Christian women, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ Safe Spaces and Wearing Our Hearts on Our Sleeves: 6 Ways to Follow Jesus’ Example of Handling Hurt

Originally published April 13, 2018

Political correctness.

Safe spaces.

Trigger warnings.

Microaggressions.

You can hardly say the sky is blue or water is wet these days without offending somebody. It shouldn’t be surprising to us that when self reigns on the throne of a person’s heart, she will bow down and serve the king of personal feelings. And as a loyal subject, she will fight to the death any perceived threat to that ruling authority. It is normal for unsaved people to live their lives with their feelings leading them around by the nose.

It is not normal for Christians to live that way. And it concerns me that I’m seeing more and more Christian women who allow themselves to be controlled by their feelings rather than being controlled by Christ.

(I’m about to step on some toes, here, so if you’re offended {maybe especially if you’re offended} by what follows, hang in there with me until we get past the hurt feelings and arrive at God’s Word, or you’re actually going to be proving my point.)

❤ Last May, the day before Mother’s Day, I was sort of mindlessly flipping through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, when something caught my notice. Tweet after tweet, status after status, article after article about Mother’s Day. But the vast majority of those posts were not honoring and encouraging women who are mothers, which is the whole point of Mother’s Day. They were focused on women for whom Mother’s Day is painful. Women who are infertile. Single women who haven’t had children. Women who have lost children in miscarriage or other tragedies. People whose mothers have died. Mothers whose children are estranged.

❤ As April Fool’s Day approached this year, I began noticing admonishments not to say, “I’m pregnant,” as an April Fool’s joke on social media in order to protect the feelings of women struggling with infertility or have miscarried.

❤ I have heard from dozens of women who refuse to obey God’s command to join with a doctrinally sound local church – even though they’re physically and logistically able to – because they have been hurt by a previous church.

❤ Christian women who follow false teachers commonly lash out in anger – often displaying the opposite of every one of the fruits of the Spirit – when presented with incontrovertible biblical evidence that the teacher is promoting false doctrine.

❤ And have you seen the fracas over racism in evangelicalism lately? Ungodly statements and accusations are flying from both sides of the aisle because, feelings: feelings of being owed something, fear of man feelings of not wanting to appear racist, feelings of retribution, feelings of pride and self-righteousness.

Life circumstances and other people genuinely and validly hurt us sometimes. No sane person would deny that, and certainly no Christian with a modicum of Christlike compassion would deny it. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of the painful situations I mentioned above. Pain – deep, agonizing, and often undeserved pain – goes with the territory of being human. None of us are immune.

And, if you’re a Christian, you worship a Savior who more than understands what it’s like to be hurt – not just the physical torture of flogging and crucifixion, but the emotional pain during his life of being “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. Jesus experienced far more misery than you or I ever will, and yet, He handled it in a way that brought honor and glory to God. As His disciples, we are called to follow His example when it comes to our own pain.

Jesus didn’t allow His pain to reign

During His lifetime on earth, Jesus’ own brothers and sisters didn’t believe in Him. The leaders and members of His “church” abused, slandered, and falsely accused Him. His community eventually wanted Him dead.

Jesus could have allowed this grief to stay at the forefront of His heart and mind, governing His thoughts and reactions towards others and towards life in general. But He didn’t. He chose to deal with His pain in a godly way, refusing to allow it to control Him, paralyze Him, or deter Him from His mission, but putting it in its proper perspective. Pain is not paramount – holiness is. Jesus didn’t allow His pain to reign – He determined that His heart and mind would be led by holy thoughts and actions.

Jesus didn’t expect people to accommodate His feelings

Can you imagine Jesus demanding a safe space or that people refrain from posting certain things on social media in order to protect His feelings? Neither can I. It must have been monumentally difficult to endure the insults and mockery that constantly came His way, especially when He had the power (and the right) to shut those people up so He wouldn’t have to deal with all of that. Instead, Jesus accepted that hurtful people and circumstances are part of life and He proactively chose to respond to those people and circumstances in a godly way – setting an example for us in the process.

