As Christian women and men start planning for the purpose of their Daniel Fast, a common focus is relationships. Sadly, many people struggle with painful encounters with family, friends and coworkers. Recently, I’ve heard from many folks seeking advice and wisdom when their relationships are soured.
Jesus told us in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Yes, we experience trials and sorrows in this life! And sometimes, those sorrows are from people very close to us. Heartache and sorrow can come from the unkind words of a spouse or a child. From the disrespect of a friend or a co-worker. From people we hold dear or people we are in contact frequently.
There are times when we find ourselves saying, “Wait! What did I do to deserve this kind of treatment?” And the sorrow we feel can even cause physical pain from stress and “aching of the heart.”
So what do you do when you feel emotionally battered or treated poorly by those who “should” love and respect you?
First, Jesus’s words tell us the best response . . . “have peace in Me.” When you are hurting, come to your Comforter. Find peace with Him. Rest in the assurance that He loves and cares for you.
Second, pray for those who hurt you! Set aside any resentment or bitterness and instead pray for them. Ask God’s Holy Spirit to work in their hearts so they draw nearer to Him and walk in His ways. While doing this, don’t put your faith and trust in the individual. Instead, put your faith in God. Believe that He will do what He says He will do. That He hears your prayer. And that you can pray while at the same time be comforted by Him.
Third, pretend you’re a duck, a matador, or a turtle! “What?” you might be saying. This sounds a little crazy!
Let me explain.
I’ve had my own times when I’ve had to stand in faith while people in my life have been “acting out” in not so good ways. Hurtful. Painful. Longsuffering! And it can be very hard to endure for the long haul. So I have developed a few simple ways that have helped me endure – all while trusting in God and praying.
Become a Duck: Imagine a duck out on a raining day. What happens? Drops of rain, big and small, fall on the duck. Yet they all just roll off his or her back. The duck doesn’t absorb the water. Rather, the drops just fall to the ground and do no harm.
During some of my darkest hours, I would pretend I was a duck. I imagined the hurtful words or unkind gestures just rolling off my back and falling to the ground. Sometimes I would have to “shake them off.” And sometimes it required a lot of shaking. But this little imagination helped me to not receive the corrupted seed into my soul.
Become a Matador: Again, tap into your imagination. Think of a matador standing in a bullring with a huge, mean, and powerful bull charging toward him. What does the matador do? He extends his cape, which the bull charges and then passes through. No harm and no impact comes to the matador. The bull just runs on by.
Again, similar to pretending you’re a duck, you can imagine yourself as a matador. The insults can come charging toward you. The “bull” intends to hit you and hit you hard. But you can just let them pass on by! You don’t have to receive the hit. Just stand in your own integrity and faith and let the hit go its merry way!
Become a Turtle: The purpose of pretending you’re a turtle is a little different than the duck and the matador. And I used this technique recently. Let me explain.
There are times when you are standing in faith or believing for something. You are purposefully and intentionally exercising your authority as a believer and relying on God and His promises. Then someone you know starts sharing their “worldly wisdom” with you. Chip, chip, chip. Perhaps not even knowing it, their words are chipping away at the faith you are using. Their words can turn into doubt in your mind. And where before you were strong in your stand with the Lord on the matter . . . now you have to recover.
When I’m in this situation, I take on the role of a turtle. I pull all my soft and vulnerable parts into a shell and become sheltered from the thoughts and opinions of others. I don’t talk about matters with people who don’t understand the ways of our faith. I become quiet and still.
Now the great thing about the turtle’s shell into which I retreat is that Jesus is right there with me! I can still talk to Him. I can continue to be in His peace. And He and I can huddle under the shell and wait in faith for the answer and the result.
One more thing – when people are being rude, unkind, unloving, or disrespectful a natural (note that word) response is to mirror back the same emotions. But as followers of Jesus Christ, we’re called to behave as He behaves. In love. In patience. In faith. Hold your tongue. Don’t retaliate. And leave the battle to Him! Remember His promise to remain in His peace.
Keep this truth in mind: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12