November 20, 2011

What to do when mistreated

Retaliation and vengeance are natural for human beings, even for most animals. While some loyal pets might lick the hand that beats it, most of us who walk on two legs will bite back. Our self-defense mechanism kicks in before our brains or any idea of doing good to our enemies.

I’m reading an excellent book by Joseph M. Stowell called “The Weight of Your Words: Measuring the Impact of What You Say.” This book should be required reading for every Christian. He presents a solid biblical perspective on the power of the tongue and how destructive words can be. As I go through it, I’m thinking it is no wonder that God tells us to “be still. . . .”

After the halfway point in the book, Stowell outlines ways to deal with the factors that often set off our tongues. A major section is how Christians can respond to anger and fear. His first directive is that we must trust God when others hurt us. As providence would have it, this morning’s Scripture verses in my devotional reading are about that very thing.

You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life. You have seen the wrong done to me, O LORD; judge my cause. You have seen all their vengeance, all their plots against me. You have heard their taunts, O LORD, all their plots against me. The lips and thoughts of my assailants are against me all the day long. Behold their sitting and their rising; I am the object of their taunts. You will repay them, O LORD, according to the work of their hands. (Lamentations 3:58–64)
Jeremiah brought God’s Word to the people, but was ignored, rejected, even thrown in a well and left to die. If anyone had reason to be upset with his enemies, he did, but instead of retaliation, he gratefully acknowledged the grace and power of God. He knew that God is just and he trusted Him to take care of those who had harmed him.

When someone does something hurtful against me, I am no different from the average person; I want to hurt them back. Such a response is counterproductive, selfish, and sinful. Instead, God wants me to trust Him like Jeremiah did. This is not so much about self-control, or being logical. Both are difficult in times of pain brought on by unjust treatment. However, Jesus provides the perfect example of trust. Because He lives in me, I can rely on His responses instead of my own. This means saying no to my own responses and yielding to His attitude of trust.

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. (1 Peter 2:22–23)
Jesus trusted His Father to take care of His enemies. Because of Him, I can do the same. God knows all and knows what to do when attacks come against the apple of His eye. He cherishes His redeemed people and will take up our cause. For me, believing Him is vital. Like Jeremiah, I need to be confident that God is just and cares about any unjust actions against me.

Lord, I do not have to defend myself. You will do it. I’ve learned this by experience and read it over and over in Your Word. It is Your desire that I put all my concerns, cares, and pain into Your hands. Your solutions are always the right solutions. Mine only create more strife. Besides, if I decide to take matters into my own hands, then You must deal with my sinfulness too. Because You love me, my spiritual condition takes priority over what You had planned to do to my enemies. You know that the response of trust happens only when I am yielded to the Holy Spirit and walking in harmony with You. Keep me there that I might trust You in any and every circumstance that puts selfish thoughts of getting even in my heart.

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