I am sure most people can think of someone who has really added tension and stress to their life. Often, we work with these people or are related to them somehow and therefore can’t always walk away. I have someone like that in my life, who unfortunately has given me a lot of issues and anxiety over about 1 1 years. Initially, I sought her approval so much that I was willing to ignore the hurt, and move on without an apology or any repentance for her behavior. This created a positive relationship between us, for a while, but I still carried my old hurt below the surface, and she repeated the same type of behaviors against me. I recognize now that this is partly my fault, for not having boundaries or the courage to speak up and demand respect.
Fast forward; now I am a Christian woman, and I seek only the approval of Christ. I am way more secure in who I am as a woman, and I don’t need the approval of others around me because I am confident in my abilities as a Christ follower, functional adult, dedicated wife, and a devoted mother. I know who I am in Christ. As a result, this person is no longer a part of my life. We are connected through familial ties though, but I do not engage with her and have only seen her less than a hand full of times in the last few years. Still, she seems to surface every now and again – including this past week when I learned that she watches over us through a friend that happens to be my neighbor. I felt so violated. I have never been a private person per say, but I do believe that not allowing certain people access is for the best. I wish instead of spying on our family, she would own up to the hurt she has caused and make amends. I am for reconciliation, and I have mended broken relationships that seemed irreparable that proves that. I am for peace, which is why I can not allow an unrepentant person to recreate the same cycle of hurt that has already been recreated too many times in the past. Jesus told me I am to forgive, and I do, but he never said I had to endure emotional and mental abuse and that is where I have established boundaries for a reason.
I am literally unable to write all the damage, and all the hurt that I have endured at this person’s hands in one post, and in the same sense I’m unable to write all the comfort I have received from God about it. I can tell you before I met with this person to try and seek counseling, I wrote pages and pages of scripture verses, and almost every single time I open my bible I read something that reminds me of her and the entire situation, so God has been very present to me through it all. I am thankful for that.
So, this week when I heard the latest in this seemingly never ending saga, I just felt incredibly overwhelmed. I said to my husband, “I don’t even know how to pray over this anymore, and I don’t get why God hasn’t changed this situation yet.” I felt exasperated and angry, and with that, I went to bed.
The following day, I woke up with the same feeling. Only now I was even more frustrated that this person was trying to steal my joy yet again. Despite my feelings of turmoil with God about it, I sat down to read His word and seek His peace. This is where it gets good, as it always does when God is involved. Each day, I read some of the Old Testament, one or two Psalms, a few Proverbs and some of the New Testament, in that order. Before I began to read I prayed a quick prayer thanking God for His word and asking that He reveal the truth of His word to me.
I am currently reading from Judges in the Old Testament. The stories I have been reading are about Gideon, a Judge over Israel who restores Israel and it’s people as Holy and following God’s commands. Eventually he passes away, and it takes no time for the Israelites to resort to their old habits, including worshiping other Gods and walking away from God himself. I explained what I had just read to my husband, and we had a conversation about how there is such a pattern in the old Testament: the Israelites get a good leader, and obey God and are rewarded, then they fall away and are punished, then a new leader rises up and the pattern repeats itself. During our discussion, I laughed at the symbolism – just as Israel kept making mistake after mistake, so do we humans. Yet, every single time, God forgives us when we repent and loves us the same. I began to recognize my need to repent for my anger with God the night before. I know He is in control, and I have seen Him bring peace in relationships I never imagined could have peace (as mentioned before.) So I know already that He works things out in His perfect timing, and yet, in my frustration, I ignored that and questioned God. So, within the first part of my four parts of reading, I’m recognizing I am not any better than the Israelites, and I am in no way worthy of questioning God despite the fact that I didn’t have peace about the situation or an answered prayer.
So, onto my next part, the Psalms, and it just so happened to be Psalm 56. I am going to include the entire Psalm here, and I will bold the parts that really stirred me.
“1 O God, have mercy on me,
for people are hounding me.
My foes attack me all day long.
2 I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,
and many are boldly attacking me.
3 But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in you.
4 I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
5 They are always twisting what I say;
they spend their days plotting to harm me.
6 They come together to spy on me—
watching my every step, eager to kill me.
7 Don’t let them get away with their wickedness;
in your anger, O God, bring them down.
8 You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!
10 I praise God for what he has promised;
yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.
11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God,
and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.
13 For you have rescued me from death;
you have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God,
in your life-giving light.”
