For several weeks leading up to the Sisterhood Flourish Conference at my church, I was bombarded by memories of hurtful events from years ago. I would pray, cry out to Abba Father, and remind the enemy I had already forgiven and I was over it…I was free! But these memories flooded my thoughts relentlessly. For the most part, I remained silent as I struggled to heal from fresh wounds as scars were reopened. I questioned why this was happening, searching my heart to see if I opened a door spiritually to give the enemy legal access. As I sought God for refuge and answers, all I got was, “It is time to WRITE…and leave the silent season.”
I struggled with this answer for I feared I wasn’t hearing Him correctly. The Bible says in 1 Peter 2:17, “Show respect for all people [treat them honorably], love the brotherhood [of believers], fear God, honor the king.” So how can I write about these events and still show honor and respect? I didn’t have the answer and therefore stayed silent. It wasn’t until the conference that I finally got my answers.
As I entered into worship Friday night, the Lord gave me a vision where I saw clouds all around as I stood worshipping. I saw arrows from all directions pointing toward me and then outward from me. Then I saw the word: WRITE in big, bold letters. I cried to God about feeling stuck and blocked and He showed me that the doors were opened and all I had to do was just take His hand and walk out from my self-made prison!
God can use your past to give someone else a future.
One of the speakers shared that God can use my past to give someone else a future if I embrace the pain of stretching for God to restore me. That really resonated with me. Again, I felt in my spirit that I was to write and share about a past hurt that our family suffered through and by His love and grace gained victory over. As I silently cried out to God to confirm that I was really hearing Him correctly, the guest speaker shared how she was falsely accused by a pastor’s wife and as the accusation spread, it caused hurt and division for her at her church and with friends. She and her husband prayed about leaving that church, but God told them to stay as He wasn’t moving “the cloud”! (Referring to how God led the Israelites by pillar of fire by night and by cloud/smoke by day. See Exodus 13:21-22). Then another speaker on the panel, spoke of a very similar situation where her family attended a previous church that was so controlling, that when they didn’t submit to everything demanded of them, they were removed from leadership. Hurt and division followed and yet, the Lord didn’t move them immediately either.
As I reflected on the last several weeks where these hurtful events resurfaced, I realized that I would just push them back and question myself: “Haven’t I healed from this? I forgave them, but are there more layers that God wants to reveal to me? Or is it something else?” As I sat listening and journaling, the Holy Spirit then revealed to me that He allowed them to resurface because there are layers that still need to be healed, both for me and those involved, but for something bigger…a testimony to allow God to shine His Light by revealing the darkness He walked us through!! This is not to condemn or dishonor those who hurt us but to offer freedom through His victory for us! An opportunity to allow others who may be silently struggling, to open up, share, and walk through freedom too.
It’s difficult for me to open up and share past hurts, especially after forgiving those involved, healing and moving on. I don’t like to go backwards! I don’t want to appear negative or bitter, or risk dishonoring anyone, or even open up doors for possible backlash. But after hearing the testimonies shared during the conference that mirrored much of what we endured, the prompting of the Holy Spirit to write and leave the silent season, the invitation to allow Him to stretch me as He restores me, and offer opportunity for others to relate, heal and walk in freedom too, I couldn’t ignore His call to write and share.
I don’t know what trials and hurts you may have endured, but I know for me, that when someone shares something very similar, it creates a bond of sisterhood/brotherhood that we aren’t traveling this journey alone! At a church we once attended, the Lord told my husband and I to serve wherever we were asked. This is not a normal practice of ours as we always seek Him for confirmation in serving in a specific area. But we chose to obey, unsure of what would be asked of us.
I ended up serving in areas I didn’t like, but I chose to do my best to serve wholeheartedly as if I was serving the Lord and not people (Ephesians 6:7). I wish I could say I did it with joy all the time, but there were many times I complained to God as I felt unappreciated. Strangely, as I took on more tasks that others didn’t want, I started being more isolated. I often felt rejected as I was spoken to harshly, was criticized, or totally ignored. I wanted to speak up and say something, but God kept telling me it wasn’t the time. So, I found myself striving to be noticed and appreciated and basically felt used. I didn’t realize I ended up yoked to the approval of man (something I really despise). I sought the Lord repeatedly to just move the cloud from that place, but He would only tell me “soon” and that He was growing us and strengthening us. Because we believe in saying “yes” to God no matter the sacrifice and without compromise, we stayed. And although my family grew weary enduring the pain and heartache, especially in silence, the Lord never left our side as He taught us how to overcome offense. He delivered me from the stronghold of approval of man and to lay down striving to be noticed and appreciated for my Audience of One saw everything and He is truly all that matters.
Colossians 3:13-14 says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
I used to think grace was just “fire insurance.” But during the time we stayed in obedience, we learned more about His grace for us and extending grace to others, in ways I never could have imagined. When God finally moved the cloud for us, we left in obedience to Him and not because of offense. And that was truly freeing!
I will say that we learned a lot at that church, spiritually, and we are forever grateful for their teaching. But through experience, we also learned how not to treat people especially from a leadership position. Godly leaders should not think themselves above others (Romans 12:3), but treat people with love and honor, be encouragers and not belittle, remain humble and open to learn by recognizing God has placed spiritual gifts in each one of us (1 Corinthians 12).
I understand fear and offense instigated the attacks against my family. I understand they questioned if we were actually hearing from God and feared what others may think by our leaving. I understand they feared we would ridicule them and therefore reacted by publicly attacking first, to try to discredit us. And although it was painful to endure even after leaving, God’s grace grew us and stretched us.
Matthew 5:44 says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
We love them as our brothers and sisters-in-Christ and still pray for reconciliation, for God to grow them, and bless them and all they do for His kingdom, as they have a heart for God and to reach the hurting. We would never be able to do this without first knowing God’s precious love, grace and mercy for us. 1 John 4:19 and 21 says, “19 We love each other because He loved us first. 21 And He has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.”
At the conference, we learned that when God calls on us as willing vessels, we need to embrace the stretch! He never asks us to stretch so we can snap, but to expand, so He can do more in and through us. Therefore, don’t let pain stop you from stretching to go where God wants to take you.
As Lisa Bevere says, “It’s not how you handle your past; it’s how you finish!”
So embrace the stretch and know that you’re not alone, but loved, worthy and vital in God’s plans!