes no sense. We want someone to fix it today not wait on some fuzzy spiritual moment. And that is the point. We surrender to God. We accept our reality and come to God. We accept that fact that we have limits. We give God time to work in our soul and our lives.
While we wait on God, God will put things into us that we can’t get any other way. And yes, this doesn’t make sense. Not kidding, God will infuse things into us as we run to Him and wait on Him. It’s spiritual.
What can happen as we wait? A sin, or sin pattern will be crushed. Maybe your sin will bring you to the end of your life as you know it.
Maybe your ego and pride will be smashed. Before you were smashed, you were full of yourself. Life was about you. After you walked through suffering, everything changed. You no longer have to be well known or a success. You will know, the hero of the story is Jesus.
Maybe you were comfortable looking down on others because the wall exposed your pride, your arrogance and your sin. When you see people now, you will love them because you will realize you are a mess like them.
On the other side of the wall, maybe you won’t be easily offended anymore.
On the other side of your suffering maybe you will be less concerned about the opinion of others.
Maybe your Christianity will be more real, it won’t be about Christian formulas about getting God to do what you want Him to do. Maybe it won’t be about do’s and don’ts any more. Christianity will be about relationship where you just want to be close with God.
Every spiritual journey that leads to character, maturity and depth will lead you to the darkest places of your soul. Your wounds. Your suffering.
And if we run to God, wait on God, God will meet us there over time. And just to be clear, this process is real. You may never feel God’s warm and fuzzys. It can be hard. It can be painful. It can feel like it takes forever. And, it will also lead you to spiritual healing.
3 When we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us-they help us learn to be patient. 4 And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. 5 Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. TLB Romans 5:3-5
Please hear me, there is hope and healing.
Let’s close with this. Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and survival of four Nazi concentration camps wrote in his book, ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’:
The prisoner who lost hope in the future – his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and become subject to mental and physical decay… Whenever there was an opportunity for it, one had to give them a ‘why’ – an aim – for their lives, in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible ‘how’ of their existence. Woe to him who had no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost.
There is hope and healing for our wounds and suffering.