There is hope when our sins are exposed because when Jesus covers them, we are more credible than we have ever been. This morning I woke up to find a dear friend had posted an article about someone she loved and deeply respected who had committed suicide because he was linked to the Ashley Madison site. This man was a believer and follower of Jesus. I pray that when you and I are exposed that we can truly understand beyond the embarrassment and pain of what our actions cause that Jesus is there eagerly waiting to cover us with His grace. Consequences will come and lives will be affected, but it does not mean you are finished. It is in the exposing that you are given a personal invitation to healing and a credible life filled with joy and peace.
The relentless love of the almighty God has been covering what we cannot since the beginning of time. There is nothing more frightening than the feeling of being unsafe because of exposure. God has not only promised but has acted on our behalf to cover us. When he walked the garden looking for Adam and Eve, he came prepared to cover them not to condemn them (Genesis 3:21). When the Lord examines our hearts, it is always to cover with his grace and mercy through the blood of Jesus. He does not examine us to condemn and shame us. You and I can rest in the Lord, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17, ESV). I desire for you to understand and be able to identify what is of the Lord in the examining process of your crisis, and what is not of the Lord. Sometimes when we are trying to manage the pain our crisis inflicts, it can become difficult to know what pain has purpose and what pain will drain the life out of us. Understanding God’s purpose for examining our hearts can only come through spending time in his Word. We also know that “…when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32, ESV).To be exposed is to be uncovered. Grief exposes our every fear and reveals how helpless we really are. Fear of the unknown exposes the ugliness of how we fight to control and manipulate to make ourselves feel comfortable. Our fear of exposure lures us to minimize and to hide. Examination of our thoughts, actions, motives, words, and expressions are all bare. This is painful not because some question us, our circumstances, or our motives. It is painful because we are emotionally naked. It is easy to think there is no place to hide and no way to find cover. Being examined makes me nervous. I am nervous because I do not like the feeling of being vulnerable.
One day when I was about five years old I walked into the kitchen to ask my mother something, and suddenly I knew I was exposed. Standing there completely helpless in front of my mom and my grandmother, I saw that my skirt had left its place around my waist and lay at my ankles. The elastic popped and my tears rushed down my cheeks. I was completely exposed and thoroughly embarrassed. Maybe that is where the dread began. Whatever the reason, I hate it. Exposure is one of those experiences where, no matter how hard you try to cover and hide, you can never get out of it quickly enough. Others remember, and you certainly never forget. But what if there is a purpose to exposure? What if exposure is the only way to truly be hidden? I struggle with the discipline to write in my journal daily. However, I am thankful that I do write and can look back on things that have shaped and re-shaped my heart over these last few years. I have read over and over one particular entry as a reminder and motivation to remain faithful. In this entry, I copied down Job 31:6: “Let me be weighed on honest scales, That God may know my integrity” (New King James Version). I added Psalm 26:2: “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart” (NKJV.) Then I wrote a prayer that began with the words, “I am entering through the Miphkad Gate. I am being inspected and judged.” Examined. Judged. These words are sharp; just hearing them can cause us to feel uneasy. At some point someone—maybe even you—will think it is a God-given right for others to examine your crisis and judge you. There were days during this time that I wondered how much more my heart could break. Judging of this kind seemed cruel and the examination of my crisis felt disrespectful. I didn’t expect other brothers and sisters in Christ to be judgmental. Therefore I did not expect this to be part of the rebuilding process. I was naïve and that is what caused much of the hurt. Somehow it was necessary to the restoration process. The pain of being judged by others was unbearable. At certain points this can be more devastating than the crisis itself. Words are hurtful and people are careless with their words. I wish for you as I have wished for myself that I could forget some of the words I heard. I can’t forget and I give them to my Heavenly Father for him to renew my mind with his truth. The judgment that comes from others can be hurtful or it can be a blessing. How can it be a blessing? You are more open to the Lord being your judge and I hope that you will choose to place yourself in the light of the all wise and kind judge, Jesus Christ.
