Years ago, I went through a very trying time where the temptation to become angry, bitter, and resentful seemed very appealing. I experienced hurt, opposition, even challenges to my intentions and personal integrity. I was so tempted to lash out and express my anger in unhealthy ways. My inner spirit was stirred up often in an angry storm within. I would vent to God and sometimes my wife about the issues I was struggling through. I even came to a place where I contemplated leaving the ministry. The only reason I didn’t leave the ministry is because God had called me to pastoral ministry, and he hadn’t changed his call on my life.
Throughout this ordeal, which continued for quite some time, I did a lot of praying. At that time, I was journaling my devotions and writing out how scripture was speaking to me and my prayers. Through that time God made it crystal clear that if I chose to react to all those people and issues by yielding to those temptations, I was surrendering control to them and to Satan. Reacting to others through anger, lashing out, getting back at them, or even bitterness, was not acting according to the Spirit within me that called me to live at peace with all people.
One of the Scriptures that I read during that time gave crystal clear instructions as to how I was supposed to act, how I was to live my life every day no matter how I was treated; no matter what people said or did to me.
This is how Jesus wanted me to live and how He wanted me to respond. Colossians 3:12-15 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
God could not have been clearer to me as to how I was to live my life every day, not letting people control my reactions, but letting Jesus and the Holy Spirit guide my thoughts, my attitudes and my actions.
I typed out these verses and hung them on the wall of my office so I could read them daily to remind myself when the conflict stirred up how I was to live. One might think that this solved everything, and everything was easy after that. On the contrary, it was a daily commitment to God as to how I was going to live my life.
My daily prayer became “Lord, let me live my life today and make choices today that, at the end of the day, when I look at myself in the mirror I have no regrets, that I am not ashamed of myself, and that I lived first and foremost for Jesus.”
Jesus said in Luke 9:23-25, “Then He [Jesus] said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”
Jesus calls us to daily surrender our selfish motives and serving self to follow Him. And what good is it to gain some sense of temporary satisfaction by lashing out and forfeit myself and my relationship with Jesus?
Forgiveness of those who hurt us does not come easy, but that is what Jesus calls us to do. Forgiveness is not dependent on whether people acknowledge what they have done or whether they are repentant or not. Forgiveness releases their indebtedness to me for what they have done against me and turns it over to God. Unforgiveness only hurts me. Unforgiveness only eats away at my soul and makes me miserable and bitter. Forgiveness lets go of the hurt to where I choose to stop being victimized by their actions. Forgiveness restores my peace with God.
Relationships are very hard sometimes. But God’s ways are always the right way to live. I take this reminder always from Romans 12:17-18, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
No matter what other people do, as far as it depends on you and me, live at peace with everyone! May God guide you into His peace and may it overflow to touch the lives of those around you.
• The Rev. Dan Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.