Brave Your Story
Your story is the key to unlocking your future. Keep reading to see how that could possibly be true!
There is treasure to be found in tragedy. We’re not saying that tragedy isn’t tragic, just that it is not a waste. All the baggage we carry, all pain and junk in our story creates barrier after insufferable barrier between us and God. But those struggles, if seen from a new angle, are pure gold! Let me explain.
Someone who’s never faced a challenge bigger than themselves, can’t know what it’s like to defeat a challenge bigger than themselves. There can be no victory without a fight, no healing without a wound, no freedom without bondage. So, every twinge of pain, emotional or physical, every time we desire for a healing we don’t yet have, it’s a chance to turn it into something that builds our trust in, and relationship with, God. I don’t advise becoming a masochist so you have something to work with, but most people don’t need to. We have already enough wounds to suffice.
Read these verses that were spoken about Jesus many years before he was born. They can come to describe our lives as well.
Isaiah 61:1–4 1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor (those who suffer). He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. 2He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. 3To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. 4They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations. (NLT)
Such A Deal!
What a trade-off! That day is here. That day is now! God is ready to make the swap you seek. He will take from you broken-heartedness, captivity, mourning, and the ashes that are all that is left after suffering. In its place he will bless you with good news, comfort, release, freedom, his favor, beauty, joy, praise, and his righteousness in place of your unrighteousness. The effect will be like that of a great and might oak tree, solid, enduring, flourishing., In place of ancient ruins long destroyed he will repair and rebuilt and revive them even though they were once deserted! In him there is nothing that can touch us that will in the end be presently harmful or eternally destructive.
Let me quickly explain using a story from the Bible.
There was a guy named Nehemiah who God sent back to his hometown to rebuild the ancient wall that protected the city. It’s quite a story so I suggest you go read it in the Bible, in the book that goes by his name, chapters 1-6. Nehemiah had been deported by an invading enemy and now lived far from his home. He heard a report of the terrible conditions back home and was very upset. He prays to God about the situation and so God sends him back to remedy it.
Here’s the thing. They had to use the rubble of the previous wall to rebuild the new one. The “new” wall in fact was not new but just old ruins restacked into a wall. It was so sad looking that their enemies and detractors mock the effort
“What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day…? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that? That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!” (4:2-3)
That must have been discouraging. Maybe the people rebuilding the wall from the rubble that had been laying on the ground for over half a century were wondering the same thing? “How is this going to work exactly? We have only old ruins to make a new protective barrier from, and it looks like a stiff breeze will put it all back on the ground!”
Maybe you are feeling poor and feeble? Or your story makes you feel vulnerable? Maybe you feel your past could not be the making of a beautiful, victorious future? Are you still trying to put as much distance as possible between you and your past without ever really dealing with it or bringing any closure to open wounds, grief, and pain! Let’s revisit the story to answer that reluctance. Here is how Nehemiah described this phenomenal achievement when the wall was finished:
Nehemiah 6:15-16 15“So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.”
When we let God do the rebuilding, those who in the beginning want(ed) to mock and humiliate us will choke on their own scoffing. When the rebuild is finished it’ll be evident that God is the one who has made your life beautiful again using the very rubble of your past to make a glorious future for you! That rubble is what God transforms into a treasure you give others. All that debris is the very stuff that God will use to define your future.
Do you want to catch a glimpse of what God might be planning for you future? Look over your shoulder and remember what he has rescued you from. Somewhere behind you are the makings of the future mission that is before you.
I Don’t Want To!
I don’t blame you. But if you’re still thinking, “I don’t want to go back. There is nothing I hate more than mushy gusshy talk about feelings and pain and the invisible attributes of a wounded heart.” Listen as Jesus addresses your story.
Matthew 23:25–28 25 “What sorrow awaits you… You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy… 26… First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. 27“What sorrow awaits you… For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. (NLT)
Wow, Jesus is pretty rough with his hears. But that’s because they were religious elites who acted like they were fine when they knew they were not. They were hypocrites who acted like they were better than everyone else. It was disgusting to Jesus because they were supposed to show the people how to honestly deal with the past, with God’s help. But instead of admitting there was some smelly trash in their heart that needed to be taken out, they acted like they had no difficult or painful story to address.
It’s Your Life
You can follow their lead if you’d like. You can keep whitewashing the outside of the cup that represents your life if you want. You can keep trying to convince yourself and everyone else that you’re OK if you want. You can keep denying that there’s something ugly and selfish in your heart to mend if you want. You can keep talking your way out of and around the facts, spinning the truth, forcing it to fit the false narrative you cling to if you want. But only sorrow waits in the dark for you.
