We cannot understand (#2 of 2 linked prayers)

God is greater than we can understand
(Job 36:26; NLT). 

We cannot understand
Your peace,
So we persist in fighting
Senseless wars.

We cannot comprehend
Your love,
So we persist in prejudice,
And hate.

We cannot understand
Your truth,
So we persist in ignorance,
And lies.

We cannot comprehend
Your wrath,
So we persist in leaving change
Too late.

🧡

His wrath is poured out like fire
(Nahum 1:6; NIV).

Perhaps even yet they will turn from their evil ways and ask the Lord’s forgiveness before it is too late
(Jeremiah 36:7; NLT).


We cannot understand (#1 of 2 linked prayers)

People cannot see the whole scope
of God’s work from beginning to end
(Ecclesiastes 3:11; NLT).

We cannot understand
Your work,
Failing to see its scope
From start to end.

We cannot comprehend
Your Son,
Failing to grow like him,
As you intend.

We cannot understand
Your strength,
Failing to grasp our emptiness
Within.

We cannot comprehend
Your wrath,
Failing to grasp our ignorance
And sin.

❤️

You are indeed angry, for we have sinned
(Isaiah 64:5;  NKJV).


There is no mercy (with thanks to A.K.)

If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent (Matthew 12:7; NIV). 

There is no mercy
In our minds
When we condemn
The meek.

There is no justice
In our hearts
When we abuse
The weak.

There is no pity
In our souls
When we exploit
The poor. 

Lord,
Stir our spirits
To repent,
Till love becomes
Our law.

🤍

Whoever loves others has fulfilled the law
(Romans 13:8; NIV).


Despite my pride

You deserve to be punished. But I will treat you in a way that will bring honour to my name, and you will know that I am the Lord God
(Ezekiel 20:44; CEV).

Despite my pride
And ignorance,
Despite my envy, Lord;

Despite my greed
And foolishness,
Despite my judgements, Lord;

Despite my hate
And selfishness,
Despite my anger, Lord;

Despite my guilt
And sinfulness:
You love me.

He loves us with unfailing love
(Psalm 117:2; NLT).


Temptation (#1 of 2 linked prayers)

Hear my plea
(Psalm 28:2; NET).

Father God, in weakness,
Jesus, in dismay,
Spirit, in temptation:
Hear my plea.

Father God, in anger,
Jesus, in alarm,
Spirit, in temptation:
Come to me. 

Father God, in sorrow,
Jesus, in distress,
Spirit, in temptation:
You are near.

Father God, in failure,
Jesus, in despair,
Spirit, in temptation:
You are here.

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

Dwelling in darkness

Clouds and thick darkness surround him
(Psalm 97:2; NIV).

Dwelling in darkness,
Concealed from our sight,
Yet shining forever:
Our God, who is light.

Vast, unapproachable,
Our heart’s desire,
Yet blazing within us:
Our God, who is fire.

Knowing our secrets,
Beyond human proof,
Yet speaking so clearly:
Our God, who is truth.

Mighty, alert,
Seeing all without cease,
Yet curbing his anger:
Our God, who is peace.

Yielding his Spirit,
His body and blood,
Yet reigning with mercy:
Our God, who is love.

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

Teach me

Image: Rondell Melling, Pixabay


Lord,

1. Teach me, when I’m foolish;
Forgive, when I’m unkind.

2. Save me, when in danger;
Soothe, when I’m maligned.

3. Brace me, when I’m tempted;
Console, when I’m afraid.

4. Warn me, when I’m angry;
Calm, when I’m betrayed.

5. Hold me, when I suffer;
Support, when I despair,

6. And guide my soul in death, Lord,
T0 meet you in the air.

 


References

1. Teach me how to live, O Lord (Psalm 27:11; NLT).

Forgive us our sins (Luke 11:4; NLT).

2. Save me and rescue me (Psalm 71:2; NLT).

Let your unfailing love comfort me (Psalm 119:76; NLT).

3. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure (1 Corinthians 10:13; NLT).

With his love he will calm all your fears (Zephaniah 3:17; NLT).

4. Don’t sin by letting anger control you (Ephesians 4:26; NLT).

I begged my allies for help, but they betrayed me (Lamentations 1:19; NLT).

5. Your right hand upholds me (Psalm 63:8; NLT).

From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help (Psalm 130:1; NLT).

6. 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).

The Lord will guide you continually (Isaiah 58:11; NKJV).

We […] will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17; NLT).

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

Anger


Image: annaost29, Pixabay


Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires
(James 1:20; NLT).

1. Anger is so dangerous:
It makes me think I should proceed
To voice my hasty judgements,
Though I crush the weakest reed.

2. Anger is so damaging:
It makes me feel I have a right
To vent my heedless blame,
Though I put out a dying light.

3. Help me, Lord, to curb my tongue,
My rash assumptions, too,
Then I’ll treat everyone with love,
And grow much more like you.

 


References

1. Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: you must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires (James 1:19-20; NLT).

