Portion of Devotion by ~ James McDonald
As we head into the most intense family time of year. New schedules, new routines, new opportunities to start doing what’s right. I’ll warn you right now---blink, and they’ll be putting out Christmas stuff in the stores.
Christmas? You might be thinking, “James, you’re way ahead of yourself.” Not so fast. The holidays surprise us every year—both in their timing and with all the family baggage that spills out. I want to talk to you about some preventative steps you can take now that will prepare you for a new season in your family’s life.
I want us to focus on one word that focuses on a principle from God’s Word that can transform your family. That is not an empty promise. I believe you’ll see from the Word of God some of the transformation that you long to see in your family by thinking God’s thoughts on family issues.
As difficult as it may be, forgiveness is the place to start.
We wish that our families were as perfect as the dreams that we dream---but they’re not. There is hurt and disappointment. There are things that we wish would happen that have not happened. There are things that we wish would have never happened, but they did. As we stand over the milk that has been spilt and plans that have gone south, we need a plan from God and we need the strength and courage to act upon His truth.
I want you to pull all the unresolved pain of your family past right up on the table and ask you to unpack it, look at, remember it, feel it, and deal with it God’s way.
We tend to look at families across town, on the television, or across the aisle from us in church and think, “If only we could have a family like that family.” You just don’t know some of the details about them like you know about your own family. Looking for that perfect, model family in the Bible? You’re not going to find it. All families are sinful families. Every single family in the whole Bible had some good parts, but also some serious problems.
So, the first thing I want you to remember is : All families are sinful families.
Isaiah 53:6 says, "We all have wandered away like sheep;each of us has gone his own way. But the Lord has put on him the punishment for all the evil we have done." Each ONE of us has turned to his own way. All of us. When we begin to face up to that, this next point from Ephesians 4:31 will be obvious: Sin produces pain.
When you grow up in a family where all the people are sinful people, guess what? Along with the joys, celebrations, and good things, there is going to be some hurt, disappointment, injury, fall-out, and some consequences. That’s what makes Ephesians 4:31 so necessary. "Do not be bitter or angry or mad. Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others. Never do anything evil." Those six things are destructive emotions that, if left unresolved, will hit your home like a tornado hits a Kansas farmhouse. Those emotions destroy your family.
Here’s the third thing: Pain requires forgiveness.
The next verse, Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ." You say, “yes, that’s what I need to do. But how?” The How To Do It is in the last part, “Forgive one another even as God in Christ forgave you.” Forgiveness is the cure to family pain. Nothing else will heal family pain:
Those of you who have invested decades in the time solution know that, as raw as ever, time heals nothing;
I’m totally for counseling but I’m not for worldly solutions to spiritual problems;
Getting even. Making someone pay. You are the one that pays;
Not moving away . . . and
Not changing your name . . .
Forgiveness is an act of my will. It is a choice I make. It’s like getting out of bed in the morning when I don’t feel like it! I must. Forgiveness is an act of my will. Forgiveness is not “Oh, you’re so cute, I think I’ll kiss you.” Forgiveness is “I want to kiss you. You are beautiful.” Forgiveness isn’t something you feel and want to do. Forgiveness is “You have made a mess. OK. I’ll clean it up.” That’s forgiveness. It’s a choice. Forgiveness is the choice to release a person from the obligation that resulted when they took something from you. Somebody takes something from you, forgiveness is the choice to release them from that.
This is where you say, “Lord, I know there are people I need to forgive, some I can remember and some I can’t remember. Would You bring to my mind all of the people I need to forgive?” Get a piece of paper ready. As God brings to your mind all of the people, jot their names down. In this crisis I do two things: I name the person; and I name the pain. I say, “God, I forgive Bill for . . . ” and I say it right before the Lord. God hears and He answers. In that crisis I say, “God, I forgive Robert for. . . God, I forgive Sue for . . . God, I forgive my dad for . . . God, I forgive my sister for . . . ” In the crisis of that moment incredible healing happens. I have seen people freed. This can be your day. Name the person and name the pain. And then forgive them.
You may be saying, “James, I can’t do that. It’s too hard.” Do you think God would ever command you to do something that was beyond your ability? Sure---it is too hard for you, you must do it through Christ who has forgiven you. Do it today, Loved One. (The holidays are just around the corner.)