We live in a world constantly on the defensive, fearful of what others might do to us. Our world is full of walls, barriers, and fences, and we are all familiar with certain phrases that acknowledge this:
“Good fences make good neighbors”—[but this is not always true];
“The best defense is a good offense”—[but even good defenses can fail];
“Those who can be offended will be”—[and we all will be offended at some point].
Even Jesus Himself said, “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!’’ [Mt. 18:7, KJV]
We are all aware of the need to protect ourselves, our families, and our property. We build physical barriers to keep people and animals from wandering into danger or to protect against outside dangers. Sometimes these barriers and plans work; sometimes they fail.
Now, there is another saying we all know:
“Sticks and stones can break my bones
But words can never hurt me.”
The truth is different. Thoughtless or cruel words can hurt us greatly. The offences of the tongue cause deep emotional and spiritual wounds. Jesus Himself said that we lived in a world full of offences, and He Himself endured mocking and the cruelest of words. So how do we cope? How do we protect our own hearts?
In our humanness, we often build interior fences within ourselves, to protect our hearts and souls from the emotional and spiritual wounds that other’s offences cause. Yet the walls and fences that we build around our hearts often fail to protect us and even entrap us in bitterness and loneliness. Our interior fences fail us because they block the only balm, the only medicine that can heal our hearts and souls--love and compassion. When we close our hearts, the love necessary to heal our wounds is locked out; our internal wounds then begin to fester. Bitterness brews within our wounded, lonely souls, until the poisonous puss of bitterness infects all our relationships.
Our only hope is to tear down the walls we have built and to rely on God to guard our hearts. The faith and trust that we have in Him and His goodness is a a shield that keeps many offences which fly at us like fiery darts from striking our hearts [see Ephesians 6:10-18].
But what of the “darts” that have already struck our hearts or that get back our shield of faith when we let our guard down? What about the wounds we already carry?
We are to seek “the sweetness of Jericho.” Now, we don’t have to travel to the oasis of Jericho in Israel, but we do have to turn aside from our daily activities to meet with the Lord. In the dryness of our days, we must seek the “spring of living water”. We must come to Jesus, confess that offenses have entered into our hearts, and ask Him to cleanse our hearts and remove our offenses. Healing may not all come instantaneously; it may take time; but it will come. During the time of healing we must focus our praise and prayer on the character of God and rest in His goodness. We must also declare forgiveness toward those that have wounded us, for forgiveness unlocks the closed gates of our hearts and soul.
Forgiveness can be difficult. However, we forgive others to bring renewal and refreshment to the bleakness and woundedness of our own lives by breaking the hold that the offense and the offender has over us. As long as we refuse to forgive our offender, that person still has a knife in our hearts that continually twists to cut and to wound us. When we choose to forgive others and “tarry” [or take the time] to commune with God, a transaction takes place within our souls. Jesus will remove the anger, pain, hatred, hurt, embarrassment, and bitterness from us; and replace those things with a greater portion of the rewards that we can receive through His Spirit:
Proverbs 12:2—favor of the Lord
Pr. 29:23—a humble spirit and honor
Is. 51:11—gladness and joy
Jer. 46:11—balm for healing [see Jer. 8:28]
Mt. 19:16—abundant, eternal life
Ro. 1:13—fruit that endures
Heb. 11:35—a better resurrection
2 Tim. 2:10—salvation [in our souls and bodies as well as our spirits]
1 Pet 1:4—an inheritance in God
Do we wish to obtain the rewards or blessing of God, or do we want to maintain feeble, human defenses that inevitably fail us? Do we wish to thirst and feel parched, or do we wish to be refreshed?
Forgiveness and healing is our choice. Jesus awaits us in Jericho.