Jesus forgave

Not just one person, one time, or one situation. Seventy times seven. Even if the person didn’t ask for forgiveness. Even if the person innocently stuck his foot in his mouth. Not once do we see Jesus harboring bitterness in His heart or holding a grudge against someone who hurt Him personally, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Jesus forgave and moved on with His life and ministry.

Jesus was content

Sometimes, it’s not a person who hurts us, but the circumstances God has sovereignly brought or allowed into our lives. Did you catch that? Anything that’s going on in your life is only going on because God is permitting it or causing it. From infertility to medical conditions to racism to the consequences of sin, God is in charge of what happens to you, and He uses these painful situations to teach you obedience, cause you to depend on and trust in Him, and conform you to the image of Christ.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” Jesus said. Jesus was homeless, poor, unmarried, and childless, yet never once do we see Him complain about any of these circumstances. He accepted the station in life to which God had assigned Him and was content with His lot, making the most of His situation to the glory of God. We can follow Jesus in that godly mindset, realizing that “godliness with contentment is great gain” and that the Holy Spirit can empower us to find ways to be content no matter our situation.

Jesus didn’t retaliate or sin when His feelings were hurt

If our response to a hurtful person or situation is to take vengeance, lash out in anger, or wallow in self-pity, we aren’t acting the way Jesus did. He never retaliated against those who hurt him, failed to exercise self-control in responding to unkind people, or felt sorry for Himself as a result of his situation. Jesus always perfectly showcased the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Jesus focused on others, not Himself

Did Jesus stay home from the wedding at Cana because He couldn’t deal with the fact that someone else was getting married and He wasn’t? Was He overcome by hurt and jealousy when people brought their children to Him because He longed to experience the joys unique to fatherhood? No. He made sure the happy couple’s big day was even better by celebrating with them and giving them an awesome gift. He embraced and blessed other people’s children, pouring out His love upon them.

It is absolutely and inarguably incumbent upon us as compassionate, caring, kind, and merciful followers of Christ to weep with those who weep in the midst of suffering. We follow in Jesus’ footsteps by comforting others with the comfort He has shown us. We do our best to be sensitive to the hurts of others and not cause additional or unnecessary pain. We lift up the fallen and strengthen the knees that are weak, just like Jesus did.

But God also requires us to draw upon His strength, look past our own pain, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Just as it is good and right to comfort a friend who’s infertile or grieve with parents who have miscarried, it is also good and right for that friend and those parents to rejoice on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with those whom God has chosen to bless with children, or to celebrate with loved ones who have just announced a pregnancy. We take the focus off ourselves and put it on others, just like Jesus did.

 

Life hurts sometimes. And it’s OK to feel that pain. To grieve over loss. To mourn over suffering. But we cannot let those feelings be the boss of how we act and think. If we are to follow Christ, we must ask Him to help us follow His example of dealing with our raw and tender feelings: not expecting people to tiptoe around us, not allowing bitterness or unforgiveness to take over our hearts, not allowing our pain to reign and cause us to sin. We follow Christ’s example by taking up our cross daily, following Him, serving others, and living to the full the lives God has ordained for us. Whether it’s easy or it’s hard. Whether we’re joyful or sorrowful. Whether we feel like it or not.

Relationships, Sanctification

In Defense of Offense: Why Christians Need to Stop Worrying About Offending People

“You’re a liar,” he said dryly, the passion in his eyes gleaming through.

“What?!?! HOW DARE YOU call me a liar!” his fellow church member fumed.

“You’re a liar, Joe. You show up at church for an hour a week and claim to be a Christian, yet you’ve been living with your girlfriend for over a year, you’ve told me you use pornography, and I’ve talked to five different people with incontrovertible evidence that you’ve cheated in your business dealings with them. When you say you’re a Christian, you’re lying. Just admit it.”

Have you ever had a conversation like this with someone? Have you ever witnessed a conversation like this?

Most of us would never dream of calling someone a liar who claims to be a Christian yet walks in disobedience to Christ. Goodness, no! It might offend the person or cause her to question her salvation! She might leave the church or walk away from the faith!

