During my walk to the office, on Tuesday, 20th February, it suddenly occurred to me that I would be genuinely happy on my birthday for the first time in a number of years. In-case you’re not yet aware, as you get older, particularly once you’re past 35, birthdays can be a painful reminder of what you were supposed to have achieved or accomplished (by that age), but still haven’t. As such, as one ages, birthdays can at times be the most lonely, sad, morose, and regret-filled days.
But this year was refreshingly different. Yes, I’ve had to undergo a complete change of career, lifestyle, country, mindset, outlook on life, and culture, which, if I’m honest, has at times been an excruciatingly painful experience. However, the journey is most definitely proving to be a fruitful one; and for the first time in many years, I was approaching my birthday with gratitude, peace of mind, and a profound hope that can only come from God Himself.
“Wow! This will be the first time in several years that I’m actually happy on my birthday,” I said to myself that morning.
Fast forward to 9.30pm (same day), and my mood wasn’t quite so bright. There are some people, usually those very close to you, or those that used to be very close to you, that know exactly how to bring you down. They know how to make you doubt your self-worth, to the extent that you become totally blind to anything good or positive about your life.
What happened is none of your business. What I can say though, is that by 10pm, I was not only literally shaking with rage, but spiraling down that dark and dangerous path of questioning one’s self-worth. And to make matters worse, I couldn’t get through to any of the four people I usually call when viciously shaken with anger or self-doubt. One was obviously already asleep, as her phone kept going to voicemail, the other was on holiday, the third was on another call, and the fourth one and I have been inadvertently squabbling for the past two / three months, so my pride rendered that particular option a non-starter. Fortunately, the third one returned my call; and although he was able to dissuade me from giving in to the most cruel of negative thoughts, I nonetheless went to bed angry, and plagued with self-doubt.
When I woke up the following morning (a day before my birthday), I was back in that familiar pre-birthday habitat of sadness, anxiety, regret, gloom, and self-chastisement. Only this time, a merciless migraine and breathlessness were thrown into the mix. In short, not only did I foolishly believe I was on a road to nowhere, but I also felt terribly unwell.
But, something strange happened on my way to work. Usually, when the Holy Spirit speaks to me, He does so with great patience – leading me slowly but surely to His main point. This time however, He went straight to the point.
“Forgive….,” he said. “Forgive, right now, this very minute, and let it go.”
That was it. And by His grace, I was able to do just that. Before I knew it, not only had I completely forgotten about the entire episode, but I felt happy, healthy, and confident again in who I am in Christ.
There’s one reason, and one reason alone that my health changed – Forgiveness.
According to Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The John Hopkins Hospital, ”there is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”
I hadn’t planned to write an article today, but after waking up at 5.45am this morning, and not being able to sleep anymore, the Holy Spirit directed me to read Mark chapters 1 to 5.
Upon getting to Mark 2 verse 5, I realised I would in-fact be writing an article this morning.
What does Mark 2 vs 5 say?
“Son, your sins are forgiven.”
This is what Jesus said to the paralysed man before healing him.
Jesus was very precise in all he did whilst on earth. There was a reason for everything. He first of all forgave the man before healing him, to convey three critical facts to us.
1. Forgiveness will always lead to healing – be-it of the heart or the body.
2. Being forgiveness-conscious, as against sin-conscious, will always lead to victory (through Christ) over whatever failing you’re struggling with.
3. If you’re in a relationship that is presently experiencing serious challenges (yes, I’m talking to you – married people and partners), then you must do three things right now – this very minute!
I. Recognise, believe, and accept that God has already forgiven you.
II. Forgive yourself.
Hey, if God has already forgiven you, then who are you not to forgive yourself? Are you bigger, better, or wiser than God??
III. Forgive your spouse / partner. Your relationship will never heal, unless you forgive your spouse, and let go of your anger and resentment – right this second. Yes, be a fool, and just do it. Please trust that this is exactly what God wants you to do; and that He wants you to do so because He loves you, and wants the very best for you. He wants you to be happy. And the first step to your happiness is forgiveness.
Again, I wasn’t supposed to write anything this weekend, but here I am taking a mini dictation. So, I must proceed, even if it means today’s article is somewhat disjointed.
The other two messages for you this morning, lie in Mark, chapter 1 verses 35 to 38.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
1. The only way to have a relationship with God is to get to know Him. And the only way to get to know Him is by reading your bible. You cannot have a relationship with God through your pastor. Your pastor can certainly give you guidance, but you’ve got to do the actual reading yourself. I’m not talking about earning righteousness, or plaudits / kudos from God. As I pointed out earlier this week in the ‘Never Means Never’ message, forget all that. Jesus has already done all the work.
I’m talking about getting to know who He is and who you are in Christ. No matter how powerful a spoken sermon, or how succinct a written message is, there’s nothing like getting to know Him yourself. Only by doing so can you find peace, love, joy, and His will for your life.
2. Jesus said, “That is why I have come.”
In the same fashion, I say to you today,
“That is why He came – to show us the way, heal our relationship with God, and to give us salvation.
It is all about Jesus. Hence, if you desire to have an intimate Relationship with God, but are presently attending a church that isn’t focused on Jesus, then please ask God, this very second, to help you find one that is (focused on the Gospel). And be rest assured that because your request is perfectly aligned with His will, your prayer will be answered both swiftly and effectively.
Jesus-centered churches are focused on the Gospel, Love, and Forgiveness. If you’re presently attending a church that isn’t Jesus-centered, then please say this simple prayer with me.
Dear Lord, please lead me to a place of fellowship that is focused on the Gospel of Jesus. Amen