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.
Mary is the Associate Director at Hope Center Indy.. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.