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There’s a reason you and I struggle with forgiveness.

But I don’t think it’s because of how deeply we’ve been wounded by another.

Having ministered to women for nearly three decades, I have come to believe that the main reason we often don’t forgive those who offend us is because we have several misconceptions about what forgiveness really means.

Do any of these conditions (or excuses) sound like yours?

  • I’m still dealing with the consequences of how that person hurt me, so I’m not about to forgive that person.  
  • Why should I forgive a person who has never apologized?
  • I’ll forgive him when he proves that he has changed.
  • I never got resolution from this before he died so now I will have to live with his offense — and the inability to forgive him — forever.
  • I refuse to let that person back into my life so forgiveness is not an option.
  • I’ve lost track of that person through the years, so I can’t initiate forgiveness.
  • What that person did to me wasn’t right so I can’t bring myself to let him/her off the hook.

Forgiveness is quite difficult, and in some ways impossible, if we believe we must first receive an apology from the person who offended us. Likewise, we will have difficulty forgiving another person if we are expecting that person to show remorse or evidence of having changed. We can also tend to believe that if we forgive someone, we are giving them a license to hurt us again. I think mostly, though, we withhold our forgiveness because we don’t feel another person has earned it.

In my book, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, I address the healing power of releasing  yourself through forgiveness. We remain in chains of emotional bondage to those we refuse to forgive. By withholding forgiveness we are saying “You will never be able to make this right.” But what we are ultimately saying is:  “I will always hold onto this pain.” That is where you don’t want to be…stuck in a place of pain. When you’re stuck like that you end up living with the burden of bitterness. Instead, you can live freely by freely forgiving. When God forgave us of the debt of our sin, He expected us to then forgive others of their debts toward us (Ephesians 4:32).

Here are some misconceptions we have about forgiveness that often make it difficult for us to forgive someone:

  1. We think forgiveness is excusing a person or letting them off the hook. To forgive someone who has hurt you doesn’t mean you’re letting that person off the hook. It doesn’t mean you’re excusing that person for their offenses. It doesn’t even mean you’re completely over what they’ve done to you. It simply means you are letting yourself off of their emotional hook. When we admit that our offense was real, it hurt, and it’s inexcusable but so is our offense to God, we can forgive another person just as God has forgiven us.
  2.  We think we can forgive only when the offense no longer hurts. The fact is, you may never stop hurting from something someone did to you. But, I truly believe you will begin to heal emotionally when you release another person from the expectation that they will ever be able to reverse that hurt or make things right again.
  3. We think we must wait for an apology.  If you are waiting for your offender to show remorse and apologize for the offense, that apology might never come. Even if it did, your offender will never be able to undo the hurt he or she caused you. If an apology by the offender were necessary in order for you to forgive, then you would never be able to forgive someone who has died and never come clean with you. We are commanded to forgive an offender regardless of that person’s remorse or efforts to gain our forgiveness. Think of forgiveness as a gift that you give to someone because of how God has unreservedly forgiven you.  In fact, think of your forgiveness toward your offender as a gift to God, not necessarily the other person.
  4. We think we must meet face-to-face or resume the relationship. To forgive someone does not mean you are saying “We can be friends again” or “Let’s meet and see if we can restore the relationship.” It also doesn’t mean you are giving someone permission to hurt you again. In fact, you don’t even have to agree to meet with someone in order to forgive them. Forgiveness happens in your heart when you release another person from the expectation that they will ever be able to make right the hurt they caused you and when you stop identifying that person by their offense. You can still have boundaries for your protection and that is wise. But forgiveness does not have to happen in the context of a face-to-face encounter or even a verbal exchange. In the case that your offender is deceased, you can still truly forgive that person in your heart (in a conversation between you and God), even if you never had the chance to tell them.
  5. We’re afraid we won’t be able to forget the offense. Sometimes when we choose to forgive, we find we don’t forget the offense and then we believe we failed at forgiveness. When God said in Isaiah 43:25 that He would remember our sins no more, it didn’t mean He was commanding us to do the same when we forgive others. To forgive and forget is something only God is capable of. We have memories and, perhaps for our protection, we tend to remember hurtful things. When the offense comes to mind, remind yourself  “I have released that person from their obligation toward me” and move on, mentally and emotionally. To remember doesn’t necessarily mean you are holding a grudge. It could just mean that your memory kicks in, at times, to warn you of danger or to protect you from further heartache or offenses. The important thing is that you don’t let the offense — or the offender — continue to keep you on their emotional hook.