You know who wouldn’t be afraid of offending such a person or causing her to doubt her salvation? Someone who would dream of calling a professed Christian walking in disobedience a liar?

The Holy Spirit – via the Apostle John – that’s who.

Whoever says “I know him [Jesus]” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he [Jesus] walked.
1 John 2:4-6

Take a moment and let that really sink in. People who claim to be Christians yet habitually and unrepentantly make a practice of sinning are not saved.

To the Holy Spirit and John that’s as plain and simple and uncontroversial as saying, “The sky is blue, and water’s wet.” But to a false convert, them’s fightin’ words.

And we know it.

So we refrain from lovingly speaking hard, biblical truths to people who need to hear them, usually for one of a handful of reasons:

• We don’t want this person’s wrath aimed at us because it’s a hassle or because we don’t want to lose the relationship with her.

• We don’t actually believe the Bible and trust God’s sovereignty. We’d rather lean on our own understanding, desperately clinging to the irrational hope that this person is truly a Christian who’s hanging by a thread, and we don’t want to be the one responsible for saying anything that might clip that thread.

• We’re worried about how we’ll look to others and that they’ll accuse us of being unloving, unchristlike, and harming the unity of the church.

What do those reasons have in common?

Me. Me me me me me me me.

I want to keep my relationship with this person in tact. I don’t want others to blame me for this person’s reaction to biblical truth or call me unloving or divisive. I don’t want to deal with the aggravation of this person’s emotional blow up.

It’s not exactly the greater love of laying down one’s life for a friend, is it? We’re not even willing to lay down our comfort or our reputation in order to tell someone her walk doesn’t match her talk and call her to repentance. Is that love at all, or is it just plain, old fashioned selfishness? We bow and scrape at the idol of not hurting other people’s feelings while those people careen down the road paved with our good intentions straight toward the gates of Hell. How is that love? 

Love is valuing, and acting on, what is best for another person over and above our own self interests. You know, kind of like Jesus did during His life, death, and resurrection:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16

You know, it’s interesting that the Holy Spirit speaks a lot of hard, “you’re not saved if…” truths in a book (1 John) whose purpose is to give true Christians assurance of their salvation. The Third Person of the Trinity – the embodiment of perfect love – doesn’t seem to think it’s unloving to tell false converts they aren’t saved, while at the same time reassuring young, shaky-kneed saints.

But us? We can’t seem to get our act together and do both from a heart of love the way the Holy Spirit does.

We’ve focused so much attention on reassuring anyone who claims the label “Christian” of their eternal security that we’ve lost sight of the fact that there are a great many false converts in our midst who should be questioning their salvation. The gate is wide that leads to destruction, Jesus said. It is the narrow gate that leads to life, and few are those who find it. Test yourself to see if you’re in the faith. How will they know these things if we don’t tell them?

The Bible has hard, sharp edges. It’s a sword, for crying out loud, not a feather duster. The primary purpose of a sword is to cut.

The gospel divides. Jesus – the creator of Christian unity – said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Jesus – perfectly kind, perfectly loving Jesus – called those claiming to be God’s people yet walking in disobedience hypocrites, vipers, and sons of the Devil. Jesus – the Jesus who was more compassionately evangelistic than we could ever hope to be – didn’t beg, plead, or hand-wringingly water down Kingdom requirements so the rich young ruler would keep a toe in the door of God’s house. Jesus held high the standard of the gospel and let him walk away. Jesus wasn’t a nerdy little wimp offering people a cheap plastic heavenly trinket if they would only be His friend. This almighty King demanded perfection, the highest love, loyalty unto death. And, by the way, you’d better count the cost before deciding to follow Him. Jesus wasn’t worried about offending people with biblical truth.

We need to stop worrying that the Bible is going to offend people who need to be offended by its demands, requirements, and judgments so that they might repent and be reconciled to Christ. Whether it’s a sinner in need of a Savior or a saint in need of sanctification, the ministry of reconciliation Christ has called us to begins with confronting sin.

Every person we would potentially approach with biblical truth is either saved or lost.

