The Lord will march out like a champion,like a warrior he will stir up his zeal;with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. Isaiah 42:13
Like you, I’ve dealt with a lot of difficult people throughout my life. Whether it was at work, my children’s school, youth sports, or even my church, I encountered people who just wanted to be adversarial. And I am certain I was someone’s “difficult person” at one time or another. But I think the most painful experiences surrounding adversaries are when they are part of our family.
I was talking with a good friend of mine the other day about our two families. We both struggle with difficult parent situations. One day she and her sister had a heart to heart about a disagreement from a few weeks prior. With my Christian friend’s kind and gentle approach she spurred the revelation that they had become their parents. Each sister taking on the personality and fighting style of one of their parents. That revelation started a healing process in both of them. Truly a small victory.
In my own life I have transitioned through the stages of grief when it comes to my relationship with my parents. I denied there was a real problem in my family. When I finally recognized the problems, I became angry and fought constantly with my mother – trying to change her. I even had my own way of bargaining to try and create a Hallmark-style mother-daughter relationship. I would do things for her to help her see what a good person I really was. But my expectations and hopes were always dashed. I became depressed for awhile when I realized we would never be a family that loved being together. I just wanted to untie myself from my parents and let them go adrift. All of this was before I finally surrendered. I raised my white flag. But not to any human. To God.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14
Paul wrote this to the church of Corinth during a very difficult time for him and his relationship with this church. They were angry with him for changing his plans about visiting. Some had started false preaching about him behind his back. And, as Warren Wiersbe states, “When Christians misunderstand each other the wounds can be very deep.” Isn’t that true of our families as well?
During the last few years, I have experienced that Christ-given “fragrance of knowledge of Him.” And as I have done so, I finally had to experience that last stage of grief – acceptance. For us Christians that acceptance comes, more importantly, with forgiveness. I stopped trying to change the situation by myself. And I started to rely on God to handle the situation with my parents. I hold on to the truth of who loves me for all eternity. And I’m learning how to stay tied to my parents without feelings of hurt and anger. As I spoke of this with my friend she announced very boldly, “And now you have VICTORY!”
..so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. 2 Corinthians 2:7-11
I forgave my parents for not being able to provide me with what I was looking for in a relationship. I realized they had never been the recipients of overwhelming love. I stopped being angry and instead became thankful for the life which God has blessed me – a loving family of my own. Had I given up at any of the other 4 steps of grief surely Satan would have won. But like Paul, I am no longer ignorant of the devil’s designs.
Thanks be to God for the triumph He has promised us. We can hold fast knowing that, not only will He have victory over those who would do us harm, but also over our own souls which get injured and hurt by the world. We can have victory because the Spirit of God rests in us.