Just as I have seen the bitterness in people’s eyes when they refuse to forgive, I’ve also seen the freedom come when a person opens their heart to God’s healing process by saying “Just as You have forgiven me of my offenses toward You, I release this person who has offended me into Your hands and trust You will take care of the situation.”

Can you make that first move to forgive your offender – and release yourself? You won’t be letting the other person off the hook. You will, instead be releasing yourself to live freely by freely forgiving.

“Why did I have to hurt like this?”

It’s a question we often ask to try to make sense of God and our pain.

It’s a question Sharon has often asked, while trying to make sense of the physical abuse, incest, and other horrific events that accompanied her childhood. Feeling for years that God hated her, Sharon buried her pain deep inside and blamed a god she believed was just like her angry, abusive, manipulative father.

“I had a love-hate relationship with God,” Sharon told me. “I wanted Him to help me, but I saw Him as mean and cruel and looking down at me with His finger pointed at me. I had a lot of faith, but I also had a lot of anger. There was a disconnect between my belief in God and what God looked like on a daily basis.”

Finally, Sharon admitted, “I had to believe in a God so different from the One I believed Him to be; I had to believe that the good God was real and the bad god was a lie.” And she did that be reshaping her understanding of Who God is.

You can reshape your understanding of God by getting into His Word and discovering, as Sharon did, that:

  • God isn’t one who considers us “bad” but One who said in His Word: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).
  • He isn’t a god who points his finger at us and waits to punish us. He is, instead, the God who said in His Word, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you …thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • He isn’t a god who desires that we be punished. He is the God who is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).
  • He isn’t a god who will withdraw his love from us if we do something he doesn’t like. He is the God who says nothing can ever separate us from His love. (Romans 8:38).

Is it possible that, through your hurts and heartaches, you have perceived God as being very different than He actually is? Maybe you haven’t done that intentionally. Perhaps, like Sharon, you just put a face on Him that resembles someone who has hurt you. Many women, like Sharon did, tend to believe that God is very much like their earthly father. Therefore, if they had a father who was angry, abusive, absent, disapproving, or just emotionally uninvolved, they tend to see God as the same way. But the only way we can let God heal our hearts of the hurt we’ve experienced is to understand and get to know Him as He really is. As Scripture says He is.

Once she knew the truth of Who God is, Sharon knew she could trust Him with healing her heart.

Even if your wounds aren’t as intense as Sharon’s it does not make them any less painful to you. So I want to encourage you to take some of the steps Sharon took to find what she ultimately found — perfect love from a good and caring God, peace and contentment from the pain and confusion, and the real transformation that comes from being willing to say, “God, I trust who You are and believe You will make me into the person You want me to be.”

Sharon’s process of healing looked like this:

List what’s still lingering inside of you

Sharon began recording in journals the events in life that she remembered had caused her pain. As she “got it out by writing it out” onto paper, it was as if God was stripping the pain out of her heart at the same time.

If this is something you’re ready to do, take time, perhaps every morning, to sit and just write in a journal what God leads you to write – memories that still plague you, offenses that come to mind now and then, what you’d like to forget, but can’t seem to. As you write them out, tell God you want them out of your heart and mind as well. Release the power that they might have on you by recognizing that God’s power is even stronger to redeem them into something good.

Look to Scripture to reshape your understanding of God

What have you believed about God that isn’t true? Have you believed He is Someone who has punished you through the pain in your life? Someone who judges you and waits for you to mess up? Someone who is aloof and doesn’t really care? Or, do you rightfully believe He is Someone who is intimately acquainted with all your ways and loves you beyond reason?

Go to the Scriptures with an open mind to receive the truth of Who God says He is. As you let the Word of God replace the lies, you can begin to live and operate in the truth.

