Shhh!

The one thing you must stop saying

“I’m learning a lot from your book. I wrote down my story in one paragraph and am focusing not to tell it again.”

(Facebook message I received from a man on Sunday)

He’d just finished reading chapter three in my forgiveness book and he took the challenge! What challenge? To keep quiet.

Let’s be honest. Telling your story might be a little bit fun. Okay, it can be a lot of fun! But it eventually paralyzes you.

After you’ve been hurt, two things usually happen and people rarely connect the dots:

  • You tell your story
  • You struggle to forgive

It turns out your story is part of the problem. Every time you tell someone else what your offender did, you strike a match in your heart lighting a bitter flame.

Quiet Please

I know this about you – you’re telling a story right now. Even if you’re not telling anyone else your story, you’re telling yourself your story. So, what’s your story?

Here are three reasons you should be paying attention to the story you’re telling:

Reason #1: Your Story Fuels Your Emotions

Your mind is like a filing cabinet full of categorized memories. For instance, every time you recall a memory from the emotional category of “anger” you access the other anger memories filed nearby. Maybe you’ve notice when you’re telling your story that you often remember other times you’ve felt angry and you feel yourself suddenly more “fired up”. Your story is fueling your emotions.

Reason #2: Your Story Isolates You

Every time you tell your story, you further isolate yourself from the people you most care about. Repeating your story as a victim quickly removes your warmth. You are pushing people away by rehashing your story. Even though you want to draw sympathy and support, your story sounds like a broken record and people can endure that kind of noise for only so long.

Reason #3: Your Story Reveals Your Heart

“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” -Luke 6:45

Your public words reveal your private heart. Your story is your heart’s MRI. So pay attention to what you’re saying and what you allow your mind to dwell on.

Jesus was:

  • Betrayed by his friend Judas
  • Abandoned by his closest friends, the disciples
  • Rejected by the religious at Caiaphas’ Council
  • Physically and emotionally assaulted by strangers
  • Humiliated in public by Herod
  • Falsely condemned by Pilate
  • Publicly crucified

If anyone was ever entitled to tell his story as a victim, it was Jesus. But he didn’t. Instead, Jesus did something odd.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. — Isaiah 53:3-7, emphasis added

“When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, ‘Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?’ But

Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.” — Matthew 27:12-14, emphasis added

Jesus said nothing.

No story.

Silence.

If his answers had been transcribed, it would have read “. . . .”

As I read these verses, I feel myself begging Jesus to defend himself and shout something like, “People, I’m innocent! I’m holy. I’m your creator. I could speak and the earth would swallow you up. I could dropkick you from Jerusalem to Rome! Don’t you know who I am?”

That’s what I want him to say. That’s the story I would shout.

This treatment of Jesus isn’t fair! These people obviously misunderstood Jesus and his motives. Why didn’t Jesus speak and clear things up?

He could have at least said, “People, I’m here to save you. After all, I created you and I know you intimately. I left Heaven so that we can have a relationship. These charges are false.”

But our Savior said nothing.

The maker of vocal cords waited in complete silence.

I envision extended periods of awkward, pin-drop silence in Pilate’s court. Even today, we’re struck dumb by Jesus’ non-answer answers. Why didn’t he speak?

I believe it’s because Jesus knew something I often forget: words get in the way.

Jesus taught that forgiveness isn’t found in speaking, but in surrendering. Forgiveness isn’t found in defending, but in dying.

That’s why I feel so much encouragement when someone chooses to stop telling his or her victim story. That’s what our Savior did.

That doesn’t mean you should carry your burden alone. Choose one or two people, like your spouse, a close friend, a pastor, or a counselor with whom you can share your story.

But stop telling everyone else.

Period.

Remain silent.

Even pin-drop, awkwardly silent.

 

Desert University

How can you have unshakeable faith?

Have you ever admired someone’s unshakeable faith? No matter what life throws at them, they seem to have this deep trust in God and this big faith. It’s an attractive quality isn’t it?

But how can you have unshakeable faith?

Instead of a deep trust, maybe you find yourself asking, “God, why would you let this happen?,” “Where are you?,” “Does you really care?”

That’s where my mind goes sometimes.

Then I bump into one of those people who displays an unshakeable faith. I’m immediately drawn in while wandering, “How did they get that kind of faith?”

I have noticed the people who have unshakeable faith are always graduates of Desert University.

Desert

Did you know that God has a university? There are no campuses, dorms, or football fields. It’s not mentioned on U.S. New & World Report “top universities” list but it is a profound institution of higher learning.

Graduates of Desert University have a deep faith that others admire.

I’ve taken a few courses there. Maybe you have too.

Every time I talk with someone who has unshakeable faith, I always ask them, “How did you develop such a deep trust in God?” Almost every time they say, “Well, there was this unexpected thing that happened and God brought me through it.”

Maybe you’re going through a desert right now. Maybe you have a broken relationship, a financial hardship, the loss of a loved one, a lengthy illness, a broken marriage, a stalled career, or unfulfilled dreams.

How will you respond? If you’re like most people, here’s how we respond while we’re in the desert.

4 Ways We Respond in The Desert

Level 1: Feel despair

Desert experiences usually surprise us, disappoint us, and last longer than we want. Despair is a natural response.