If a person is genuinely one of Christ’s sheep, she will hear the voice of her Shepherd calling to her from the truths of His Word, turn from her sin, and follow Him. It may take time. It may take help. It may take teaching and many tears. But sheep love the Shepherd and follow Him. They grow toward Him, not away from Him.

If a person is lost, she isn’t going to get any “loster” when you biblically call her to repentance. Lost is lost, even if that lost person claims to be, or thinks she is, a Christian. There’s no such thing as a genuinely regenerated Christian who’s just barely hanging on to Jesus by her fingernails and you come along and push her out of the faith by confronting her sin with biblical truth. Uh uh. If she abandons Christ in favor of her sin, she was never saved in the first place, I don’t care what she claims to the contrary.

All of this nonsense floating around these days about “de-converting” from Christianity, or “I used to be a real, genuine, bona fide Christian, but I’m not anymore.” Hogwash and poppycock. The Bible says if you leave the body of Christ, you were never a member of it to begin with. That God is greater than all (including you) and no one (not even yourself) is able to snatch you out of His hand if you belong to Him. That those who are saved will endure to the end. That Jesus will not lose a single one of those the Father has entrusted to Him. Dare we believe the words of sinners about themselves over what the Word of God says about them? No matter what you say or do, you don’t have the power to be responsible for someone leaving the faith. Whatever circumstance or person they might use as a scapegoat, people “leave” Christianity because they don’t know or love Christ and they’ve gotten tired of pretending like they do.

The people we love enough to lovingly, yet firmly, speak hard biblical truths to are either Christians who will come to love and embrace those truths (and love us for caring enough to speak them), or they’re lost or false converts who need to be confronted with the mirror of God’s Word so they can face up to the fact that they’re lost. Where the Bible speaks plainly and definitively, we must not be ashamed of the gospel and shrink from speaking plainly and definitively in agreement with it.

Stop being afraid of offending people by speaking hard, biblical truths. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is offend her.

Christian women, Sanctification

Safe Spaces and Wearing Our Hearts on Our Sleeves: 6 Ways to Follow Jesus’ Example of Handling Hurt

Political correctness.

Safe spaces.

Trigger warnings.

Microaggressions.

You can hardly say the sky is blue or water is wet these days without offending somebody. It shouldn’t be surprising to us that when self reigns on the throne of a person’s heart, she will bow down and serve the king of personal feelings. And as a loyal subject, she will fight to the death any perceived threat to that ruling authority. It is normal for unsaved people to live their lives with their feelings leading them around by the nose.

It is not normal for Christians to live that way. And it concerns me that I’m seeing more and more Christian women who allow themselves to be controlled by their feelings rather than being controlled by Christ.

(I’m about to step on some toes, here, so if you’re offended {maybe especially if you’re offended} by what follows, hang in there with me until we get past the hurt feelings and arrive at God’s Word, or you’re actually going to be proving my point.)

❤ Last May, the day before Mother’s Day, I was sort of mindlessly flipping through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, when something caught my notice. Tweet after tweet, status after status, article after article about Mother’s Day. But the vast majority of those posts were not honoring and encouraging women who are mothers, which is the whole point of Mother’s Day. They were focused on women for whom Mother’s Day is painful. Women who are infertile. Single women who haven’t had children. Women who have lost children in miscarriage or other tragedies. People whose mothers have died. Mothers whose children are estranged.

❤ As April Fool’s Day approached this year, I began noticing admonishments not to say, “I’m pregnant,” as an April Fool’s joke on social media in order to protect the feelings of women struggling with infertility or have miscarried.

❤ I have heard from dozens of women who refuse to obey God’s command to join with a doctrinally sound local church – even though they’re physically and logistically able to – because they have been hurt by a previous church.

❤ Christian women who follow false teachers commonly lash out in anger – often displaying the opposite of every one of the fruits of the Spirit – when presented with incontrovertible biblical evidence that the teacher is promoting false doctrine.

❤ And have you seen the fracas over racism in evangelicalism lately? Ungodly statements and accusations are flying from both sides of the aisle because, feelings: feelings of being owed something, fear of man feelings of not wanting to appear racist, feelings of retribution, feelings of pride and self-righteousness.

