Part 1 of 3
Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV, 1984)
(1) I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.(2) He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand(3) He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
Life Can Be The Pits
I am terrible at driving large cars. Let me illustrate…
One fateful day in Manila, I set off to visit my Filipina friend who lived in a tiny alleyway in busy Taytay. In the stress of crowded streets and pressured decisions, I made a turn into the wrong alley. Knowing I could not back out into one of the busiest streets in this small town, I proceeded down the alley, hoping to be able to find a way to turn around. My panic escalated when I got to the end of the alley, only to find it turned left into a dead-end. I proceeded to attempt a thirty-point turn (or thereabouts) to get my monster of a car out of what I soon began to feel was the tiniest alley in all of the Philippines. In my frantic cranking of the steering wheel, I did not notice a drainage ditch that hugged a huge wall to my right, but which became my nemesis. For with one last-ditch effort, I yanked my car around and heard a horrible clank. My car listed dangerously to the right and I found myself buried up to the car’s axle in both a drainage pit and figuratively, in the pit of despair. It took my husband and a whole team of maintenance workers from Faith Academy to pull my Mitsubishi Adventure out of the pit into which I had gotten stuck.
Kinds of pits
Have you ever found yourself in a pit? You are in good company. Scripture is full of examples of people who have fallen into various kinds of pits. In my limited amount of research this week, I discovered six different types of pits in the Old Testament. Maybe you will identify with one of these…
- The pit of disgrace – “To you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.” (Psalm 28:1) This definition of pit (Hebrew bor) actually has the word ‘prison’ in it and Psalm 28 details David’s cry about the injustice of being placed in an unfair pit. He has received unmerited disgrace and has been consigned to a place where the disgraced are dragged away.
- The pit of destruction – “The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.” (Ps. 9:15) This is the Hebrew word sahat, figuratively meaning destruction or corruption. (ESV Strong’s) This is the type of pit David used when he spoke these words, “who redeems your life from the pit…” (Ps. 103:4), for God has redeemed us both from corruption and destruction, from sin and from hell.
- The pit of great depth – “But you, O God will bring down the wicked into the pit of corruption; bloodthirsty and deceitful men will not live out half their days.” (Ps. 55:23) This is a general word (Hebrew word be’er) describing an almost-inescapable pit; it’s so deep. The NIV translates this word in Psalm 88:6 “You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.”
- The pit of defeat – “They spread a net for my feet – I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit in my path – but they have fallen into it themselves.” (Ps. 57:6) This word (sigha) describes a pitfall, a pit that is designed to trip us up.
- The pit of depression – “Should good be repaid with evil? Yet they have dug a pit for me. Remember that I stood before you and spoke in their behalf to turn your wrath away from them.” (Jer. 18:20) This word suha means a deep chasm but it comes from the root word, meaning depression. We know the intentions of Jeremiah’s enemies, for Jeremiah 18:18 clearly speaks their minds, “Come, let’s make plans against Jeremiah…let’s attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to anything he says.” Now, you and I both know that if someone attacks us and ignores us, depression and discouragement soon follow.
- The pit of deception – “Whoever flees at the sound of terror will fall into a pit; whoever climbs out of the pit will be caught in a snare.” (Isa. 24:18) This Hebrew word (pahat) describes a pit for catching animals, a trap. Daniel was the victim of a pit of deception when his enemies tricked the king into writing an edict Daniel could not – out of his great love for God – embrace nor obey.
Do any of these pits describe a situation in which you have found yourself?
- Maybe you have undergone a great injustice and are struggling in your heart because God does not stand up for you as your champion. You feel disgraced by another’s harsh treatment of you.
- Maybe you are in a pit of your own making, a destructive pit lined with poor choices, where you have sinned and fallen short of God’s commands and you cannot lift your head to your Redeemer.
- Perhaps you reside in a pit so deep you cannot find your way out: an inescapable legal battle, an unending health issue, or a relationship issue that leaves you as dry as the well you feel you are in.
- Or what about the pit of defeat where you have made a terrible mistake and are branded by the pitfall you stumbled over?
- Maybe your pit is depression. You have undergone a trial so long and so hard that you have fallen into hopelessness.
