I sat on the overstuffed chair in my friend Kay’s guesthouse. There to study, pray and write for the day, I noticed for the fourth time that the clock sitting atop of the armoire ticked, but the time never changed. The second hand exerted effort to move the hour and the minute hand around the face of the clock, but only the second hand continually ticked. It never moved beyond the half second. The clock was stuck.
The thought crossed my mind, “I think I am stuck.” So I asked the Lord to show me where I might be stuck, and He gently led me to Romans 5:3-5 that says, “But we glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulations produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Character. It’s a big word with big meaning. I have been praying about my character and seeing some places where I realize I need more of it. I have this flaw in my character and it seems to come out the most in my relationship with my husband. It is my heart to love him unconditionally, but then my character gets in the way of my noble desires.
What is character? This is how I have come to define the meaning: Character is my ability to meet the demands of reality. Reality demands that I am able to handle conflict, disappointments, relationships, love, finances and my calling in life.
Romans 5 points out that the way I develop character is through how I handle tribulations. Do I rejoice or do I shift the blame? Do I own my own stuff? Do I mistakenly own other people’s stuff?
One of the healthiest ways I can develop my character is to keep my attitude right. The way Jesus helps me with this is for me to stay thankful, to stand in His grace and realize that the development of my character is a process. It is not only OK for my character to continually be upgrading, it is a necessary part of my growth as a believer.
When I have relational difficulties the thing I can’t deny is this: I am always a part of the equation. I am a part of the relationship, so I am a part of the problem and a part of the solution. Whenever I remind myself that I am part of the solution, I get excited because Jesus and me can do something about me. If I deny and shift the blame to the other person, then I am stuck and hopelessness ensues.
If I forget to glory in the difficulty then I move into hopelessness. Hopelessness does not produce character; it is the anti-thesis of character. Hopelessness says, “I am bad, I can’t get anything right, I should try harder, I am a failure.” Yuk! All lies. Because of Jesus I have been justified by faith and I have peace with God and access by faith into his grace, where I stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).
I am not condemned, I am not a failure. I am His and He is mine, and because of this truth I can glory in difficulties knowing that keeping my focus on his great love for me will produce the fruit of character in my life.
In the Song of Solomon, the Shulamite is called a “lily among thorns.” We are lilies when our hearts are focused on belief, when I believe Jesus is who he says he is for me. Jesus has excellent character. Character isn’t an issue for him. As I abide in him I am confident his character will be formed in me and I will become more and more like him.
Thorns are representative of the lies we believe. They make us prickly and keep others away. Thorns destroy love. The Song of Solomon calls thorns “foxes.” Foxes are enemies of love and intimacy: hardness of heart, unbelief and resistance.
I believe we were wired for intimate relationships, to love and be loved. It is healthy and normal to desire and long for intimate relating. Yet, so easily, the destroyers of love can sneak in and wreak havoc.
Is there any hardness of heart in your heart? Unbelief? Resistance?
Seeking the Holy Spirit to reveal those things to me, I had to admit that through hurts and disappointments I had allowed some thorns to grow in my marriage. Several years ago, Ron and I walked through a very difficult season. I was diagnosed with Lupus and for a season, my life as I knew it was over. Instead of being a go-after-life kind of woman, I became a woman who was exhausted, basically bed ridden and in continual pain. It wasn’t a picnic for me or for Ron. During that season I let some foxes into our relationship. I think I wanted Ron to nurture me and love me back to health; a little bit of a false expectation. I shifted the responsibility of my healing onto Ron and wanted him to fix me. What an impossible task! Thankfully, God shifted my heart back to where it belonged and did a great healing in my body, soul and spirit, teaching me I suffer no lack; He has given me everything I need for health and life. I am completely healed and have been for five years.
But today, in the quiet of Kay’s guest house. I realized that even though my body is completely healed, I had some leftover beliefs in my heart towards my husband. He wasn’t a disappointment, Lupus was. He didn’t let me down, my body did. He wasn’t unsafe, the way we processed our grief had been unsafe. I had mistakenly shifted blame onto Ron and it had distorted a portion of my love for him.
Oh happy day, He washes my sin away. There it was–blame was my character issue! Now I could own it, repent of it, ask my husband’s forgiveness, and let the love back into my heart!
Song of Solomon 6:13 says, “Dance, dance dear Shulamite, Angel-Princess! Dance and we’ll feast our eyes on your grace! Everyone wants to see the Shulamite dance her victory dances of love and peace.”
This victory dance is a reference to the Shulamite reliving what went awry and then rewriting history. The covenant blessings that had gone awry are redeemed. She is then called blessed–”Happy!”
The development of my character makes me happy! It rids my life of the thorns, so I can live as a lily. Opposing forces were at work in my heart. I love this man; he is the love of my life, yet I had a belief in my heart that he was a disappointment, and therefore I treated him as a disappointment. He isn’t. I had to get to the root of my belief; until I got there I would continue to have negatives feelings. My conscious mind had no idea I harbored this lie, but God rewrote His truth on my heart. Only God can reveal the beliefs written deep within our hearts that sabotage love.
Have any thorns taken root in your heart? Is there any unbelief? Resistance to love? Hardness of heart? If so, don’t be afraid. Jesus stands at the door of your heart and He knocks, He never forces. He invites, and when you are willing He will come in and uncover the lie, remove the thorns that destroy love, and write His truth upon your heart.
*Article originally appeared in Destiny in Bloom. Used with permission.