As Though You Meant to Harm Me

Losing a Friend

I once lost a friend in a way that still stings. After building our relationship for several years, mapping her emotional trenches and revealing mine, talking her through several crises and vice versa, she suddenly stopped calling or responding to me. After a month of wondering, I finally asked whether I had upset her, thinking I surely couldn’t have done anything extreme enough to warrant complete and silent rejection; there had to be another explanation. But in fact, I had made one careless, judgmental statement which had hurt her feelings. I did sincerely apologize, but she never let me close again.

If she had, I would have wanted to ask her whether, after everything we had been through, she truly believed I was the kind of person who intended to hurt her – because that is how she treated me. She backed away from me as you would from a strange and hostile dog, forgetting me, the well-known companion who had long accompanied and comforted her. As I was praying through the sting of her assumptions, it suddenly occurred to me that I do the very same thing to my Heavenly Father all the time. I treat Him as though He meant to harm me.

A Question of Trust

I question His goodness. I retreat from the circumstances He sends me. I doubt His presence with me. I parse His words, looking for the catch, the threat, the deception. I have been a Christian for more than thirty-five years, and this same Lord has walked me through life and death, depression and loss, forgiveness and renewal. But even had I just learned this very day of His terrible sufferings for me, that alone ought to be enough for me to run toward Him in my pain rather than backing away in dread or disappointment. Anyone who would endure the torments of hell on my behalf can be trusted. No one who loves me that much can mean me harm, even if I don’t understand what He is doing.

A Final Prayer

So, God, it breaks my heart that I have treated you like a strange and hostile dog rather than the dearest friend of my heart. Your prodigal daughter has run from You rather than toward You.  Please forgive me for ever treating You as though You meant to harm me.


I’m going to be away from my computer for a while, so I’m reposting the above which was originally published five years ago. I hope you will go back and search the site for other reading material, especially if you are new here.

Christ Died for Our Mistakes

Our mistakes haunt us. The mom who was late to the game where her child got hurt, the grandfather who lost thousands to a swindle, the teen who glanced down and wrecked his father’s car. These unhappy people live with the guilt of their unintentional mistakes. We are limited and fallible as well as sinful. Christ died for all our imperfections. Some of you who love theology (and I do) may be tut-tutting right now. “No, indeed!” you say, “Christ died for our SINS, the very essence of the Gospel,” but today I want to reflect upon this: He also died for our mistakes.

Deliberate Sin

I’m reading through the Bible this year, and from my current perch in Deuteronomy, it has become clear to me that there were no Old Testament sacrifices for deliberate sins. There were only punishments. Knock out your neighbor’s tooth? No goat released into the wilderness for you – pony up your own tooth (Lev. 24:20)! Steal your neighbor’s ox? No dove divided for your sins – you give your neighbor five replacements (Ex. 22:1). Disrespect your parents? No lamb on the altar for you – you die (Lev. 20:9)! Severe, yes. Deserved, yes. A low view of my own sin causes me to think of Christ as an animal sacrifice, making symbolic atonement. Not so. Whenever I sin deliberately, Christ is not the lamb being slaughtered in my place, He is the MAN being slaughtered in my place.

Unintentional Sin

If deliberate sin deserved a punishment rather than a sacrifice, what was all that gore in the Tabernacle about? The answer is that those sacrifices were for our MISTAKES. (Some of them were also for our so-called ‘good deeds,’ for our worship, our fellowship, our blessings.) All those sin offerings were for “unintentional sins,” failures that turned up as regrets, ignorance that resulted in harm, blunders that were revealed after the fact (see, for example, Lev. 4:1-3, Num. 15:22-29). Those sacrifices atoned for our fallenness, not for our evil.

Uncleanness

As human beings, not one part of us is clean enough to stand before a holy God. Anything which makes us less than whole, less than His perfection, things like sickness and death, weakness and mistakes, requires a sacrifice of cleansing. Indeed, all that constitutes our finest offering, all our righteousness, is like a filthy garment in the presence of God (Is. 64:6). To this end, Christ makes continual – and effective – intercession for us (Heb. 7:23-25). Can you accept it?