- Or maybe you have been tricked by a friend, rejected and betrayed by loved ones, or deceived by people you have trusted.
Most pits have a few common characteristics. Like my story illustrated, pits often stem from busyness, from crowded and pressure-filled situations. Often there is a sense of panic accompanying those decisions. You see, the Devil is very good about deceiving us into believing we are stuck, alone, and completely lost. If any of these descriptions sound like you, you may be sinking down into a pit – even now.
My Five-Year Pit
Tony and I shared part of our story with many of you this summer as we talked about the desert path God has been leading us on, but I think it is important for you to know, I have really been much worse off than what I revealed to you. Since a very fateful day in 2013 until March of this past year, I have been working to extricate myself from some deep physical, emotional, and spiritual pits. I have experienced every one of the six pits I outlined above – a perfect storm of betrayal, deception, depression, rejection and despair. God has led me on a journey of pit-hopping: digging deep into the fabrications and lies of one pit only to have another pit trip me up and bring me down flat on my face. It has been painful, absolutely and unexplainably painful!
These last eleven months that I have not been writing, I have been working…hard. God has had to do some rebuilding in my life, some re-working of longings and re-fashioning of identity. And it has been very difficult. In the past, I have worked hard to overcome destructive childhood abuse and demanding rootlessness, debilitating long-term illness and discouraging relationship disasters, but nothing – absolutely nothing – has come close to the work God has done in my life over these past five years. And I am so grateful to God for His patience with, persistence in, and passion for me and my well-being.
These next three weeks I want to invite you along on a journey…a journey God has taken me on in extricating my soul from the pit; a pit, mind you, brought on by others’ decisions and choices. Many times I have echoed Job’s words that I am blameless and free of wrong, but that has not mattered in the long run to God. He has lovingly shown me that the actions against me that I considered overtly wrong were nothing in terms of seriousness to the “tiny” nail-holes that were pin-pricking my faith, causing my belief system to deflate like a helium balloon sags to the floor.
God has taught me so much: about Him, about me, and about how I interact with others. This mini-series of devotionals is my attempt to share with you some lessons God has taught me as He’s redeemed me from the pit. I have tried to corral all of my thoughts into three main ideas, a hard task, I might add, but I do have a prayer in all of this: that God would use some of my lessons to help you recognize your pit, face what put you there, and help you rise up from it, restored and renewed.
Lesson One From the Pit
Trusting with the head is different than trusting with the heart.
Psalm 28 outlines David’s frantic cries to God as he is dragged away with the wicked, those that speak cordially with their neighbors, but have malice in their hearts (v 3) He screams at God because he has been consigned to the will of the wicked; they have done to him whatever they pleased. But even more, he has been consigned to the disgrace they have earned. There has been a miscarriage of justice and David’s words are a heartfelt protest from a healthy conscience, a conviction that a day of judgment is a moral necessity. (Some thoughts from Tyndale Commentary.)
Like David, injustice has been one of the most painful pits into which I have fallen. Listen to some of these phrases which echo the cries of my heart: ”Do not drag me away with the wicked…repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve…they show no regard for the works of the Lord and what his hands have done…” (parts of verses 3-5).
To be honest, I have suffered at the hands of some evil, wicked deeds. And one of my struggles with God – my slough of despondency – has come at the lack of visual movement on God’s part in avenging my hurts. Like Jesus cried from the cross, I have cried over my journaled suffering and many times into my pillow at night, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me (Mark 15:34)?”
“Nothing stings so sharply as injustice” (Tyndale Commentary). This is the cry of every person who loses a child to cancer, of every husband who has ever lost a wife to divorce. This cry echoes from every accident where an innocent is killed by a drunk driver or where a word sharply spoken echoes loudly in the rafters of one’s mind for years. Injustice is a brick in one of the highest walls we build between God and ourselves. It obstructs our view of Majesty and wedges its insidious way into the chinks in our belief system.
