It was in the desert that God first made the promise to be our healer. The Israelites had left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea and had traveled three days. No matter where they looked, they couldn’t find water. The people started complaining to Moses about it. Then suddenly, there it was. A body of water was before them in the town of Marah. They went to drink it, but it was bitter. After praying, God directed Moses to a piece of wood and told him to put it in the water. When he threw it in, the water became sweet. At that moment, God spoke in Exodus 15:26 and said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of The Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, obeying His commands and keeping all His decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am The Lord who heals you (Jehovah Rapha).”
How fitting that they were in the desert when He made that promise. When we are in need of healing, we often feel like we’re in a desert. We feel alone. There seems to be no life. No hope. No place to get what we need to sustain life. The outlook is often dim. That’s usually where we need to be for us to fully trust God. It’s when we’ve reached the end of our strength, that we learn to trust His ability. Remember, it’s through our weakness that He is made strong. We must go to Him in prayer seeking the healing we need.
I’m not here to tell you that every time I’ve prayed for healing for someone that they’ve received it. In fact, I’ve lost loved ones whom I prayed and believed for God to heal. Does that change who God is or His ability to heal? Absolutely not. I can choose to let something like that poison the water of my soul and make me bitter like the waters of Marah or I can choose to let God put the wood of the cross in my soul and bring healing to me to remove the bitterness. Through the cross, Jesus is able to bring both physical and spiritual healing. It was by His stripes, given at the cross, that we are healed physically, and by His death that we are healed spiritually. His offer to you is to allow Him to apply that wood to your life how He sees fit. He will be your Jehovah Rapha.
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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
If you’ve interacted with people in your life, you’ve been hurt by someone at some point. The people closest to us seem to hurt us the most. When we get hurt, the easiest thing to do is let that pain turn into hate and bitterness. We want to hurt them back worse than they hurt us. If we’re not careful, the pain inside of us can consume us. I read a story this week of a 73 year old who found a high school classmate and killed him because of how he hurt him over 50 years ago. He lived his whole life wanting revenge for the pain this person caused him.
In Genesis, Abraham’s son Isaac had twins, Jacob and Esau. Esau was very hungry one day and Jacob had prepared a meal. He asked for some of it, but Jacob made him pay for it with the birthright which meant he would inherit his father’s wealth. Later, when Isaac was about to die, he summoned his firstborn Esau to bless him. He sent him out to kill something wild and cook it first. Jacob found out, and beat him to it. Esau hated Jacob for it and wanted to kill him. He let the anger consume him and the only way to console himself was to plot revenge.
In Genesis 27:40, Isaac told Esau, “You shall live by your sword, And serve your brother; However it shall come to pass when you break loose [from your anger and hatred], That you will tear his yoke off your neck [and you will be free of him]” (AMP). If you’re still carrying the pain from someone hurting you, it’s time to break loose from it. Get their yoke off your neck. Forgiving them is the way to do that. Ask the Lord to help you. I know personally this is easier said than done. It’s a process that starts with you forgiving in your heart first. The pain will go away and a scar will remain, but you will be free.
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I’ve always wanted to know more about the two criminals that were crucified on either side of Jesus. The Bible introduces us to them, we hear briefly from them and then they’re gone. In Luke 23:39 we hear one say, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” Then the other one says, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (NLT).
Both of these men are in agony as well. They have nails in their hands and feet, and they are suspended above the crowd. You can hear the bitterness in the first man’s words. He’s facing certain death, and he’s angry instead of being repentant for the wrongs he’s done. The other man understands that he’s being given what he deserves, yet it leads him to seek forgiveness. Jesus responds to him, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” I think it’s incredible that when we are in pain, it either makes us bitter or drives us closer to God.
There’s not one of us who won’t have to deal with pain or consequences in our lives. The pain may be physical or emotional, but we are all going to experience it. When we are experiencing it, we can choose to let it make us bitter or better. God uses pain to get our attention because sometimes that’s the only way we will listen. He will do whatever it takes to get our attention to keep us from spending eternity without Him. He sent His only Son to die on the cross to show us He loves us. He forgave the criminal beside Him who had committed a crime worthy of death. He can forgive you too. If you’re in pain today, don’t let it push you away from God. Let it make you more dependent on Him than ever.
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To me, one of the saddest things anyone has said is, “I can never forgive you for what you’ve said and done.” That’s a pretty strong statement and it’s usually spoken out of hurt and anger. It’s meant to hurt and cut to the core the way that person has been hurt. If you’ve ever spoken them or had them spoken to you, you understand. The problem is it creates bitterness and hate within a person. Pain mixed with a grudge is an incubator for anger. Nothing good comes from situations where one side isn’t forgiven.
