Not too long ago I shared my heart and struggle that our family has been experiencing HERE. Today I would like to talk about love. Not just your typical, ordinary love. Rather, a love that is deeper….
Families are nothing short of a roller coaster. We all experience ups and downs, trials and triumphs, sad moments and happy moments. When something goes awry in our family, and when those we love let us down, it is human nature to want to put up a wall against those who have hurt us. We get upset, grow angry, think or say things we sometimes regret, and find ways to distance ourselves from those family members. Let’s face it, family members break our hearts. Unfortunately, the hurt is deeper when it happens more than once. The severity of that pain is multiplied when the heartbreak affects not just you, but the rest of the family. That’s when we build the walls. That’s when we continue to love them, but with strings attached.
However, we, as Christians, must learn how to handle these situations in a Christian manner. Strike that. We must learn to love the same way Jesus loves us. [bctt tweet=” We must learn to love the same way Jesus loves us.”]
God understands our pain. He understands the circumstances surrounding that pain and who it is has affected. I have to remind myself that God is not only my Father, but also the Father of those who break my heart. We are all His children. And as children, we have a tendency of disappointing our Father. Having said that, by show of hands, who has not forgiven their own child for disappointing you?
My sister-in-law can be overwhelming at times right now. A couple of weeks ago, I was mentally drained. I have gone through every emotion during this entire situation. I was shocked when we found out she had been taken in for questioning. Then I was angry and devastated when I learned she had been arrested. I think I cried daily the first 2 weeks she was incarcerated. I wanted to be angry with her. I tried to be angry with her. I began building that wall we’re not supposed to have. Thankfully God destroyed what I had built and has continued to guide me through this circumstance. He has whispered in my ear with words to speak to my sister-in-law. He has used me as His instrument while witnessing to her. He has shown me how to love her unconditionally, just as His Son has loved me unconditionally.
My breaking point came on day two of her incarceration. She called me and I could hear the panic in her voice. She begged for my husband to save her. He has always protected and guided her throughout her life. Unfortunately, she hasn’t always listened. She began promising everything if God would just get her out of this mess. My husband refers to this new-found redemption as “Jail House Jesus.” We have continued to talk to her, witness to her, share the amazing wonders of God’s unconditionally love with her. We are beginning to see a slow transformation occurring. When she called me on day two of her incarceration, she was frantic and asked me, “Where is Bub?” Bub is what she calls my husband (her brother). I told her that he was working and she said, “Sis, I just want Bub to save me! Can he save me?” I broke…..
I cried to Jesus…..
You see, Clay is the big brother. All his life he has been her protector. No matter how bad they fought she always said he was her hero, and he was. He still is. She adores him and always has. Unfortunately, this is one time he cannot save her. Honestly, he doesn’t want to save her from the situation she is currently in. He hasn’t built a wall or distanced himself from her. He knows that in order for her to get clean and learn to rely on God, he must continue to encourage her, witness to her, and help her mentally. He is loving her unconditionally. No one thinks of prison as a safe place. However, for her, it is safer there than where she was. She is beginning to see blessings where many others see disappointment and pain. She has detoxed and is now drug free. As much as she begged her big brother to help her get released, he knew that an early release would guarantee a bad ending. She has begun to see how much this imprisonment has helped her get clean and learn to rely on God. I know God is working in her.
(My Sister-In-Law on an Easter Egg hunt with my niece)
So how do you love unconditionally when you want to build a wall?
1. Remember that God has promised that He will ALWAYS be with us.
The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8).
This is difficult for my niece and nephew. Everyone at school will be asking my niece where her mom is. Telling her friends that her mom is in prison is difficult and challenging. Sharing this information is not easy as it will surely bring rumors about her and her family. My nephew, on the other hand, ships for basic training soon. He will more than likely be asked if his parents will be attending his final swearing in ceremony. I feel bad for him, but through it all God is with them. He loves them unconditionally.
2. God promises that He will give us peace.
He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! (Isaiah 26:3).