Let God examine you and show you what needs to go

Sharon says before she started writing things down “Everything in me was empty and God had to rebuild this woman.” But, she said, “Those are the moments I cherished more than anything – those moments when I said ‘God, just work on me. I don’t need a man in my life. I don’t need certain blessings, I just need You to make me clean.’”

A large part of Sharon’s healing process involved praying to the true God of the Scriptures and asking Him to heal her in every way, using Psalm 139:23-24 as a guide:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”

“My goal was for God to search me and strip out everything in me that was not good, that was damaged, that was wounded,” Sharon said.

Sharon is whole today because she sought the true God of the Scriptures and asked Him to apply to her the cleansing power of His Word. Today she projects a hope and a passion for life and is directly involved in helping others find the healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. That is God’s transforming presence – God’s healing – in her life.

Get into God’s Word and find out who He really is. You may find that it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to your healing and wholeness.

(This article is adapted from Cindi’s book, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts.)

  • October 30, 2014

Have you ever looked back on an incident in your life and wondered: Where was God, anyway? Didn’t He care? What kind of God would let me go through something like that?

Christina could’ve easily asked those questions. But instead, she is one who praises God is spite of the pain she grew up with and chooses to see His protection and provision, rather than His punishment.

Considered by others around her as one of life’s throw-aways from the time she was a young child, Christina saw more than most of us ever care to during her early years of life. Raised by her parents to make and manufacture drugs, she suffered physical abuse, lived her childhood on the run, and even remembers searching through dumpsters for food for her brothers and sisters. But even in the midst of the junk she grew up with, she knows God saw her little heart and was preparing for her a life – and a ministry.

God Saw Your Story

The Bible tells us there is nothing about us that God is not fully aware of. And He has our best at heart.

After nearly 30 years of ministering to women, I have found that an important step to healing and wholeness is to reject the lie that God didn’t care about the hurt you experienced.

It may be easy for you to believe that God didn’t care about you and that’s why you’ve experienced pain in your life. But a closer examination of the Bible tells us that God is intimately acquainted with the events of our lives. In fact, in many situations in my life and in the lives of women I know, He is the One who has protected and comforted, in spite of the pain we have endured in life.

If you tend to believe God wasn’t there, or didn’t care about you, consider these truths from Psalm 139:

  • God intimately examines you, not to find your faults, but to know all about you (verse 1).
  • He knows where you hang out, what time you get up in the morning, and what you’re thinking before the thought even comes your way. Not only are you noticed, you are constantly watched over (verse 2).
  • He places hedges around you to keep you safe. In other words, God hovers over you (verse 5).
  • He won’t let you wander out of His sight. He is aware of everywhere you go. He sticks to you like glue (verses 7-12).

Yes, God was there with you, alright. He has never let you out of His sight.

So Where Was the Rescue?

So if God constantly monitors our whereabouts and has our ways memorized, why does He seem to stand by and allow hurts to run havoc in our lives at times? We know that God often has a purpose behind our pain and is shaping us into someone who can be a blessing in the lives of others. Now let me present another element to the question. What if God did rescue you in your situation but you didn’t realize it? What if the pain you experienced was actually part of your deliverance from what could have been a deeper or more devastating pain?

Christina doesn’t hold God responsible for what she grew up with. Rather, Christina looks back at certain situations and sees God’s protection over her, rather than His negligence.

When she was a young teenager caring for her siblings, she recalls a strange man coming into their house one afternoon. They often had strange people coming in to the home to buy drugs, but she knew something in particular was not right with him. She made eye contact with him and heard him ask her mother “how much?” Immediately sensing danger, Christina rushed her brothers and sisters into a closet in the back of the house and told them all “We need to pray.”

She started praying and pleading: “Please God, don’t let this happen.” She didn’t know what was coming, but had an overwhelming sense of dread and an urge to pray for God’s protection over herself.

As she and her little brothers and sisters prayed and called out to Jesus for help, she sensed a peace and a confidence and, in her childlike faith, walked back out into the room where her mother and the strange man were waiting. As soon as Christina made eye contact with the man again, he bolted out of the house and never returned.

“I know now that greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world,” Christina said, quoting First John 4:4 and referring to God’s presence in her that apparently caused the man who had intended to do her harm to run. “I wasn’t mature in my faith. No one had taught me the Word or discipled me since that prayer I prayed at Vacation Bible School. But I knew God’s presence was with me and I could cry out to Him for help.”

