A couple of years ago, a scripture leaped off the page at me in that really unnerving way it does when the Lord is drawing my attention to something new. I say unnerving, because it was a complete non sequitur; I could equate it with nothing currently happening on my horizon. Usually, it’s the directive for a fresh season about to open. Imagine my consternation when the spotlight turned on somber and threatening tones of Proverbs 20:30.
The blueness of a wound cleanses away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.
This is the Lord’s way of saying “in order to completely heal you, I’m going to go in and re-examine old wounds". His way of liberating from torment has nothing to do with ‘coping’. He’s a full-on emancipator, so brace yourself. Last week, I shared my resolution to deal with the relational scarring I was carrying in a latent manner within, holding back spiritual growth. That entailed a Proverbs 20:30 return to places that evoked trauma, calamity, bitterness and even self-condemnation. As the Lord and I traversed some really scary territory in the deep, eventually, a powerful truth became evident.
Our greatest problem in life is not our interactions with others, but the relationship we have with ourselves. Boil it all down, and it becomes apparent how much self-hatred dominates our internal dialog. Tragically, we don’t love and accept ourselves through the heart of our father. Instead, we are feeding off the lies Satan speaks to our spirits. Rather than immersing in eternal truth, the words of life and the unparalleled, proven love of a Savior, we have entrusted our self-image to our mortal enemy. Self-hatred is a viper that manifests in so many negative ways, poisoning everything we touch, most especially our relationships with others. We’re cynical, soured, stale, critical, contemptuous, abusive and destructive. Then, we pass along this poisonous malevolence, instead of being the purified iron that helps others bring out the best in themselves.
The Old Testament captures a strange, but pertinent little tale along this same line of thought. In 1 Chronicles 4:9-19, we find a simple pilgrim called Jabez.
Jabez was honorable above his brothers; but his mother named him Jabez [sorrow maker], saying, Because I bore him in pain. Jabez cried to the God of Israel, saying, Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and You would keep me from evil so it might not hurt me (or that I would not pain others)! And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 Amp
Poor Jabez did not enjoy an auspicious beginning. His mother placed her own dysfunction and hatred upon him before he was even born, giving him a name that should have crippled him for life. Instead, an inner nobility gave him a humble and powerful prayer before God: “Lord, keep me from being a source of pain to myself and others!”. He recognized the evil and rejection that had been spoken over him, but countermanded it with faith and love.
Despite all the obnoxious, gnarled mess, it’s not too late. No matter where life finds you right now, no matter how many failures or dysfunctions or how much precious time wasted, it’s not over yet. You were made for love. Make the decision to start loving yourself and others with the passionate ardor of God Himself. You are worthy of it, because you were created in the image of God. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). You possess an unlimited capacity to both give love and receive it, starting with yourself. Grasp this single truth alone and you hold the Gospel.
Deep in Hebrews, there’s a passage I constantly turn to when I’m having trouble discerning people’s motivations, or my own personal issues. There’s no comfort like knowing that someone far more magnanimous and sagacious than moi is tempering my heart. Jesus, the great high priest, is both keeping and defending me, bringing righteous attitudes and strategies to every situation I encounter.
For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
(Jesus), Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. Hebrews 4:15, 5:2
Jesus is able to be empathetic, sympathetic and to ‘have compassion’. A singular-use Greek word sheds a powerful light on how to triumph through relationship challenges; ‘metripatheo’. This phrase tells us that Jesus is always able to respond with an exact and perfectly balanced emotional correctness; a moderation appropriate to the situation. With infallible discernment, He has a divinely measured, utterly controlled expression of love and justice that always executes God’s impeccable will. That’s not surprising in itself, but what’s really incredible is that, by faith, we can tap into this ability of Christ, and let it flow through us. “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), which includes not only His mindset but His emotional capacity. Surrender to this powerful flow, and we will find ourselves in the river of grace.
Metripatheo me, Lord. I’m desperate to feel your love for me. I need your sublime patience, gentleness and positivity when it comes to people. I need your forgiveness for the betrayers, the deceivers, the manipulators, the rogues and vixens that make life such a vexatious journey. Cleanse my emotion, my ego, my conscience, and my mentality. Remove from my grasp cruelty, vengeance and vanity. Let me burn with your fierce and implacable hatred of evil, sin and death. Be the pericardium that protects my heart from all ravagers.
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:22-23 KJV