I am walking through Philippians 4 right now and here comes that word Present again! It's been my word for 2020 for those of you who don't know, and I'm amazed at how God has dissected it for me!
Present - God has good gifts for me, a plan for my future! It's not my responsibility, it's Gods.
Present - Focus on the present moment, live in the now, not in the past, and not with ache for the future. Leave that to God.
Presence - Live in the Presence of the Lord!
As you can see, all of those meanings for me are about trusting in God. Trusting that He has control of everything. His gifts for me are good. They always have been and they always will be. He is my fighter, my protection, my provider. My future is in His hands, so I don't have to and shouldn't worry over it. Living in the present and leaving the future to Him. In His Presence. Recognizing that He is God over all of it.
But now He's given me a fourth meaning!
Present - to give back to God.
This means a lot of things. To give over my worry to Him. To take captive my thoughts and surrender those to Him. To give back in service. To walk in the ways that He has planned for me. To steward what He has given me and give back what He has given me.
Specifically, I want to talk about Philippians 4:5-7. It says "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Talk about a recipe for ridding yourself of anxiousness, filling yourself with gratitude, and honoring Christ with your praise! And to top all of that off, you get to PRESENT your requests to God!
The first point is to rejoice in the Lord always and be gentle to everyone.
I had to dig deeper to find out what being gentle looks like. Recently, I've been having more problems with my ex, who has been asking to see the kids, but will not help to pay for their expenses. He does pay his small amount of child support, so I want to give him grace, but then when I ask for help financially or with conflicts in his family, he gives false hope and never follows through. I had to do more research. What does gentleness to a liar or abuser really look like?
So I had to dig deeper still to find out what is a good indicator of an abuser. I found a few articles that spoke about questions to ask yourself and answer honestly to determine if a person is an abuser or is simply human in need of grace. Ask yourself these questions:
Is this a regular occurring issue? Do they make excuses or see nothing wrong with their behavior?
Have apologies been made, followed by action to prove change? Of course, we are human and people will fall now and again, but has he shown true remorse for his actions and made substantial efforts to change his action?
Is the behavior controlling? Breadcrumbing is a tactic where someone will display their control, causing the other to loosen the reins on their boundaries. The abuser then will relent and show some mercy, to cause the victim to draw close, followed by another display of control. Think about long term - has your boundaries been pushed or redefined? Have you found yourself thinking "I never thought it would get this far" or "I never imagined myself in this position"?
Are you able to openly discuss issues with your partner?
Does he appreciate your feedback and desire to change? Or does he shift the topic, delay, excuse himself, or blame? Does he make excuses instead of addressing your concerns?
The pattern of an abuser looks like giving attention to his victim, followed by abuse, reverting (backpedaling) in order to receive grace, and repeat. Does your grace cause him to continue abuse, or is there true change? Write things down! It helps to have an accurate record of your feelings at the time, so you're not confused about what is happening.
Does he neglect your needs (or your children's needs), while demanding attention for his own?
Does he extend grace when you make a mistake?
Answering these questions should help you determine if you are being abused or if it is an incident that warrants grace. I realized far too late in my relationship that it was abuse. In fact, sometimes I still even justify in my head that maybe it wasn't, but repeated action, lies, excuses, deflecting blame, and putting his needs before the needs of me in our marriage and before the needs of our children now, it's too obvious that it is abuse.
I don't say this lightly guys. I had to present my ex-husband as a sacrifice to the Lord and recognize that the man I loved, the marriage I idolized, the family I wanted, the dreams that I had, the plans that I made, the relationships that came with this man - all of these things were being given back to God. It wasn't easy to leave. It was the hardest thing I've ever done.
It was also Gods gift to me. It was freedom and relief. I didn't know what I would gain by losing what I thought I wanted.
Philippians 3:7-8 "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ."
When I gave back my husband to God, I lost, but I gained Christ. I gained a home, my children, a life free of abuse, joy, peace, happiness, contentment, friendships, closer relationship with my family, financial stability, patience, love, service, kindness, faith.
And yeah, gentleness too. Giving grace to an abuser is an open door for continued abuse. Honestly, sometimes the most gentle thing you can do for an abuser is to stop enabling the abuse. It may be that when they find there are no open doors left, they will find the only open door is God's.
Whenever I find myself anxious for more, I just have to remember this verse.
Philippians 4:4-8 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Rejoice in the Lord. Be gentle to everyone.
Do not be anxious.
With thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
His peace that passes understanding with guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
In order to maintain that, think about Godly things.