If so, you can get this story that begins in the little town of Bethlehem. A young mother whose baby boy is slaughtered when soldiers come looking for Messiah to kill him struggles with her grief and despair.
It’s easy to read stories in the Bible and think they are just stories, but those people lived real lives just like us. What would you do if your child was murdered?
Rachel’s story takes us through unimaginable pain. She can’t find comfort anywhere she looks. And to make matters worse, the one hope she had in life, the coming of Messiah, is tainted by the fact that he is the reason he son is dead.
What does it take for Rachel to finally forgive the Forgiver?
Two young men said the same thing to me as I led them at separate times to the restroom to change after being baptized at our church last weekend. It was my group’s task and privilege to direct the soaking wet people to the facilities so they wouldn’t get lost. I congratulated them again before pointing out the basket for their towels sitting outside the restrooms.
As we walked, both said they had been running from God for years. One said it had been a decade. They both knew God was calling out to them, pursuing them with his kindness and love. I don’t know either one personally, but at our church, each week we celebrate each person who decides to start a relationship with Jesus. Then, every couple of months, we have baptism Sunday during which time after our services, believers choose to be submerged in water to show publicly the choice they made in their heart. It’s an incredible time of hearing how God has loved his children into his arms through his grace.
I don’t know if you’ve been running from God or you know him and have just been running from something he’s told you to do. Maybe you didn’t even realize you were running until reading this, but now you feel a tugging at your heart, and you know that it’s God.
Both young men described the place where they finally let go of trying to figure out things their own way and gave in to God. Their radiant faces and excited voices proved they were so glad they did.
Another young man being baptized said he’d been in a state of deep depression for ten years. I’m not sure how old he was (everyone looks young to this aging lady now), but I thought how sad he had struggled through what appeared to be his teen and/or young adult years. He showed up at our church only a few days prior to this, said yes to Jesus, and for the first time in years was free from the heaviness of depression.
We cheered with him.
I later learned that one of the guys I walked with had been a serious gang member before he quit running and gave in to Jesus. A woman shared how she lost her son and so many other things in recent years. After turning to Jesus, she found love and peace, a community to be a part of, and the man who she claimed is the “love of her life.” The truth of this showed in the way he stood with tears in his eyes, supporting her and celebrating with her.
Story after story of young, even children, and old—a woman closer to my age who knew Jesus but had never been baptized—told of how they just said “yes.”
It’s that simple.
God created and loves all of us. He won’t stop pursuing us with that love even if we turn to a life of crime, ignore him, or think we aren’t worthy. He doesn’t want to shame us or condemn us, he wants to cover us and draw us into a close relationship with him. Jesus took all our sin on him to make the way clear for us to enter into the holy presence of God.
It’s as simple as stopping our running, turning around, and running into his arms.
If you’ve been running, you can stop now and tell him you’re sorry, you need him, and you want him to change your life with his forgiveness, grace, and presence.
Do you believe in heaven? An eternity in a glorious place with God our Father and Jesus, our redeemer and friend? Eternal beauty, love, kindness, and all things good?
Or do you believe that when we die, we disintegrate into nothingness? Life over means nothing more than done—game over? Two years, a hundred years, or any space of time in between equals zero for eternity?
Either way, what happens to every situation we’ve lived through? What about every bad thing done to us? Every mean word spoken? Will we take with us into eternity or oblivion all the awful, hurtful, damaging actions and works we experienced over the years?
As a believer in Jesus Christ, I accept what the Bible says about Jesus coming back to take us home to heaven for eternity. I look forward to the day I will stand in the glorious presence of my God. No more pain. He will wipe away all our tears. (Revelation 21:4) I also believe that hell is a real situation where anyone who chose to dismiss or curse Jesus will get to live out their desire to not be bothered with or subjected to anything of God. Eternal separation from him.
I also believe that according to the Bible, each of us will give an account to God for every word and act. I’m grateful that Jesus died for me because I could never do everything right enough to stand in the presence of Almighty God.
But regardless of what you believe, will it matter?
If your life ends in nothingness, will you care about the mean things spoken to you by a classmate, neighbor, or parent? Will you remain in pain from the abuse or evil inflicted on you?
