Last month I started a series about change...why is it so hard? Is it really possible to make long-lasting changes? One of the big reasons we don't see changes in our lives is due to an offended heart! We can be offended at God for permitting something to happen or for not making something else happen. We are seriously offended at times by what people say and do or neglect to say and do.
Jesus said, "Blessed is he who is not offended on account of me." (Luke 7:23)
Today I was in the bank to make a deposit. The bank wasn't busy and there were two tellers working. I was fifth or sixth in line but the line moved along...until it came to my turn. For some reason it took 3-4 times longer than usual for me to make a deposit and I found myself getting irritated. The teller was someone I knew and she was working very, very slowly. I couldn't figure out what was going on, so after a while I asked if everything was alright. She seemed a little offended at my question and I definitely was annoyed at how purposely slow she seemed to be going. I believe she is the head teller and definitely not new at the job. It seemed as though she was hoping the other teller would finish so she could refer me to the next line. Although she took my deposit, she wasn't doing anything with it. She just stood there. Wasting time. Dilly dallying.
Was I offended? I think I was. Sometimes offense is very subtle. It's just a feeling that I shouldn't be kept waiting or that my time is more valuable than others. Offense can occur over very minor life circumstances. I quickly repented and withdrew myself from the snare.
THINGS THAT CAUSE OFFENSE
There are countless opportunities every day to pick up an offense: long lines, short tempers, friends who forget us, family members who dishonor us, broken promises, burnt dinners, forgotten birthdays and anniversaries. And these are the comparatively minor offenses of life.
Sadly the list of things that offend us is very long:
Delayed or seemingly unanswered prayers
Being overlooked, passed over, or excluded from something we want to be a part of
Loss of position, relationship, health, job, career, or ministry
Unfulfilled goals to get married or have children, achieve a degree, or become something particular like successful in the arts, business, music, or ministry.
Sometimes we get offended because others seem to succeed in that which we always wanted. Other people's kids seem more obedient, more successful, more Christ-like in their behaviors and life choices.
OFFENSE – A TRAP SET BY SATAN
In John Bevere's groundbreaking book, The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense, (1994, 2004, 2014), he describes offense as the trap set by satan to ensnare us in bitterness, unforgiveness, and pride. The Greek word for offense is similar to our word scandalized. It implies being caught up in a literal trap similar to the animal traps that are set for bears, raccoons, rabbits, foxes, and other fur-bearing animals. Picture a wild animal with its leg ensnared in a trap! When we get offended by life's betrayals and disappointments something similar happens to our hearts. We become caught up in feelings of rejection, humiliation, and revenge. Once ensnared in that trap I WILL need help getting out!
HERE'S THE PROBLEM WITH OFFENSE
Unresolved feelings of offense and revenge have a way of putting a wall up around our hearts. << Click to Tweet
Once those walls are in place, they begin to get thicker and more impenetrable. Sometimes it's so subtle we don't even know it's happening. Sometimes we are actively participating in erecting walls and thickening them by isolating ourselves from other people or self-medicating with food, substances, work, fitness, and other behaviors including gambling, pornography, binge-watching TV, and excessive use of electronics/games, etc.
Then we lament that God isn't showing up for us but in actuality He has been cordoned off from our lives by our own decree.
If I erect a wall to keep the bad out, to keep from being disappointed again, then that very same wall keeps all the good out that God desires to bring. Walls can’t decipher between good and bad. They keep everything out.
I highly recommend The Bait of Satan to every believer. It is impossible to live life without being touched by the negative power of offense. You may be surprised at all the many things in life that are motivated by offense. This book could just change your life. Some who have been set free by it, read it annually because offense can always sneak back in. Many believe that offense is the number one deception in the modern church.
BE YE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND
All change is brought about through the power of the Holy Spirit working on our minds to transform and transfigure us from within. The offended heart is a hard heart, walled in by self-protection and impervious to the wooing of the Holy Spirit.
Next month I'll talk about God's actual plan for renewing our minds and bringing about the changes we all so desire.
Susanne Ciancio, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Christian Counselor. She has been serving the Christian community as a professional Christian counselor in Essex county and the surrounding area since 1986. Beyond her private practice in West Orange, NJ she is involved in teaching, consulting, and pastoral supervision in various churches in the area. Click here for Susanne's website.
EDITORS NOTE: While Susanne can’t answer specific counseling-related questions, she welcomes your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about what kinds of topics you’d like to see addressed here at Circles of Faith. Click here to contact us.