Did you know that Charles Darwin, a man who attended church regularly and, in his biography called himself a Christian, could not reconcile the death of his child, Annie, with a loving God? “Annie’s cruel death destroyed Charles’ tatters and belief in a moral and just universe” (Ken Ham, How Could A Loving God…?, pgs 33-34). Injustice drove its ugly wedge into a relationship and Darwin compensated by creating an alternate god – evolution – one which was manageable and compact and explainable. In short, a god of his left brain.
The fact is: you and I cannot explain a God who allows horrible circumstances into our lives. All of our explanations defy logic and completely overrule the matter of the heart. It seems we have to suspend our feelings to praise, deny our emotions to worship, and pretend parts of our soul do not exist in order to embrace all we know of God.
I submit to you that this is not true. A counselor spoke these words to me this past year: “Healing does not stem only from your left brain; it requires your right brain and your left brain working in tandem.” In other words, we must face the facts and feel the feelings. This is what the great man of faith – Abraham – shows us in Romans 4:18-22.
Facing the Facts
Listen to these words, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead…” (parts of verses 18-20)
What were the facts? Fact 1: He was an old man, almost one hundred years old. “He knew his body was as good as dead.” (NLT – v 19) Fact 2: Sarah was old too, so old, in fact, that her womb was considered dead. In modern terms, she was barren and was not able to have any children. The Message describes her problem as “decades of infertility”(v 19). Insurmountable problem upon insurmountable problem…or was it?
If Scripture had just stopped there, detailing all of those insurmountable problems and then said that Abraham “did not waver through unbelief” (v 20), you and I would be in the very place where many of God’s Christians are: trusting God only with our heads. I submit to you that many peoples’ faith has crashed on this very shoal – the shoals of head-trust.
This trusting with our head looks so good on the outside and is thought by many watching to be so spiritual, but is it honest? Can it withstand the storms of life or will it crumble like great pie-in-the-sky castles of sand? In other words, does knowing the facts and trusting God to take care of the facts causatively deepen our faith, or is something crucial missing?
I can tell you from my experience that something of mass importance is glaringly missing. There is a void so deep in the faith of one who can only live in his left brain. It is a half-faith, a mutant belief system; in fact, it is an evolution of partial theology. This kind of faith looks great on the outside and believers will applaud a person who pretends everything is copacetic, who speaks out loud about the absolute goodness of God, but observers do not see the same believer internally combusting inside in the absence of vulnerability and honesty. A left-brained faith is a belief system on a sure-fire track to the silent, but deadly, intersection of trauma, and when the sudden crash occurs, there will be no solid foundation left for the questions which will rip apart that believer’s faith.
I know, because it happened to me. You see, for years I have sought the Lord with passion and a soul-searching diligence. For years, I have lived in God’s Word as if it were my daily bread. For years, I have taught others the truths that God has taught me. For years, I have been obedient to the point of religiosity, but it only took a few moments of time to shatter my once-thought unbreakable faith.
A few words spoken. A few sins revealed. A few expectations unmet. A few promises broken. A few gut-wrenching sobs and I collapsed under the weight of a too-few, smashed and crippled faith. My trust in God did not withstand my left-brained belief system.
It has taken me five years – five long and panic-stricken years of feeling the absence of Divine intimacy – to come to terms with what happened to me that day. You see, I faced the facts, which were deplorably hopeless, and instead of feeling the feelings – acknowledging them and processing them through to healing- I numbed myself. In fact, God showed me that I had been numbing myself for years prior to this day of shattering. To survive my reality, I threw myself into the most damaging pit of all: the pit of deadness and disconnection. My reality was too much for my faith to handle and so I stopped feeling and just starting walking with my head-filled faith, which was destitute to sustain me long-term.
Over these last long months, God has shown me my half-baked faith as I have doubtingly sought Him, fearfully cried out to Him, and angrily screamed at Him. As I have processed my pain, allowed myself to feel my real feelings and to express them to God and others, God has begun to awaken me, de-numb me, and bring me back to life. And miracle of miracles, out of my anguish and gut-wrenching honesty, God has birthed a newer faith, a better faith, a more genuine, God-honoring faith; one that is both right-and-left-brained.
