Posted in Faith

It’s Easier to Be Angry

It has felt like my prayers are “bouncing off the ceiling,” as they say. My journal, normally filled with long, sprawling, written prayers and copied Bible verses, has only been sparsely notated – dutiful entries, sometimes only one line, containing the date and a reference to the scripture passage I read. I’ve felt lonely during my times with the Lord. The times that are normally my water…have felt kind of empty and dry.

What’s going on? The scriptures hold a key.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Mark 11:25 NIV

“‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:12-15 NIV

I’ve lost a friend, and it feels a bit like a bad break-up. Day after day, my bitterness and anger linger. They fester, and grow. I dwell on all the negatives; the hurtful things she has said and done. Meanwhile, the good memories from before – from when I thought she was like a sister – fade and almost disappear. Eventually I convince myself that surely, I was wrong about her. Surely, our latest interactions prove who she really is. Who she really was, all along.

I know that God requires me to forgive her. I’ve asked Him to help me do this, but haven’t made much progress. There’s a song by the Dixie Chicks that could have been written about me in times like these:

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell, and I don’t have time
To go ’round and ’round and ’round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is
You think I should

“Not Ready to Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks

Truth be told, though, I don’t want to stay here. I can’t. So I asked the Lord one evening: What is holding me back? Why can I not forgive?

A perplexing thought immediately came to mind: It’s easier to hang on to the anger.

Easier? Easier than what?

Than remembering the good times.

Why?

Because you must face your grief. You must mourn what you have lost.

The tears flowed, and they flow again even as I write this. Yes, facing the hurt and loss and mourning that things may never be the same between us again, is harder than rehashing the things I am angry about. Sometimes we think that anger is strong. But in actuality, it requires more strength to turn from anger than it does to remain in it.

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”

Psalm 37:8 NIV

“‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV

And yet, that is what I must do. I must remember her for the laughter. The times we prayed for each other. Brought each other food. Watched and loved each other’s kids. All of that was real. Those memories can soften my heart, temper my harsh feelings, and allow me to view her in a balanced way.

In all relationships, you will eventually see both the good and the bad of a person. To be accepted in the fullness of yourself – in all of the good, and all of the bad – is an act of grace. If you have experienced this yourself, you know how great it feels. If you truly know Christ, you have experienced this grace. And He expects you to extend it to others.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

James 3:9-10 NIV

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV

At church recently, my pastor reminded us from the pulpit that our forgiveness of others is one way we show the world what Jesus is like. Is Jesus full of anger, resentment, and offense? Does He never let go of our sins? That hasn’t been my experience of Him. And as His follower, I desire to show others that He is someone they would want to get to know.

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbor his anger forever;

he does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:8-12 NIV

Maybe things have permanently changed between my friend and I, and we need to go our separate ways. Maybe things will never be the same. Then again, maybe they will be someday. She’s still my sister in Christ, so perhaps when we get to Heaven, God will sit us both down (the two unruly daughters that we are), and talk us through our rivalry. Whatever the case, for the time being, I can love her from afar, and remain open to the possibility of reconciliation. It’s what I hope she will do for me.

What do you do when you experience divisions within the family of Christ? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Mental health

I Asked God for a Friend

It came like a jab in the face, as it often does – when God speaks unexpectedly.  Though not as dramatic or life-altering as Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus, I was, as he likely was, not looking for a word from God right at that moment.  God does things that way, once in a while.  Perhaps to remind us that our ability to hear Him is not a result of all our straining to listen, but it is of grace: undeserved, and impossible to earn.

Something my husband said, in passing, as I sat at the table with him after dinner one day.  I cannot even remember the topic of discussion, or the words that were spoken.  But in an instant God had seized them, launched them like little pointy arrows, and used them to pierce me with a deep longing.  A yearning, aching one, that had been folded up and tucked away, along with other childish, impossible things.  It rang in my ears, and vibrated in my chest, like the startled feeling you have after the shattering of glass.

I wanted a friend.

Not just any friend.  But the kind that, for someone like me, only comes around once or twice in a lifetime.  If that.  A ‘kindred spirit,’ as Anne would say.

The acknowledgement of this longing came with an invitation – I believe, from God Himself – to pray for its fulfillment.  It had the feel, to me, of a promise.  Like something He already had.  Something that He was eagerly waiting to give to me.

My eyes stung with tears, as my husband continued to talk.  I blinked them back, swallowed the lump in my throat, and discretely put the rush of emotion aside to be dealt with later on.  (I’m getting better at that sort of thing.  Though I’m not sure if I am fooling anyone.)

How long has it been, since I have had a friend like that?  Someone who gets me.  Who truly loves me and doesn’t hang out with me because she feels like she has to, or out of pity, or even Christian servanthood.  Somebody I can waste hours with, and it feels like no time at all.  A person with whom conversation and laughter flow, like water.

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I’ve been blessed to have at least two friendships like that, in my lifetime.  The one ended as swiftly and unexpectedly as it began.  I still don’t know why she dropped me.  It was a bit like a summer fling, but without the element of romance.

The other has been longer lasting, but geography and circumstances have kept us apart for several years.  She lives on another continent.  And although people can, to a degree, keep in touch electronically, it’s just not the same as sharing life together.

Although I’m sad when friendships end or grow apart, I treasure the memories that I have from them.  I’m thankful for the joy I was able to share with these people.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve become a little hardened.  Not wanting to feel the pain of loss or rejection again, I close myself off.  I’m friendly, but I hold others at an arm’s length.

And at my age, is anyone even still looking for friends?  It seems to me that the women I meet are already quite well-connected, and not looking for more friendships than what they already have.

I’ve also noticed that other people are quicker and more adept at forming true and lasting bonds than I am.  I can know women for just as long as they know each other, and watch them grow into very close friends, while I remain on the outside.

I’m not sure why this is.  My introverted nature probably has something to do with it.  I ask myself on a regular basis: am I being nice enough?  Do others see me as grouchy or down in the dumps?  Do they not know what to do with me, because of my intense emotional reactions to things?  If my personality were funnier, or bubblier, or happier…would they like me then?

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Whatever the case, I think that becoming aware that I actually do want and need a close friend, is progress in and of itself.  And now, I have a word.  A promise.  An acknowledgement: God sees my pain.  I don’t think He wants me to shelve my desire for true friendship or bury it in some kind of broken-dream-graveyard.  He wants this for me.  He has it for me.  And I just need to wait, and watch.

How about you?  Is it easy for you to make friends, or difficult?  Have you ever had a best friend?  I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa