A friend of mine today was asking for advice on Facebook as to how she should deal with a toxic person in her life. My advice, as always, is love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, and basically leave room for God’s justice because God’s justice is better than anything we could ever come up with.
I know this advice sounds corny, hollow, and churchy. But I also know that it’s God’s word so it is absolutely true. And I also know that when you do this in faith, God will respond, giving you peace as you forgive those who really don’t deserve such a gift.
Another friend of my friend kind of took exception to my advice. It was the usual “you don’t know” approach you often get. You’ve seen this before, because you haven’t had the same experience, you don’t know or have the right to speak into the issue. It’s obviously a false narrative, but it’s just as obviously a painful response from someone struggling with their own circumstances.
Two things broke my heart about the response from this person as we wrote back and forth. First, she is clearly in a lot of pain with unresolved issues in her life. The second was her comment that using scripture verses was just “blowing smoke” up someone’s rump. (okay, she used different words, but we’re a family blog here! 😊)
As I said, I get that scripture can sound really empty at times, but it’s only really empty if you’re not actually following it.
So many professed Christians don’t actually read the word, or they read it but as James says, deceive themselves by knowing it intellectually but not doing it. I was preaching the other night and sharing that there was a time in my own life where I could recite Bible verses but my life looked NOTHING like Christ. I also found scripture hollow back then and thought worldly responses were better when fighting worldly troubles.
My friend intervened in the conversation I was having with this other person, noting two important things. First, she made it clearly how hard it is to follow Jesus and second, everyone is in a different place in their walk. I agree with both statements. It is hard to follow Jesus, and He told us it would be! And we all know we’re in different places in our walk with Jesus.
What those two facts don’t change, however, is our responsibility to run to Jesus in our pain no matter the circumstances, the difficulty or our place in our walk. The person I was engaging was arguing that God would understand if she cursed and was angry. I agree with that, too. God will understand. But He doesn’t support that approach. Scripture tells us clearly not to sin in our anger.
Jesus calls us to something higher. If you are a believer – and I use the word IF on purpose – than you have no choice but to do things Jesus’ way. Yes, we all fall short and screw up, but our default as Christians is to do what Jesus commands. When things get tough, you rely on Jesus because His grace is sufficient. When you’re in emotional pain or as in this case, someone pushes your buttons, you pray to Jesus for the strength to love instead of hate. You pray to Jesus to forgive instead of plot the other person’s demise. You pray to Jesus for peace instead of the rage inside you. That is what we are called to do so that we can love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us and all the rest.
Of course it’s not easy, but it is the only answer that will actually work.
In my original note to my friend, I suggested that she keep her eyes on heavenly things and not give so much value to worldly things. Scripture 101. To her credit, she is trying really hard to do so! But here is why I rely so heavily on what scripture says:
We are told that the only offensive weapon we have against Satan is the Sword which is the Word of God! And believe me, Satan is behind all this turmoil in our relationships with toxic people. You can try to fight using worldly ways, but it won’t really get you anyway but deeper in the muck. I always ask people I counsel how it’s working out doing it their way instead of God’s way. To a person they admit “not so well.” Even Jesus used the Word to defeat Satan when tempted in the desert. If it’s good enough for Jesus…come on….
Scripture is not some smoke we blow up people’s bum. Scripture is the only weapon we have to truly defend ourselves against those who attack us. This world can be a real crap sandwich sometimes. But God’s word gives us all the tools we need to not just survive it, but to thrive no matter what the circumstances. That’s why scripture tells us to rejoice in all circumstances!
Again, it’s not easy, especially when you’re dealing with evil people. But, if you truly are a Christ follower you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit who gives you all the power you need to do what you are called to do, including not sinning in your anger, as well as finding peace in the middle of the storm.
I always feel badly when people push back against scripture. I wish they were in a place in their walk where they tangibly knew the power of God’s word. I feel doubly bad because their pushback means they’re not running toward Jesus but instead are being blinded by Satan to the truth so that they really can’t have the peace that Jesus promises.
And I say all this as someone who has endured significant pain and suffering in this life, not as someone without the experience to talk into someone’s life. And I say this as someone who has had the soul-changing experience of Jesus taking over my life in such a way that I know the truth of these words.
To my friend and her friend, I’m praying for you both. I’m praying that in your pain you run to Jesus and not to worldly responses. I’m praying that the Holy Spirit shows you a better way than to suffer the way the world does. I’m praying as daughters of the Most High you exalt yourselves in that position and rise above the evil people that are plaguing you. And most of all, I pray that God heals you of whatever pain you are experiencing in life.