What I learned about the Appointed Place: This particular gate mentioned in Nehemiah 3, the Miphkad Gate, may have been used for trading animals to be utilized in sacrificial worship and it may have been the place where men were drafted into military service and people were counted for the census. The word “miphkad” means “inspection.” As I studied, I learned this gate was an appointed place. There were some things and some people that had to pass through this gate. Dear one, our crisis will require that we pass through the inspection. Those of us living in crisis will be examined by others and by the Lord. We will be looked over, looked into and judged. How do we know who is being used by the Lord for this process and who is not? Don’t mistake the truth that stings for judgment rooted in wrong motives. Nathan confronted King David with truth that did sting (2 Samuel 12). The circumstances that led to the confrontation were displeasing to God. However, Nathan spoke truth completely motivated by love and a desire to see the king restored. When the Lord uses people in our lives to speak truth that is difficult for us to hear, it is for the purpose of our restoration. It should be spoken in love, presented with empathy for our circumstances and the clear desire to further our restoration. It is important to know who the safe individuals are that will walk through your crisis with you. Ask the Lord to give you discernment in knowing who these people will be.
It doesn’t seem fair. If I could, I would walk with you through this. Not only would I cry with you but I would understand your tears. I understand your fear, your anger, your frustration,and your dread. However, God can use all of these for our restoration. A crisis is not a sudden free pass for no one to ever question or examine your life. In fact, the crisis you are in may give all the more reason for you to be examined. This wasn’t a principle I wanted to embrace. However, I went through it. It was as if I had been opened up for others to peer into my raw emotions, my embarrassing pain, and my bleeding wounds. Being examined is not pretty and what others see and expose is difficult to endure. There is no medication strong enough to ease that kind of pain, the throbbing pain of being judged. How do you know who is safe and who is not safe to examine you in time of crisis? Safe people are individuals that will walk with you and at times guide you toward restoration. One of my dearest friends has not only walked with me through my crisis but she has been in my mess willingly. She said it best one day as we talked about knowing who in your life will evaluate your circumstances and speak loving truth to you, and who will judge you and bring only more harm. She said to me, “Joy, you’re safe with the person who pulls the log out their own eye before taking the speck out of your eye.” The safe person will understand that holding me to God’s standards is the loving thing to do. Matthew 7:1–5 tells us: Judge not, that you be not judged.For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (ESV). It is clear from this passage that judging is a sin. However, to reprove a brother or sister in Christ is a duty. It is imperative that you and I know the difference. I would never want anyone to take advantage of your pain and judge you. Harming your already-broken heart would be cruel. Often people will judge, holding to their own standards and preferences to make themselves feel better. Yet, there will be loving people who will be the voice of James 5:19–20: “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back,let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (ESV). Dear one, if you have wandered away from the truth in your crisis then I hope there is someone pursuing you to bring you back to God’s life-changing truth. We are prone to wander. A crisis has the potential to detour our hearts away from the truth that will keep us. If we are not careful we can be uncomfortable with the word “judge” and go so far the opposite direction that we become unloving. In these verses James wrote, “if anyone among you wander from the truth and someone brings him back”—and there is a lot that takes place between “wanders from the truth” and “brings him back.” The person who pursues the wandering one has recognized the movement away from Christ. Sometimes, the pain of our crisis is so deep that we pull away from Christ. The loving person who is removing the log out of their own eye is able to love unconditionally the one with the speck. This person will pursue your heart understanding what is at stake—your soul. This person does not judge you to condemn you. This person acts with a tough love and will take the time to understand you while never dismissing the reason you have wandered away. To bring you back means the reason you have wandered from the truth has to be confronted. The gracious person who brings you back from your wandering is never motivated by their preferences. They are loving you with God’s standards.
