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Day 19 – Restoring Broken Fellowships

And God appeared unto Jacob … and … said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called anymore Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply, a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.
~ Genesis 35:9-12 ~

The full import of Israel’s meandering journey comes “when we realize that Israel’s experiences in the wilderness are both literal and allegorical of our own experiences.” In Egypt, Israel was in bondage, as we are in bondage to sin. They left via a baptism-like experience across the Red Sea and undertook their wanderings in the wilderness. Such wilderness journeys are found in various places in the scriptures, and we can liken them to our mortal probation (see, for example, Alma 37:41–45). Not long after entering the wilderness, Israel made covenants at Sinai. They then wandered for many years. Eventually they were brought to the river Jordan (which can be likened to the veil we pass through at death) and crossed it, entering into the promised land (which can symbolize the celestial kingdom).
~ Kerry Muhelstein – Israel’s Exodus and Deliverance: Then and Now – Ensign, March 2018 ~

One of the reasons Israel had to come out of Egypt was so that they could be restored into full fellowship with God. They had lost their identity and relationship with themselves and with God. Yet the Lord wanted to bring them out in order to restore a broken fellowship. Restore them as a people of God. Restore them as a nation. Restore them as a covenant in fulfilling their purpose and glory. For us today that is what our Heavenly Father desires. To restore us back into full fellowship with him and with one another. To become united in purpose and will toward fulfilling His divine purpose and glory.

And relationships are worth restoring because our pursuit and desire is to learn how to love God and to love one another. This value of relationships is at the heart of the plan of salvation. It takes effort on our part to maintain them instead of discarding them whenever there is conflict, offense, or hurt. Our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, has called us to restore those broken relationships (2 Corinthians 5:18). It is the reason Christ spoke on healing, seeking forgiveness, and being reconciled to thy brother first before bringing alms to the altar (Mattew 5:24).

The reality is that restoring broken relationships, to be reconciled with others, is quite a difficult task for us to undertake. Yet, it is significantly important to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we are humble, sincere, contrite, and motivated by the spirit and love of God to go forth with faith and purpose to seek reconciliation. To seek forgiveness. It is not easy to forgive those who have hurt us.

Another principle is that forgiveness is not merely enough. If we continue to hold onto those resentments, hold onto those bitter thoughts, we continue to despise and dislike those individuals that have offended us in some way – then we are not truly forgiving nor able to fully reconcile and restore broken relationships. Authentic forgiveness means we give up our bitterness and resentment. This motivates us to truly seek reconciliation and restoration of fellowship with another. It means we are willing to engage in the process of reconnecting, reestablishing a true relationship with those who have caused hurt, disappointment, and betrayal.

And for some of us – this process may be quite painful and quite costly. However – this is what our Heavenly Father expects of us. Reason for this is because of the pain and cost of reconciling and restoring us back into full fellowship with Him through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ.

How to Restore Broken Relationships and Fellowships

Scripture clearly teaches the importance of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration of fellowship. Not only scripture, but we also have the teachings, wisdom, and insights from those whom our Heavenly Father has called to minister and speak truth.

In his October 2018 General Conference Address – The Ministry of Reconciliation – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland says this:

Brothers and sisters, Jesus has asked that we “live together in love” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:45) with “no disputations among you.” (3 Nephi 11:22 and 11:28) “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me,” He warned the Nephites (3 Nephi 11:29). Indeed, to a great degree, our relationship to Christ will be determined—or at least affected—by our relationship to each other.

Elder Holland quotes 3 Nephi 12:23-24 where the Savior taught the importance and purpose of reconciliation. Elder Holland also shares this insight:

Surely each of us could cite an endless array of old scars and sorrows and painful memories that this very moment still corrodes the peace in someone’s heart or family or neighborhood. Whether we have caused that pain or been the recipient of the pain, those wounds need to be healed so that life can be as rewarding as God intended it to be. Like the food in your refrigerator that your grandchildren carefully check in your behalf, those old grievances have long since exceeded their expiration date. Please don’t give precious space in your soul to them any longer. As Prospero said to the regretful Alonso in The Tempest, “Let us not burden our remembrance with a heaviness that’s gone.”

