“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14
A year ago, I was dealing with a medical issue. I thought it was just a lingering virus, but when things didn’t improve, I called my doctor. After a lot of testing, including a colonoscopy, I was diagnosed with another auto-immune disorder. Although the disorder is not life threatening, when in a flare, it can make my life rather inconvenient. On the phone, the nurse recommended me treating it with an over-the-counter medication or possibly getting a steroid. I feel those solutions are just treating the symptoms. Instead, I am waiting to follow up with my doctor, hoping to maybe examine my diet to see if any foods are contributing to my problem.
In many ways, treating the symptoms to a problem in my life, without examining the root of issue, has been my answer to both physical and emotional issues. I took pills to deal with my headaches, instead of making sure I got enough sleep. I applied more moisturizer to my dry skin, instead of making sure I was drinking enough water. I harbored resentment towards people who rejected me instead of finding my worth in God. Although my symptoms might go away for a little bit, the underlying issues continued to wreak physical and emotional havoc!
In the summer of 2020, my husband and I were counseled by dear friends to “wrestle well” with a decision we needed to make. The phrase referred to the time when Jacob wrestled with Lord all night until he received something from God. God blessed him and Jacob’s life was forever changed. We spent that time seeking God and asking Him to illuminate the areas in our lives where we were not right, often leading to repentance. We did a lot of heart work, examining what our longings were and reorienting them towards God. We treated the root causes of our problems, which ended up resulting in making a healthy decision.
But even though you make a healthy decision for yourself, it doesn’t mean that everyone involved understands or supports your decision. Recently, I was faced with another consequence of my “wrestle well” decision. The details are not important, but it reopened a wound that I thought had closed and healed. And once again, I had to do some heart work, and reorient myself to God. Part of heart work is reminding myself that I am not the saint in this situation. I, too, just like the people involved, am human, full of imperfections.
It sounds easy as I type this, but honestly, a lot of tears have fallen. I’ve confessed to a few friends how hard this feels, and they have prayed with me for peace. In the past, I have ignored the heart work, and tried to move on, but seeds of resentment and bitterness rooted in me. Like weeds, they sprang up when least expected, hurting people I love. But this approach never leads to abundant life.
We have two beautiful Rhododendron bushes growing on the side of our house. Late spring, they bloom with purple flowers, enticing hummingbirds and bees to gather nectar. Unfortunately, we also have a weed ironically named Tree of Heaven growing amongst the bushes. Our first summer in our home, we noticed this weed, indicating that it was already a problem. It is considered an invasive species that is difficult to kill after its second year of growth. Late winter, Terry tries to cut it down as far as he can, but it always comes back stronger and bigger. Throughout the summer, we are forced take our clippers and attempt to cut it back, so it doesn’t take over the bushes and the roses next to it. In reading about the properties of this weed, the only way to get rid of the pest is to dig up the bush around it along with its own root ball and then separate the two. The experts indicate that this might kill the weed, but there is no guarantee.
The writer in Hebrews in Chapter 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.” The word for “make every effort” in the Greek means “to pursue.” Pursuing by its very definition implies a level of intensity. The writer goes on to say in verse 15, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” This verse is addressing the church, that we should create an atmosphere of grace so that bitterness doesn’t affect the body.
Like my gut issues, I am learning to address bitterness right away. I owe it to myself, my family, my friends, and to my church body. When I practice grace and address the heart issues, it helps me to respond to others with more grace. It leaves me in a place where beauty can be created, and that is my heart’s desire!