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When Hope Disappoints (And When Love Enlightens)

26 Apr

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“The eyes of your heart are being enlightened to this end, (that) you may know what is the hope of his calling and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the holy-ones.”  (Ephesians 1:18 MLV)

“…and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  (Romans 5:5 WEB (R))

“…that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  (Ephesians 3:16-19 WEB (R))

 

I sometimes wonder why so many people, including believers, who have good health, all their needs met, and others who care about them, nevertheless seem to live self-centered lives, hurting those around them over and over.  I’d like to share what I think may be the primary reason for this.  The meat of this post is at the end, so stick with me.

As I began writing, I was reminded that we ALL have acted in self-interest and hurt others when we could have done otherwise. Even though others might do so more often or dramatically, the fact remains we are usually guilty of essentially the same things we judge others for.  Not only that, but maybe these “others” are acting out of a place of pain, fear or ignorance which we cannot fathom and they don’t even realize.

The Problem

Physiotherapists and athletes are familiar with the dangers of “compensations,” where one changes their normal movement in order to avoid stressing an injured part of their body, such as limping after spraining an ankle.  Initially, limping might be helpful or necessary, but the danger is that it disrupts the bodies’ designed harmony of weight-bearing and movement.  Therefore, once the injured part heals, this natural harmony needs to be restored quickly and fully, or the harder it will be to restore normal movement and the greater the likelihood of another injury somewhere else in the body.  

In much the same way, I believe these same damaging “compensations” often happen in reaction to psychological/emotional wounds. Many of the maladjusted people we see are victims of inward trauma, and it’s well documented that such trauma is linked to various disorders and diseases and disorders in adulthood.1 While they don’t have to live with “compensations,” many do, and here is how I think it happens:

When one is abused or neglected, especially in childhood on a reoccurring basis by those who are supposed to provide love and protection, the soul’s harmonious state of peace and hope (expectation of good) become greatly damaged.  Using the sprained ankle comparison, this is the inward equivalent of whatever accident or trauma caused the sprain.  As a result, fear becomes the motivating force, which is the true problem.  This is the equivalent of the ankle’s torn ligaments, swelling and pain.  Various compensations (limps) then develop, intended to ease the pain and prevent further injury, including hyper-vigilance, anxiety, depression, attention-seeking, sexual addictions, substance addiction, a dog-eat-dog mentality, underlying anger, self-mutilation, and any number of other self-serving ways and attitudes.

Here’s a simple example of the above process: There are many cases of neglected children who, long after being adopted by a loving family, are found to be gorging themselves or secretly hoarding food in their bedrooms.2  It’s not that their new parents aren’t feeding them enough, it’s that their experiences led to a deep belief that there are no guarantees of provision, so they have to get as much as they can, when they can.  You can see how their expectation of good (hope) had been damaged, and was replaced by fear.  Often, the new parents try to reassure the child about their love, or even punish them in an attempt to change this behavior, but the behaviors persist anyway, creating tension in the relationship.  If you ask these children why they are gorging themselves and hiding food when they just ate an hour ago, haven’t missed a meal in months, and are stressing out their loving parents, they may not even be able to tell you – their fear has become subconscious and ingrained.  

The Great Importance of Hope:

In Ephesians 1:18, quoted at the top, Paul prays that believers hearts would be “enlightened” IN ORDER THAT they could truly know (not just believe) the hope that they have as heirs of God’s glory.  In other words, Paul’s prayer was that they would have the truth of their identity and their union with God revealed to them, and thus set their hope/expectation of good solely on that unchangeable, deep spiritual reality.  Paul says in Romans 5:5 that such a hope will not disappoint, because it is based on the unchangeable love and Spirit of God within us.  Again, “enlightenment” is a gift of God enabling us to see the reality of our adoption and identity as sons and daughters, who walk in freedom and love, not law and fear.  If, however, our expectation of good is based on something external, or not based on anything at all, that hope will deeply disappoint us or be crushed, leaving us in doubt, very vulnerable to the influence of fear, and causing love to seem distant.  This is when the damaging “compensations” creep in, and if left unaddressed, they can become deeply ingrained patterns that lead to an often miserable existence.

Fear and Love

Fear and love are the only two motivating forces that exist.  We think of fear as being afraid, but you can operate in fear as I mean it without feeling afraid at all.  For example, greed, selfishness, jealousy, anger, offense, and most any “vice” you can name are all aspects of fear, because they are self-focused, inward-turning energies.  Fear is essentially a heightened awareness of self, which comes with a heightened desire to protect or promote self.  Fear creates an individualistic mindset and inhabits a shallow, warped reality, because it cannot truly see or act beyond self’s needs and desires.  Fear cannot see or even fathom the realm of love – either in terms of giving or receiving.  Being hurt or abused fuels fear, because these tend to turn our focus inward.  Love, on the other hand, has no self-awareness, and thus no fear and no ability to be offended.3  Love is divine energy, which dwells, moves and deals entirely in the reality of the kingdom of God and the full, completed reconciliation of the cross.  As such, love patiently endures hardship and suffering, laboring to see that all men are cared for, made whole, and brought into the realization of their true nature and union with God (in other words, that they be “saved” or “born again”).  