As for the difficulty in seeking reconciliation and restoration – sometimes it may not come about the way we may expect. Nor should it require that we reenter into any toxic relationships that continue to bring pain, distrust, or heaviness of mind, spirit, and soul. Again, here are the words and instructions of Elder Holland:

“Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven,” (Luke 6:37) Christ taught in New Testament times. And in our day: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:10) It is, however, important for some of you living in real anguish to note what He did not say. He did not say, “You are not allowed to feel true pain or real sorrow from the shattering experiences you have had at the hand of another.” Nor did He say, “In order to forgive fully, you have to reenter a toxic relationship or return to an abusive, destructive circumstance.” But notwithstanding even the most terrible offenses that might come to us, we can rise above our pain only when we put our feet onto the path of true healing. That path is the forgiving one walked by Jesus of Nazareth, who calls out to each of us, “Come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)

So how do we go about and seek reconciliation, to forgive, and to work toward restoring those broken relationships and fellowships?

Seek Counsel with our Heavenly Father

When the Savior taught the disciples how to pray – one thing he mentioned is for them (and for us today) to seek forgiveness as they forgive others who have trespassed against them. What the Savior is teaching us is that we are to admit and confess our own wrongs. Our own transgressions and sins. 1 John 1:9 tells us that when we confess our own trespasses – our Heavenly Father is faithful and just in forgiving us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Not only are we to confess and be reconciled to God – but we also need to want and need forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration daily. And this is linked to forgiving others as an acknowledgement of truth that as we are seeking forgiveness – we too must also be forgiving on a daily basis. We ought to seek reconciliation daily.

Think of it this way – when we seek out our Heavenly Fathers forgiveness, it is done in the same manner in which we are willing to forgive and be reconciled with those who have trespassed against us. It sets the tone for how we are willing to be merciful and graceful toward others while at the same time expecting our Heavenly Father to be merciful and graceful toward us. This means that if we expect God to forgive us completely and with mercy and grace – we must be willing to forgive others as God has forgiven us – and how we need God to forgive us.

Therefore, the only way we are empowered to forgive others as our Heavenly Father forgives us is to seek Him and His council. Seek His grace and mercy so that we too may extend that out toward others in forgiving them. For the Savior taught:

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15, KJV

It also means we are to humble ourselves with a spirit of contrition, a broken heart, and present ourselves as a sacrifice to Him. Pouring out our heart and brokenness. To express our disappointment, our angry, and seek to let go of those resentments and bitterness that weigh down our hearts.

Another factor in bringing our concerns and frustrations to our Heavenly Father is so that we may find peace, comfort, and strength in His grace and mercy. Through the Spirit, our heart is softened toward those who have caused an offense. Especially if those trespasses concern unmet needs that only our Heavenly Father is able to fulfill. How much of our hurts, resentments, and bitterness is wrapped up in our own expectations toward others to fulfill certain needs? Needs that are only met when we come to our Heavenly Father and seek him continually?

Sometimes the pain, the hurt, and the significant disappointments come when there is some form of abuse. When there is real harm and danger within a relationship – or even within a fellowship of others. As difficult as it may be – bringing this to our Heavenly Father’s attention may not be something resolved in a one-time prayer. It may take multiple times of pouring out our heart and spirit to Him regarding the significant pain we are experiencing. Confessing how we feel, the fears, the resentment, the anger. Acknowledging our pain to God helps us better cope with what we are experiencing.

Take the Initiative, Show Empathy, and Actively Listen

It is often heard that people are not willing to forgive, or even entertain any notion of reconciliation or restoration, unless the offending party comes to them first. That those who caused the offense are responsible to apologize.

