Colorado’s collective heart is broken. Inexplicable life events and senseless human acts have devastated our hearts leaving us confused and filled with grief. The pain those directly touched by the recent tragedies are experiencing, is the type that cuts to the core. It confounds understanding and can put cracks in faith. Cracks that do one of two things; drive us to our knees where God’s grace can help us overcome or harden our hearts.
I know this type of grief well and have responded sometimes with a hardened heart and sometimes on my knees. Thankfully, the Lord has always been faithful where I have missed the mark, bringing me safely back onto the path of his plan.
Years ago, when my daughter Faith was born, she was medically fragile. During one of many hospitalizations, a resident made a careless error that caused her to develop severe meningitis. As her fever raged — so did my heart. I wanted the resident to feel the pain she was in and suffer as much as she was. My heart was stone cold.
A day or two later, the resident tried to talk with me. Tears streamed down his face as he quietly and softly begged for forgiveness. Again and again he pled with me and over and over I said I couldn’t forgive. As I walked away, I heard him burst into loud gut wrenching sobs. “Serves him right”, I thought. I felt justified in my anger and no remorse over my lack of compassion.
Over time, Faith strengthened and the doctors happily explained, in time, she was going to be just fine! Instead of being 100% focused on Faith’s recovery though, I was sometimes preoccupied in my mind with the internal rage I felt towards the resident. A deep anger continued to burn in my soul as I imagined what I would say when I saw him again. Let there be no doubt, uncontrolled anger, can and will pull you away from what is most important. It will consume and destroy everything in its path. (Psalm 37:8)
Finally, one day I saw the resident as he ate alone in a back corner of the cafeteria. I boldly without hesitation walked towards him. After all, I justified, my anger was valid. What he did was wrong. I was ready to verbally destroy the man who had harmed my little girl.
As I approached, he spotted me. Nervous, he spilled his drink all over his food. His hands trembled as he tried to clean up the mess. Our eyes locked and in that instant, I saw him through the eyes of Jesus living in me instead of my own. Through the lens of God’s love, I saw the residents crushed, deeply remorseful heart. The cracks of my pain that had oozed anger and hate were being overcome by the light and truth of Jesus. Softly I said, “I’ve been so angry at you for hurting Faith. I’ve been so mad.” I grabbed his still soda soaked hand and said, “I forgive you. Faith is going to be just fine and I want you to be too.” He wept. I wept. Jesus helped me to overcome and in doing so, his love covered the magnitude of the residents sin and a multitude of mine. (1 Peter 4:8)
Fast forward to 2010. Most of you know I was overdosed by a nurse. Unlike the resident though, she never apologized. She never reached out to me or acknowledged she did anything wrong. Being faced with a person who profoundly damaged me and my family, yet seemed compassionless added a whole other layer to my journey. In fact her lack of remorse and compassion, at times, it made my journey seem impossible.
One day, as I was struggling with my tremors to get the gas nozzle into my car, I looked up and saw the hospital where the overdose occurred. My mind filled with memories of what happened and soon thoughts of rushing over there to find the nurse who harmed me were whirling in my head. (Proverbs 14:17) Everything in me wanted her to know her how her negligence robbed me of the life I loved. The anger I felt rocked and rolled at a depth of my soul I had never experienced before and it frightened me.
Finally, God’s amazing grace powerfully broke through my anger stopping my thinking instantly as two pictures flashed before my mind’s eye. One moment, I saw myself as the person God is in the process of growing me to be and in the next, I saw the bitter, vengeful and angry person my life experience was giving me permission to be. The stark contrast hit me like ton of bricks. While no one would deny I had reasons to be angry, God did not want that anger to define or rule me. I began to sob.
More tears flowed and as they did, they washed away a great deal of the rage that was beginning to consume me. My anger had served as a counterfeit shield for my heart. It blocked the authentic protection of the living God from healing and guarding my fragile soul. With my anger melting away, I authentically felt my emotional frailty and it caused me to yearn for the strength of the Lord.
When I quietly cried out for help in my times of trouble (Psalm 46:1), the Holy Spirit rushed to my side. Like refreshing waters in a parched land, his strength came infusing me with peace, hope, strength, and a burning desire to overcome my anger. Though I knew it would be a process (and a process it has been) my heart softened to the point where I had a desire to forgive.
Since that day at the gas station, I have been more at peace. There are times when my anger flairs at the injustices and profound losses but overall, I have hope for my future (Jeremiah 29:11) and peace in my heart (Colossians 3:15). That’s a pretty amazing thing and demonstrates the how lovely, gentle, and beautiful God is when he works in our hearts and shines through the cracks life’s crushing blows.
Colorado’s collective heart is broken. Anger, is a normal and incredibly understandable reaction to what we have endured. Just like us in Colorado, millions of people throughout the world live daily with broken hearts caused by inexplicable life events and senseless human acts. It is for this reason, the light and love of Jesus is what we all need. He is gentle and kind. He knows what we need and when we need it. He hears our prayers and never fails to fulfill the promise of being strong in our weakness. He sees beyond our anger to our hurting hearts and souls. He truly is an ever-present help in times of trouble.
If you doubt these things, know I am not capable of forgiving or overcoming many of the deep hurts in my life without the Lord working in me. My heart is too easily turned hard and my anger too easily turned to rage. If you see gentleness, kindness, compassion, hope, love and peace in me, let there be no doubt it is Jesus living in me.