The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Living in peace when you’re hurting

Has somebody hurt you? Most likely, the answer is yes. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, people hurt people all the time. It’s an unfortunate fact of living in this broken world.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the church, but the majority of people who have hurt me are Bible-believing Christians. That shouldn’t hurt worse than if a nonbeliever hurt me, but it does. Because you expect more from a Christ-follower.

So how do you deal with life when you’re hurt? Whether it’s a Christian or a non-Christian who hurt you, the answer is the same.

The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Romans 12:17-21.

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Living peacefully among people is a difficult task, but it’s not impossible. With God’s help, we can do anything, but achieving peace with imperfect people is a doozy.

The plain and simple truth is that some people won’t be peaceful, no matter what you do or say. Some people insist on chaos between people, and that is up to them. If that’s the way they choose to live, that’s between them and God. But if you want to live the way God commands, you need to take steps to live at peace with the people around you.

The best way to do that is to live the way God says. Love Him. Love people. Forgive people. Be kind. Be generous. Be faithful. Be reliable. Be the kind of person people can see Christ in.

Will that bring peace between you and everyone you meet? No. Because some people refuse peace, but that’s their choice. Your job is to live your life so everyone can see that you belong to Christ, even when people hurt you.

Don’t drop everything you believe in and attack the people who’ve hurt you. Don’t aim to discredit the people who’ve hurt you. Don’t do everything in your power to hurt them back. Yes, communicate with them. Yes, tell them that they hurt you, give them the chance to reconcile (half the time, I swear people don’t even know the damage their words and actions do). But don’t take it on yourself to set things right because that’s a task too big for you.

We’re puny, weak little humans. We don’t know what right is. The only one who can set things right is God, and it’s up to Him to sort things out in the end. And He will. He’s promised He will. It won’t be in our timing. It won’t be when we want Him to, but He will make it happen.

But in the mean time, ask God for help to forgive the people who’ve hurt you and move on with your life. In my experience, those times when I’ve been hurt so deeply I couldn’t move on were at moments I really needed to. But that could just be me. I’m really, really stubborn, and sometimes God needs to use a 2×4 on me to get me to budge. So it may have been the only way to get me to open my eyes. And in that case, how can I think poorly of the people who hurt me? They’re just as flawed and imperfect as I am. And without what they did to me I wouldn’t be where I am now.

God can take hurt and pain and transform it into something beautiful. He can take the wreck of our lives and make it into something new. Don’t take that precious gift and throw it away just for the temporary satisfaction of hurting someone who hurt you. It’s not worth it. That’s like on step forward and three steps back.

You’re going to get hurt. That’s the way life works. But you don’t have to live in fear of it because God can use it. God can use anything. And when all is said and done, God will set everything right. He sees everything, and He sees the truth.

So let it go. Stop holding on to the hurt. You don’t have to. You’re free to love people, especially the people who hurt you.

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Otter playing in the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Choosing to love when you won’t be loved back

When somebody does something mean to me, my first inclination is to do something mean back. I tend to hold to the Golden Rule. I treat other people the way I want to be treated, but there’s a part of me that wants to treat other people the way they treat me. I want people to understand that there are consequences for their actions. If somebody hurts me, I want them to hurt too. Not out of a malicious spirit necessarily (unless we’re talking about bad drivers, and then I just get mad) but because I want them to understand that actions have consequences, which is a lesson our world doesn’t seem to teach anymore.

But whose job is it to teach that lesson? It’s certainly not my job. I’m not responsible for someone else’s behavior. And if I weigh myself down focusing on how other people treat me, I’m going to lose focus of the things in my life that actually are my responsibility.

Otter playing in the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Otter playing in the water at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:38-41.

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.”

This set of verses is still from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is talking about the way His followers should live. It started with the Beatitudes, which were (and still are) a revolutionary approach to living. What was so shocking about these statements that Jesus made was that in the past it was just the actions that caused the issue. There was only a problem if you did something, but what Christ is saying is that even if you think it, it’s as good as doing it. Because what you think affects what you do.

Likewise, He goes on to say that revenge isn’t something that we need to pursue. If somebody hurts us, we shouldn’t hurt them back. You’ve heard the old saying about turning the other cheek? Well, this verse is where that comes from.

True, some people take this to extremes. And I’m not one of those ones who believes that we shouldn’t go to war if we’re attacked. Nation versus nation is a very different concept than person versus person, and this statement is talking about our relationships with each other. So I don’t see that this applies to a government standpoint. Government as an entity has a different set of things to focus on. But I’m not involved in the government. I’m just me. Just a regular person and what I’m supposed to focus on in my life is my relationship with God and my relationship with people.

And that means when some one does me wrong that I’m not to reciprocate. I’m to love them. When someone hurts me, I’m supposed to do something kind for them. When someone steals from me, I’m supposed to give more to them. When someone takes advantage of me, I’m supposed to apply myself cheerfully.