After the man fled, the intensity of the moment was confusing and upsetting and Christina started to cry. She ran into the bedroom to check on her siblings and found them all asleep -all five of them. She then came back into the other room and her mom and stepdad were asleep too.

“It was as if God had put His hand over the entire home and hushed it…lulled everyone to sleep.

“The bottom line is God was in control,” she said. Instead of pointing a finger at God and saying “You could’ve prevented this!” she now praises Him for protecting her from so much more that could’ve happened.

God promised in His Word that He will never leave us or desert us (Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 139: 7-11), So He was there for you, too. Maybe you just don’t remember the sudden turn of events in which something worse could’ve happened, but didn’t. Maybe you don’t recall or even realize the rescues. Yet God cared. He knew what He was doing in allowing whatever happened in your life. And He’s here now to redeem your hurts into something greater than you have imagined.

(This article is adapted from Cindi’s book, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts.)

  • October 30, 2014

If you’ve ever found yourself saying “This wasn’t supposed to happen” I know how you feel.

I, too, found myself saying that at 19 years old when my father’s alcoholism was revealed and my parents divorced. I was raised in the church so that was the last thing I expected to happen in my family. Everything I found security in seemed to crumble beneath me. I found myself wondering why God didn’t hold my family together. Why didn’t He prevent the brokenness from happening? Why did He allow this hurt to happen?

My comfort came – and the questions were stilled – when I stumbled upon these verses in the Bible:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

It was as if God was saying “I know what is going on here, Cindi, and although you don’t understand it, you must trust Me through it.” I realized then that it wasn’t so important for me to understand why I was hurting, but it was essential that I trust the One who, in love, was allowing the hurt to happen.

I chose to trust God that day, rather than question Him. And I can honestly tell you that today, almost 30 years later, God has worked that entire situation for good in my life (by working a deeper trust in me and showing me how to be compassionate toward those who hurt), in the life of my father, who is now 30 years sober and ministering to countless other alcoholics, and in the lives of my other family members. Did God cause those hurtful situations in my family? No. But He was able to work through them to bring some purpose out of our pain.

Our lives often don’t go as planned, but don’t think for a minute that anything that has happened in your life took God by surprise.

After 30 years of ministering to women, as well as experiencing pain in my own life (a little of which I mentioned above), I can assure you that God has a reason and He knows what He’s doing in allowing whatever breaks your heart, slows you down, or produces pain.

In my book, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, I offer ten steps toward healing and wholeness. The first step is to realize there’s a reason and a purpose behind your pain. I know that’s easier said than done so let me give you three practical ways to start trusting this loving, all-knowing God on a daily basis – even when you’re hurting:

Thank God in the Midst of Your Pain

Scripture says “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (First Thessalonians 5:18, emphasis added). To be able to say “Thank you, God, even though I don’t understand this” is not only an act of obedience in which you live out God’s will for your life, but it is an act of faith. (And Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please Him….) Can you practice this crucial step of faith and obedience right now by thanking Him for each painful memory you have, not because you feel thankful, but because you’re commanded to be thankful…and because you desire to please His heart?

Tell God You’re Ready to Grow

Hurtful times are opportunities to grow closer to God. Tell Him you’re ready to see what He wants you to see and to know Him in the way that He desires. By doing this you are placing yourself in the position where He can teach you what He wants you to learn. Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” To say “God, I’m ready to grow” is another way of seeking Him and His refining work in your life.

Trust the Process

Even if you can’t see anything good coming out of your pain, trust the process God is allowing you to go through which will prepare you for something greater later. He really does, in all things, work “for the good of those who love him….” (Romans 8:28). And the very next verse tells us how God works all things together for our good: “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…” (verse 29, emphasis added). So if you’re going through heartache and you don’t understand why, trust that God is working on your character to make you more like Christ. And can’t we endure a little pain if it makes us more like Him, when we consider all that Christ endured for us so that we could someday be with Him?

So start trusting today that the One who loves you and won’t let anything touch your life that hasn’t first gone through His loving hands has a reason for what He’s allowing. He wants you to be more like Him.