What did it take? Hours of remembering. Nights of sleeplessness. Cries unanswered. Panic un-soothed. Pages of journaled honesty. Days of counseling. Conversations with unending non-response. And above all, the goading of my heart by a persistent God who hounded me to keep up, keep doing, keep seeking, and keep crying out to Him. And all in all, He kept me safe through it.
Feeling the Feelings
I love the Psalms, now more than ever, because I see in them a whole and healthy faith, a right-brain and a left-brained type of trust. Psalms 28 is no different. I mentioned earlier that injustice is the fact that David keeps bringing before the Lord. That’s his left-brained faith talking. But listen to these words, “To you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.” (vv 1-2)
These two verses, full of spoken feelings, precede the facts outlined in David’s plea for justice. Notice what he is feeling. He feels unheard because he keeps calling without God choosing to answer. He feels like his prayers are hitting the ceiling; God – the Almighty God – is personified as deaf, uncaring, unbending, unyielding, unhelpful. Not only that, but he feels like God is choosing to remain silent. He says he will go down to a pit of disgrace if God refuses to take action. David is calling, crying out for mercy, lifting up his hands in prayer and worship, but God appears unloving because He will not act on David’s behalf. In short, what does he feel? He feels ignored. He feels abandoned. He feels rejected. He feels unimportant to God and worthless in the scheme of God’s great plan.
Have you ever felt this way? Of course, you have. We all have, but have you connected your left-brain (your head) and your right-brain (your heart) in your discourses with God and others? One statement that the Lord has spoken over me these last two years in Chiang Mai is this: Vulnerability breeds intimacy. David was vulnerable and honest and God met him. Abraham also was vulnerable and that is the most powerful lesson for me in Romans 4. Let’s look at the feelings in this passage.
Romans 4:18 begins with these three words, “Against all hope…” (NIV). You see, I firmly believe that as a God-follower, Abraham felt real emotions with his heart, and he felt them very deeply. There was no reason to hope, Scripture says (NLT – v 18). Everything was hopeless (MSG – v 18). In other words, as Abraham faced the facts, he acknowledged that he felt hopeless; this word is mentioned in just about every translation I read. Hope requires something outside of ourselves, some circumstantial evidence unseen, unknown, and unheard of. In Abraham’s case, there did not seem to be any circumstantial evidence or factual reason to hope. A left-brained faith would have shattered because short of a miracle, short of something outside of Abraham’s earthly sight, God’s promise to him would never have come true.
In Abraham’s situation – or David’s in Psalm 28, for that matter – you and I would have responded in the same way…or would we? I daresay many of our small faiths would have imploded. That is why Paul makes such a big deal of Abraham’s faith. What he did – trusting with his head and with his heart – not only was credited to him as righteousness, but it opened the door for us, as Abraham’s seed, to enjoy the same credit to our own faith-filled righteousness (Rom. 4:22-24).
Dear one, numbing is ungodly. Even Christ cried bitter tears in the Garden. Even Christ whined to his friends to stay up and pray with and for Him. Even Christ screamed in abandonment on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus, the Divine One come down to share in humanity’s suffering, showed us a right-brained and a left-brained type of trust. He trusted with His head and with His heart.
It suddenly occurs to me that many of you reading this devotional will honestly have no idea what I am talking about when I describe a numbed faith. Your faith seems to work for you. Your belief system has stood strong through the storms of life. If that is true, then I will either say depending on the circumstance, “There is a day coming when your faith will be tried,” or “ I am really encouraged and so proud of you.” But for those who may be wondering if their faith could use a booster shot, here are three scenarios that have occurred recently in our family that show the difference between a head trust and a heart trust. Maybe these will x-ray the status of your current faith in a clearer black and white.
Last November was a very pivotal month for me. Many of you who have supported and prayed for our family, have done so for fourteen years. You will also know then that I have written devotionals for all but one of those years, constituting many years of faithful teaching and encouraging on a weekly basis. But last November I was in a pit so dark, I thought I would never get out. It was a darkness of the soul, a blight on my faith. I chose, last November, to stop writing for the first time in thirteen years.