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged (Luke 6:37; NLT).

He will not crush the weakest reed (Matthew 12:20; NLT).

2. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you (Luke 6:37; NLT).

He will not […] put out a flickering candle (Matthew 12:20, NLT).

3. If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless (James 1:26; NLT).

Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions (Ecclesiastes 10:13; NLT).

We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5; NIV).

Love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:39; NLT).

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

The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18; NLT).

My action plan

Image: BUMIPUTRA, Pixabay


Introduction

On 19.8.20. I posted an article called “My dilemma”. It described the inner conflicts I face each time someone behaves unacceptably towards me. As a Christian, should I speak out, or should I say nothing? Jesus used both of these approaches at different times in his life, so I have never been able to reach a conclusion about how I should respond.

Unfortunately, this uncertainty means that regardless of how I handle each individual situation, I ruminate for months afterwards about what happened, and whether I reacted correctly. My endless self-questioning generates a constant sense of guilt, worry and dread, which I find impossible to shake off, and which can easily lead me into depression.

Since writing that article, I have spent a lot of time praying, reflecting, and talking this issue over with others. From the insights gained, I have put together an action plan to follow next time a hurtful situation arises.

Rather than seeing my response as a straight choice between speaking out and staying silent, I am now treating it as a series of stages, each of which is open to reflection before taking any further action.

1. Withdraw, pray, reflect

So, from now on, when someone behaves unacceptably towards me, I will withdraw to sleep on what happened for at least one night, taking time out to pray and reflect before responding. This will prevent me from reacting in the heat of the moment, with a high risk of damaging both the other person, and our relationship.

2. Decide whether or not to speak out 

A. If I decide it is pointless, or inappropriate, to speak out to the person concerned, I need take the matter no further. Instead, I will work on forgiving them, and praying for them.

B. If I decide to tell the other person how their behaviour has affected me, I need to think carefully about how best to approach them, perhaps by email, text, a phone call, or by arranging a meeting. It’s important to remember that they may have had no intention at all of upsetting me, and may therefore be taken very much by surprise when I raise the subject.

3. Speak out briefly, and lovingly

If I decide to give the person feedback, I will do so as briefly and lovingly as possible. My aim will simply be to remind them of what they said or did, and to be honest about how it has hurt or disturbed me. Anything beyond this is superfluous, and risks generating angry retaliation.

4. Wait to see if there is a response

A. If the other person doesn’t respond, there is no need for me to say any more. The matter is finished, and I will let it go. Each of us is responsible for our own behaviour, and I can’t expect everyone to respond as I wish. Instead, I will focus on loving them, forgiving them, and praying for them.

B. If the other person contacts me, I will take time to consider how best to reply, depending on what they say:

i. If they take responsibility for their behaviour, and apologise, I will accept this immediately, reassuring them that I have completely forgiven them. We will be reconciled, and the whole matter will be closed.

ii. If they react hurtfully, I will withdraw, considering the matter as being finished. Anything else is pointless, and risks generating more damage. Of course, I will still forgive them, and pray for them, but I can choose not to expose myself to further hurtful behaviour, in order to protect my own mental health.

5. Start again

Finally, if, despite doing my very best, the situation doesn’t work out as I hoped, or turns out badly, I will resolve to put it behind me, and start again. Every time I find myself ruminating about what happened, I will remind myself that it’s finished. There is always more to learn in life, and I can refine my action plan in the light of each new experience.

Conclusion

Throughout my life, when anyone hurts me, I’ve never known whether I should be honest with them, or say nothing. When I say nothing, I am left with a burden of powerlessness and distress. When I speak out, and the other person reacts angrily, I am left with a burden of guilt and dread, believing that I have sinned, and that the breakdown in relationship is all my fault.

From now on, when someone hurts me, I will remind myself immediately that I always have choices about how to respond, and that I have an action plan to follow. My overall aim will be to keep a careful, Christian balance between being honest, preserving relationships, and protecting my own mental health.

Image: Mustangloe, Pixabay


Acknowledgement

My warmest thanks to all those who have engaged in discussing this issue with me, especially Alan, Dianne, and John. Your contributions have been invaluable.


References

Introduction

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

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).

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).

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

1. Withdraw, pray, reflect

Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer (Luke 5:16; NLT).

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

Harsh words make tempers flare (Proverbs 15:1; NLT).

Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back (Proverbs 29:11; NLT).

2. Decide whether or not to speak out

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).

3. Speak out briefly, and lovingly

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

4. Wait to see if there is a response

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).

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).

NB Matthew doesn’t mention whether the person has to say sorry or not:

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:20-21; NLT).

5. Start again

Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-9; NLT).

I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly (Ecclesiastes 1:17; NLT).

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord (Lamentations 3:40; KJV).

Conclusion

Be angry but do not sin (Ephesians 4:26; RSV).

I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say (Psalm 39:1; NLT).

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

To acquire wisdom is to love oneself (Proverbs 19:8; 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).

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