If you, like me, believe in heaven as a follower of Jesus, do you really think your concerns over anything bad in your life will be your focus? Or will you be in awe of and enthralled by our Savior?
Every day, we hear or read stories of terrible things done to people. Or we experience something cruel done to us. In the moment, it’s reasonable to feel hurt or anger, and we need to grieve and process those situations.
But in the end, will they matter?
If we can admit that they won’t, then how long would we hold a grudge? Why would we retaliate? How might we act differently than what we’ve chosen up until now?
Eternal separation from God means an existence of torment. God gives us that choice. Perhaps, in that case, we will be tortured every moment by every harsh word spoken to us, or that we’ve spoken. Each hurtful thing done might replay over and over in front of us. Maybe every bad thing we’ve participated in will be a daily anguish to relive. I guess it might matter then…
The way I see it, letting it go, forgiving it all makes sense no matter what you believe about the future.
We are approaching World Day Against Human Trafficking at the end of this week. July 30th marks a day when all over the world, more people will be made aware of this atrocity. This post titled Betrayal that I read recently on Red Tent Living, took this to new depths for me. I know that evil in the world is increasing and being uncovered. We as Christians are not perfect, but being perfected by the power of the Holy Spirit. But it seems that we are seeing a wider chasm between those who truly follow Christ and intentionally live that out daily and those who claim the title, but revel in the world’s spiraling downfall of sin.
Is there a more brutal betrayal?
On a residential street lined with leafless trees, I had just reached my car, feeling relaxed from a massage, when my phone rang. My husband was coming home. He worked so much my heart leapt. Maybe we’d get take-out and watch a movie as we snuggled up. Yanked from my reverie, I heard, “I’ve been accused of sexual harassment.” Suddenly, the overtime, the snazzy outfits, and the STD he’d explained away took on new meaning. I collected my wits. This wasn’t a phone conversation.
In a panic, I called my counselor and left a message. I can never repay her for calling me back that night and grounding me as the earth quaked beneath me. I’m not sure how I drove home safely.
In the privacy of our home, I learned that the harassment my husband was dismissed for was only the tip of the iceberg. There are no words for the pain of discovering that my beloved—the one man I had begun to trust, who knew my story of being trafficked as a child—was purchasing trafficked women. How could my beloved…the charming, respected, Christian leader…be a “john”? I well knew that Christians purchase trafficked women, but I’d married a good man, hadn’t I?
I reeled from the data of his unchecked sexual addiction. It was so like my childhood abuse, and he…suddenly so like my perpetrators. The level of duplicity, lies, deception, heinous sexuality, cruelty, and remorselessness… Perhaps the most difficult of all his betrayals—he had used my story to get in with women and to fan the flames of his twisted desires.
I tried to gather the pieces of the man I so desperately wanted him to be and put them back together, but they no longer fit. I couldn’t unsee the other man. Who would believe me? I couldn’t. And yet, I knew this other man; my abusive childhood had habituated me to betrayal. I used to question how I could have married a good man. Heartbreakingly, I now knew that he fit into my story like a missing puzzle piece.
Divorce wasn’t supposed to be my story.
We were supposed to be holding hands in old age. But it became clear he was committed to not engaging his brokenness, and I began to believe I was worth more.
As a divorcèe, I have learned that even in this modern era I am an outsider. A friend once told me, “The stigma of divorce is still very real.” I didn’t want to believe that but, sadly, it’s true. A thousand experiences conveyed this; I’ll share two.
Though few knew the details of my husband’s betrayals, in a coupled world there was immense societal pressure to repair or tolerate his addiction. It was bewildering and excruciating how seldom any responsibility was placed with him. This painted for me our cultural view of women. It didn’t matter what the betrayal, how profound it was, or how repentant or unrepentant my husband—it was my fault and mine to repair.
My childhood trauma is easy to blame, but his addiction pre-dated our relationship. And even if it hadn’t, what we don’t say is that there are things that no one should ask of his or her spouse. I’m not sure how it became woven into our cultural belief that men can’t help themselves, but they have as much agency as women, and it has been used to wield great harm. Dear reader, my husband chose to break our covenantal vows. He chose how he broke them. And he chose not to seek healing.
