Have you ever had one of those days? Or months? Or years? Sometimes it seems like no matter how much we work, no matter how much we try, no matter how much we plan, nothing ever seems to go right. And do you know what people say when you dare complain about things? “Well, maybe you need to work harder, try harder or plan better.” Say what?
This morning a friend called to tell me that she was so discouraged by a particular situation. She was angry and disillusioned. Given that I know the details, she poured out her hurt to me. We talked for a while, eventually ending the phone call with some laughter and a prayer. Things weren’t better but at least her heart was lighter. I can’t say that I said all that much. I mostly just listened. And cracked some jokes. Maybe I said a few things to help. I don’t really remember.
After we hung up, I pondered some of what she had said. When she had complained about things not going the way she had planned, some people said she was selfish. When she was angry about the unjustness of the situation, some people said she had no right to be angry. When she said she didn’t understand why God had allowed this particular situation to happen, some people said that she didn’t have enough faith. The sad thing about the “some people”? They were people from her church—people who should have been there to shore up her strength, not tear it down.
I have to admit that I have been on that end of the conversation before. In my pride and self-righteousness, I felt sure that I needed to point out the obvious “lack” in the other person as to why they were floundering in a pit or angry at the hurt someone had done to them or depressed because something didn’t work out the way they had planned.
Lose your job? Well, obviously you weren’t the better employee. Maybe you should have worked a little harder or not called in sick so much.
Overweight? Well, obviously you need to get control of your diet. Maybe, like we told you, you shouldn’t have eaten that cupcake when we all went out to dinner last weekend.
Unhappy? Well, obviously you need to change your life, marriage, friends, church, car, job, school, skills, kids, house. Maybe you should not have married that guy, maybe you should have married that girl, should have gone to that school, shouldn’t have bought that car, should have had kids, shouldn’t have had kids.
The world is full of advice on every situation, from what you should eat, to what you should wear, to where you should live, to when you should get married, to whether or not you should have kids, to something as ridiculous as how much you should spend for coffee. You will receive advice from everyone you never wanted to hear from when you least want to hear it.
These days with the Internet, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the faceless email or text, it is just way too easy to spout things that we would never say to a person face to face. We will forward things “because we care.” We will share “because we just thought you should know.” We will copy and paste the most insidious, needling comments buried deep in the “bless your little heart” conversation that we know will bring someone to their knees. And pat ourselves on the back for doing it!
As I looked through the Scriptures for the situation my friend was facing, God pointed out that I wasn’t to look for Scriptures to send to her. I needed to find Scriptures to help ME help her through this difficult time. Colossians 3:12-15 says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.”
What was kind about telling her she lacked faith?
What was patient with telling her to get over it and move on?
What was “bearing with one another” about ignoring her plea for a listening ear?
More than anything, what was loving about telling her that she was selfish for wanting resolution to a long-term problem?
We are called to be the BODY OF CHRIST. Not the sort-of, kind-of, maybe-if-we-like-you-we-might-put-up-with-you-if-you-do-things-we-approve-of body of Christ. We are told explicitly in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 that “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
I have resolved to be more intentional about my conversations with people. I want my listening ear as well as my listening heart be full of love for the other person. I want the words that come out of my mouth to be compared to His words before they ever cross my lips. I know that it won’t always be that simple. I tend to speak first and think later. But I am getting better. Especially when I start the day with the study of His desires for how I act, how I think, and most importantly how I speak.
It has been said that when we encourage others, we let them borrow our courage. Will you share your courage today?