You may not know this, but writing is the way I connect my head and my heart to God. I think through a passage of Scripture and I process it. But I also feel my way through the same passage and the journey of writing helps me fight desensitization. I have walked through dark places much of my life and the connection I make with words awakens me to a connection I make with God, who enlightens my dark thoughts. Writing is how God speaks life into my deadened soul. It’s how He joins the facts of His Word with the emotions of His Lover heart. Writing brings the facts to life in a way that opens up my heart to trust. But I did not know all of this then.
All I knew was that last November, I could not go on anymore. The facts of my life were overwhelming my emotions to such a degree that I felt like ending the journey of awakening God had me on. Choosing to stop writing was actually a choice of my heart to go dark, to let go of the fragile rope of hope keeping my head above the edge of my pit, and allow myself to slowly tumble into a chasm of numbness.
Part of what I was anesthetizing myself to was an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness. I could not name that in November; it took many times of revelation from the Lord to reveal this lie, but then, it felt so real. And quite honestly, the lack of return communication from our supporters and prayer partners fed this feeling of worthlessness. That only one person, out of the hundreds of people that receive our updates, wrote me to find out why I had stopped writing, proved to my numbed soul that I was worthless. This “fact” drove me to a deeper pit. I was actually numbing myself to a lie about my identity and no one who had received thirteen years of updates – save one – really took the time to see me, to see I was slowly dying, to see my desperate need to have someone pull me out of my twisted-identity pit.
Thanks be to God that He saw me. He would not let me numb into oblivion. He kept pushing the buttons in my soul, pricking the nerve ends of spiritual feeling, in order to keep me moving forward into pain, suffering, and eventually, awakening. My beginning to write again is a victory. It is an act of faith so huge you could not even begin to imagine. This choice to write again feels like something is being birthed in me, something is coming alive in me, something is rebuilding, once again, in my soul and in my spirit.
How do we keep from numbing identity? We connect our identity with our head and with our hearts to the very heart of the Holy One.
God created Adam and Eve in His image, Genesis 1:27 states. His image included both genders : male and female – obviously sexual – and He gave them two jobs. They were to rule over all of creation and they were to be fruitful and increase in number (Gen. 1:28). Pure desire has three components: God’s image, subjection and ruling, and procreation. Any sexual desire outside of these three parameters becomes impure.
Sexual attraction mirrors God’s image. In the greatest love story, God, the ultimate Lover, desires us and we desire Him. Our earthly attractions require that we treat others as if they are the very image of God, subjecting our own desires and ruling over our fleshly cravings. Not only that, but something in being fruitful is very God-honoring. I think God longs – even desires – for procreation to birth more and more people to want Him, walk with Him and seek Him as if He were their sole desire. Marriage should incorporate all three of these beautiful components.
But our desires have gone so awry. Satan has twisted God’s beautiful desires into something sordid and ugly. We do not treat ourselves and others like we are the image of God. We lust and we abuse and we demean. We do not subject our God-given fleshly desires to our Creator, nor do we choose to rule them as we were commanded. In addition, we do not consider procreation as sacred, but take and give and conceive lustfully and callously and flippantly. We mar the very act that God fashioned to be the image of intimacy with Him.
Sexual addiction, or any other addiction for that matter, is an act of numbing our desires. God has indwelt us with an innate desire that can only be met in Him, but we do not see it. We do not understand it and some believers do not even want it, and so we try to quench our desires with lesser things. We numb ourselves to our hurts, to this broken world, and to God’s voice in our minds, by filling up our lives with twisted desires, thinking them to be real. But this numbing act is an illusion, for when we do this time after time, God’s image fades, we cannot subject ourselves in a sanctified way, and we have no desire to be fruitful. Holy desire has been relegated to the the back corners of our sin-darkened, desensitized and numbed mind.
When God breaks through our numbness, we know, as believers, that we should not give into temptation. So listen to what we do…Instead of numbing our brokenness with addiction, we try to numb our natural responses. We watch a movie or play a video game. That’s numbing! We masturbate or make an overture to our spouse. I think this is anesthetizing! We take a cold shower or go for a long run, anything to stop thinking about the temptation. Folks, that is desensitization! What should be done is to take that raw desire into the presence of God, trusting Him with our heads and with our hearts. Listen to the incredible wisdom of my fifteen-year-old.