Question: Do you believe that God is in control? (Fortunately, this doesn’t require you believe that your circumstances are good.)

Level 2: Surrender to what God’s doing IN me

When I view my circumstances as something that’s being done TO me, I resist and fight. But when I view my circumstances as something that’s being done IN me, I surrender and rest.

Question: Are you ready to surrender?

Level 3: Use my experience to serve others

Is it possible that all of this isn’t even about you? You are part of a bigger story God is writing.

Question: Could God use this event to encourage someone else?

Level 4: Use my experience for God’s glory

Jesus was asked why a man was blind from birth (obvious desert)? Jesus said, “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (Jn 9:3)

Question: How can I use my experience to give God the glory?

God’s promise to you while you’re in the Desert

Duet. 32:10-13 “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft. The Lord alone led him; no foreign god was with him.”

If you’re enrolled in Desert University right now, embrace God’s promise even if you don’t feel His presence. You’re on your way toward unshakeable faith.

The desert is the place where God speaks. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” –C.S. Lewis

As God walks with you, someday He’ll whisper these amazing words to you: “You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north.” Duet. 2:3

Have a Broken Relationship? Want to Reconcile? These 6 Guidelines Might Help.

“[Reconciliation] is a risky undertaking, but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation
with reality can bring real healing.” — Desmond Tutu

Last week a lady tearfully told me that her husband was now mending a long-term broken relationship in his life. She was clearly so proud of him! She said he was using the 6 reconciliation guidelines in my book STUCK. Those guidelines seem to be resonating with many people. That is incredibly humbling.

Today, I want to share the guidelines with you. If you know someone with a broken relationship, consider sharing these guidelines with them.

reconciliation

The great paradox of human relationships is that we are created to heal each other from the hurts we inflict on one other. But before we jump into the reconciliation guidelines, let me offer one caution.

RECONCILIATION IS NOT REQUIRED

Reconciliation is not entirely up to you. In fact, it may not be possible or even recommended. Reconciliation is not an option if:

  • Your offender is abusive and reconciling would cause further injury
  • Your offender has died
  • Your offender does not want to reconcile
  • Your offender is unrepentant

It only takes one person to forgive, but it takes two people to reconcile. In Romans 12:18, the Apostle Paul reminds us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (emphasis added).

You are only responsible for your behavior. When it comes to living at peace with others, do your part. But your offender also has a part. If you are the only one making the effort toward reconciliation, then it’s unlikely to happen. If they are unwilling to do their part, reconciliation is not required.

If reconciliation is appropriate, here are the six guidelines I recommend:

Guideline #1: Depend on God

Do you remember the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel? Do you know why they were battling? Because, after a twenty-year separation, Jacob was about to try and reconcile with Esau. So, Jacob wrestled with an angel demanding God’s blessing for what he was about to do. As Genesis 32:26 tells the story, “Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’” (emphasis added). Despite his wisdom and wealth, Jacob was dependent upon God.

Constant prayer helps you maintain a dependent heart throughout the reconciliation process.

Question: When was the last time I prayed for this person and about our broken relationship? It might be wise to stop right now, and ask God for His wisdom and grace.

Guideline #2: Aim for Peace

Peace is much more attainable than trying to fully restore a broken relationship back to where it was. In Romans 12:18, the Apostle Paul reminds us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (emphasis added). The goal of reconciliation is peace.

Maybe you want to reconcile with a parent, child, former spouse, former boss, or former friend. A deeper relationship may eventually develop, but begin by aiming for peace instead of bowing under the pressure of trying to restore a friendship.

Question: Am I hoping things will be like “the good ol’ days”? Or, am I aiming for peace?

Guideline #3: Seek to Understand

Seek to understand the other person’s perspective instead of presenting your side. Prov. 18:13 “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” Resist the urge to present your case or defend yourself.

Instead, quietly listen, then restate the other person’s perspective. Ask them if you’re understanding their perspective accurately. Real progress can be made when they agree that you understand their perspective.

St. Francis of Assisi, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Question: Am I ready to hear their perspective without defending myself?

Guideline #4: Don’t Accuse

If it’s appropriate, share your perspective, but avoid finger-pointing or accusations. One rule-of-thumb is to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, instead of saying, “You betrayed me,” you could say, “I felt betrayed.” “I” statements allow the other person to respond without feeling defensive. Use “I” statements to help you share honestly but without accusations.

Having an objective person present to help you “stay on track” may be helpful.

Question: Who will help me stay on track sharing my perspective vs. defending myself?

Guideline #5: Apologize Early

Early on in the process, find something for which you can offer regret or an apology. An early apology will go a long way toward rebuilding trust and it reveals your humility and commitment to reconciliation.

James 5:16 reads, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Question: What am I specifically and genuinely ready to apologize for?

Guideline #6: One Issue at a Time

Deal with one issue at a time. There may be one major issue of disagreement. However, most broken relationships include many smaller issues of disagreement. In order to accomplish Guideline #3, Seek to Understand, you’ll need to address each issue individually. Make sure the other person feels completely heard and understood on each issue before moving on to the next one.

Question: Am I willing to patiently hear their perspective on each issue?

If you’re thinking about initiating a reconciliation process, I know you feel fear. I sure did. Maybe it will encourage you to read someone else’s reconciliation story. Here’s mine.