Cleaning Out Your Closet for Greater Joy

I live in a tiny house. It’s not a shipping container remodeled by a pro designer with mad space management skills, but it is a very small house. Living in a small house forces us to constantly re-examine what we have, what we keep in our house and what we get rid of.

Usually bedrooms, the living room, the kitchen – any room that is well lived in- gets a regular overhaul. At Christmas time, old clothes, old toys (usually from last Christmas that were never played with), old anything gets taken to Blue Ridge Hospice to make room for the new.

When decluttering, I don’t do the whole, “does this bring me joy” thing, because honestly most of the things belonging to other people in my house do not bring me joy. If I threw out all of the stuff that didn’t bring me joy, there would be a lot of very bitter men to contend with. But, I do ask if I use something. Is it necessary? It is important? (I know that doesn’t sound as glamorous as “does this bring me joy,” but honestly, inanimate objects are not the stuff that joy is made of, so unless it’s a picture of my kids, it probably isn’t bringing me joy.) Joy is a fruit of the Spirit and God gives me joy, even when I am not surrounded by amazing surroundings or situations. So, I need to rethink the declutter process, as a believer.

Which brings me to the most recent happy happening in my little home. There is a closet that I stuff things into. It has been “organized” in the loosest sense of the word. It holds things that bring me the least joy – files with tax papers. This is the antithesis of joy. In fact, I may or may not experience PTSD whenever I happen to need to open a filing drawer in that closet. Due to our lack of space, the closet also holds Christmas wrapping paper, DVDs, old CDs and VHS movies (who uses those, anyways?!), old remnants of my Pampered Chef empire, winter hats, scarves and mismatched gloves my kids have grown out of, but I keep for when friends come to sled. This closet is a really scary place!

In fact, this is a closet where I stuff things that I don’t know what to do with. I can’t really get rid of them, because apparently the government wants me to keep tax information for up to 7 years, and also, how could I throw away my old VHS movies that I never watch anymore, but they remind me of high school?

So anyways, how is this a happy happening? Well, glad you asked. A lovely young couple, who are friends of ours, came over last week to help install a new shelf into this closet to return a favor for my husband. It was very kind of them, because honestly, something has to be done about that closet to make it more usable. So, the other day, I came home from work and found my living room looking like this –

And here it is from another angle. I told you my house is small.

Can you believe that ALL of that junk was in this closet?

Doesn’t it look lovely with all the fresh paint? My son left his basketball, book, blanket and back scratcher in there. I think he went in there to sit, because it was the cleanest room in the house. (Also, my husband put a space heater in the closet to help the paint dry faster. It’s a win-win situation for anyone wanting to escape the disaster that is now in the rest of the house.) Just so it helps you feel better about your own house, take a look at the office leading out of the closet.

So, why in the world would I show you all my dirty laundry? Well, not laundry. I would never show you that! But, why would I show you my mess? Because the Lord impressed something so precious on my heart, as I walked through the mess, stepping over wires from my husband’s studio, and trying to find a square foot to set my bags down on after work.

You see, I just finished speaking at a lovely weekend retreat called Revealed Retreat: Discover Who I Am in Christ. I challenged the ladies to give the Lord the deepest parts of their hearts – even the rooms of their hearts that they have shut the doors on for years. In the fight to stay positive and to keep from drowning in pain, sorrow and despair, people tend to avoid difficult conflict that arises when dealing with broken relationships and pain from the past. It’s easier to ignore things and to just keep stuffing. These are things that may give us PTSD, if we decide to unpack them.

But, pretty soon, you may realize that you have closed so many doors in the house of your heart that there are no more places to live. It gets very difficult to stay positive and to avoid the ever encroaching anxiety, with so much emotional and spiritual clutter.

What is the answer? Yoga? No. That doesn’t clean out the heart. Meditation? No. That doesn’t clean out the heart. Essential oils? No. Also, not good for cleaning out the heart. Eating organic? No. Vacations? No. Alcohol? No. Maybe a temporary escape with these last two, but honestly, you may find some more stuffing to do after some stints with alcohol. You cannot escape the type of stuffing I am talking about. So, what is the answer?

If someone has wronged you and you hold onto your anger and bitterness, without forgiving, Jesus says you will be thrown into a prison and handed over to the tormentors. Check it out here:

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’

22 Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[g]

23 ‘Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 ‘At this the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.

28 ‘But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.

29 ‘His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.”

30 ‘But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 ‘Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 ‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

That is literally what happens when someone won’t forgive. Anxiety, bitterness, rejection, abandonment and anger will overwhelm and torment you, until you deal with the unforgiveness, or the root of the problem. Also, since the Father cannot forgive us when we refuse to forgive, the weight of our own unforgiveness will be too heavy to bear.

But, here’s the catch. When you decide clean out an emotional and spiritual closet, everything inside spills out into the rest of your life. All of a sudden the junk that was behind closed doors is in your living space. Real panic can set in. It can feel out of control. And honestly it should. Because you cannot clean out a hoarder’s heart without facing the reality of everything that has been intentionally tucked away into a dark hiding place. And when we are out of control, it is the perfect time to give the cleaning hat to the Lord. He knows what order things need done in. He doesn’t get overwhelmed by your mess.

But, the good news is this – when you give your heart to Jesus, when you give him your sin, when you give him your brokenness, he is the one who makes all things new and puts our house in order. This may seem like a silly comparison, but if my friends hadn’t come over to put in the new shelving, we probably never would have done it ourselves. It is too overwhelming and emotional to face that kind of mess.

