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.
Last year Mother’s Day was really hard for me. I had all this pain inside that I had been trying to manage for months. I had cried myself to sleep the night before about the challenges my daughters and I couldn’t seem to overcome and then had to wake up to a day that was supposed to be happy.
Maybe you can relate…
To all the mamas who recently have fallen flat on your face, humiliated, hurt, and perplexed on what you should do next. When there is no parenting technique left to try…only to pray. Only to beg Jesus for help with your child.
I remember once thinking my parenting style is just the one I see in Mark 7:24-30. A mother fell at Jesus’ feet and wouldn’t let him leave until he agreed to heal her daughter.
For a long time, I thought, Yep, that’s me. That’s the biblical parenting advice that makes sense to me right now.
I got straight A’s in high school, but who cares? When I’m knocked down like that, it feels like I know nothing. Just desperate and begging Jesus because He’s the only One who can heal my daughter, the only One who can help us.
To all the single moms.
You’re making decisions every single day on your own. Every single day, you’re deciding what to make for dinner. Every single day, you’re deciding how to set your budget and how to spend your money. You’re the only one who is sitting at your kitchen table looking at all your bills and your tax forms, and you’re the one who is keeping it all together.
Every single day, you’re deciding how to discipline your kids. You try talking to other people about it, and you get some good advice, but still, you’re the only one who is this child’s parent. You’re the only one who knows the child well enough, sees the big picture, and who has to follow through with the discipline. It’s you. You’re the one.
And I know that some days you drive home from work, and you wish that someone else would help them with their homework tonight. You wish that just for one night, someone else would yell at them to turn off the TV and get off their phones and finish their chores. But it’s you. You’re the one.
And I know that sometimes you go to your bed and close your eyes because you can’t deal with anyone any longer. And they keep opening your door, whispering to see if you’re awake and if you can help them with something, but you’re about ready to lose your mind right here, right now, so you keep your eyes shut. It’s better than other destructive coping mechanisms. Close your eyes for a little longer and pray. Don’t feel bad. NAPS ARE FREE.
And then there are days when you’re wishing that your children would open up to you. You want them to come to you, sit next to you for a while, let you hold them. You’d give anything to know what’s inside their hearts and minds. You ache for them that they don’t have a father nearby, and you wonder if you’re doing enough to meet their emotional needs.
To all the stepmoms and foster moms.
You didn’t give birth to your children, but you’re showing up every day to love and care for them. You’re the one who is signing the parent’s signature on the permission slip, you’re the one who is buying the new shoes for track, you’re the one getting emails from their teachers. You’re the one on the receiving end of the stress your children feel, and you’re the one who gets the ugly attitude after you say no to something.
You bust your tail to honor their biological mother with everything you say and do, to honor her role in their life and their relationship with her. Every day you merge your values with their biological mom’s values, merge what you teach them with what they have already learned. Mama, you merge into their journey, respecting every part of it, joining with your children to love all their good memories that you weren’t a part of.
You wake up every day, and this may not be anything like what you expected your family to be, but you have to decide—as my friend Stacey says—to put the “fun” in “dysfunctional.”
And maybe they’ll yell at you because they’d rather spend the night at their friend’s house instead of spending Mother’s Day with you—and “you’re not even my real mom anyway!!!!” …I’m not going to tell you not to cry about that. Because I know it hurts. It hurts every single time. But I believe that the longer you have your relationship with them, the more the good moments will outweigh the bad, and the more they will see that your love for them is real.
They may not call you “mom” even though you’re doing all the mom things for them. But you’re the one that they accidentally call “Mom,” and that counts for something. That’s a privilege in itself.
To all the moms who need a breakthrough.
I don’t know your situation. I don’t know how many tears you cried over the last year, and you don’t know how many I tears I cried. But God knows. In Psalm 56:8, we read, “God, you keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (NLT).
For several months, I was like the mother in Mark 7 on the ground, begging at Jesus’ feet to bring healing to my daughters and me.
Exactly one year ago, I was desperate for God to give me a breakthrough. I had already been begging God for about 10 months to give me this breakthrough. And in July, He did. God renewed my physical, emotional, and mental strength. God brought clarity to my mind, and He strengthened me to stand steady during challenges. It was not the end of struggles (not at all!!), but it was the beginning of God’s peace guarding my heart and mind through everything.
I didn't know it last Mother's Day, but JOY was just around the corner.
Things can get better for you. God answers prayers. God is still at work in your life, and He hasn’t forgotten you or any of your family members. Whatever you need, ask God for it. Remember what Jesus did in Mark 7…Jesus stops to listen to begging mamas.
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.