For years I knew something wasn’t right. The doctrine I had been taught by the Mormon Church since childhood didn’t add up anymore. I had gotten into the habit of sweeping confusing doctrine and traditions under an imaginary rug which I ironically called my “Faith Rug.” I began praying to God that I would be shown the truth.
God didn’t answer my prayers in one tidy swoop. He showed me the truth piece by piece until the puzzle I saw before me didn’t look anything like Mormonism any longer. I was devastated. I wanted the religion and traditions of my childhood to be true more than anything! I thought the answer to my prayers would result in having a newfound devotion to Mormonism rather than losing it all together. I knew my leaving the organization would crush my parents and my community. But most importantly, it would crush my husband and children, for whom I had always been a major influence.
Anger crept up on me and filled me. Why did this have to happen to me? It wasn’t my fault that I was taught a false gospel! I was angry at those who I felt had deceived me and generations of my family. It was their fault my family and I had been left feeling so lost and confused! Yet we were the ones who had to deal with the consequences.
The anger burned within me as I desperately began searching for God. I dove into the Bible for comfort, found a Christian church that I loved, and prayed constantly. But despite all my efforts to draw closer to God, every day I felt further away. Why did I feel even further away than before?
James 1:20 says, “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” I hadn’t realized it, but the anger I had allowed in my heart had taken me further from God. Anger, wrath, malice and slander are some of the things God calls us to “put away” if we are to put on the new self (Colossians 3:8). My anger at the people who had hurt me was never going to produce the fruit of the Spirit in my life. But can anyone really choose to turn aside from anger? At the time, I felt the answer was no. I felt I couldn’t control my anger.
When I read Romans 2:1, I was reminded of my own blame:
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”Romans 2:1
Several years ago, my family and I had completed the ultimate Mormon goal: we had succeeded in doing everything we needed to do to be sealed in the Mormon temple. This is no small achievement, and it required a huge amount of commitment to the organization. After this monumental event, I went to visit a neighbor who had a new baby and had not attended the Mormon Church for some time. As I admired her baby, the idea struck me that I should probably share with her my positive experience in the Mormon temple. I knew I was supposed to be a good missionary for the organization, and my recent accomplishment made me the perfect missionary. My attempt was awkward and not led by God, but I believed I was doing the right thing at the time.
That neighbor has now also left the Mormon church. I realize now that she has every reason to blame me for her own inability to see the truth about God. I had played a part in her confusion! I was influential to my neighbors and my family as well! Knowing this, how could I put blame on anyone else when I had done the same thing to others?
God commands us to forgive those who have wronged us with the reminder that we also hope to be forgiven for our own mistakes. Luke 6:37 says “”Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). Did I want to be held accountable for my role in deceiving my neighbor? Of course not. I reasoned that I had not known any better! Maybe I didn’t know better, and maybe deep inside I did. Cultural traditions can confuse the moral standard that God places for us in our hearts. But one thing I now know to be sure is that God wants us to forgive those who wrong us—for our own sake and for theirs.
First John 2:2 tells us, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Only my own pride could cause me to forget how cherished my Mormon community members and Mormon leaders were (and are) to God. They are a part of his creation! He loves them and died for them. God chose humans to be his image bearers; anger against them is really like harboring anger against God himself!
I recognized that it was time to put my anger aside and let God into my heart. Continuing to feel angry for the mistakes of others was only doing my own soul harm. Hadn’t I allowed enough pain into my life and the life of my family members already?
In time I have found the ability to feel grateful for my unique spiritual journey. I have grown close to God and rejoice in his perfection! Who knows if I would have learned the same things if it weren’t for the path God set me on?
Unlike the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35, when our debt has been paid, we should let our debtors go free as well. Jesus died so that we could be forgiven for our sin in order to be presented blameless before the Father (Colossians 1:22; Jude 24), so we shouldn’t try to shift blame onto others. What will we gain from anger and accusation? We already have all we could ever need. Our debt has been paid. We are free. We do not have to hold on to the frustration or feel like they need to make things right for us. Jesus has already made us right before God. We can let go of anger and desire for correction because of that.
If you find that you can’t stop blaming others for your pain and suffering, try this:
- Know that anger toward God’s image bearers can take you further from God and healing. We talked earlier about how Colossians 3:8 tells us to put anger to death. A few verses later we are told, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (emphasis mine). If you should be forgiven for your mistakes, shouldn’t those who have harmed you also receive forgiveness?
- Take time to identify when you might have harmed another in a similar way (even remotely similar), confess these times to the Lord, and feel joy in knowing that you will be forgiven for those mistakes when you put your faith in Christ.
- Pray for your offender. Matthew 5:44-45 says, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Dwell in the knowledge that Christ loves those who harmed you. He created them and loves them deeply. Anger can squash any compassion we have for the person we are projecting it onto. We must remember that they are God’s creation made to be in relationship with him. They are sinful just as we are sinful. Pray they would know Jesus as their Savior, or if they are a believer, pray for him to work in their heart. In praying for them, we will see God change our heart toward that person.
- Practice gratitude. We can be grateful for pain, though it seems unlikely at first. We might be grateful for the journey and learning. We might be grateful for the small mercies that came along the way or the people who supported us. Sometimes just being grateful that everything else held steady for us while we dealt with the pain and suffering can be enough. (Thank you, Lord, the sun has risen every day while I struggled with this. Thank you my drinking water tastes so good, and my dog still loves me. Thank you that I can still afford hot coffee. Thank you for long walks during sunset.)
God loves you. It’s going to be okay.
Photo credit: Emilee Carpenter
Julie Cornelius-Huang is a mom of three who lives with her kids and husband in Utah. Raised in Vermont, she grew up richly immersed in the arts and the great outdoors. She works as a project manager for Sentient Art Academy, and of course, shepherding three crazy children. She enjoys singing, acting, writing and dog walking, and is currently learning to ride horses. She is immensely grateful for any opportunity to share what she has learned about God with anyone who will listen.