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the size of our problem. We continue to ask why did this happen? How did this happen? From experience, I can tell you that the more we dwell on how BIG the circumstance is, the deeper we will sink into despair until we feel as though we’re drowning. Shifting our focus to God is the only way I have found to get through it. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). This is truth like no other. The more Clay and I have prayed, asked for prayer, and spoke to a few close Godly friends, the more peace we have been given. It is like the song says, “I will praise you in this storm…”
3. He will deliver us from our brokenness.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:18-19).
I shared this verse with my niece shortly after her mom’s arrest. It was one that I was sharing not only with her, but also with myself. When I look at the last picture taken of my sister-in-law and me together, it is easy to ask all the “What if” questions. Initially, we asked many of those questions. I do wish I had done more in the realm of pushing my sister-in-law more for help. We had tried for 3 weeks before her arrest to get her to seek professional help, but I didn’t want to push her to the point that she began pushing back by packing up and leaving. Yet, asking all those questions over and again was causing more heartache. I turned all my worries and frustrations over to God. Only He could heal my heart. Only He could take control of this situation and use this big ugly mess for His glory. It was then that I allowed God to start healing my heart and make it new again.
4. God will give us knowledge.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6).
James 1:5 says that God will give us wisdom if we ask for it. It was God’s wisdom that enabled us to honor Him in the things that we said and did regarding our circumstances, such as demonstrating unconditional love to my sister-in-law, remaining loyal to her through good times and bad, and try to help her to get on the right path spiritually. It was wisdom that helped us to move our family toward healing and wholeness.
5. He will give us strength.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1).
It takes a lot of strength having a family member who is a drug addict. If you remember, I have already travelled down this path with Clay, who was an alcoholic. It took strength and tough love back then. Supporting and loving someone unconditionally doesn’t mean you are a doormat. I had to stand firm on God’s Word. I cannot expect my sister-in-law to realize what is in her best interest while sitting in a jail cell. Thankfully I never had to deal Clay being incarcerated, so in that regard, this is unchartered ground for me. However, I have dealt with addiction and let me tell you that it is nothing short of draining on the entire family. There have been times I’ve had to put our foot down with my sister-in-law, but God has shown me how to do that while still showing her unconditional love.
“My grace is sufficient for you; for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In Him we found the strength to face our circumstances. We found the strength to reach out to others with the truth. We found the strength to love, forgive and encourage my sister-in-law while leading her to Christ.
6. He promises to give us hope for a bright future.
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans to prosper and not harm you, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11).
It is easy to lose hope when you have a family member who flees from Christ, rejects His truth, seeks their own will, and has addictions. However, God never gives up on us. There is always hope when God is around. As you consider your own challenges, whatever they may be, ask yourself, “Is there anything too difficult for God?” (See Jeremiah 32:17).
[bctt tweet=”It is easy to lose hope when you have a family member who flees from Christ…”]
(My Sister-In-Law on her wedding day. Dancing with her Dad)
No matter what choices those we love make, or what consequences they may be facing, God has a plan for each of their lives. God the Father loves all of His children unconditionally. Your or your loved one’s path may not seem clear to you now, but continue to be encouraged. Jesus is a lamp unto our feet and we can never hide from God’s presence. God is always working on matters of the heart. His plans will be accomplished! But His plans will be fulfilled in His timing. Never give up! Continue in prayer and trust God. He is working everything out for good (Romans 8:28). Knowing this, you can quietly and confidently rest in His arms and hope in Him.
(I miss her laugh, smile, and fun times!)
As a side note to this, I also want to make one thing clear. Unconditional love does not mean unconditional acceptance. Whether it be premarital sex, homosexuality, alcohol, drugs or anything else God has said is wrong. Please do not accept sin as okay because it is never okay. Thankfully, God still reaches out to the lost by sending His children as missionaries (you and me) for His divine purpose. God loves everyone, but He does not accept everyone. Those who want to tell God how they plan to live are those who will remain outside His family until they come to terms with the difference between God’s unconditional love and His conditional acceptance. You don’t have to have your life in order for God to accept you, but you do need to have a willing heart that is ready to pursue those things He calls “good,” and a willingness to flee from those things He calls “evil.” Without that willingness and that desire, how could any of us ever have a personal relationship with God?
As you set out to share the love of Christ and his unconditional love, regardless how bleak it may look, how distant it may appear, or the many road blocks you come across, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37).