If I may be so bold, I know some of you may have a similar story. Your spouse also has agency and you deserve to be honored. However it comes about—whether through your spouse’s repentance or your leaving—you deserve more.
As I mourned, I came to see my trauma as a death. The death of my marriage. The death of my beloved in my life. The death of our dreams for the future. The death of my hope of having children in my arms. It was the rending apart of lives intertwined for a decade and a half. But I began to realize that in our culture we have no traditions of mourning divorce. There are no flowers or cards. No meals brought by friends. No mourning clothes. No bereavement leave. No funeral. No graveside service. No marker upon which to weep. I was wholly alone. It was me and my four-footed friend trying to wake for another day, sort out how to make ends meet, and fight for the hope of a brighter future…a future too far off to see.
I am in a better place now, but it’s still a battle. Every weekend, vacation, holiday, and child’s laugh, I’m reminded how alone I am and the dreams that once were.
The author prefers to remain anonymous.
I applaud this woman for choosing to move forward in spite of horrific situations. To survive being trafficked is horrendous enough without living through this on top of it. I pray her story will encourage many others in their journey.
You can do your part in the fight against trafficking.
If you have been a part of this–whether by choice or coercion– know that it is never too late to turn around. Jesus already forgave you and by acknowledging that, he can make a way out where there seems to be no way.
If you would like to help, but you aren’t sure how, you can become educated through reading or participating in local, national, or international organizations who are in the fight. Here are some I support and learn from:
A21https://www.a21.org/– based in Australia this international group fights with awareness, intervention, and aftercare
Not for Salehttps://www.notforsalecampaign.org/ – originally based in San Francisco reaches areas that are most impoverished to create better situations to reduce trafficking where it starts
There are many others, but these are my current personal choices which I support from the proceeds of a couple of my books that deal with trafficking. I give half of the proceeds from those sales each year.
For this week, July 25th – July 30th, by purchasing either Dangerous Groundor A Mighty Wind, you will get to enjoy reading a novel while learning a little more about this subject AND you will be giving to an important cause at a crucial time. I will donate 100% of the proceeds to these three listed organizations. It can be a way of you giving to help those in this situation. Perhaps you would like to share a copy, give a couple to friends and family, or donate some to your local organizations!
Thank you in advance from those who are healing or still need rescue.
When hard things, bad experiences, challenging situations occur, how often do we wonder if maybe God is angry with us? Did he cause the problem? Allow it to teach us something so we’ll finally get our act together?
I’ve entertained these thoughts.
I used to wonder if God was disappointed in me or angry because I did something wrong or bad again. Was he punishing me? Judging my behavior and actions?
If I could just do better, would my life work out or would things become easier?
It’s true that evil brings up his righteous anger. He is a just God and does not tolerate injustice. He hates what hurts us and his children who he loves.
That’s you and me.
One day, those who don’t want anything to do with him will answer to him. We will have to account for our actions. But that day isn’t today.
Today, God is calling to us in love.
He sent Jesus to carry all the sin on him. Every bad, wrong, evil word, thought, and action. Because God loves us and wants us to be reconciled to him. To live with him forever in peace and his glorious presence.
The Bible tells us that while we were still sinners, he made a way for us to come into his presence. Through Jesus. Because of his grace for us. Jesus died so we could be righteous. When we accept his gracious gift of taking on our sins, we can stand in the presence of God covered with Christ’s righteousness.
Because God isn’t mad at us. He loves us.
The enemy will tell us we aren’t worthy.
True. That’s why Jesus died in our place. To make us worthy.
The enemy will accuse us of needing to be perfect to approach God.
Jesus grants us his perfection so we can go boldly to God.
The enemy lies about us and who God created us to be.
But we are God’s creation, children—he calls us a royal priesthood!
It’s time to stop listening to the accuser. Stop agreeing with a liar. Quit entertaining shame and guilt.
Acknowledge the truth that we aren’t good on our own, but gratefully accept Jesus’s sacrifice for us and turn our hearts humbly toward God.
He delights in us. Sings over us. Embraces us.
When I run to him, even in my sin, he welcomes me and reminds me that he knew and had a plan for that.
We’re diving deep into what God means when he talks about submission.
