Are you having difficulty forgiving someone?
Do you feel like itâ€™s just too much to receive them back into your heart, your home, your trust?
You are not alone.
Iâ€™ve always wondered about one particular verse in the well-known â€œBy Faith…â€ chapter in the Bible: Hebrews 11. Check out verse 35.
32And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and33who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises,34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two,they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreatedâ€”of whom the world was not worthyâ€”wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. Samuel and the prophetsâ€” stopped the mouths of lions,
In the midst of ferocious battles, tortures, and deaths – the evidence of the early Christiansâ€™ unwavering faith – we read that incredible statement: â€œWomen received back their dead by resurrection.â€
This verse transitions the reader from positive â€œgo-get-â€™emâ€ faith examples (quenching fire, being mighty in war, etc.) into heart-wrenching â€œhold your loved-ones closerâ€ faith examples (being tortured, mocked, flogged, etc.) with no indication about how we should categorize this supernatural strictly-female experience of faith.
So, I’ve wondered, is â€œWomen received back their dead by resurrectionâ€ a good and victorious thing or a difficult and submissive thing?
Is it considered one of the things we do “by faith”?
Most of my life, Iâ€™ve assumed that, naturally, receiving back the dead is a good thing. I mean, wow: by faith, women could hold their fatally wounded husbands and pray life back into them! Women could run to the sides of their dead martyred sons and watch as they sputtered back into breathing again, opened their eyes, and lived for one-hundred-and-thirty more years! Who wouldnâ€™t embrace that? Show me a woman who would hesitate to receive back her Dead!
On second thought, Iâ€™ll show you a woman: Martha. Her story is found in Luke 11. We meet up with her when she is mourning the death of her brother, Lazarus. This is her â€œDeadâ€ that Hebrews 11:35 speaks of.
You might know the story of Lazarusâ€™ resurrection quite well. Do you remember that while Lazarus rotted away in the tomb, Jesus told Martha, â€œI am the resurrection and the life.â€ He even asked her if she believed him and she answered with a confident, â€œYes!â€
And yet, when Jesus requested to come face-to-face with her dead brother, she balked.
â€œTake away the stone,â€ he said.
â€œLord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.â€ she protested.
Martha didnâ€™t want Jesus getting too close to her Dead. And in this, she reveals her true beliefs: this Dead is too repulsive, too final for the Lordâ€™s resurrecting power.
So, Jesus reminds her that if she chooses to change her beliefs, she will â€œsee the glory of Godâ€.Â The rest is history: The stone is rolled away. Lazarus is resurrected. Jesus tells them to â€œUnbind him, and let him go.â€
In light of this and my own experiences, Iâ€™ve been reading Hebrews 11:35 a bit differently these days. Although I still believe that many women received back their Dead with joyful gratitude, I now know that others received back their Dead simply by faith. Surely, the joy came later, but in the moment of that resurrection, I have no doubt that some opened their arms and hearts simply because the Lord asked them to. The reward in both cases was great: they saw the glory of God.
Weâ€™re no different. Sometimes it is difficult to receive back our Dead, and it is only by faith that we do so. Sometimes we donâ€™t want to take the Lord near our Dead because it is repulsive; besides, weâ€™d rather mourn over the finality of death than entertain the possibility of resurrection.
We are continually faced with this test of our faith: are we willing to bring the Lord face-to-face with our Dead? Are we willing to tell Him our grievances; to let Him look at our anger, bitterness, and resentment; to smell the sin that has been burning in our own hearts as well as in our enemies’? Are we willing to trust Him to be the Prince of Peace in our circumstances? Are we willing to trust Him to be the judge of our enemies?
Are we willing to believe that Jesus Christ will surely resurrect all of the things that are now Dead?
All He asks is that we move one stony heart aside so that He can speak to it.
Sometimes it seems easier to let something die instead of to risk theÂ personal investment in hoping for resurrection. And yet, if Jesus has asked for you to roll the stone away from your Dead so that He can be your resurrection and your life, I encourage you to do it, by faith. Stop protesting, stop fearing. Believe in Him. You will see the glory of God.
Then, when your enemy comes to you with genuine repentance, receive him, unbind him, and let him go.