Praying For a Bigger Heart, Not a Thicker Skin

Being "out there" in social media and writing online brings a lot of people into my life. More than I can fit into my home and more than I can usually respond to in a timely manner...if at all. This makes life a bit more interesting and often fills my days and heart with praise to God, prayers for friends (some I've never met in person) and also some heartaches along the way.

I never set out to be a writer. I never set out to have readers or have people who would "follow" me. I wasn't raised in a Christian home, so I set out to be a diligent student of God's Word. I wanted to learn how to be an excellent Proverbs 31 wife and mother, a loving sister/friend to fellow Christians and an exemplary witness of Christ to the lost world. I set out to know what my spiritual gifts are and use them as God has ordained in His Word (Rom 1:11-12, 15:2; 1 Cor 12:7) to edify the Body and cause many to give thanks to the Father—while bringing glory and honor to His name (1 Pet 1:6-7). That's all.

But then one day, my wise Father in Heaven decided to allow a thorn in my side; a painful and often debilitating medical issue that disables me from using my spiritual gifts as I once did...within the safety of my church's walls and the homes of sisters in Christ.

For the past 10 years my health has slowly declined and in the past five years I've undergone five surgeries, countless tests, numerous procedures, several hospital admissions and too many emergency room visits to mention. With endless medical activities and being in constant pain, daily tasks were often impossible and using my spiritual gifts outside my home were far from my mind. Yet, I was compelled by the Holy Spirit to do well with all that God has given me...to run this race and finish my course (Eph 2:10, Heb 12:1-2).

So my darling husband and I prayed about how I would continue to use the gifts He gave me for the purpose in which He gave them. It seemed impossible. How can I teach and exhort women and encourage all saints to press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14), if I can't even get out of my house? This all happened in 2008 when blogging was still a bit of a mystery to many, including me. As a matter of fact, I'd never heard of it before my husband mentioned it to me.

After much prayer, my wise and loving husband directed me to begin blogging about all that God has taught me. To be honest, I thought this was silly and a bit arrogant. I mean, who am I? I'm a nobody. I'm just a simple Christian stay-at-home-wife and mother. Why would I write anything, put it online and why would anyone read it? Crazy. But trusting God who was kind enough to provide order and give me a wise and godly man as my head, I submitted and began doing what I didn't understand nor felt comfortable doing...blogging.

Surprisingly, people started reading my blog, commenting and even emailing me questions, concerns and requests for prayers. It wasn't too long before sisters who created online women's ministries began to contact me asking if I'd like to join their ministry.

Fast forward six years and here I am...still writing on my personal blog, at The Christian Post Blogs and working on my first women's Bible study entitled, My Second Love: A Study of Biblical Submission and The Proverbs 31 Woman.

So what does all this have to do with praying for a bigger heart rather than a thicker skin?

Being online makes me an easy target for verbal brutality that most would never engage in face-to-face. So, as you can imagine, I could have a pity party, become bitter and quit writing altogether because honestly, I never asked for this. I never set my heart on being a writer or anything that would put in me in the public's eye. I'm inherently an introvert and prefer to spend time alone with God and my family. In general, people frighten me. So I could buck up, and harden my heart (a.k.a thicken my skin) so these verbal daggers no longer hurt me. Or I could choose to learn from faithful saints who've gone before me and emulate my Savior's heart, by loving my enemies.

Because I never desired to write...at all, and surely not in a public arena, I never had, nor now have any personal agenda or motivation to write. Therefore, I don't tend to write about things that garner much applause—which I'm grateful for lest my pride rise up within me and disable me from speaking God's truth.  I simply write as I feel led by the Lord in accordance with His Word and inline with my spiritual gifts. Which means the crux of my writings are exhortations to my brothers and sisters in Christ to remain steadfast and immovable; to contend for the faith and remain faithful to Christ, His Word and His precepts that accords with sound doctrine.

With that said, in the past six years, the Lord has kindly brought me wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage me, challenge me and help me as I follow God's will. I've been greatly encouraged by knowing there are many Christians out there who still hold steadfastly to God's Word, prefer His will over their personal emotions and experiences and who boldly declare the excellencies of Christ and rejoice in His holy magnificence!

Along with these wonderful readers (some who have become my friends), I've also, by God's providence have been allowed some not-so-kind travel companions who are more concerned about making God and His Word pleasing to the world than making their lives most pleasing to God.

Without knowing anything about me or reading the Scriptures I share in my articles that would renew their minds and transform their hearts in Christ, they choose to hurl insults, presume erroneous facts about my character and douse me with extremely painful wishes (e.g., "hope you see Judas in Hell). This makes me want to run and hide. So I do...to my God and Savior, Jesus Christ, my Strong Tower, who reminds me that no matter how wretched people think I am, I know I am worse—or else God the Father would've never sacrificed His one and only Son to save me.

"When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men...

"Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, 'Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.' But the king said, 'What have I do to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, 'Curse David,' who then shall say, 'Why have you done so?... It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today.' So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust."

"For this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly."
~2 Samuel 16:5-6, 9-10, 12-14;
1 Peter 2:21-23 (ESV)

I am grateful for all the precious brothers and sisters whom the Lord has brought to encourage and pray for me. And I'm continually learning to pray for a bigger heart, so I can be just as grateful for those whom the Lord has allowed to curse me.

I hope this has encouraged some of you today who may be enduring similar trials because of your abandoned love for Christ.

Remember, our lives here are but a mist, and it'll all be better when we get Home (2 Cor 4:16-18, Col 3:1-4).
Praying For a Bigger Heart, Not a Thicker Skin
By
Hello fellow image-bearers of the Most High God!

I'm Sunny Shell and I'm an extremely grateful daughter of the LORD God Almighty. I'm also a wife to a loving and godly man, whom God has filled with kindness, wisdom and much mercy. My husband is my best friend and My Second Love.

I'd love for you to journey along with me as I share my life lessons, struggles and victories found only in Jesus. And I'd love to hear how God is growing you in your faith so that we might mutually be encouraged to press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 1:11-12).

I'm delighted you found my little writing corner and I hope you come for another visit soon. May God's grace and peace be multiplied to your spirit.