Can you take that huge step of trusting He has a reason for the pain in your life?

(Read more about the Ten Steps to Healing and Wholeness in Cindi’s book, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts.)

  • October 30, 2014

I’m sure you know what it’s like to wait upon God for something and to wonder, at times, if He’s even listening at all.

I remember waiting upon God for a second child and wondering if He was even there during that struggle. But now I realize – 20 years later and still no second child – that God knew what He was doing all along. He did hear my prayers. He did see my tears. And He had a better plan.

It’s difficult to imagine how God can have a purpose or happy ending to our life’s story when we’re right in the middle of longing for something more or missing something we once had. But God sees our story from beginning to end and He knows exactly what He is preparing us for even if we can’t imagine He’s doing anything on our behalf.

As I wrote my book, When God Sees Your Tears, I was encouraged by the story of Hannah in the Bible who wanted a baby so badly she offered to give him back to God if He would just give her a son. She didn’t get that son immediately, but Scripture says “in due time” God gave her a son (First Samuel 1:20) who would be one of Israel’s greatest prophets and priests and who would help turn the nation’s heart back toward God.

I’m encouraged through that story that while Hannah just wanted a baby, God wanted to give her a legacy. While Hannah was watching the clock, God was watching a country, getting ready to release a bigger plan. And when Hannah offered back to God what she longed for most, she received even more than she had requested.

If you’re in the frustrating place of trying to get God’s ear, I want to encourage your heart with three sources of hope in the midst of what might seems like unanswered prayer:

Hope in God’s Word

Did you know that God cannot contradict His Word? While He has guidelines in Scripture that are not necessarily promises, there are passages that contain promises that hold true as we obey Him. For example, 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (NKJV). His Word further tells us: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). Hold Him to His Word and you have hope to hold onto, as well.

Hope in God’s Character

God also cannot contradict Himself. So when He says in His Word that He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), He will do just that. He will take care of what you place in His hands. The more you get to know Him, the more you will trust Him. The more you trust Him, the less you will doubt, worry, fear, or give up. Psalm 62:8 further tells us: “Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (NASB). God is a refuge for our sorrows, prayers, and requests that we can’t take anywhere else. And He will not tell us to pour out our hearts to Him and then not listen. He can be trusted, as well as His word.

Hope in His Timing

God knows exactly when you are ready to receive the desire of your heart, and He will not act a moment too soon or a moment too late when it comes to doing what is eternally best for you. He determined what was eternally best for me was not that I have a second child, but that I birth a writing and speaking ministry to women. Because of that, I now have many more “spiritual children” than I had thought to ask for. Many times God’s gifts to us are the very things He decides to withhold…until the timing is right.

When you are in the long haul of waiting and you aren’t getting a yes, will you trust that what you might think is a no might really be His wait? It’s possible He has something even better for you than you have thought to request. Deuteronomy 32:4 says His works are perfect and all His ways are just and He is “a faithful God who does no wrong.” He knows best. Therefore, His timing is always perfect.

Keep hoping in Him, my friend. Hope in His Word, His Character, and His timing. He hears your prayers, He sees your tears, and He can be trusted with your heart.

  • October 30, 2014

You, too, may have heard it all your life: God is in complete control of everything.

But, oh how that rubs when the crud of life comes your way.

What do you tell a young woman who is pregnant with her first child when her husband of less than a year abandons her?

What do you tell the wife of a pastor who is shot dead on his church campus on a Saturday morning while serving the needs of his congregation?

What do you say to the woman who has served God all her life but now struggles with a cancer that is eating away at her bones?

All three of those women talked with me recently about the amazing things that happen when God sees their tears. All three of them have a closeness with God that I long for. And I can see already, that all three of them are leaving a legacy…not just in their life but in the lives of others.

As I wrote my book, When God Sees Your Tears, I had to grapple with those questions we ask and those situations we still struggle to comprehend. And while I don’t have answers this side of heaven for some of your hurts, I do know this: God knows every detail of your life. He hears every one of your prayers. And He sees every tear that is shed.

God not only sees your tears, but His Word says He collects them in a bottle (Psalm 56:8, NASB). He is mindful of all that is on our hearts and all He wants to do in our lives to bring about His desired purposes.