Wow. I read this and God’s comfort wrapped around me like a warm blanket fresh out of the dryer. I have been so slandered by this person, verses 1-2. Verse 3, I was terrified before seeking counseling with her to the point of physical stress to my body, and I prayed prior and my heart palpitations went away. Verse 4, God has shown me who I am, and allowed me to accept who I am in His eyes, and the recognition that her words can do nothing to me anymore. Verse 6 – Exactly how I was feeling, spied on, and I saw the second part as they were trying to kill my spirit. Verse 7 – I don’t wish ill on those who are wicked, but I do know that God is a God of justice who sees all. Verse 8 – I know that God sees all the sadness in my heart, and I know that he cherishes my tears so much that he collects them. This reminder made me remember that through it all, He has been there and He has seen it all. Not one tear has fallen from my face (or yours) that God doesn’t know about. The remaining verses just really spoke to what I had lost sight of, that God would take care of me and the situation. Though I felt no relief about the situation itself, I felt comfort from God, and the reminder that He’s in control.
Next, off to the Proverbs, and I was in chapter 22. The very first one I read, Proverbs 22:8 “Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster, and their reign of terror will come to an end.” Way back in the first situation I had with this person, other people who have since seen the same behavior from her, believed her when she slandered me. Though I was innocent, the injustice was planted and the disaster that harvested was strained relationships for me, however when the truth came to light my relationships were restored and hers were not. The situation has been so severe I would honestly call it a reign of terror, not just over me, but over the entire family related to this person including my husband. I discussed this with him as well. This discussion got quite intense and lead us to recanting some of the past hurts and sadness we have over the situation. One thing that has always upset me, is during counseling I had pages of things I was upset over and this person had nothing to say about why she treated me poorly. Because I see this person as a narcissist, I believe she has not liked me because she can’t control me the way she controls others around her. My husband ended the conversation saying I never deserved any of the pain she had caused as I was a good person. I felt comfort hearing his words, but also felt angry because he is right. I didn’t deserve this, I couldn’t have changed it, and I have suffered a lot for no real reason. Suddenly that warm blanket of comfort slipped away, and I began to board the self-pity train.
Still, I read on. The last reading I had was my New Testament reading from my favourite Gospel, Luke. In Luke 16, Jesus is judged by the pharisees for basically everything He does even though He is undeserving, because they had their hearts set on rules, status and appearances, and Jesus was the total opposite, which angered them. Jesus calls them out on this in verse 15, after they money-loving pharisees scoffed at Jesus when He told them they can’t serve both God and money. Jesus says, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts.” I finished reading Luke, but didn’t catch on the importance of that verse until I prayed after reading.
I shut my bible, and still feeling slightly sorry for myself, I went to God in prayer. I thanked Him for the way in which His word spoke to me, and I explained to Him my heart and how frustrating it has been to deal with this situation I was undeserving of, and then it hit me during prayer, Jesus was hated by the world, especially by the Pharisees. This particular woman values her status in the world, and it hit me – she is like the pharisees. She loves to appear righteous, will never admit to any wrong doing, and cares more about the status of this world. The entire time, I had lost sight of Jesus. Jesus was hated by the Pharisees of his day, and I am not liked by this woman who is like the Pharisee. Jesus suffered in their hands the same way that I have in hers. Yet, Jesus died for them, while I was wallowing in self pity at the situation with my human heart. I had forgotten that God knows her heart, and He knows mine too.
Now, I am not equating myself to Jesus, but I found comfort in the minor parallel between us and that same comfort also gives me encouragement to be more Christ-like. Jesus told the Pharisees where they were at fault, He didn’t hide from them. He created boundaries and didn’t bend to act like them. He didn’t worry about the fact that they didn’t like Him, because He knew they were after worldly status, which is detestable in the sight of God. He let their opinions, their gossip and their hatred roll of His back. Jesus turned His attention to the people He came to save, who had ears to hear and eyes to see the message He was bringing. I need to remember the same thing. Forgive, as Jesus has instructed me, and follow the lessons God taught me through this one day of scripture reading: humble myself, trust His plan, accept His comfort, trust He will end the terror, and aim to follow Christ and His example.
I am amazed at how much God spoke to me, right when I needed it, through daily Bible reading. This really just shows how much the Word of God is alive. These words date back to centuries before I was even born, and yet they speak right to me and the problem I am experiencing. Every single thing I read. Praise God that he loves us so much that He plans for me to read the verses I need right when I need them, and that He reminds me how loved I am and how much He wishes to comfort me.
So, while I don’t have a solution to a decade long issue, I do have peace. And I do have a loving Father who gave me His comforting Word and His beautiful son, Jesus. Praise God for that. I pray that you find much comfort in the word of God as well.