"Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase." ~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Growth of A Stained Heart

Flipping through several magazines a few days ago, all centered on women, I noticed a common denominator among the articles that were presented in each. Each of these publications had at least one article about how to find true happiness, getting beyond your fears, loving your life to the fullest, etc.... However among all of these articles, one of them stood out to me. It was almost as if it was written in 3-D across the cover of the magazine. It read something along the lines of "What's Holding You Back from Really Living Your Life?"

As I opened the magazine, it features several women, all of different ages and with ethnic backgrounds as unique as they come. All of these women had discovered and dealt with the issues, and even people in their past, that was stunting their growth in faith, joy, and God confidence.

I began to think about all the women of the world, and how we are all similar in one way. We all have or have had a stained heart. We have been hurt by someone or something, and it has been written on our heart, leaving stains of the pain behind. These stains, for some of us, may have stunted our spiritual growth into becoming the women of God that He is calling us to be.

I also began to think about my own testimony of overcoming low self-esteem. Teasing and tormenting from peers at a young age, left me all too often feeling unworthy of success, incompetent of accomplishing tasks, and just plainly put, sometimes questioning why God wanted to waste His power creating something like me. There for a while, I began to think that I was created only for the amusement of others. I thank God today that I was able to pray, get close to my Father who let me know that He felt my pain, and grow past my stained heart, while allowing God to remove those blotches that were too difficult for me to remove independently.

Let's stray from my testimony for just a moment and talk about why God would allow our hearts to become stained in the first place. There are several scriptures throughout the Bible in which God speaks specifically to people whose hearts are stained or broken for whatever the reason may be. Psalm 34:18 is my absolute favorite probably because it was instrumental in my growth on the low self-esteem journey. Other scriptures are also listed below that prove that God holds a special place in his heart and has special plans for those that have been mistreated to the point that it stunts their growth in Him.

Psalm 34:18 reads, The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (NIV)

Psalm 10:17 reads, You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. (NIV)

Psalm 36: 10-11 reads, A little while, and the wicked will be no more; through you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. (NIV)

Psalm 46:1 reads, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (NIV)

If you go exploring thorugh the Psalms alone, there are numerous scriptures on being out casted and having a stained heart. This is the testimony of those that had hearts full of burdens and grief, how they cried out unto God, how He rescued them, and how they praise Him after their growth beyond their stained hearts. The answer of how they overcame is in Psalm 46:1, which is stated above. There is no other way but God.

To grow past our stained hearts, we must look at those stains head on. This may mean that we have to deal with some issues from our pasts that are painful even now to think about. For example, we have to think about those people who talked about us and the things that they said. We have to ask God to help us to forgive them so that stain can be removed. We may have to look past the faults of others that have hurt us, whether we were abused by loved ones, neglected by parents, teased by peers, ______________. (You fill in the blank of what may have stained your heart.) Sometimes dealing with those stains may mean talking with that person or going to that place. We have to deal with the issues head on, not looking anyway but in the direction of growth, which is forward. One cannot grow backwards. So, take the time to look back, deal with it, and remain your focus forward on your growth.

Sometimes when we must confront those pieces of pain on our hearts from the past, much time may have passed and situations are different. Hopefully both parties involved have grown positively in some way. What those of us with stained hearts need to realize is that, as hard as it may be to deal with, each of those events were patterned in our lives to help us grow closer to our Father. In knowing this, it makes it a lot easier to forgive the things that others have done to us. Some of the things that have been done to me, I definitely didn't understand then, but now that I have grown in Christ, I know that the pain they caused me was only preparation for my destiny. So, in a sense, I feel obligated to thank them for hurting me. Funny stuff, I know, but remember we serve an unconventional God who sees and perceives things totally different than we do! Pray and ask God why you may have the stains that you do. What was His purpose?

Again, when we have dealt with the painful stains, God can begin to cleanse us. Our hearts can be rid of malice, hatred, jealously, hurtful emotions, negative thoughts, and anything else that is keeping us from reaching our ultimate relationship with and potential in Christ. I am a testimony that when God has cleansed your heart, you can even become surprised about how you feel about those people and places that may have hurt you in your past. You began to love and pray for those that cursed and despised you. You forgive those that may seem unworthy of forgiveness in your eyes. God can really shock you with what He can do through you.

I once had a person that really hurt me when I was younger, and that hurt really stuck with me. I heard of some things that she was going through, and could not help but to pray in love for her. I genuinely wanted her life to become better. I was very concerned and prayed day and night for her and her situation. The flesh in me wanted her to feel the pain that she had made me feel in the past, but the spiritual growth and Christ in me overrode my personal issues with her, allowing me to pray for her situation, growth, and deliverance. What a surprise! That is what God can do! And, I know that I grew closer to God by simply succumbing to His will for my prayers on those days. Thank you Lord, for continuing to work on me and the stains that may remain on my heart!!!
Spiritual Reflections

1. Examine your heart. Look closely....what are some of the stains that you see and feel? List them in detail below. If a person was involved, don't forget to include their name. Remember we are facing this head on.

2. Say a personal prayer about each stain one by one, or all of your stains together. You may want to write you prayer down and pray the same prayer daily until you see that God speaks to you about your stains. Ask God to help you rid yourself of the negative feelings that you may have and place forgiveness in your heart. Also, ask Him to show you what His purpose was in you experiencing these painful issues. Don't forget to ask God to cleanse these stains from your heart.
3. Search the Bible and find scriptures that help you confront the issues that you listed in number one. Use these scriptures when battling cleaning these issues. Speak them when those people or places arise in your life.