For true and lasting change and freedom to occur, the primary thing is that the root of fear within be replaced by a root of love, giving a solid and enduring foundation for hope and peace.  After that, the compensations which developed out of fear must be recognized and purposely eliminated.  The Bible and other spiritual texts refer to this process, among other things, as “enlightenment,” “repentance,” and “self-control.”  Replacing ingrained beliefs and habits can be a scary, slow, discouraging and painful process, much like physical therapy while recovering from an injury or surgery.  It often seems impossible to recover and easier to just live with the injury, which is what many with inner wounds end up doing.  To help these wounded people, we must walk in love, seeing them beyond their circumstance, where they can’t see themselves.  We must be patient and gentle, remembering they are acting from a place of ignorance and fear, which developed from their experiences.  Think of approaching a wounded animal – you may intend to help it, but it is likely to lash out at you in fear and pain.  Responding with fear or aggression yourself would only create a bigger problem.   I’m not saying it’s ok for anyone to hurt another – it’s not, and boundaries may have to be set.  I’m simply saying that love won’t respond to fear with fear. Those who walk in love must avoid fear and minister to those who still walk under its influence.

Enlightened to Walk in Love

To quote Paul in Ephesians 3:17 above, when we are enlightened to recognize Christ/the Spirit in our hearts and thus are “rooted and grounded in love,” we must demonstrate that love to others.  Enlightenment isn’t earned, nor is it primarily for our benefit, it’s a gift we receive enabling us to minister Life to those who are walking in fear, outside of Christ.  Again, this love will deal with and speak to people in the light and realm of the finished work of the cross, speaking to them and dealing with them there, not in light of their circumstances and fears.  Love will let someone express how they feel and will listen to their thoughts, but it won’t coddle them there and it won’t go along with whatever is outside of Christ – it will call to the divine part in that person, even if they aren’t aware of it, in hopes they are enlightened to see it too.  While the common expression that people “need Christ” is essentially true, let’s remember this: YOU AND I ARE THE BODY CHRIST INHABITS AND WORKS THROUGH.  Not everyone will heed our words or respond to our love with repentance.  But, if they are going to hear Christ or experience his love and let go of their fear, it may only happen as we are Christ to them, speaking grace and truth which agree with the spirit of love, instead of responding to them with words of condemnation and death which further empower their fear and compensations.  This isn’t easy, but this is largely what it means to “walk in the Spirit.” 

Now, as Jesus said, it’s very easy to “love” and bless those who love you – there’s nothing special or divine about that.4  But loving those who aggravate you, harrass you, mistreat you, scare you or persecute you – that requires something real.  It requires the “enlightenment” that Paul prayed for.  Enlightenment is a gift of God, and I can’t always explain how it comes, but I can say this – true enlightenment is given to the humble, to those who admit their need, their weakness, their blindness.  I, and many others, have found that a key to this process is to prioritize times where we let go of agenda and simply commune with God in silence.  Like everything else, this takes practice and desire.  You may have to start small, and cut things out that blunt your desire for spiritual things.  But as we love where we can, and seek as we can, I believe God will grant us more grace, and greater love will naturally come forth from our inner being.  Again, it’s ok to start small!  Just start.   : )

 

(James 4:1-10 MLV):  “Where do the wars and quarrels among you come from? Is it not from here, from your own sensual-delights which are battling in your members?  (From your self-serving, fearful desires). You lust and do not have; you murder and are jealous and cannot obtain; you quarrel and make war; you do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask evilly, that you may spend it in your sensual-delights.  (You do not receive love, because you are operating in fear). Adulterers and adulteresses (breaking covenant with God by refusing His love), do you not know that the friendship of the world is designated as enmity with God? Therefore whoever wills to be a friend of the world is making himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks in vain? Does the Spirit which dwells in us long to envy? But he gives more grace. Wherefore the Scripture says, ‘God resists the haughty, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore be subject to God (receive His love) and withstand the Slanderer (do not heed to any fearful or accusing influence, which contradict the Father’s love) and he will flee from you (lose power and influence over you). Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. You sinners! You indecisive! Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts! Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom (don’t be happy or content apart from abiding in Christ and walking in love). Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he will exalt you (fearfully promoting yourself, or “seeking to gain your life,” as Jesus said, will only cause the loss of what you desire.  Humbling yourself, or  “losing your life,”5 is the only way to truly find Life, which is what all men ultimately want and need).

 

 

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment/consequences.html
  2. https://adoption.com/foster-adopted-children-hoard-food
  3. 1 John 4:16-18 MLV
  4. (MLV): “You* have heard that it was said, ‘You will love* your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ {Lev. 19:18} But I say to you*, Love* your* enemies, speak well of those who curse you*, do good things to those who hate you* and pray on behalf of those who exploit you* and persecute you*. Do this *that you* may become sons of your* Father who is in heaven; because his sun rises on the evil and the good and it rains on the righteous and the unrighteous. For* if you* love* those who love* you*, what reward do you* have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you* only greet your* friends, what do you* do more-than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you* will be perfect, like your* Father who is in the heavens is perfect.”                            {Footnotes: Mt 5:22a- OR vainly angry, empty (without cause or reason) or to further one’s vanity. Mt 5:22b- An expression of contempt. The Greek here could be simply ‘fool’ said as an expression of condemnation or could be a transliteration of ‘Moreh’ which is a Hebrew expression of condemnation. In Mt 5:22 the wording doesn’t matter; it’s the way it is said or meant. Mt 5:29- and all other places – offend literally means ‘cause to stumble’ or ‘snare.’}
  5. (Matthew 16:25 WEB (R))  “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.” 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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