By Carrie Roden
My living room was littered with suitcases and swimsuits, and my brain was littered with ten thousand to-dos. It was the Monday of the last week of school, we had somewhere to be every night of the week and we we preparing to leave on vacation as soon as school got out. Right in the middle of all of that crazy, God spoke to me. He spoke as clearly as He had ever spoken before.
Just the day before, I heard Pastor Craig speaking on the Ten Plagues from Exodus in such a clear and powerful way that even though I know that story well, I left the service with fresh truth about both the judgment and mercy of God. After witnessing so many people experience a brand new encounter with His mercy, it was impossible not to feel humbled and thankful for the grace that none of us deserve.
Back to Monday evening, I still had the ideas of judgment and mercy heavy on my mind. Because I am a person wired with a strong desire for justice. And though I prefer God to be light on the judgment and heavy on the mercy when it comes to me, that is not my tendency when it comes to others.
Some of you may have heard Matt talk about the difficult year we had before coming to Grace Family. Without going into detail, we endured very public embarrassment complete with accusations, exaggerations, and lies told about our family. Everything in me wanted to set the record straight. I wanted to answer the accusations, clarify the exaggerations, and expose the lies. There was just one problem. My dad.
My dad was at the center of all the controversy, and as the leader of our family, he gave us our marching orders to take the high road. (I asked if the high road had an off ramp, and he assured me it did not.) We would not defend ourselves. We would not clarify. We would not retaliate. We would not seek justice or revenge. He accepted that though the Lord had not caused the confusion, He had allowed it, and it would be up to Him to reveal the truth and bring the good out of it.
I wish I could say that I saw the wisdom in his words and wholeheartedly agreed. But in reality, I was furious. His directive offended every justice-seeking bone in my body. But I did as my dad asked because I believed he deserved that respect. And though there was no part of me that felt he was right, I willed myself to stay on the high road. And slowly, over time, my feelings began to change. I eventually began to see the wisdom in my dad’s instruction and how heeding it protected my character.
There is no doubt in our minds that even though there were those who tried to do us harm, God used the circumstances for our good. While we continued to give Him glory for that, I knew that I was still holding onto some unforgiveness that prevented me from being completely free. And wouldn’t you know, the first small group I began at Grace Family was a Freedom group!
One of the important steps in the class is to make a list of those you need to forgive. I was embarrassed at how long my list was! I wouldn’t even tell Matt how many names I had on it! I couldn’t help but laugh a little at how easily the names and faces came to mind as my list got longer and longer. And being the rule follower that I am, I prayed about every last one of them. Now, let me be clear: I did not begin with any feelings of forgiveness in my heart, but I willed myself to pray and ask God to do the work in me. Slowly my feelings beginning to change. Once again the feelings came only after the obedience.
The same weekend Pastor Craig spoke about God’s judgment, I learned some truths had been very publicly revealed about two of those names on my list. And though the revelations didn’t come as a surprise to me, I knew they were shocking to many. I couldn’t quite process how I felt about any of it. It wasn’t until God spoke to me in the middle of my crazy Monday, and said, “Leave the business of judgment up to me” that the past 15 months of willing myself to stay quiet, wading through feelings of doubt and betrayal, and the feeling that truth would never come out, made much more sense to me.
Wanting to be certain of what I thought I heard the Lord say, I went to Scripture.
“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
Well, that lined up pretty clearly, and what do you know? My dad was on to something!
And then there was the other thing I heard the Lord say: “You can trust Me to defend you. I’m the only one who knows the tears you’ve cried, and you can trust Me to defend you.” Then He showed me: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalms 56:8
Not every name on my list has been dealt with the way I might deal with them, but they don’t need to be. Because I am not in the judgment business, as I have a pretty full-time job in the mercy-receiving business. But I do know that I can trust the Lord to be very good at the judgment business, as He alone has perfected the blend of judgment and mercy.
I don’t know what wrong has been done to you, and for some of us, there is nothing that can be undone to ever make it right. I don’t know what lies have been told about you or when or if the truth will be revealed on this side of eternity, But I know this: Our Father does know. He knows every wrong. He knows every lie. And He knows every tear you’ve cried as a result. They are precious to Him. I also know that He is better at the judgment business than we are, and we can trust Him alone to defend us, in His time, in the way He knows is best.