Robert and I are working through a book called A Way of Escape by Neil Anderson. This book deals with sexual addiction and how to break free from it. It is important to me that my boys acknowledge sexual temptation, recognize it when it comes, and know how to combat it, so we are slowly progressing through some really heavy topics.
Last week I asked Robert if he was struggling in any way and if so, when temptation usually occurs. He mentioned that he was doing pretty well and that temptation came when he was laying in bed at night, trying to go to sleep – “dreaming,” if you will. I asked how he was handling that temptation and he gave me an absolutely brilliant, superhuman, and revolutionary answer, which absolutely blessed my socks off.
“Mom,” he said. “Do you remember the devotions we had about the throne room of God about eight years ago?”
“Sure,” I replied. (I had been doing a Bible study on the awesome nature of God and had spent a lot of time in the throne room scenes of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation. I brought those scenes to my boys during our family devotions and had them draw the scene as I read. It was a powerful three nights of devotions as the boys pictured what they saw and heard in the presence of God.)
He continued, “Well, when I am tempted to dwell on images that are impure, I remember those devotions. I picture the shaking doorposts, the smoke-filled room, the cherubim singing, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord,’ and I picture God on His throne. Then I just fall asleep in the throne room.”
Can you believe that? Robert, a young teenager, has the sought-after, perfect answer to unholy desire. He does not numb it by squelching it or shoving it into the far recesses of his mind. He does not anesthetize it by taking a cold shower or trying to read a good book. He also does not give in to impure thoughts; that would be numbing of a different nature. Instead, he uses his imagination (his head) to picture God and he uses his passion and desire (his heart) to place himself firmly in the presence of his one true Desire, thereby transforming impure desire to pure. And, incidentally, desire gives way to ultimate rest (See Mt. 11:28) as he sleeps peacefully.
How do we keep from numbing desire? We bring our desires with our head and with our hearts into the very Presence of the Holy One.
In case you are still confused as to the difference between trusting with our heads and trusting with our hearts, let me share with you one more example which came in the form of an email I received this summer. This email was incredibly hard for me to read because it felt like it was in direct opposition to the work God was doing in my life. In that email 1 Peter 4:8 was quoted to me, to remind me of my obligations to love. You will probably recognize this verse, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
My fellow-believer’s call to remember this verse was painful for me because, taken by itself, out of context, it is a form of numbing. Covering people’s sins is a pit for me, a pit of disconnection with which I have numbed my reality for over eighteen years, maybe even, the majority of my life. That word “cover” in the Greek means to “cover up (literally or figuratively), hide, veil, to hinder the knowledge of a thing.” It comes from the root words that mean to “steal or commit a theft…take away by stealth,” and another word meaning “to conceal, hide, escape notice, to conceal so that it may not become known” (ESV Strong’s).
Covering is what Adam and Eve did in the garden. Concealing is what they did to their nakedness, their vulnerability to God. Hiding is what caused the rift in relational intimacy. To cover over others’ sins is not the context of this chapter in 1 Peter. Covering sins is a form of theft, the Greek word tells us. It is to conceal someone else’s wrongs so that is does not become known. It is a coward’s way to peace-keeping.
Does this sound godly to you? Does this sound like faith-filled living? The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth and He brings glory to Jesus by making God’s truths known to us. (Jn. 16:13-14). In other words, truth speaks. Truth reveals, Truth is honest about feelings. Truth faces the facts and feels them too, giving an honored place to being heard and still welcomed.
When Peter encourages Christians to cover over others’ sins, he is not asking us to overlook faults. The context of this passage comes out of a description of what it means to be dead to the old life. We are not to engage in the behaviors that pagans do; we are instead to live for the will of God (vv 2-3). Verses 7-11 speak of a life that is lived for God’s glory and this verse about covering others’ sins sits right in the middle of this life-glorifying list. Verse 7 says we are to be clear-minded and self-controlled so that we can pray. This is the verse prior to “covering a multitude of sins.” Prayer and a whole lot of clear thinking and self control go into the process of loving others in spite of their sins.
