Last week I posted about having an “unoffendable” heart, and it seemed to resonate with a lot of people. So today I want to give you an example of how the Lord walked me through avoiding the trap of one particular offense.
Having an unoffendable heart takes a lot of intentionality. I’ve found that it requires me to lay down what I think I deserve from others and just focus on who I am before God and what God wants me to do.
One day last year I got a phone call from someone that gave me some bad news, and I was really discouraged and angry about it. I was actually at home by myself when I got that phone call, and I was so depressed that I just laid down in my bed for 3 hours. I didn’t cry; I just felt defeated, like I had gotten the wind knocked out of me. After my little 3-hour respite, I was forced to get out of bed and handle the situation.
As I got up, I began to feel God strengthening me to handle this situation. Almost more than any other moment in my life, I felt God anoint me with His love and wisdom. Over the next few hours, as I interacted with those involved, I felt God’s heart for them, and I felt God speaking through me with peace and confidence. I was seriously so steady that I was shocked. I knew this peace was God’s anointing on me because normally I would be yelling and crying. I tried to point out this difference in me to the others, so they would see this as evidence that God was with us through this.
God’s anointing on me affirmed to me in a big way that if God calls us to do something difficult, He will not leave us alone. He will be with us through the trial, never leaving our side, and giving us the strength we need—not just to survive, but to overcome.
I had completed the first challenge—initially handling the situation with the others. God had helped me to be steady and loving in those moments. But now I had to handle it in my heart. Now I had to walk through the process of grieving the loss, letting go of my anger, and forgiving fully.
The next day I cried when I finally had a few moments alone. Then I called one of my friends, told her everything that had happened, and cried again. I had already planned to go to a concert with my friend Erin later that night. I can always just be me with Erin, and so she and I chatted about everything as we drove there. As we were standing in the line for the concert, I kept sighing and putting my face in hands—my involuntary response to the dismay that I was feeling. I apologized to Erin that I couldn’t just snap out of it to enjoy our night out. But then that concert was so much fun, so much joy. I was singing along so loudly to songs that I used to sing with my sisters when we were younger, and it made me smile so hard that it hurt my face. I felt like that concert was a gift from God in the midst of the discouragement from the day before.
Thank Me for This
The next morning, I was driving to church for our Sunday services, and I was still feeling hurt and angry. I was praying a little in the car, and I felt God say to me, “Thank me for this, Mary.” Immediately, tears came to my eyes, and I told God that I would thank Him for this if He really wanted me to, but I had prayed specifically that this would not happen, and I had done everything in my power to try to prevent these types of things from happening. But again, the Lord said, “Thank me for this.”
At the time, our church had bulletin boards where we could put up cards to symbolize the prayers God had answered for us. I felt like God said to me, “Put up a card of answered prayer on the bulletin board.”
At first, I thought, “Lord, are you mocking my pain? Do you seriously want me to put this up on the board as an answered prayer?” I knew that I could put the card up anonymously, that I didn’t have to write anything on the card except for the date. It was just meant to be a symbol to my church family of God’s goodness. But this situation was messy; it was too soon to know if it was going to get worse or get better. I honestly could barely bring myself to hope that it would get better.
I was then reminded of the Bible passage that says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
I focused on the phrase “with thanksgiving.” The verse says, “WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God, and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” I realized that I needed to reflect on the situation, this time looking for all the ways that I could thank God for how He was working through this situation. With some deep breaths, I grabbed a handful of cards, wrote the date on them, and one by one, I thanked God for something He did in this situation: that He brought it to light quickly, that He anointed me to be steady and loving, that I had good support from the others who were involved, everyone was finally telling the truth, etc. I was still sick to my stomach about what happened, but I chose to thank God for how He was working in the midst of it, and I pinned the cards up on the board. It felt like a sacrifice of praise.
This was exactly what I needed to do to move forward in not letting this offense trap me.
A few weeks later, I was still wrestling with this. Doesn’t it always seem like after the initial pain subsides, then the anger burns inside for a long time, occasionally boiling over? I’d have a few hours throughout each week when my mind was still just stuck on it. I was so tempted to be angry at the others and blame them for my pain. But I had to stop myself from thinking those thoughts. The Holy Spirit spoke to me about Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
This particular incident was not noble or admirable, and it was time for me to stop thinking about it. I can’t say that I automatically let it all go, but whenever Satan tempted me to dwell on it, I quoted Philippians 4:8. I had to choose to stop thinking about it. I had done everything there was to do to work through it; now I had to stop thinking about it and be diligent to keep the offense far from my heart.