Granted, I think we need to communicate. I think we need to make sure they know they’ve hurt us or that they know what they’re doing is wrong, but then we need to communicate why we’re showing them kindness when they deserve to be shown something else. Otherwise they won’t understand. People who don’t follow Christ don’t understand love. Half the time, people who do follow Christ don’t understand it either. But that’s the point here.

Loving people. It all comes back to that. If you want to know what matters to God, that’s one theme that is repeated over and over and over throughout Scripture. Love people. Love people. Love people. And let God take care of everything else.

We aren’t going to prove to the world that we’re different by how many Bible verses we know or how much money we give to the church or how well-behaved our children are. None of that matters to them. What will show them that we are different is when we love them when they don’t love us back. That kind of love takes a power greater than all of us, and that’s the kind of love that God gives us when we choose to follow Christ.

So if you’re walking into a circumstance today where you know you’re going to be hurt or you know someone is going to take advantage of you, be honest about it. Don’t lie to yourself about it. See, that’s my tendency. I live in denial half the time because I don’t like conflict and it’s easier for me to shrink away from it than to face it. But denying circumstances doesn’t do anyone any good. Be honest. If someone is treating you wrong, recognize it. And make a conscious effort to treat them kindly in return. And when people ask you why (and they will), tell them. You’re choosing to love people who don’t love you because that’s what Christ said to do. And that will make more difference than you know, not only to the people who are watching but also in your own heart.

Revenge!

I am a super overly protective friend. I also tend to be an overprotective sister and daughter. I just don’t do well at handling people who either hurt the people I love or say things about them that are hurtful. And many times, in seeking to protect the people I love, I have caused more problems than I have solved, generally because I go about it the wrong way.

Revenge is one of the most romanticized concepts in our culture. Taking vengeance for someone you love. Payback against the unfeeling machine of commercialism or the corporate world. It’s in almost every movie, exalted high on a pedastal that it should be the ultimate goal in any relationship, to hurt the ones who hurt you or to hurt the people who have hurt people you love.

It’s my first instinct to jump up and defend my loved ones immediately, regardless of what they have done or said that might have been hurtful. And when someone hurts someone I love, it’s my first response to jump in and hurt that person back. I mean, after all, there are a lot of ways to take revenge on people in today’s world. You don’t actually have to hurt anyone physically. There’s a marvelous little thing called Facebook with which you can verbally tear down someone’s reputation, especially if you have a gift with words.

But every time I am tempted to go after someone for hurting somebody I love, I usually get this nagging feeling in the back of my brain. Because it’s not my place.

And this is the verse God always uses to cool my overprotective temper off: 

Hebrews 10:30-31

30For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” 31 It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Okay.

I’m sorry, but this is a terrifying verse.

It’s one thing to fear retribution from another person. But to be on the receiving end of retribution directly from God? Think about that.

What could I do to a person who has hurt me or someone I love? I could say mean things about them. I could lead a campaign to convince others to believe lies about them. I could hurt them physically. I could end his or her life. (I’m totally speaking metaphorically, you realize. The thought of me doing anything harmful to some other person is kind of laughable actually, no matter what they’ve done, seeing that I can’t even point fingers at people who deserve it most of the time.)

 But what could God do to someone? Gosh. I don’t even want to think about it.

Now I know someone would say that God is a God of love and He would never take revenge on anyone. Well, that’s true. God is absolute love. But the thing about Someone Who is absolute is that we who are not absolute can’t understand Someone Who is. God is also absolute wrath.

And, honestly, I don’t think that God has taken revenge yet. He will. We just won’t be here to see it.

But there’s a specific part of this verse I want to focus on.

“The Lord will judge His own people.”

Again. Terrifying. This isn’t talking to people who don’t believe. His people is us, those of us who believe in Christ and follow Him. Now is this verse saying that God will judge us and punish us and send us to hell?

No. If you believe in Christ, there is nothing you can do that will cause God to turn His back on you. But even God’s children do things that are wrong and need to be punished. And it’s up to God to judge for Himself.

The Amplified Version says, “The Lord will judge and determine and solve and settle the cause and the cases of His people.”

For those of us who are believers, God is watching us. God is paying attention to how we live our lives and how we treat others, and if we step out of line, you can know that He will judge how you are living and set you straight. Not in an eternal damnation sort of way, of course. We are already saved from that. But He may let you go through some things in your life to help you get your head on straight.

And for anyone who has been mistreated by a fellow Christian, you can believe that the God who is just is watching and won’t let His children get away with behavior that is unsuitable.

In either case, though, it isn’t our job to set things right. It’s not my job to jump in between God and one of His children to try to settle a problem in my own meager way. It’s not my job to jump between God and someone who needs to be chastized for their behavior. That’s neither my responsibility nor my right. How can I correct someone else when I’m just as guilty as they are?

In most circumstances, when someone hurts me or hurts someone I love, it is my job to sit back and pray and forgive that person and let God take care of it.