My dilemma

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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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Dread


Image: Italy Melo, Pexels


When they came to the place called The Skull,
they nailed him to the cross,
[and] Jesus said,“Father, forgive them,
for they don’t know what they are doing”
(Luke 23,33-4. NLT).

1. My anxious brooding
Generates this dread, Lord:
My mind goes through what happened
Without pause –

2. My friend, the one I trusted,
Turned against me,
Attacking me, and wounding,
Without cause.

3. Every time I think of him
Please prompt me
To pray: “Lord, bless my enemy
With good”,

4. Then leave him in your hand
For my protection,
Whilst you, Lord, heal us both,
With your great love.


References

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

2. My close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me (Psalm 41,9. NIV).

They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause (Psalm 109,3. RSV).

3. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6.28, NLT).

Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! (Matthew 5,44. NLT).

4. In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind (Job 12,10. NIV).

My God is my rock, in whom I find protection (2 Samuel 22,3. NLT).

By his wounds you are healed (1 Peter 2,24. NLT).

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15,13. NLT).

Draw near

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My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
why are you so far away when I groan for help?
(Psalm 22:1; NLT).

1. Lord,
When I feel far from you,
Please help me to draw near,
For you are waiting patiently
Until I see you’re here.

2. Lord,
When I feel far from you,
Please help me to draw near,
For you are waiting patiently
To help me face each fear.

3. Lord,
When I feel far from you,
Please help me to draw near,
For you are waiting patiently
For me, year after year.


References

1. The Lord must wait for you to come to him (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).

2. I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you’ (Isaiah 41:13; NLT).

3. The Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me (Psalm 16:8; NLT).

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).

Shelter

1. You’re shelter for the homeless, Lord,
And freedom for the jailed;
A banquet for the hungry,
And redemption for the failed.

2. You’re clothing for the naked, Lord,
And vision for the blind;
A welcome for the stranger,
And a friend for the maligned.

3. You’re rescue for the victim, Lord,
And power for the weak;
Fresh courage for the fearful,
And a refuge for the meek.

4. You’re water for the thirsty, Lord,
And ransom for the slave;
God’s healing for the stricken,
And the first-fruits of the grave.

5. We’re servants of your kingdom, Lord,
Our task: to grow like you,
By treating everyone with love
In all we say and do.


References

1-4. This is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help (Isaiah 58:6-7; NLT).

5. [Grow] in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:2; NLT).

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

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”  He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:44-45; NIV).

Damaged (#1 of 2 linked prayers)

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If the Son sets you free, you are truly free
(John 8:36; NLT).

1. Lord,
You live in every damaged body;
Every wounded, fragile, anxious mind.

2. Lord,
You live in every injured spirit;
Every broken heart, and those confined.

3. Lord,
You want to heal each mind and body,
Giving us new life, for you are kind.

4. Lord,
You want to set free every spirit,
And every broken heart you want to bind.

Image: lechenie-narkomanii

References

1. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

The Spirit of God lives in you (1 Corinthians 3:16; NLT).

He knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust (Psalm 103:14; NLT).

2. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17; NIV).

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3; NIV).

3. A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Move with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Mark 1:41; NLT).

Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God (1 Peter 1:23; NLT).

How kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! (Psalm 116:5; NLT).

4. He will give you another Advocate [Comforter, Encourager, Counsellor], who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth (John 14:16-17; NLT).

The Lord has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1; NIV).

Image: Alexas_Fotos

The hopes of the helpless

Photo: KELLEPICS

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows
(John 16:33; NLT).

Lord,

1. You know the hopes
Of the helpless,

2. The dreams
Of the damaged,

3. The faith
Of the friendless,

4. And the prayers
Of the poor:

5. Hear our cries
And comfort us, we beg you;

6. Mend our bodies,
And our anxious minds;

7. Fill our hearts with care
For one another –

8. Then we will share your love,
Which heals and binds.

References

1-5. Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them (Psalm 10:17; NLT).

6. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases (Psalm 103:3; NLT).

7. I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other (John 13:34; NLT).

If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (1 John 4:12; NIV).

8. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:14; NLT).

Life

1. Life means enjoying
Good things –

2. Perhaps even taking them
For granted,

3. Then having to let go
Of what we did not want to lose.

4. It means struggling
To accept our losses,

5. And slowly learning
To be contented with our lot.

References

3. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21; NIV).

4. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 13:3; NIV).

5. Be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5; NET).

When I’m terrified

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).

Father,
When I’m terrified
You carry me all day;
Even when I’m hurt, or trapped,
Your Spirit helps me pray.

Father,
When my world’s upturned
You are my conscious choice;
Even when the future’s bleak,
My soul will still rejoice.

Father,
When disaster strikes
You bring good from all things;
So I will offer thanks to you,
Whatever my life brings.

References

The Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words (Romans 8:26; NLT).

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

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God (Romans 8:28; NRSV).

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:8; NLT).

When we’re engulfed by fear

Lord,
When we’re engulfed by fear,
Remind us you are always near.

Lord,
When we are put to shame,
Remind us of your holy Name.

Lord,
When we are full of care,
Remind us of the thorns you wear.

Lord,
When we are hurt and bruised,
Remind us how you were abused.

Lord,
When we are racked with pain,
Remind us all how you were slain.

Lord,
When we think life’s unfair,
Remind us of the wounds you bear.

Lord,
When death is close at hand,
Remind us of God’s angel band.

Lord,
We share one flesh and blood:
Remind us of our Father’s love.

References

Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44; NIV).

Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus (Luke 23:11; NLT).

The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head (John 19:2; NLT).

They spat on him and took the staff and struck him repeatedly on the head (Matthew 27:30; NET).

Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross (Mark 15:24; NLT).

Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side (John 20:27; NLT).

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34; NLT).

When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; NLT).

God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16; NLT).