On a hot, summer day I walked to my car completely discouraged because it seemed my life was beyond repair. I knew I had not wandered from the truth. I knew I was clinging to God’s truth like a man overboard would cling to a lifeline. My belief in God and who God is had not changed. My beliefs dictated how I conducted myself, but my circumstances were being judged. The disgraceful details of my marriage were coming out and several people were uncomfortable. The harmful judgment was an attack on my circumstances and a complete dismissal of my character. The loving person who will judge you with kindness will always put your character above your circumstances. This deep hurt birthed insight and understanding that I did not have to entrust myself to these people. I only needed to entrust myself to my Heavenly Father.
While we do not have a physical Miphkad Gate and appointed place to walk through, we do have an appointed place, our heart. This place is the only place God examines. This is the place where he judges. Psalm 26:2 says, “Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart” (NASB). The word “examine” means to scrutinize and to prove, to make a trial. Isn’t that what is in the eye of the storm called Crisis? The scrutiny and the trial we face. We seem to think the scrutiny is from others, whereas the psalmist is asking God to examine him. Do we really desire God to examine us and try us and test our mind and our heart? Having your crisis and your responses to your crisis judged by others can be awful. However, we must realize that if we are not careful we would put all our attention on what other people think about us and not pay attention to what God knows of us. When God’s examination becomes most important and his results reveal truth then anything others say and think will not sting as badly. We are human. I came to the place where I was more concerned with what God knew of my heart than what people thought of me.
Integrity is a word easily thrown around, but difficult to live. A life in crisis is chaotic and for a Christian integrity is necessary to calm the chaos. In the beginning of a crisis it may be sheer panic, disbelief, tears, talking to anyone who will listen, and more tears. Suddenly the loneliness sets in and the chill it blows on your heart is startling. Loneliness can have a way of resurrecting every emotion you think you have quieted. Like a mirage in the desert, loneliness can draw you into thinking you have solutions to your problems when there never were any answers at all. It is an illusion. Too many hurt by life-changing crisis underestimate the power of loneliness. As a counselor I had become a student to other people’s pain. I listened and I learned. Like you, I never thought my life’s crisis would ever be a disgrace. In the back of my mind I sometimes wondered if I would handle it well were I ever in “their shoes.” Some people taught me what not to do and others inspired me as I walked with them through hurts, discouragement, and dismay. And then, I became a statistic. My life could be labeled, put in a column of failure and deep sadness, and forever changed. What now? Job 31:6 became the needle on my compass and Psalm 26:2 became simple food that fed my soul. To make it through the examination process that is necessary to restoration, I encourage you to walk with integrity. In the end, that may be all you have. “Let Him weigh me with accurate scales, and let God know my integrity” (Job 31:6, NASB). When Job determined in his heart to be a man of integrity, he must have understood that others would peer into his life and look for something, anything to explain away his great suffering. Others will do the same during your crisis response. It is important that you live life as unto the Lord. It matters. It is important that you make every decision, even the smallest ones, through the lens of integrity.
I cannot tell you what will be required of you from the Lord. I will share the small, practical decisions I made at the beginning of my crisis to walk in integrity. I would take the time to talk with at least one of my five closest friends daily. I needed the encouragement and I also wanted to be transparent with them about daily happenings. I canceled our cable for both practical and heart-related reasons. I did not want to waste away my time in the evenings watching mindless television. I also could not afford to put myself in a place of temptation to view things I should not see. When by myself in the car, I listened to sermons or Christian radio. I did not go into debt. I purposed in my heart to trust the Lord with my meager finances to provide all we needed. We did not miss church or time with the small group Bible study. Even though there has been so much rebuilt and restored since my crisis began, I continue to remain committed to my integrity before the Lord. I continue to stay in close weekly contact with these wonderful friends through phone calls and emails. I am completely aware of the amount of television time in our home, and it is very little time. I am so thankful for podcasts! I read books that challenge and encourage my walk with the Lord.
