19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. ~ Genesis 50:19-21
When I was in my early 30’s I thought I had it all. Amazing husband, wonderful kids, tight-knit extended family, fabulous friends and a great church. At some point things started to shift in our lives. God began to “remix”(1) my life; people we loved moved away, friendships changed, then we moved, our kids changed schools and we even changed church homes. Some of it was gradual and easier to accept but not all of it. One particular dissolution of a friendship was extremely difficult. It was one of those times where you kneel in your room with tears on your face and cry out to God begging for Him to tell you why, because the other person will not. Where you evaluate every conversation over the years of friendship looking for clues but they simply are not there. And over the next several months you reach for the phone to call that one person who you always called to share good news, bad news or just to chat…but you can’t anymore, so you cry a little more, slowly pull yourself together and pray you can move on.
There is a beautiful and sometimes toxic part of our brains that saves all the words that are said to us. It reminds us of our husband’s vows of love, our children’s first words, and invariably every negative thing we have ever heard about ourselves. We store them up to recall at just the right moment and they can come in handy! Like when you are in the middle of an argument with that amazing husband and suddenly in your mind you hear his voice speaking tenderly to you as you shared an intimate moment 2 days ago and your heart is softened…argument over. Or when you are finishing the fourth and final load of laundry just as your son comes to you covered with mud and suddenly you remember the first time he threw his chubby little arms around your neck and said, “I love you mommy!”…you smile, accept his mud pie gift and load the washer one more time. This gift of memory can be used by God to change our hearts at a moments notice.
But what about when you are driving to work, having a great morning, singing a worship song with the radio and minding your own business when you pass by the street where that used-to-be-friend lives and suddenly you are bombarded with the harsh words or maybe just the silence of the loss…a sadness that you are not sure how to handle has hijacked your day and you arrive to work with a subdued heart.
In the hands of the the enemy those memories become emotional ghosts. They jump out when you least expect it and steal one more little piece of your heart.
How do we fight something that originates in our own brain? How can I move from that hijacked day into a place of peace? At first I was in avoidance mode, I changed my route to work and pumped myself up with a lot of empty words about “not needing her in my life anyway”. Then over the next couple of years as God continued to remix our lives we actually had to short-sell our house and move out of the area. It felt like a huge loss that ultimately became an enormously God-blessed gain, both emotionally and financially. As a family we refocused and began to heal. Personally I began to see God’s hand of peace in the area of my friendships. It had been several years since the division of this one friendship and I found myself surrounded by many new ones! He had blessed me with a new group of women who were following hard after Him. My heart had been so guarded and fearful at first but I began opening up and relaxing with them. I was no longer afraid of loss, I was excited to see what He had in store. I had also learned a very valuable lesson about not holding onto any one friendship to the degree that God cannot take it away without cleaving it into pieces. While I was still unclear about the circumstances behind her choice, I was very clear about God’s intention to use it to shake up my life and put me in a new place with Him.
He is the one who comforted me, He is the one who changed my heart, He is the one who made it ALL worth it! He used it for His glory in my life from the first day until today. You see, those emotional ghosts are not silenced by time or by avoidance. They will still attempt to jump out at me but God has hijacked their message! He set me free from their whispered accusations and their intended pain. Now when they try to remind me of the loss I suffered I only see the miracle of what I gained. When I pass by that street I am reminded fondly of that friend and rather than arriving to work with a subdued heart I am encouraged to pray for her and ask only for God-ordained reconciliation. What began with my spiritual enemy’s intention to harm me God has used to heal me. The tears and the pain were not wasted.
I have thought about this topic for several years. While it no longer held the power to hijack my day, I was unable to write about it because there was still a part of me that was sad to have lost such a big part of my life. About a year ago I was approached by a mutual friend who told me that my lost friend had sent me a message on Facebook but because we were not “friends” it was not showing in my inbox. I found it later and was blessed to read a heartfelt apology. She also explained her reasons and after reading them I was able to empathize even though I would not have chosen the same path.
I did not have the reaction I expected.
All those years of God’s work in my heart had been successful. I did not fall apart nor did I run to her side and begin right where we left off. I was able to write her a note back to release her with forgiveness. You see, as I was writing my reply I realized that I had forgiven her a long time ago, a work of God that slowly cleaned out the bitterness, fear and anger replacing it with love, courage and compassion. I could also apologize for my part in the break of fellowship: holding on to the relationship to such a degree that God had to wrench it from my hands. I was able to tell her that God had used the division between us to change me and make me stronger, I am not who I was before. Only then did I feel the freedom of closure and it was a beautiful thing!!
I am happy to say that, even though we did not speak for many months after that, when we ran into each other a few weeks ago I had been living the the victory of that closure for long enough to ultimately be able to enjoy an evening together in renewed Godly fellowship without the emotional ghosts of our past. They could not steal that moment of victory if they tried!
What about you?
Are you still driving a different way to work? Mentally reviewing the disdain in that person’s voice while you fold your towels? Silently gritting your teeth as you walk past them on the way to your desk? Or maybe the division is deeper and closer to home. Are you missing a wayward husband or child who has chosen to be estranged from you? Have their prideful and snide comments about your spousal or parenting skills got you questioning everything you did for them for the last 20 years? Are you desperately asking God why ________ happened or didn’t happen?
What area’s of your life and heart have been hijacked by emotional ghosts?
He CAN comfort you. He CAN change your heart. He CAN make it ALL worth it! He WILL use the pain for His glory and for YOUR benefit. He can take the power of the messages from those emotional ghosts and turn them into points of prayer even in the middle of anger, fear and bitterness. But only when we allow Him to remix our lives and give Him permission to change our hearts. Only then can He turn our hearts toward Him and give us the strength to pray in the midst of our tears. We are at our strongest when we are on our knees.
Let’s make the choice today to put the broken pieces of our hearts in His capable hands. Let’s allow Him to take the messages that are intended to hurt us and use them to heal us and make us stronger. It will be hard but it will be worth it! Victory is always worth the work!
Maybe, just maybe He will allow us the freedom of reconciliation or at the very least closure. And even if we never know the “why”, we can be confident in the “Who”. Will you join me in the pursuit of victory over emotional ghosts today?
Still wondering if it will be worth it? Or questioning whether God can redeem the most difficult parts of your life? Read the story of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37 and 38-50.
You are always in my prayers friends,
(1) Beth Moore uses this term when she talks about the severe division that occurred between Paul and Barnabas, the resulting changes in Paul’s ministry, and the beginning of his new friendships with Silas and Timothy in her Children of the Day study. It is a description of how God restructures our life.