Along with this, one commits to forgiving when the offending party comes to seek reconciliation. However, there is the idea that I will forgive – however, I will not forget. Some have a hard time with this. The reality is that forgiving of another person’s trespass also means that all is forgotten is not something that is accomplished. Healing from disappointment, hurts, and offenses takes time. Deeper the wound, the longer it may take time for that person to heal. One cannot ever ask the other to “forget” their own pain and suffering.

Another aspect people tend to forget is that forgiveness is not excusing the other person’s behavior. Contrary to what the adversary – or modern society may believe – when we forgive someone, it is because there was significant issues and conflicts that warranted the need. Going forth and forgiving someone does not absolve or minimize their actions. Neither does it absolve our presumptions behind their motivations.

Instead, forgiveness and seeking reconciliation in order to restore broken fellowships is a costly commitment that imitates our Heavenly Father’s willingness to show us grace, mercy, and forgiveness. This is where our courage and faith come when we go and seek to be reconciled and restored to another person. Regardless of whether or not they offended us, or we offended them.

When we do seek out reconciliation and restoration – it behooves us to actively listen to what the other person has to share. Validate and acknowledge their feelings, their pain and hurts, and empathize with them. When we allow ourselves to be open and receptive to what another person is sharing, then we are able to draw closer to them and understand from their own perspective. Sometimes it may mean to share in their own pain. Or to realize that we may have misjudged, misread, or misunderstood something that was done or said.

Confess and take Responsibility for Your Part in the Conflict

Since our Heavenly Father desires that we reconcile ourselves to Him, and thereby reconciling ourselves toward one another, through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ: It means we must look to ourselves to examine and see what responsibility we hold in causing offenses. As they say – it takes two to tango. Furthermore, many fall under the spectrum of not taking responsibility for their own thoughts, behaviors, and actions concerning conflict, whereas others appear to take full responsibility, not only for theirs but, for other individual’s actions and behaviors.

When we take the opportunity to confess and take responsibility for our part in the conflict – we are essentially:

  • Accepting responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as a means to manage those unpleasant emotions.
  • Bringing it back to ourselves without shifting blame or projecting toward another person (or persons) because we are continually working on our own self and changing those character defects as a means of healing.
  • Mean what we say with humility, contrition, and sincerity. Expressing ourselves in recognizing the pain and the hurt, verbalizing the broken trust and disappointment.
  • Come to an agreement as to a fair resolution that is possible for both parties. Sometimes this may not be feasible. Regardless, it is coming to an agreement to resolve the pain and hurt and work toward what will be appropriate for reconciliation and restoration.
  • Understand that this is not about you. The last thing one ought to do is pressure someone into forgiving you – or pressure the other person into accepting your forgiveness. This is where empathy comes in. It may also require some patience on our part to allow the individual some space for consideration.

By acknowledging our part and taking responsibility for our own thoughts and emotions – we are empowered to seek out genuine restoration of broken fellowships. It allows us to address the issue and not attack one another. It is to empathize and listen intently to one another and hear each other in order to understand and work toward an agreeable solution of reconciliation and restoration. And it is our acknowledgement that sometimes it takes time and patience for the process of reconciliation and restoration of broken fellowship to come to fruition.

Going forward in faith and purpose means we are willing to humble ourselves, to see that relationships are worth restoring because our relationship with our Heavenly Father was worth restoring through the atonement of Christ. Seek to be reconciled with one another. Walk in forgiveness and work to restoring those broken fellowships where it is possible.

Key Point

Relationships are worth restoring. This is our Heavenly Father’s desire. For us to be reconciled and restored into full fellowship with him as well as with one another. It only happens when we are humble, willing, and able to show grace, mercy, empathy, and patience. Through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ, we are capable of healing broken fellowships and relationships.

Meditate and Ponder

Are you actively pursuing an authentic and genuine relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father? In doing so, are you also actively seeking and pursuing authentic and genuine relationships with others? Seeking to work toward reconciliation and restoration of broken friendships and other relationships? Seeking healing for broken fellowships?