But what if God’s “desired purposes” don’t sound real attractive to you right now?

It’s one thing to blame yourself, your circumstances, or other people for the cruddy things that happen in life. But when we recognize God is in control over everything, it’s hard not to blame Him for what appears to be going wrong. I know of many people who have responded with anger – toward God or their circumstances – when life took a different turn than they planned. At least those people have the basics right….at the end of the day, when all is said and done, God really is in control of all things.

So if God is going to do whatever He wants with our lives, regardless of our permission or understanding in the process, how do we come to the point where we are okay with that? The Bible says “joy” awaits those who “remain” in His presence or surrender to His will (Psalm 16:11, John 15:10-11).

So, here’s how you and I can “remain in Him” when we’re stuck in a situation we don’t like:

Trust God With Your Entire Story

We often see only a chapter in our lives, but God sees our complete story from beginning to end. God also sees what we and others will glean from our story, as well as how He can be glorified. Sometimes we don’t get to see the way He works it all for good this side of heaven. But as you trust Him with what He has planned – even the things that only He can see right now – you will experience His peace. And eventually, His joy.

Tell Him All That’s On Your Heart

Hannah, whose story is recorded in the Bible’s book of First Samuel, is an example of a woman who was frustrated, hurt and angry with her circumstances. She couldn’t conceive a child. And to add insult to injury, she was mocked and ridiculed for it by her husband’s other wife. Yet she poured out her heart to God in prayer and told Him if He’d give her a son, she’d give him back to God for the rest of his days. She didn’t just pray and see God grant her petition. She poured her heart out, in anguish (First Samuel 1:1-20). As you do that, the peace of God that passes understanding will guard your heart and mind (Philippians 4:6-7).

Turn Your Desire Over to Him

When Hannah offered back to God what she wanted most in life, she finally received her long-awaited son. And then she physically gave him back to God again. Therein lies the key: Are you wanting something so badly you’re willing to offer it back to God if He gives it to you? When God sees our surrender, He often gives us what we ask because He knows we will consider it His and surrender it back to Him. It’s possible God wants you to be so desperate for something that you’re willing to surrender it to Him, as well. Why would God give us everything we want if it led us further from Him? (That may be why God doesn’t answer most people’s prayers to win the lottery!) Ask God to give you a desire for Him that is even stronger than whatever else you desire right now so that when He finally gives it, you will freely offer it back to Him.

Trust the Process

When Hannah finally received her child, she raised him for a few short years and then followed through on her promise to give him back to God. Into a corrupt worship system she surrendered him, but trusted that God was big enough to shield her child from negative influences and bring about His will for her son’s life. God did more than that. He took Hannah’s little boy, Samuel, and turned him into one of Israel’s greatest prophets and priests at a time when the nation was most in need of godly leadership. Samuel anointed Israel’s first two kings and left a spiritual legacy …for both his mother and himself. But Hannah’s little boy never could’ve done that if she hadn’t been desperate enough to offer him back to God and trusting enough to do it at a time when it looked like a ridiculous thing to do (First Samuel 1:21-2:26).

You may not understand what God is doing in the midst of your circumstances, but trust the process. If you are surrendered to Him, acknowledging that He really can work all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), then nothing but a grand adventure awaits. Pour out your heart before this God who knows you and hears you and sees your tears. Trust the process that He is working through, even though you can’t see it right now. And most of all, trust what happens when God sees your tears.

  • October 30, 2014

Do you know what it’s like to ask God for something and to keep receiving a “no”?

I do. And it hurts. But I’ve learned through the years that God’s “no” is often a gift greater than what I had originally asked for.

Whether I was trying to get a book published, trying to have a child, or trying to pry open a door of opportunity, every time I received a “no” I later learned what God was really saying was “Wait – I have something far better for you than you thought to ask for.” Yet all I could see in front of me was a rejection letter. More waiting. Another closed door. Discouragement.

Hannah, a woman we read about in the Old Testament, knew that discouragement, too. She longed to have a baby. Yet we find twice in the first few lines of her story that the reason for Hannah’s infertility was “because the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5-6).