*If you have a story about how God helped you to have an unoffendable heart, I would love to hear it!
P.S. Now, several months later, I can say that God brought so much more good from this situation than I ever expected. In January, I heard a sermon by Pastor Stephen Furtick called “I’m Glad it Happened." Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUu4_VIeTzs. If you’re struggling with something that happened in your life that is hard to make sense of, I encourage you to listen to this. It confirmed to me God’s purposes in my struggle.
When I was in high school, I was in the car with my dad one day, and he told me that he had learned to have an “unoffendable heart.” Dad had been a pastor for over 20 years at that point. He explained to me that people will say and do things to hurt you when you’re a leader, but you have to choose to move past it and not let it wound you or eat you up on the inside. He encouraged me to have an “unoffendable heart” as I grew older and began to lead others.
I hadn’t thought about that conversation with my dad for several years, but God reminded me of it this past year. At the time, Satan was trying to rob me of the peace that God wanted to give me. The opposite of peace can be worry and fear, but it can also be conflict, chaos, feeling angry and offended.
In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
But my heart often felt troubled, and I was grasping for some peace.
God saw my heart, He started showing me that Satan wants to use offenses in our lives as spiritual attacks. An offense can include any unresolved issues or ugly residues of conflict. Hanging onto an offense is the trigger to the trap of a spiritual attack. It can lead us toward a life of animosity, bitterness and unforgiveness. And that’s exactly what Satan wants.
Avoiding the Trap
One day last year I found out about something bad. When I found out, my anger started rising. My hands were shaking, and I knew that nothing good was going to come out of my mouth at that moment. I went to bed because I knew I was too angry to think about how to start solving the problem right then.
The next day, I went to work and still felt so angry. I kept replaying the details in my mind of how I had been lied to and disrespected. I was tired of dealing with stuff like this, and I was tired of forgiving. (I know I’m not the only one, so keep reading.)
As I drove home from work, I tried to pray. I worried whether this issue would blow up and become an even worse situation. Then the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Mary, what happened was wrong, and you have every right to feel offended. But it’s up to you how this goes today. You can choose to show your anger and tell everyone involved how you didn’t deserve to be treated like this. Or you can choose to resolve this conflict without feeling personally offended.”
That’s when God reminded me of the words my dad said to me when I was in high school. It clicked with me that having an “unoffendable heart” was what God was asking me to do for this season (or maybe for the rest of my life...).
Yet, I still was feeling so angry. I knew the Lord was speaking to me, but I honestly didn’t think the other person deserved my mercy and forgiveness, and I didn’t care about mending the relationship at that moment. I only cared about how this was hurting me.
But the Lord is merciful even when I am not. I walked into the situation with my jaw set and my eyes glaring, ready to fight. But the Holy Spirit gave me a wave of compassion to soften my words and to listen. I decided to stop feeling offended, and God worked to bring something beautiful out of that bad conflict.
About 6 weeks after that incident, I was reading Havilah Cunnington’s book Stronger than the Struggle, and she said exactly what I believe the Holy Spirit was trying to teach me that day when I was praying in the car: “Honestly, it doesn’t matter if we have a legitimate reason for offense or if we’re nursing a self-inflicted wound. It comes down to how we want to live. If we really want to be free—living a healthy and whole spiritual life, free from the Devil’s drama—then we have to remove offense from our lives, being vigilant to keep offense as far away from our hearts as possible.”
I resonate with this truth. For the past several months, I have been choosing daily to have an “unoffendable” heart. Some days, I don’t want to—I still would rather focus on how I feel and get all worked up and offended. Some days I don’t want to forgive. Some days I just want to be selfish and not consider others’ perspectives. Some days I want to hang onto an offense, BUT THAT IS A TRAP. I know from personal experience that it steals your joy and steals your peace. It even steals your sleep.
I know that I can’t control others’ behavior, and I can’t control the many details of my circumstances. But I can control my choice to not hang onto offenses.
Now having an “unoffendable heart” is part of how I protect the peace that God gives me, how I fight for my relationships with my family and friends, and how I stand strong against the enemies’ schemes. I want to thank God today for giving me so much peace in this new season.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3.
1. (2108). Cunnington, Havilah. Stronger Than the Struggle: Uncomplicating Your Spiritual Battle. p. 169.
2. (2108). Cunnington, Havilah. Stronger Than the Struggle: Uncomplicating Your Spiritual Battle. p. 173.
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.