We began with I Peter 3:1 which tells wives to submit to their husbands—and often it’s left right there without further understanding of what God is communicating.
That’s why we’re looking back at the previous chapter to get an idea of what “in the same way” means. You can read Part 1 here if you want to get caught up.
Today, we’re going back to start in chapter 2 verse 17 where it says that submission means showing proper respect to others and loving those who believe and fear God.
This kind of surprised me.
I expected the passage to talk about everyone, not just other believers. But then I understood why we start with other believers.
Think about it.
If we can’t respect and love others who are part of the church (entire world church, not just your church) in which Jesus is teaching us to love, how will we than be in a position to show that same attitude to the rest of the world?
Often, the world looks at the church and doesn’t see any difference. Can we blame them for not wanting to be a part of that? If the Jesus they see in us is gossiping, backbiting, disrespectful, and unkind why would they want him?
Bet you never coupled the word “submission” with that, did you? Neither did I.
Verse 17 continues by saying that we should give honor to the king. What if the “king” or something in that authoritative role doesn’t seem to deserve honor? What if they act in ways that are wrong or dishonoring to themselves and others?
I believe what he’s saying is that we honor the position God has established. Back in verse 13, Peter makes it clear that God is the one who created and established authoritative roles. Whether that is a president, governor, law enforcement official, teacher, pastor, husband, or parent, those roles were all set up by God for our benefit.
People may not use their authority rightly or well, but we should still show honor and respect. Not only that, but every single person is wonderfully and fearfully created by God. Every one deserves our honor for that reason alone, regardless of how they behave. This is a great book that breaks that down.
In verse 18, Peter takes it a step further telling us to submit even when someone is harsh, not only to those who are good and considerate. Wow! I confess I’ve thought that a person I’m dealing with didn’t deserve respect so why would I submit?
But it takes the grace, love, patience, and forgiveness of Christ to continue to show honor and respect, and to submit even when someone is not nice. Remember, that Jesus chose when and how to speak when he was confronted. He did not retaliate when he was insulted. The key word there is “retaliate.” He entrusted himself to God, knowing that God was in control of the situation and would deal with the person. (vs. 21)
Also, worthy to consider is that sometimes our submissive, honoring action is to remove ourselves from a situation or speak loving truth to someone who is acting harshly. God will lead us in how to handle the situation if we ask him.
**(Please note that “harsh” isn’t necessarily the same as abusive and/or dangerous. God does not call us to put ourselves into harmful relationships or stay there if we’ve allowed ourselves to get into them.)
So, now we’ve seen what “in the same way” means.
Next time we’ll move on to Chapter 3 and look at what Peter says specifically to spouses.
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
It was for us, you and me, that Jesus endured the cross and rose again to life. Because of his sacrifice, we can be in relationship with the living God now in these last days on earth and forever in heaven. Never underestimate the power of his love and grace for us. No matter where we’ve been, what we’ve done, or who we think we are or aren’t, God created us, has a plan for us, and redeemed us through Jesus.
All we have to do is say “Yes. I want that relationship. I’m sorry for going my own way. Thank you, Jesus.”
During a discussion about the events of the recent murders, our love for our friends of all races, and how to navigate in a world where the violence of some escalated into ridiculous destruction, my husband asked a question.
“What about forgiveness? What would Jesus be thinking/doing in this situation?”
I thought he brought up a good point. One that has caused me to contemplate and consider my thoughts, opinions, and actions in regard to the racial injustice now and for hundreds of years previously.
So many thoughts and questions.
We talked about how we can’t fully understand what it feels like for someone of color to have to be careful where they go, what they do, and how they look. We haven’t been in a situation to have to instruct our children how to be careful when driving or being out with friends.
What little experience I have of that type of discrimination is when my younger brother, in our late teens/early twenties, was pulled over more than a couple of times because his long hair stereo-typed him as a drug user.
Or the numerous times I’ve been followed by men in cars trying to lure me, degrade me, or assault me because I’m a woman. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, a man in a doctor’s office elevator undressed me with his eyes. Not a pleasant experience.
But still, it only gives me a small taste of the concern and tension my dear black friends feel on a daily basis.