Ouch! Now, I would feel so much better if that sentence about Hannah read “because she was unable to bear children.” But that verse specifically tells us that the Lord was the One withholding from Hannah the one thing she wanted most in life.

We’d like to think God is behind only the blessings we receive in life and therefore we have a hard time wrapping our minds around the possibility that God would allow – or even arrange – certain difficulties to come our way. Yet that is one of the primary ways He awakens our need for Him, grows our dependence on Him, shapes our character, and draws us closer to Himself.

In Hannah’s case she became so desperate to have a son that she poured out her heart to God in prayer, promising to give her son back to God if He were to finally give her one. It was then, after Hannah came to that place of complete surrender, that we read God’s gracious, yet timely response: “And the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son…” (1 Samuel 1:19-20).

Hannah got her long-awaited son, but years later than she had anticipated. The apparent “no” from God was really “wait.” And the wait turned out to be the best blessing of all. Hannah didn’t have just any baby. She had a son named Samuel who became one of Israel’s greatest prophets and priests. He not only anointed Israel’s first two kings, but he helped turn the nation’s heart back toward God. Wow. Hannah simply asked God for a baby. But God wanted to give her – and a nation – so much more than she asked. So He waited and did it in His timing, not hers.

Scripture tells us that God can do “all things. No plan of (His) can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Scripture also tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV). So if every gift is from God, and you’re praying for a “gift” and it’s not arriving, God is the One who, for some reason, is deciding to withhold that gift. And, I have learned through the years that some of God’s best “gifts” to us are the very things He decides to withhold.

God’s “gifts” sometimes take the form of difficulties, losses, frustrations and outright pain. We don’t originally see them as gifts, but more like disappointments, aggravations, or even rejection. But they are gifts, nonetheless, that are given to us to grow us to a new level in our spiritual life or to prepare us for something better that God has in store for us, or perhaps to even help us see something extraordinary about God that we couldn’t see before.

I remember not wanting to accept one of the “gifts” God was giving me, primarily because I saw it as His withholding, not as His giving. I struggled with not being able to have a second child (what doctors now refer to as secondary infertility). It was a struggle for me because I remember “claiming” Psalm 84:11 as my promise that I would have another child: “No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly (NASB).”

“Surely another baby is a good thing, God,” I prayed. “Certainly You will not withhold.” And yet God did. Apparently what God considered a “good thing” in my life was not birthing a second child, but birthing a writing and speaking ministry, instead. Although, at the time, I felt that God was withholding something from me, I can today see His withholding as a “gift” in terms of a different life direction that He had for me.

Through the years I’ve seen, over and over again, that God’s idea of a good thing (and ultimately what’s best for me in my faith walk with Him) may be completely different than mine. Although my opinion has often differed from God’s in His early stages of withholding something from me, I have learned to not question the wisdom and actions of an all-knowing, all-loving God who is much more capable of managing my life than I am.

I do not have a second child today because the Lord had closed my womb. But I could also say “I am living the dream God has placed on my heart (through my writing and speaking) because the Lord had closed my womb.”

I could give you a lengthy list of other “gifts” that I have received at God’s hand, but didn’t originally see as gifts because they all included the phrase because the Lord had….:

I didn’t marry Mike because the Lord had changed his heart.
I lost a good friend, because the Lord had taken her away.
I went through a season of loss, because the Lord had shut the door.

But there are other ways of looking at those same “gifts” (or withholdings):

I married Hugh because the Lord had changed Mike’s heart.
I was spared further hurt, because the Lord had taken her away.
I can minister to women today because the Lord had shut that door.

What are some because the Lord had phrases that have impacted your life and caused your tears to flow? Are you a woman who is where she is today…

…because the Lord had closed that door?
…because the Lord had changed his heart?
…because the Lord let you get cancer?
…because the Lord had not healed her?

Oh, my friend, God has His reason for why He has allowed or prevented something from happening in your life. And it’s not because He wanted to punish you or make your life miserable. It’s not because He didn’t love you or didn’t care about you or didn’t hear your prayers. It’s very possible that He wants to bless you from another angle. And it’s very possible He wants you to realize that the one thing you need the most – your one missing piece – is Himself.

(This article is adapted from Cindi’s book, When God Sees Your Tears.)

  • October 30, 2014
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