Prayer

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40; NIV).

Lord,
I pray for all those who are cold,
Hungry, thirsty, fearful,
Or in pain.

Lord,
I pray for all those who are sick,
Homeless, sad, awaiting help,
In vain.

Lord,
I pray for all those who are poor,
Abused, enslaved,
Whose sorrow never ends.

Help me, Lord, like you,
To care for all,
While loving those who hate me,
As my friends.

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-8; NLT).

Your ways

Show me your ways, Lord
(Psalm 25:4; NIV).

Of all your servants,
I’m the least,
Yet show me, Lord,
Your way of peace,

Where I’ll go slowly,
Say, and do
Everything with love,
For you.

As I face
Each weary test,
Please show me, Lord,
Your way of rest,

Where I’ll go slowly,
Praise, and pray
With you beside me,
Come what may.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me
(Psalm 23:4; KJV).

Shine your light

Image: Ruben Gal, Pixabay


💛

1. Shine your light
On all who live in darkness,
Till they decide to seek you, Lord,
And find.

2. Spread your peace
To all who are abusive,
Till they begin to seek you,
And grow kind.

3. Teach your truth
To all who lie to others,
Till they are moved to seek you,
And lament.

4. Pour your love
On all who practice hatred,
Till they resolve to seek you,
And repent.

💛


References

1. God is light (1 John 1:5; NIV).

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine (Isaiah 9:2; NLT).

You will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 4:29; NIV).

2. The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT).

They all do evil and abuse what power they have (Jeremiah 23:10; NLT).

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful (Ephesians 4:29; NLT).

You will grow as you learn to know God better and better (Colossians 1:10; NLT).

3. The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

Stop your love of telling lies that you swear are the truth (Zechariah 8:17; NLT).

“My people bend their tongues like bows to shoot out lies. They refuse to stand up for the truth […] They do not know me,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 9:3; NLT).

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

4. God is love (1 John 4:16; NLT).

Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbour (Zechariah 8:17; NKJV).

Love your neighbour (Luke 10:27; NLT).

Love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19; NKJV).

Show love to foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19; NLT).

Love your enemies! (Matthew 5:44; NLT).

Repent of your sins and turn to God for the Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matthew 4:17; NLT).

Not far to fly

Image: 5hashank, Pixabay


🧡

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit
(1 Corinthians 6:17; NIV).

Father God,

1. When I must die,
My soul will not have far to fly.

2. You live in me; I live in you –
There’s nothing I will need to do

3. But leave this body, and its pain,
To step into your arms again.

4. Then, Father, we will re-combine,
For I am yours, and you are mine.

5. Yes, Father, we will re-unite
Forever, in your glorious light.

Into your hands I commit my spirit
(Psalm 31:5; NIV).

🧡


References

1. Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me (Psalm 23:4; KJV).

2. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them (1 John 4:16; NLT).

3. The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever ( Revelation 21:3-4; NLT).

The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you (Deuteronomy 33:27; NLT).

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5; NLT).

4. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20; NIV).

My beloved is mine and I am his (Song of Songs 2:16; NIV).

5. I will live in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6; NLT).

The city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light (Revelation 21:23; NLT).

Consequences

Image: Pete Linforth, Pixabay


🖤

He reveals deep and mysterious things
and knows what lies hidden in darkness

(Daniel 2:22; NLT).

Lord,

1. You know I’ve been abused.
I’m traumatised, and scarred.
I’ve had to live with shame, dread
And depression. It’s been hard.

2. My physical and mental health
Have failed, time and again.
I’m sure my mother never guessed
Her rage would cause such pain.

3. Since then, I’ve tried to be
A Good Samaritan each day,
But now I see that I, too, was attacked
Along the way –

4. Stripped and beaten, left half dead,
Despised, passed by, ignored,
Then you drew near to care for me,
My Priest, my God, my Lord.

5. At last, I’ve grasped your promise,
And your plan has been revealed:
My suffering will end one day –
In death, I will be healed.

🧡


References

1. God has seen your abuse (Genesis 31:42; NLT).

2. The tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself (James 3:6; NLT).

No one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8; NLT).

The tongue can bring life or death (Proverbs 18:21; NLT).

They live wicked lives and they misuse their power (Jeremiah 23:10; NET).

You did not reflect on your actions or think about their consequences (Isaiah 47:7; NLT).

3. A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers (Luke 10:30; NIV).

4. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road (Luke 10:30; NLT).

By chance, a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side (Luke 10:31-2; NLT).

I am insignificant and despised (Psalm 119:141; NLT).

I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit about what happens to me (Psalm 142:4; NLT).

Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine, and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, “Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here” (Luke 10:33-35; NLT).

I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you (Hosea 14:8; NLT).

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess (Hebrews 4:15; NIV).

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed (John 20:28; NLT).