Never underestimate the small decisions. Whether it is decisions that help you physically, spiritually, emotionally, or mentally—make sure each of those decisions helps you rebuild with integrity. If integrity is one side of the coin then Psalm 26:2 is the other side. The American Standard Version says: “Examine me, O Jehovah, and prove me; Try my heart and my mind.” If we surrender to God’s scales and he weighs us then we must be at peace with how he chooses to examine our heart and mind. To be all right with one and try to manipulate the other is hypocritical. You can’t have it your way and his way. You may have already entered into this area of your crisis. You may be living out the portion of these lyrics to the song “Restored (The Grindstone Song)” by Cheri Keaggy: “I’ve been living against the grindstone, where nothing is sure but the Lord.” It is more crucial now than ever to understand and trust the Lord. There is purpose to your pain. There is reason for your heart being examined and your mind being tried. This season of the rebuilding process is difficult. However, this season is for you. God wants to do something amazing in your life. He wants to remove what doesn’t belong in your life and he wants to demolish what has held you down. If you want to rebuild and have your life restored, then work through the pain and trust your loving Heavenly Father, who is good to bring forth his purpose.
The Lord’s examination will lead to discipline. This discipline is for the purpose of instructing and teaching us. It is in the heart that we can experience a holy God who is the only just judge over our heart. 1 John 3:19–20 states, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (ESV). It is comforting to know that God knows everything. Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary of the Bible explains this process: “Our heart here is our self-reflecting judicial power…This power can act as witness, judge, and executioner of judgment; it either accuses or excuses, condemns or justifies; it is set and placed in this office by God himself”. What is wonderful about this explanation of our heart is the proclamation that ‘God is greater than our heart.’”God designed us with a conscience. He placed deep within our hearts the ability to judge and the need for justice. However, he is the righteous judge. He not only can know our actions; he is able to discern our motives.
Christy Nockels wrote the powerful words of “A Mighty Fortress.” Every time I sing this song, I may be standing reverently on the outside but I am having a dance party on the inside. Pure, simple celebration motivated by a deep gratitude that I can never put into words. Nockels wrote: Our God is a consuming fire A burning holy flame, with glory and freedom Our God is the only righteous judge, Ruling over us with kindness and wisdom We will keep our eyes on you So we can set our hearts on you Lord, we will set our hearts on you! Friend, if I could say one thing that will make a difference and change your perspective during this time of crisis and examination, I would repeat over and over that the God who is judging you is doing so with loving kindness and perfect wisdom. Hebrews 4:13 emphasizes, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (ESV). He knows every detail of your crisis and he knows the devastation of your heart. However, our heart change is of more importance than the circumstances. He knows that when we are tested and examined, and when our heart is transformed by his truth, then we can see our crisis as the perfect opportunity for joy. Just when you think you cannot endure the pain of exposure, El Roi (the God Who Sees) covers you with his grace, mercy, and love. Maybe your crisis is a consequence to sin in your life. His blood washes over your soul bringing forgiveness of sins. Maybe the crisis that devastated your heart does not have rhyme or reason from your perspective. You have his undivided attention. Maybe you find yourself in the ruins of crisis and you know you did everything in your power to stop it. He is there with you. He will not allow you to pass through the examination process alone. To abandon us in our most vulnerable state would be cruel and unkind when we cry out to him and invite him into it. These characteristics cannot inhabit the holy God. We see in Daniel 3 that he did not abandon the Hebrew men when throne in the furnace. Instead, he walked in the fire with them.The fire could not consume them because God’s presence consumed everything that would threaten their well being. God did not leave Esther to go alone before her king uninvited, instead he protected her (Esther 5). When the adulterous woman was brought before the Savior, the salvation he gave her was larger than any stone that could have been hurled at her (John 8). The same God who walked in the fire, protected Esther, and covered the woman’s sin with forgiveness is the same God who will remain with you as you are being examined.
Copyright, 2014 Read more on rebuilding after a crisis from Joy’s book, Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis to Crediblity