The covering-sins verse is actually a quote from Proverbs 10:12, which talks about dissension as a form of hatred and love that makes up for offenses as a righteous act. This verse is speaking of motivation: the wicked are motivated by a hatred that brings dissension, but the righteous by a love that leads to harmony. In other words, love does not stir up sins or broadcast them; instead it forgives faults. Love seeks the good of others even when he or she is the offended party (ESV Study Bible Notes) What Peter meant by covering in the 1 Peter passage is not concealing; instead, covering is forgiving others with and attitude of love, then letting the hurts go.
But forgiveness is complicated. To truly forgive, one must face all the facts and feel all of the feelings involved in the hurt. To forgive, which is true love, we must trust God with our whole head and with our whole heart. Then, and only then – and this could take years – can forgiveness be granted out of true love.
That word ‘love,’ by the way, is agape love. It is the love of God, not a friendly love, not an erotic love, but a love that flows from God alone. This kind of love chooses not to gossip to create dissension. It chooses not to be angry and cause arguments over hurts. It chooses to speak in the Spirit and it chooses to forgive even if it is not forgiven. As Scripture points out, this kind of love rejoices with the truth (1 Cor. 13:6), which we are to speak out in love (Eph. 4:15). It is also a love, not only with words, but with actions and again, in truth (1 Jn. 3:18).
It does not, and I repeat, does not, just cover over others’ sins, concealing to placate or keep the peace, relegating them to a back corner in a mind-numbing, soul-deadening way. Love, true love, speaks the truth of the situation. It is honest about the facts and honest about the emotions of the heart. Then, like God, love chooses to forgive – when all the painful, deceptive cards are out on the table – instead of causing dissension. But love, dear ones, will always speak the truth. Love, true love, exposes the deeds of darkness (Eph. 5:11) and brings them into the light (Jn. 3:20); it never just covers them in an effort to numb the hurts.
How do we keep from numbing hurts? We speak the truth over our hurts and those who have hurt us from our heads and from our hearts in the very Presence of the Holy One.
A Credit of Righteousness
Forgive me if this is blunt, but I am coming to think that we, as believers, have a half-baked theology. The church is uncomfortable with feelings. Anger is thought to be ungodly, but did you know that God gets angry? Jealousy is considered unspiritual, but God is described as jealous (Ex. 20:5). Ardor and passion seem somehow impure, but God loves us like a passionate lover (read Song of Songs with Christ as the Lover). I am coming to believe that the church is turning the world off because of this factual kind of faith that cannot absorb the realities of the heart. Why do so many crippled and broken believers in the church run to Christian counselors for help? Because the church is unwittingly portraying faith as a religion, not a relationship. It’s a half-finished theology that will not stand up under the realities – and painfully wounded hearts – of our broken world.
Trusting with the head is very important, do not get me wrong. But my years in the pit of deadness have taught me that trusting with the head falls miserably short of a real faith. Facing only the facts leads to mind-numbing deadness. It is only when we choose to enter the felt pain, enter the felt horrors, enter the felt pits, that we can actually enter into the very feeling heart of God. After all, that is what Jesus did. Giving up His position in heaven, He entered this pit of a world. He identified with us in our pits and he died to disarm the powers of those pits (Col. 2:15). As we feel and express and scream out all of our emotions in honest truth, we will truly begin to trust with a faith that is sound and wholesome. And… we will become like Jesus.
Then like David, in Psalm 28, we will praise the Lord because our head and our heart has been heard in mercy (v 6). We will know God to be our strength and shield (v 7a). Our hearts, not just our heads, will trust in Him, for He helps us in our time of need (v 7b). Our hearts will leap for joy so that we can give thanks in song (v 8). We will know with our heads that God is the strength of His people and we will feel with our hearts that He cares for us and carries us like a good shepherd (v 9 – MSG) in His arms forever (v 9 – NLT).
Faith is trusting God with our heads and with our hearts. As we do, we will join Abraham’s ranks of whole-headed, whole-hearted faith-walkers. God will credit righteousness to us who believe in Him with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, with all of our minds, and will all of our strength (Mark 12:30).