When we call on Jesus, the Son of the Living God, who left the heavenly realms and descended to earth 2000 years ago, born of a virgin to walk among us- living a sinless life, who faced his own rejection and abandonment, who carried our sin in his death and rose to life again to raise us up from sin and death, we are not alone! We are filled with the most powerful person in the universe! Jesus!

Many people have an intellectual belief in Jesus at some level, but most have never tasted to see that the Lord is good in the most practical, life-changing ways. His death was for our forgiveness. He poured out his life for love. He gave us grace, even when he knew the details of our lives. He conquered the power of our sin, and for those who believe, he raised us to life in his resurrection! But, still we hoard. We hoard and hide, like Adam and Even in the garden of Eden when God was calling them after they sinned the first sin that plunged the world into darkness. We want to pretend with God. We want to cover ourselves and hide all the dirty parts of our lives and past in a place where no one can see, pretending that it never existed.

Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” If you have an intellectual understanding of Jesus, if you know all the stories, but he isn’t helping you clean out your closets, then you need to re-evaluate your walk with him. I guarantee he isn’t the problem. It’s probably either an unwillingness to deal with pain or a lack of knowledge on how to give it to the Lord. It says in the Word, “My people perish for a lack of knowledge.” If you are willing, but don’t know how – God can teach you! Ask him how to deal with the pain. Ask him to teach you by his Spirit.

You see, my closet is now clean. It has fresh paint. It is a blank slate. And all the junk we’d hoarded in the closet is out in the open. For the past week we have stepped over and around, with our living room remaining completely unusable. Even our boys stopped playing video games for a week. (There’s the real miracle, for sure!) We haven’t even had the time or energy to deal with the new mess. But, on Saturday, Caleb and I are going to pull our declutter focus, grab some trash bags, box up the things for the Hospice and get to work making our house livable again. The closet (and living room) should look great by Sunday!

When you start dealing with pain that you’ve stuffed, even with Jesus, it can be overwhelming. Do not be surprised. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart – I have overcome the world.” Ask Jesus to help you. Ask him to cleanse your heart and to teach you how to deal with the mess.

So, if you start to give God your pain and you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry! It’s normal. The next step is to ask for faith to trust him, as he cleans out your heart. Also, ask the Lord to give you strength in your inner being. Pray to be built up in faith and love! The Lord will empower you for the task. And some tasks are so great that he will miraculously do it for you. Other tasks, he may want to teach you a valuable lesson through the cleansing process, so he will walk you through it. But, you will never be alone.

You need to begin to pray to take back your life! Anger and unforgiveness can lead to your enemy the devil getting a foothold in your life and heart. Ephesians 5 says that if we let the sun go down on our anger we can give the devil a foothold. The word foothold in the Greek is topos. It means a house or place to live. So, when you pray to repent from things you may have hoarded by unforgiveness and bitterness, you need to do a clean sweep and extermination of the enemy from your life in the name of Jesus.

I have included a prayer below for those who want to begin to forgive and to give the Lord his or her heart in a real-life, practical way. Pray it out loud! It will encourage you!

Dear Heavenly Father,

I come before you in the name of your Son Jesus Christ. I thank you that Jesus loved me so much that he came and died for my sin. Lord, I believe in your son Jesus and I ask that you forgive me for all of my sins. I believe he died to cleanse me from my sin and raised me up with his resurrection. Thank you for this gift of life. I surrender my sin to you. I surrender my pain. I ask that you fill me with your Holy Spirit and fill my life with your power.

Lord, I forgive those people who have sinned against me. Bring to mind anyone or any pain that is bringing bitterness in my heart. (Wait on the Lord and listen. If something or someone comes to mind or heart, write down the name to pray for this situation.)

Father, I forgive the people on this list. I forgive them for hurting me, abandoning me, rejecting me, and ________________ (fill in the blanks with what you need to forgive for.)I do this in Jesus’ name and power. I cannot do it in my own power. I am powerless, apart from Christ. I forgive in obedience, in Jesus’ name. I release these people from my judgement.

God, please cleanse me from the sin of bitterness. Forgive me for holding bitterness and unforgiveness against these people. I release them to you. Heal me. Remove the tormentors in my life, because of these painful memories and because of my unforgiveness, in Jesus’ name!

I repent of all sin, known and unknown. I ask that you show me if there is anything in my life that does not honor you. I pray that you forgive me for any involvement with the occult or idolatry, Lord. I ask you to forgive me for turning to other things to try to heal my heart, instead of turning to Christ. I renounce all things that I have held up as an idol in my life that has had precedence over you. I repent. I break off all demonic ties with the occult, in Jesus’ name.

I take authority over my enemy the devil. I rebuke him in Jesus’ name! If the devil has any authority in my life because of sin or unforgiveness, I command him to leave in Jesus’ name. I have repented from bitterness and anger. I have forgiven those who have injured me. I command spirits of fear, torment and paranoia to leave in Jesus’ name. I pray against all worry, fretting and anxiety that have hung over my head like a dark cloud in Jesus’ name. I pray for a complete cleansing.

I ask, Oh Lord, that you fill me up with your Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation. I want to know you better. I want to see and understand your love for me. I want to know your grace. I receive your Spirit and submit to your leading, in Jesus’ name. I ask that you fill every part of me.

Teach me to wait on you, Oh Lord. Teach me to be patient in affliction, bearing with others in love. Help me not to despair, when I am learning how to put the closet of my heart back together. Fill me with encouragement and strength, in Jesus’ name. Fill me with faith! Fill me with love. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

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