Have you ever been made fun of, ridiculed because of your coke-bottle glasses, your accent or for being different from your peers?
Welcome to this world, where tolerance is superficial.
However, although nasty words can hurt us deep to the core, and shake us up from who we truly are, the ones who speak such words, though they may not be aware of it, are really no better off. Sooner or later their perversity catches up with them, and it will hurt them even more deeply than the wounds they’ve given us.
“Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction.” (Ps 5:9 NIV)
“You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh.” (Matt 23:27 The Message)
Indeed, the words they pronounce show that deep inside they are rotten to the core, some more so than others.
In Hveragendi, Iceland, we were looking for timber houses, but although the town is renowned for them, we couldn’t find any. Were we in the wrong town?
It’s then that we learned that the exterior of these lovely houses, one dating from 1929, were covered by metal walls to shield them from the harsh Icelandic weather. If they hadn’t had such coverings, they wouldn’t have lasted anywhere near 90 years! No wonder we couldn’t find them! They were all covered with metal to prevent them from rotting! The same kind of covering, preventing inner rotting is provided to us by God, but it is only attainable through complete trust in Him.
Jesus’ mother’s cousin for example, Elizabeth, also received her fair share of criticism. She was barren after all, which was considered by the people of those days to be a clear indication that she was cursed by God. Then the unimaginable happened. Though she and her husband were both advanced in years (See Luke 1:7), she became pregnant:
“After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. ‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.'” (Luke 1:24-25 NIV)
Her disgrace among her people (not God) had been taken away. Instead of ridicule, she was surrounded by admiration and acclamation. She was now the most famous woman in town!
God is a specialist in hope. In fact, many other barren women experienced fertility thanks to God’s intervention (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Manoach’s Wife, Hannah, Michal. . .) They, too, saw a swift change in people’s looks, from derogatory remarks to deep respect, and God can do the same for any who experienced similar hurt! We only have to trust Him.
Elizabeth would have had much reason to not forgive. We have reason to believe, however, that she resisted the urge to not forgive, for we know that her son, John the Baptist, was raised with a hunger for God. This could not have happened in a home where unforgiveness reigned! No, it could only happen in a home where those who used to criticize were openly accepted. No wonder her son, John the Baptist, was raised with a hunger for God! Elizabeth had remained under the cover of God, preventing any inner rotting, through faith.
This is the message of Christmas: There is always hope, and forgiveness is deeply written on God’s heart.
Oh Lord, prevent us from rotting inside. We may not always be the nicest people on earth, but with Your help, we can be changed. May we be the beacons of light You desire us to be, and instead of discouraging others, may we encourage them. May we be like Jesus, the Master of forgiveness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Where did I lay my wooden beam? I hope it didn’t rot!
(To access the entire “Christmas: A Message of Forgiveness” devotional series, please click here.)