If you’ve had those words spoken to you because of something you’ve said or done, and you’re truly sorry, it’s also difficult to handle. Every one of us makes mistakes. Every one of us hurts other people whether intentional or not. When we’ve said or done the unforgivable, and the other person won’t release us, we can either spend a lifetime trying to prove how truly sorry we are or we can walk away knowing we’ve done our part. Either way, there’s an incompleteness to being unforgiven.
In Matthew 12, a Pharisee said some hurtful things to Jesus. He accused Him of being demon possessed and that His power came from Satan. After Jesus explained to him how a house divided can’t stand, he then addressed the sin inside the man. In verse 31, Jesus said, “There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven” (MSG). That’s a powerful statement that you and I need to grasp and meditate on today. Read it again.
There is nothing you can do or say that can’t be forgiven by God. No matter how bad or how wrong, He’ll never say He can’t forgive you. If you’ve been holding back asking forgiveness for something, I want you to release it today. Get rid of that incompleteness that’s created from unforgiveness, and be made whole at the cross. God isn’t human. He doesn’t hold grudges or harbor resentment against us for things we’ve said or done and been forgiven of. Give it to God and be set free today.
When you’ve been hurt by someone, you can either forgive them or you can hold a grudge. Holding a grudge makes you look at the chain reaction of what they did to you, and then blame them for how you ended up where you are. It creates “if then” statements in your mind: “If they hadn’t done that to me, then I wouldn’t have been in this miserable place in life.” Anything bad that happens in your life gets blamed on them. Your mind becomes consumed with how bad things are, and you create a perpetual cycle of a downward spiral.
When you forgive someone for hurting you, you set your mind free. You no longer give that person power over you and the direction of your life. You are no longer consumed by the bitterness that creeps into every area of your life. You no longer dread waking up each day, and your perspective changes. You can look back at that moment and see how God used it to get you where you to be. You quit despising the life you have, and begin to see it as a blessing.
If anyone ever had a reason to hold a grudge, it was Joseph. His brothers beat him, threw him in a cistern, and sold him as a slave. That event took him away from all he had known. His freedom and all he had were taken from him in an instant. Hew as Farley accused and spent years in prison because of their betrayal. Bitterness could have linked it all together and made him hate his brothers. Instead, he chose forgiveness and God blessed him for it.
Forgiveness is about remembering we aren’t perfect ourselves. We make mistakes and hurt others too. God wants us to give people room to make mistakes and then to forgive them. Colossians 3:13 says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT). If you’ve held onto a grudge towards someone because they’ve hurt you, let it go snd forgive them. Quit giving them control of your life and your mind. Bitterness is unbecoming.
When you let go of it, instead of always thinking about how bad your life has gotten, you will be able to see how God has used that situation for your good. You will see that the path you were on wasn’t going to get you where God wanted you. It’s easier to move on when you see that God can use what’s been done to you to help someone else. You can now shine a light into someone else’s darkness and show them the way out if you choose forgiveness.
I believe that there are several habits we as Christians can adopt in our lives to become the type of believer we truly aspire to be. While Hebrews 11 has compiled a list of heroes of the faith for us, there have been many people who have lived since that time whom we can learn from as well. If I were to ask you to think of a person, past or present, who exemplified a life of faith as a believer, you could probably think of a name quickly. Whether they were written about in the Bible, history, or have just touched your life in some way, they have habits in their life that you and I can adopt into our own lives to become that type of Christian.
One of the hardest habits for us to adopt is the habit of forgiveness. When we’ve been wronged, we feel justified in holding anger and resentment against the one who wronged us. I’ve learned in my own life that anger, resentment and being hurt are all that’s needed to become bitter. That bitterness then becomes a prison that holds your thoughts captive and stops any progress in your life. It has the power to consume you and that kind of bitterness causes you to spread that poison to others.
God wants us to let go of the wrongs that have been done to us because He knows that’s where our freedom lies. You cannot be a productive Christian if you’re holding anger, resentment, or bitterness towards someone else. God’s desire is that we turn the other cheek, not so we can get hurt again, but so we can lead with our un-bruised side. He knows that we will be better witnesses for Him when we don’t lead with our hurts and bruises out front. He knows that we can be healed in time when we first learn the habit of forgiveness.
In Matthew 6, we find the Lord’s Prayer. I’m sure you’ve memorized it at one point in your life. What you may not have memorized are verses 14-15 which come immediately after it. Jesus followed up His prayer with, “If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in Heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father in Heaven will not forgive the wrongs you have done” (GNT). Your forgiveness from God is dependent on your ability to forgive others.
I like how the Amplified Bible describes what forgiving “wrongs” is and looks like. It says, “Their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up your resentment.” All of this is put on you, not the other person or God. Your own forgiveness starts with your ability to let go of what someone else has willfully done to wrong you. The life God has for you will be bright and fresh again once you choose to adopt the habit of forgiveness.