Christ Died for Our Mistakes

As I counsel Christian clients, I find most of them are eventually willing to release the guilt of intentional sin at the foot of the cross. It seems harder to release our mistakes. The “what if’s” and “only if’s” and the self-accusations of stupidity, carelessness or worthlessness seem to stick harder for some people than true evil. Perhaps it is because we seldom hear that Christ died for these things. And yet, Christ is signified by every bull, goat, lamb or dove which ever burned on the blood-spattered altar of the Tabernacle (see Hebrews 9). Christ died for our mistakes every bit as much as He died for our sins.

Redemption

If you are carrying guilt or regret over mistakes from your past, you are carrying something which does not belong to you. You don’t get a do-over, much as you crave it, nor does your self-punishment relieve you of your burden. But the death of Christ out-weighs every mistake ever made by all God’s children. Our mistakes can be redeemed. Our fallenness can be cleansed. When you cast it off at the foot of the cross, God releases you from the burden of that mistake, promises to use it for good, and gives you the freedom, even the obligation, to forgive yourself. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Not for your sins – and not for your mistakes.


If you have a mistake you are trying to release, try this prayer:

Heavenly Father, forgive me for the mistake I made when __________________. Thank you for sending Jesus to offer the perfect sacrifice for everything that I am, including this. Help me believe that He is enough to redeem it all. Please use my mistake somehow for good in Your kingdom, and help me release it into Christ’s waiting hands. Amen.

Speak Life

The following piece was written by an eloquent client of mine whose heart was wounded when she confessed her deeper feelings for a good friend. He apparently wanted to be sure no misunderstanding or future disappointments would occur, so he replied, “It will never happen.” His words compounded other words from her past which had torn away at her self-worth. Now she fears she is not, nor ever will be, enough – that she will never be loved. Although she has not sent it, she wrote this letter to the man who broke her spirit. I hope it will speak to your spirit – and maybe even to hers.


You Spoke Death

I was in Hobby Lobby a couple of weeks ago and saw something that made me think of you. I felt a nudging to buy it for you and I thought, “God, why would you ask me to do this?” Then God replied, “Why would you let this man stop you from being who I created you to be… a giver, someone who sees needs and tries to help stand in the gaps and encourage others, to remind them I still see them even when no one is watching, that I see them?” I left the store, with a reminder of who I used to be in Christ and who I am now. I no longer stop. I walk by, and I try to make as little contact as possible.

I wish years ago when I held up my heart that you could have spoken life and been gracious instead of saying, “It will never happen.” I wish you could have known that you spoke death to me and who God was creating me to be. I wish you could have said, “I love you. I love the heart you have for God and the way He has created you to have a servant’s heart and encourage others. I have a different vision for my life, but if I was older and liked chunky girls, well then, I would be all about this, but that isn’t the case. I know God has a special person for you who can love you in a way that I cannot. I will start praying with you for God to bring that person who enjoys playing and serving and wants to build a life encouraging and growing God’s kingdom. And while I am praying I promise to continue to be your friend and help you grow in areas that will help you achieve what God has placed in your heart, and I know that these times will not be wasted because God will be working in and on me at the same time to grow me into a more godly man, better able to communicate, and that this walk will glorify God even if we both know it does not end in marriage to one another but in growth for His Kingdom and that we would ultimately become better versions of ourselves and better spouses for who I believe God has for both of us in the future. Thank you for trusting me enough to share your heart. God Bless!”

That is who I saw when I looked at you. But that isn’t who you are. Maybe I never knew you at all.


The man these words were meant to reach may never see them, but others will. There are two things any one of us can take away from her profound message. First, be careful with your words. They are not meant to serve you but to serve those around you, and they may have a more lasting impact than you could ever guess. Serve God with your words.

God Speaks Life

Second, mortal man is a flawed, fallible, careless and limited creature. Do not allow the words of a fellow human being to dictate your identity in Christ. What God has said, man cannot overrule. You are never unloved, never hopeless, never alone, no matter what anyone says to you or about you.

I hope my client speaks those words of life to herself that she wished to hear from another. Better yet, I hope she can hear God speak those words to her.

God showed his love for us when he sent his only Son into the world to give us life. Real love isn’t our love for God, but his love for us. (1 Jn 4:9-10, CEV)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Rom 15:13, ESV)

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. (Ps. 73:23-24, ESV)

Speak life to someone today.


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