You can keep on selling the Tom Sawyer whitewash, pretending that it’s fun, getting others to take the blame for you, and help you maintain your charade if that’s what you want. Or, you can stop all the juking, spin, smooth-talking, false bravado, and everything else that makes up your finely tuned but wildly false exterior, your curated persona.
Here is a freeing truth. All that work, effort, lying, trying to remember your last lie so your next lie doesn’t contradict it, you can redirect that effort at letting God in so he can clean the inside of the cup. Know what happens when the inside is clean? The outside becomes clean too! The real you will emerge and the symptoms and addiction are no longer needed because there’s no longer something underneath driving it. The real you can finally breathe. This is a light, peaceful, calm, and must easier way to live. There is a season, a right time, to focus and spend considerable effort on internal cleansing. Is this that season? What you get out of the counseling is directly commensurate to what you put into it. Are you ready for a treasure hunt that’ll have you spelunking around in your past for buried treasure? The wreckage that God will transform and redeploy as the stuff her builds a great future for you from!
Something to Give
It’s immeasurably important that you get this point deep into your heart. Miss this and you miss more than an opportunity, you miss God!
When Jesus sent out his twelve followers, he told them to announce that the kingdom of heaven was here. Then he told them they’d be able to heal, resurrect, and kick out demons. And then he said something even more incredible. He told them to “Give as freely as they have received” (Matthew 10:5-8). Are we to believe these twelve had experienced these things? It would seem so! They were to give out of their own storehouse of treasure that was accumulated by bringing their own tragedies to God.
At the very least what’s clear is that they had received something from God to have something to freely give. They’d received it already, past tense, and were not waiting for it at some future date. God had treated them generously, so they were to live generously. The things he listed—healing, resurrections, and exorcisms—weren’t in reference to eternity but to the here and now. None of that will be needed in glory after life ends. If all you’ve ever been saved from is your sin, so that you only have a promise of heaven, you are to be most pitied! Yes, you heard me right. Pitied in this life. If we’re waiting to experience the love, and transforming saving power of God till we get to glory, we won’t have something temporal from which to give.
We Give What We Have
Later, after Jesus had left them to return to his throne in heaven, Peter (one of Jesus’ 12 disciples) was still living this directive. A lame man outside the church of their day (temple) was begging for money and asked Peter (and John) for a handout. This is his incredible replay:
Acts 3:4–6 4Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” 5The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. 6 But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”
The lame man did just that! As Peter helped him up, his feet and ankles were healed. He didn’t just stand up, he leapt around like a crazy man. Peter didn’t have money, but he had faith in the love and power of God to heal. Somehow he knew it would happen, believed it would, and so he gave away what he had. He stood in God’s place and gave away what he saw Jesus give away many times. It was almost like he was God’s replacement in that moment. And indeed he was. Another who authored part of the Bible, who’d received much from God himself – the Apostle Paul – explains it this way.
2 Corinthians 5:18–21 18And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (NLT)
You must have received something to have something to give. At least, to have something genuine to give. And giving speaking to our future. As ambassadors, God makes his appeal to people through us. What makes us believable is not a miracle as much as the fact that we’re giving what we have received. What we received, miracle or not, gives us confidence others can sense. God makes use of our story to point us and others to himself. To give us experience with his loving forgiveness and healing power. A first-person experience with the living loving God. Personal experiences with God that are guided by a coach build our relationship with Him. Before anything from our past is a problem to be solved, every struggle is primarily a gift that drives us to God, that secures our heart to him.
And we need to be driven to God because we are stubborn, independent, arrogant, and selfish people. Few chose God without some motivation. We need something immediate, tangible, and visible, to move our hearts to their deepest, truest loyalty to God. Hurt people hurt people, but God has provided so that hurt people can become healed people. He has everything we need for healing and health, and using it will bind us to him with the fiercest of allegiance. The overflowing good that comes from a deep connection with God, a relationship that comes through healed wounds, is able to handle every pain and injustice and make them seem like a treasure because they brought us to God. And then healed people heal people.
Every wound has a purpose, one that we may not yet see. Whatever “it” is, God can and will use “it” to draw us to himself, if we let him. We must remember that God may have something else in mind, something that’s not immediate healing or relief, and that something else is far more important.