5. My eyes strain to see your rescue, to see the truth of your promise fulfilled (Psalm 119:123; NLT).

We receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:22; NLT).

This is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6; NLT).

The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever ( Revelation 21:3-4; NLT).

Forgiveness

Image: The Betrayal, by Ugolino di Nerio, Yandex

❤️

Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely,
the one who shared my food, has turned against me
(Psalm 41:9; NLT).

1. Help me, Lord,
To bless all those who curse me,
And to pray for all those
Who berate me.

2. Help me to forgive
All those who hurt me,
And, Lord, to do good
To those who hate me.

3. Help me turn my cheek
To those who bruise me,
And, like you, to love those
Who abuse me.

Father, forgive them,
for they don’t know what they are doing
(Luke 23:34; NLT).


References

1. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:28; NLT).

2. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you (Matthew 6:14; NLT).

Do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27; NLT).

3. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also (Luke 6:29; NLT).

He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered (1 Peter 2:23; NLT).

Love your enemies (Luke 6:27; NLT).

We are patient with those who abuse us (1 Corinthians 4:12; NLT).

My dilemma

Image: 412designs, Pixabay


Introduction

Two people have hurt me badly in the last few weeks. In both cases, after some thought, I was honest with those involved, expressing my response as lovingly as I could. However, they both reacted with anger and blame. Sadly, offering to meet for reconciliation has brought no response.

Since then, I repeatedly go over all that happened, which generates a constant, painful, and exhausting sense of dread.

The crux of my anxiety is that when someone hurts me, I don’t know whether I should speak out, or say nothing. Each approach has different consequences.


What did Jesus say and do?

As always, I look for guidance in Jesus’ teaching and example. However, he taught, and displayed, both outspoken and silent ways of responding to hurt and injustice, which I find confusing.

Until his arrest, Jesus always spoke the truth in love when people criticised or insulted him. He was, in fact, very direct. His honesty made him a lot of enemies, and contributed to his death.

After his arrest, Jesus said very little, no matter what he was accused of, and how he was treated. This puzzled his captors, perhaps antagonising them even more.

Over the years, I’ve tried both approaches. What happens when I follow Christ’s example in these two, very different, ways?


A. Speaking out

When I “speak the truth in love”, it almost always backfires. The person I’ve been honest with turns on me, angrily blaming me for what I said, even though it was their own hurtful behaviour towards me that I spoke about. I then react to their hostility with my characteristic chronic dread.


B. Saying nothing

When I say nothing, I simply allow the other person to hurt me, absorbing the pain and damage, just as I did with my emotionally abusive mother. Without feedback, of course, there is a risk that they may continue to damage me. This makes me feel helpless and powerless, worsening my chronic depression.

Either way, I can easily end up feeling as if life is not worth living.


Forgiveness

Fortunately, Jesus is absolutely clear that whether we speak out or say nothing, we should always forgive those who hurt us. This applies even if they never recognise what they have done, and never say they are sorry.


Conclusion

When people hurt me, I ruminate endlessly about how I responded, and what went wrong. Whether I speak out or say nothing, the outcome is equally damaging for my mental health.

Worse still, I also feel guilty for having “caused” the other person to strike back angrily at me, and to hate me from then onwards.

So, when someone hurts me, should I speak out, or say nothing? I still don’t know the answer to this question, which has plagued me all my life. All I can do is to pray for those who hurt me, asking God to guide and heal us all.

Image: Himsan, Pixabay


References

Introduction

Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me (Psalm 41:9; NLT).


What did Jesus say and do?

Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; NIV).

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33; NIV).

The leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise (Mark 15:3-5; NLT).

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God (Matthew 5:23-4; NLT).


A. Speaking out

Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4; NIV.

The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me (Job 30:27; NIV).


B. Saying nothing

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7; NLT).

You have taken away my companions and my loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me (Psalm 42:7;NIV).

Why wasn’t I buried like a stillborn child, like a baby who never lives to see the light? (Job 3:16; NLT).


Forgiveness

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there [and] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-4; NIV).

When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25; NLT).


Conclusion

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-8; NLT)

The Lord of Hosts […] is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance (Isaiah 28:29; NKJV).

He will heal us (Hosea 6:1; NLT).

Image: czu_czu_PL, Pixabay

Flashback (for A.)

Image: rock-cafe, Yandex

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you
(Isaiah 43:2; NLT).

1. Here comes a flashback,
Always undesired:
My mother, screaming at me
Without restraint.

2. I’m two or three years old,
So I can neither
Understand her words,
Nor guess what lies behind them.

3. I’m at her mercy,
Paralysed by fear;
Helpless, lost, defenceless,
And alone.

4. But here you are, Lord,
Entering the scene.
You pick me up,
Then take my mother’s hand.

5. “Peace, be still!”
These are your only words.