We talked about how people all over the world are discriminated against, persecuted, and maligned because of their skin, beliefs, or cultures. I asked Brendan, who’s from Australia, if he had any friends who were of Aboriginal descent, those who were native to Australia, and if they experienced the same kind of discrimination.
We talked about how we both felt uncomfortable now with people of color because previously we simply saw everyone we met or knew as people. Not white people or black people or Asian people or Latin people. Just as someone might use skin color as a description of us white folks, we might describe others the same way by their color or ethnicity or culture, but we didn’t think of it in a derogatory way. Is it?
But now, would people assume we did? Had we not been interested enough in the past to find out someone’s story because they were of a different color or background? Should we go out of our way to be kinder than usual to let people know we care about their color? Have I discriminated in some unknown way because the majority of the characters in my books have white skin?
I believe that black lives matter.
They absolutely do. I’ve been ignorant in my assumptions that black people aren’t treated badly “any more” as a whole. I’m grateful for the conversations that are opening my eyes, and breaking my heart.
And I also believe that every life matters.
Every single person whether they’re black, of another culture or race, white, young, old, male, female, unborn, or living with some kind of limitation or disability should never be thought of as “less than.” But haven’t we all at some point looked at someone else and thought they were not as good, right, talented, kind, handsome, fit, pretty, etc. as us?
Not to take away from this current crisis of racial injustice.
But the bottom line is our sinful hearts. Wrong motives. Selfish attitudes. Pride. Fear. Lack of compassion.
And what about forgiveness?
I believe there is a place for righteous anger. God has displayed his in numerous occasions in the Bible. And I believe he calls us to speak out against sin; not people, but sin, calling out evil and injustice. He tells us to speak for those who don’t have a voice. To stand up for those who are in captivity.
But I also believe God calls us to forgive. To lay down anger, and not let it make us sin. Not let the sun go down on it. Not let it turn into roots of bitterness. He says our anger will not bring about his righteousness. Even if we’d like to believe it will.
What the officers, as well as so many others we don’t even know about, did in killing innocent people or turning their backs as it happened, was so wrong. Unjust. Evil. It’s righteous anger that calls it out for what it is.
And, as my husband pointed out, Jesus was beaten, tortured, and murdered in a horrific way too, but he chose to forgive those who did not know what they were doing.
Of course, they knew what they were doing. But they had no real concept of how wrong their actions were. They were ignorant of what it meant in a bigger than human understanding way. They were foolish and led by evil, self-centered hearts.
Doesn’t that describe all of us?
Should we forgive? Jesus forgave us. He forgives the officers that killed Mr. Floyd and the others. He forgives the rioters and looters. And he forgives us for any of our opinions and fears and questions because our understanding about all of it is not his understanding.
He tells us that we see through a glass dimly. We can’t grasp all of what this means. We can’t. Even if we think we can and try to. So the best we can do is to spend time with him asking him to give us his eyes to see. His heart to understand and love with true compassion. For everyone.
Last week I shared about the anti-trafficking organization, Children of the Night, that confused; okay let’s be real, infuriated me, with its funding starting and continuing from Hefner’s Playboy empire. I shared the email I sent and the response from Lois Lee explaining briefly Hefner’s role in her business.
And I wrestled all week with it even in the wake of the horrendous violence happening in our country.
Death begetting more death.
Kind of like my impression of a pornography enterprise funding an organization rescuing those trafficked into prostitution.
But what kept coming back to me, in a gently convicting kind of way, in spite of my justified, righteous anger, was that I didn’t know this woman’s story. That I needed to pray for, not persecute, her.
I didn’t know why she chose to battle sex-trafficking to begin with. Was she exploited, abused, molested herself? Had she been a victim of sexual predators? I had no idea why she felt that Hefner and his Playboy enterprise was her only option for funding. Or how that relationship came about in the first place.
Jesus reminded me that I didn’t know her story.
We’ve all made choices, good and bad. I’ve made my fair share of terrible ones. Many of which developed out of my own background. When we’re confused and looking for answers, we’ll try whatever seems like the best option at the time, no matter what it is.
Sometimes the worst option looks really good in light of our experiences.
Just as I knew I needed to address concern for what seemed like a hypocritical use of funds to rescue children being exploited by the very same group funding the exploitation, I became convinced that I needed to reach out to Lois Lee and ask,
“What’s your story?”
