I am in the midst of finalizing the last essay regarding the LORD’S Four Sore Judgments: beasts. But I felt compelled to leave off that till tomorrow, and write something of a more personal nature today.
I have written once or twice about personal things, but mostly I keep it technical so the focus can on Jesus and the Word. I also personally hate to write about emotional things. But here goes.
It has to do with how I handle devastating personal attacks or heartbreaking betrayals. If you are a bible-believing, fundamentalist Christian in today’s world, I don’t care where you are in the world, America or Iran or anywhere in between, the world hates you. At some point you will have to endure a devastating heartbreak for Jesus’ name.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” (John 15:18-20a).
“Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13)
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12).
It is especially difficult when those revilings against you come not from the world, but from within the confines of the safest place where you thought you could be safe: your own church and from people who profess Christ. I wrote about the State of the Church a while ago, and how more and more churches are turning into sheep-shearing or sheep-slaughtering factories by false teachers or pastors who run them. The case of church carnality and abuse is dealt with in Part 5a, Part 5b, and Conclusion. Unfortunately personal attacks and/or betrayals inside churches are becoming more frequent, and many of you have written to me about your own stories.
Now, I am not talking about the minor day-to-day slings and arrows of life. Sins abound and people are going to get on your nerves, say the wrong thing, take credit for your work, lie, cheat and steal, in the workplace and some of them happen even in church. That’s life and we forgive and move on. I’m talking about the devastating things that happen that make you want to quit church forever. The kind that set you back years in your walk. The things that happen where you just want to throw in the towel. The big things.
Fortunately I have had only two of those. I am a baby Christian, lol. I know there will be more. Here is what I do:
First, I get very angry. That’s the flesh. This kind of anger is different from righteous anger. When I am reviled against I get mad because my feelings are hurt. So I rant and rave in my head or at home alone out loud. I say stupid things, like “I pray that he dies of a thousand plagues!” Or, “I hope his tongue shrivels up!” That doesn’t last long, because that kind of lashing-out anger is bad. If I said anything or even thought anything negative about the person, I repent sincerely to the Father. I know the flesh wants to rear up and be mad, and to some small degree I let it because I’m human, after all. But I really try to let the Spirit restrain my sin, because that would be all the more for me to repent about! I do not let myself stay angry for longer than a day. I take my action from this verse:
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:25-27)
When that anger simmers down I cry or get depressed. I lay around moaning “I can’t take any more.” Or “Why me?” Or something equally piteous. I’m useless to anyone, I can’t think or function well. That goes on for a day. Then I stop it.
Like Bob Newhart said in his famous comedy skit, “Stop it!” How does one stop one’s self from feeling anger or sadness or grief over a hurtful situation we are currently enduring? Emotions and thoughts are a choice. We don’t feel love, we choose love. How else to explain marriages that successfully endure for fifty or more years? If one of the spouses bailed every time they felt mad, every marriage would fail. They persevere in love even when they don’t feel love. I want the joy of Jesus. I am in the depressing part of the cycle. There is a gap, and I will not reach that joy unless I move my body and change my thoughts.You choose it. Anger is a choice. Hurt is a choice. In that way I simply choose to stop feeling mad. I do this 3 ways.
1. Move the body. To move my body, I rouse myself, I get off the couch, and I resume normal life. Chores, shopping, cleaning, no matter how minor, I do it. I make my body get up and do something normal. Do the dishes. Cook some soup. Vacuum the rug. Whatever. And I keep doing that normal thing even though I don’t feel like it, until it feels normal again.
2. Capture the mind. As for the emotional thought process, I stop thinking about the wound. The first thing I want to do is constantly rehash it all over in my mind. When the thoughts come into my head to relive the event or the hurt, whatever it was, over and over, I stop it. I certainly don’t talk about it. I deliberately capture every thought. (2 Corinthians 10:5). If what I am thinking is weakening me through negative emotions and hindering my joy, then I stop thinking about it. Satan is too sneaky and Jesus is to important for me to be sidelined by grief or upset. So what? I’ll be happy in heaven. For now, I have work to do.
People put too high a regard on their feelings. Feelings are temporal, fleeting and deceiving. I allow the hurt and grief to have expression through tears or anger for a short time, and then it is time to get back to work. When I sink into my problems they tend to become large and Jesus becomes small. When I concentrate on Jesus, my problems become small and He becomes big. Therefore,
3. Concentrate on Jesus. Spiritually, I reclaim my joy through Jesus. Jesus IS my joy and He is the path to my reclaimed joy in the dark times. To that end, I spend a lot of time reading His word. It washes me. I spend a lot of time listening to hymns (not contemporary praise music, which is as empty as a tin can rolling down a tumbleweed highway). Old Hymns have doctrine in them and therefore are edifying. I sing and I talk aloud, either bible verses or the music. And last, I listen to sermons. I am not feeling the joy yet. BUT I KNOW I WILL.
Singing, praising, listening will allow the Spirit to apply truth to your mind and comfort to your heart. Let Him do it. Instead of running to my dark place, I run to the Light.
My own process involves gravitating to sermons about Genesis 1 at the dark times. Listening to sermons on Genesis 1:1 helps me to put my problems in perspective! The majesty of God the creator is revealed in Genesis and His eternity and holiness and power compared to my puny problems puts myself into perspective in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. He is great and good. I am not. And yet, He loves me. I begin to feel the joy again.
I apply Philippians 4:8-9 here:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
And guess what? Putting off the negative, holding on to what is good, praising His name, washed in the word, pondering the noble and performing praiseworthy things does the trick. Pretty soon I feel the Holy Spirit’s strength flowing back into me! I start feeling the heartbeat of joy again! He wants to lift us up! If I just continue walking He meets me more than halfway and showers grace and strength to me! He wants to do that abundantly for everyone, you included!
Persevering in the faith is not glamorous. It is hard, hard work. It doesn’t happen by magic. There is no genie who will wave his wand over you and all your feelings of heartbreak or betrayal will go away. Persevering in the faith, to me, means putting one foot in front of the other. Each day. Some days if the dark time has come and I’m enduring a trial, means I do so mechanically, tearfully, slowly, but even though I’m moving slowly, my eyes are fixed on Jesus!!!!! Keep your eyes on him and the joy will return. He wants to comfort you! He shed His blood for you, didn’t he? He wants to restore you.
Don’t let grief or satan or anything steal your joy. It sounds like an oxymoron, but some days we just have to work at being joyful. One day my faith will be sight, and He will wipe away my tears. My heart will be full of love, never to experience another heartbreak or betrayal. What a day that will be! Meanwhile I’ll close not from the bible, but John Prine lyric, “A heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter.” Don’t you want a strong, courageous heart? Wash those stains with Jesus’s blood. It will come out clean and strong, I promise. Better yet, HE PROMISES.
“let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:3-5).