6. You shine with love,
And radiate concern.
Your voice is steady, gentle, calm,
And kind.

7. You look at us
With perfect understanding.
Comfort and healing
Flow from your wounded hands.

8. My mother’s screaming stops.
My terror ends.
Together, we absorb
Your silent joy…

9. And then my flashback fades, but from now on
Every time this memory intrudes,
You will be present, Jesus, at its heart,
Just as you were, in fact, so long ago.


References

4. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young (Isaiah 40:11; NIV).

5. He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm (Mark 4:39; NKJV).

6. His face shone like the sun (Matthew 17:2; NIV).

8. Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21; NLT).

9. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).

In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4; NIV).

A letter (with thanks to M.R.)

Image: Ulrike Mai, Pixabay

Trigger alert
Today’s blog is about emotional abuse, and its consequences.

Introduction
The following quotation sets the scene, though its relevance might not be clear until you have read the whole article:

Turn your steps towards these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Your foes roared in the places where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved panelling with their axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshipped in the land (Psalm 74:3-8; NIV).

An open letter to my mother
Mother, despite claiming to love me, you established control over me from my early childhood onwards. You did this through scorn, criticism, bullying, condemnation, rage, and bouts of violent destructiveness. These behaviours made me fear you deeply. I lived in dread of your next outburst.

You continued to maintain control over me during my teenage years and adulthood, too, using intrusion, disapproval, and anger when I dared to express personal feelings, thoughts or beliefs you didn’t like. Similarly, you reacted with fury and threats of coercion if I tried to make my own decisions about what I wanted to do with my life. When I made mistakes, or got things wrong, you never forgave me, or forgot it. All this made me dread seeing you and spending time with you. I particularly hated the sound of your voice, and loathed you touching me, but was afraid to stand up to you, or to say “no”.

Your ways of controlling me have had severe, pervasive, long-term consequences for my mental health, in the form of low self-esteem, anxiety, dread, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I have also had to cope with a constant sense of not wanting to be alive, with chronic depression, and with episodes of acute depression. Furthermore, one question has always preyed on my mind:

How could you say you loved me, yet behave as you did towards me?

It didn’t make sense. I just couldn’t square what you said with what I experienced.

Then, on the 24th of May, 2020, a friend sent me a message she had seen on a Facebook site about domestic abuse. It read:

It’s not CONSENT if you make me afraid to say no.

I stared at these words, instantly electrified by their brevity, clarity and profound truth. Within seconds, a personal variation flashed into my mind:

It’s not LOVE if you make me afraid to say no.

Deeply stirred by this insight, further phrases began tumbling out of my unconscious mind. Here are just a few examples:

It’s not love if you make me afraid to disagree.

It’s not love if you criticise me all the time.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to be myself.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to choose for myself.

It’s not love if you belittle my achievements.

It’s not love if you only approve of me when I behave like you.

At last, in my late sixties, my friend’s message had given me the answer to my question: your behaviour towards me shows clearly that you did not, in fact, love me in any meaningful way at all.

This shocking realisation made me consider what kinds of behaviour do, in fact, reflect and express genuine love. Here are the best answers I’ve found so far:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude. It does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-5; NLT).

It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5; NIV).

I know that none of us is perfect, mother, but when I confronted you, you could at least have admitted what you did to me, and said you were sorry. Over the years, I managed to raise the subject of your behaviour with you several times, always at huge personal cost. However, you never responded with genuine understanding or honesty, instead always trying to justify, minimise, or deny what you had done.

For many years now, I have worked hard to forgive you. Sometimes I even think I’ve succeeded. Fortunately, God understands and accepts the intense anger and bitterness that can still occasionally emerge from my mind, heart and soul. Slowly, gently, he gives me the insights I need in order to be healed, for which I am profoundly thankful.

Ruth.


References

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other (Romans 12:9; NLT).

Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them (Ephesians 6:4; NLT).

I am the Lord, who heals you (Exodus 15:27; NIV).

With love

Do everything with love
(1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

1. Face all you feel with love:
Grief, anger, shame, pain, fear.
Share everything with God,
For he is always near.

2. Observe your thoughts with love:
Hate, envy, judgement, pride.
Confess them all to God,
Who will not blame, or chide.

3. Speak every word with love:
Don’t mock, abuse, or lie.
Admit your sins to God,
Who hears our victims cry.

4. Do everything with love:
This principle is clear;
Just ask the Father’s help,
For he is always here.


References

1. You are near (Psalm 75:1; NLT).

2. I confess my sins (Psalm 38:18; NLT).

He will not always chide (Psalm 103:9; RSV).

3. Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

The Lord hears the cries of the needy (Psalm 69:33; NLT).

4. Do everything with love (1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

Love your enemies! (Matthew 5:44; NLT).

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them (Romans 12:9; NLT).

Help me, Lord (Psalm 30:10; NLT).

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever (John 14:16; NASB).