Because Jesus cares about our story. He cares about how and why we landed where we did, making the choices we did. And more importantly, he forgives them all because of his love and compassion for us. No wrong can ever make him turn away from us.
She responded immediately.
Her email told me the basics of who she is—a doctor, a lawyer, an academic, a Catholic. I won’t share the email because now it’s a personal matter, no longer a letter to an unknown company. She gave me very little detail of what led her to begin except to say she’d been persecuted for her position in wanting to help young women in prostitution. She spoke highly of Hefner, even sounding as if he had been a dear friend.
I thanked her for sharing. I continue to pray for her to be blessed, healed, and loved by Jesus.
And I want to ask you, “what’s your story?” What led you to this place you are in today? What’s your life all about? Do you know Jesus like he knows you?
He cares about every moment of your story. So do I. Without judgment. His grace is enough for all of us—even the worst parts of our story.
And I know he started our story, has a better plot for it, and will keep writing it into something beautiful if we let him. So…
Maybe you’ve never really thought about that question. Or maybe you shake your fist at him daily. Perhaps you’ve had a loss or tragedy occur in your life, and you can’t reconcile the idea that a loving, all powerful God could allow something so horrific.
You’re not alone.
I’ve never met anyone who didn’t at one time or in a lifetime question where God was when ________ happened. I certainly have.
As a matter of fact, for six years I was angry at God and didn’t even realize it. You see, I loved Jesus and believed God was good so I never considered that I could be harboring anger towards him. I believed he was in control in a good (well, mostly good) way and had brought me into a better place than I’d previously been in.
And he had.
But when God had spoken through someone that “turn around time” was coming for my life, I believed God meant that my failing marriage and business, my soon to be foreclosed on home and my hurting children would all suddenly turn around and come out rosy – you know, butterflies and unicorns stuff.
But it didn’t.
We lost our business and home, were forced to file for bankruptcy and ended up divorced with kids that had suffered far more than I ever thought possible.
What the heck?
So, six years later, to the exact day, when that someone who had spoken those promise-filled words showed up at my now different church (in a different state) speaking promises to people, I found myself perturbed. Conflicted. Angry.
I knew our pastor to be full of integrity and completely trustworthy so I wrestled with what I felt had been lies spoken to me years earlier. Later, after a strategically orchestrated meeting (only God made that happen, but that’s a different story), I drove away, parked my car in a remote location and let God have it.
Screaming, crying and recognizing my anger at him for the first time.
Until he whispered in my heart, “Didn’t your life turn around?”
Well…uh…yes. I guess it did. Because up until that point, I had accepted behaviors in my marriage that never should have been allowed. All that tragedy caused me to decide that I wanted a different life. As a result, I made new choices, and my life completely changed.
What I believed God meant and what he said were two different things. My perspective was shallow and off. We both wanted better for me, but he saw big picture and I saw immediate. He had change in my heart while I looked for change in circumstances. He set my course on a new, amazing life that would never have come if I had gotten what I asked for.
I realized I had to forgive God.
Forgive the one who forgives? Yep. That’s right. And thankfully, his grace and love for us it so great that he doesn’t hold our anger at him against us. He took care of me and my kids and blessed us incredibly during those six years that I was angry at him and didn’t know it. He knew it and waited for exactly the right time and orchestrated my circumstances perfectly to gently speak to me.
I cried, told him I was so, so sorry and our relationship grew deeper that night. I’ll never forget that night. Sometimes I share that story and it helps other people too.
As a matter of fact, I wrote a book, Rachel’s Son, about a young woman who felt that same anger when her only son was murdered. It took her many years and a path of destruction in her life until she could face her hurt and anger and finally forgive the Forgiver.
You can get the kindle version FREE on Amazon right now through tomorrow, March 3. And, the print version is more than half off. This is what one woman said:
“…I just finished reading Rachel’s son and it has changed my life. It was a gripping book. Couldn’t put it down but the most amazing thing has happened. When u got to the end…I sobbed.” (omitted words to avoid spoiler!)
It might be something that helps you handle anger with God, even if you don’t know you have any. I pray it will bless you.