As small as a mustard seed

Jealousy is an ugly emotion. It wraps around the heart like a poisonous vine and squeezes until all that is left is hurt. Fear stems from jealousy. The fear that you are not as pretty as her. The fear that you are not as smart as him. The fear that you are not as funny, or as charming, or as gifted. Then there is the fear that you will never have your dreams while your cousin, sister, best friend, general Facebook acquaintance is posting pictures of theirs. With every image, the vine squeezes just a little tighter, reminding you that you do not have what you desire. It reminds you that the clock is ticking, that your running out of time – of youth. Or, it reminds you of the diagnosis that doctors said will prevent you from ever having your dream. Jealousy is an ugly emotion. It wraps around the heart like a poisonous vine and squeezes until all that is left is hurt. Your cousin, sister, best friend, general Facebook acquaintance is posting pictures of their dreams come true. With every image, the vine squeezes just a little tighter, reminding you that you do not have what you desire. It reminds you that the clock is ticking, that you are running out of time – of youth. Or, it reminds you of the diagnosis that doctors said will prevent you from ever having your dream.

The hurt flares up every time you hold your best friend’s baby. The hurt flares up every time you see your Facebook friends post pictures of their handsome husbands and beautiful wives. You feel it every time you find your praying knees, asking God why. Why hasn’t it happened yet? why does every relationship fall apart? why were you diagnosed with that disease? why were you betrayed by the people you valued most?

The vine spreads throughout your body and becomes the lump in your throat when someone asks if you are okay. You nod and force a fake smile and continue on your way. Maybe even tell a little white lie: “I’m fine. Just tired.” The vine becomes the ache in your stomach when you see a pregnant woman smile at her husband and rub her rounded belly. The vine becomes the headache as you slide through social media and stare at smiling faces and perfect makeup and posts that document a wonderful day.

Then fear settles in. Fear stems from jealousy. The fear that you are not as pretty as her. The fear that you are not as smart as him. The fear that you are not as funny, or as charming, or as gifted. Then there is the fear that you will never have your dreams. The “what if’s” that echo through your thoughts every second of every day. “What if God lied to me? What if I imagined that vision? What if God tricked me into believing in it?” Fear is the weight settling on your shoulders. It presses down, creating a strain in your neck. You can’t turn your head away from the barrage of pain headed your way. You are stuck.

Sometimes you share your emotions with a friend – who swears that it can still happen.
Sometimes you share your emotions with a relative – who tries to remind you that God has the final say, not doctors.
Sometimes you share your emotions in a journal – where you battle with yourself and feel insane as you pour everything out with tears streaming rivers down your cheeks.
Sometimes, you share your emotions with the world – wondering if anyone is struggling as you are.

Sometimes you pray. You pray so long that the day ends and the next one begins. You remember the vision you were given of your own belly rounded with a baby. You remember the vision of yourself holding hands with your husband. You remember that new beginnings sometimes start with painful endings. You remember that God is in control and that His timing is perfect and yours is not. You remember that Fear is a liar trying to rob you of your happiness. You remember that God only speaks the truth, God loves you, God is not a trickster aiming to hurt you, God will remove the vine from your heart and the weight from your shoulders.

From the prayers and reminders, a seed of hope is planted in your heart. It’s a small seed, no bigger than the tip of a pencil, “yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:32).

person holding a green plant
Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com
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Seven Times Seventy

I’ve been wanting to write about forgiveness for the last two weeks. Okay, that’s a lie. I haven’t wanted to write about this which is why I haven’t posted in two weeks. It’s been heavy on my heart and I’ve been struggling because I don’t think I’m really one to talk.

It’s a difficult thing to do, to forgive someone who has hurt you. How do you know if you’ve truly forgiven them? Do you just accept the apology and stay friends? Sometimes you know that the friendship isn’t healthy for both parties, but if you don’t stay friends did you really forgive?

The answer is yes. You don’t have to maintain a friendship just to forgive someone. You can part amicably and never have the cloud of unforgivingness over your head, or even worse, the resentment toward them in your heart.

What happens if you forgive someone, but they continue to mess up? Do we forgive even after they come to us asking for forgiveness for the fifth or twelfth time? In Matthew 18:22, Jesus says, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” If you don’t have a calculator handy and are as terrible at math as I am, that looks like this:

7 x 70 = 490.

Jesus says to forgive someone four hundred ninety times. Now, should we attempt to keep track of how many times we’ve forgiven someone?

What if Jesus did that? What if, throughout our entire lifetime, God was counting the amount of times we apologized for our sins? Do you realize that God views all sins on the same scale? We as humans don’t. We feel certain issues are worse than others. But it’s all a sin against Him. Jesus did not die on the cross to only save us when we lie, cheat, or steal. He forgives murder, abuse, and rape. He was on the cross, telling His Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Those people hadn’t even started to ask for forgiveness. They were dividing Jesus’ possessions instead of apologizing for crucifying Him.

I know forgiving someone who has hurt you is hard. It doesn’t matter what the deed was, how easy it should be to get over it or not. If you claim to love the Lord and trust in Him, you need to forgive. “For if you forgive men for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14–15).

Onto part two of this struggle: Accepting Forgiveness.

 I thought forgiving someone was hard. I thought that trying to move past sins committed against me was hard. I thought writing about forgiving others was difficult. Admitting your own struggles is more difficult. Nothing is more humbling than realizing you are wrong and having to apologize. Nothing is worse than someone telling you that you are forgiven but you still feel guilty. You still walk around feeling that nothing you do is good enough. That you’ll never be forgiven entirely. That what you’ve done is too big of a deed to ever be completely forgiven.

For me, it’s not something that I’ve done against a friend or a stranger. It’s something between God and me, as a result of things that I am working on forgiving others for. It really calls into light Matthew 6:15, “if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins.” I have lost sleep praying and crying. I have spent days in bed, not feeling strong enough to get up. This guilt, shame, and hurt just hangs on my heart, holding me down.

I’ve recently started going to church again. I thought everyone would just know what my shames are, what my fears and struggles are. But they didn’t. They welcomed me and I thought I could just keep hiding things. But God’s been working on me, more like in me.

The messages I’ve been listening to keep repeating in my head. I’ve opened my Bible more times a day in the last few weeks than I have in the last twenty years. Verses that I’ve heard in church before, so many times, are still being repeated—but I’m understanding them now. And on days where I’m feeling so low that I wonder if I really have any worth, that I’m afraid of not being valuable, Scripture starts running through my mind by the grace of God. Matthew 10:29-31 (my favorite Bible verses) says,

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear. You are more valuable than many sparrows.”

And 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

“What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are not your own? You were bought with a price.”

Our God sent His only Son to die for all of our sins (John 3:16), not just the minor ones. We have to accept that the Jesus who forgave those who crucified Him is the same Jesus who forgives us. Then, we have to release that guilt that burdens our hearts and live.

Lord, 

I pray that whoever reads this can have a sense of peace in their life, over their struggles and hurts. Lord, I know I have a lot of growing to do. I know that I am not perfect in any sense of the word, but I ask that You help me to accept Your forgiveness and that You help me forgive daily. Every time resentment stirs in my heart, every time the same people apologize for the same mistakes, I will forgive and move on. I will not carry guilt or shame in my heart after I lay my troubles out to You and seek Your forgiveness. 

In Your name, amen.