Life circumstances and other people genuinely and validly hurt us sometimes. No sane person would deny that, and certainly no Christian with a modicum of Christlike compassion would deny it. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of the painful situations I mentioned above. Pain – deep, agonizing, and often undeserved pain – goes with the territory of being human. None of us are immune.

And, if you’re a Christian, you worship a Savior who more than understands what it’s like to be hurt – not just the physical torture of flogging and crucifixion, but the emotional pain during his life of being “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. Jesus experienced far more misery than you or I ever will, and yet, He handled it in a way that brought honor and glory to God. As His disciples, we are called to follow His example when it comes to our own pain.

Jesus didn’t allow His pain to reign

During His lifetime on earth, Jesus’ own brothers and sisters didn’t believe in Him. The leaders and members of His “church” abused, slandered, and falsely accused Him. His community eventually wanted Him dead.

Jesus could have allowed this grief to stay at the forefront of His heart and mind, governing His thoughts and reactions towards others and towards life in general. But He didn’t. He chose to deal with His pain in a godly way, refusing to allow it to control Him, paralyze Him, or deter Him from His mission, but putting it in its proper perspective. Pain is not paramount – holiness is. Jesus didn’t allow His pain to reign – He determined that His heart and mind would be led by holy thoughts and actions.

Jesus didn’t expect people to accommodate His feelings

Can you imagine Jesus demanding a safe space or that people refrain from posting certain things on social media in order to protect His feelings? Neither can I. It must have been monumentally difficult to endure the insults and mockery that constantly came His way, especially when He had the power (and the right) to shut those people up so He wouldn’t have to deal with all of that. Instead, Jesus accepted that hurtful people and circumstances are part of life and He proactively chose to respond to those people and circumstances in a godly way – setting an example for us in the process.

Jesus forgave

Not just one person, one time, or one situation. Seventy times seven. Even if the person didn’t ask for forgiveness. Even if the person innocently stuck his foot in his mouth. Not once do we see Jesus harboring bitterness in His heart or holding a grudge against someone who hurt Him personally, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Jesus forgave and moved on with His life and ministry.

Jesus was content

Sometimes, it’s not a person who hurts us, but the circumstances God has sovereignly brought or allowed into our lives. Did you catch that? Anything that’s going on in your life is only going on because God is permitting it or causing it. From infertility to medical conditions to racism to the consequences of sin, God is in charge of what happens to you, and He uses these painful situations to teach you obedience, cause you to depend on and trust in Him, and conform you to the image of Christ.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” Jesus said. Jesus was homeless, poor, unmarried, and childless, yet never once do we see Him complain about any of these circumstances. He accepted the station in life to which God had assigned Him and was content with His lot, making the most of His situation to the glory of God. We can follow Jesus in that godly mindset, realizing that “godliness with contentment is great gain” and that the Holy Spirit can empower us to find ways to be content no matter our situation.

Jesus didn’t retaliate or sin when His feelings were hurt

If our response to a hurtful person or situation is to take vengeance, lash out in anger, or wallow in self-pity, we aren’t acting the way Jesus did. He never retaliated against those who hurt him, failed to exercise self-control in responding to unkind people, or felt sorry for Himself as a result of his situation. Jesus always perfectly showcased the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Jesus focused on others, not Himself

Did Jesus stay home from the wedding at Cana because He couldn’t deal with the fact that someone else was getting married and He wasn’t? Was He overcome by hurt and jealousy when people brought their children to Him because He longed to experience the joys unique to fatherhood? No. He made sure the happy couple’s big day was even better by celebrating with them and giving them an awesome gift. He embraced and blessed other people’s children, pouring out His love upon them.

It is absolutely and inarguably incumbent upon us as compassionate, caring, kind, and merciful followers of Christ to weep with those who weep in the midst of suffering. We follow in Jesus’ footsteps by comforting others with the comfort He has shown us. We do our best to be sensitive to the hurts of others and not cause additional or unnecessary pain. We lift up the fallen and strengthen the knees that are weak, just like Jesus did.

But God also requires us to draw upon His strength, look past our own pain, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Just as it is good and right to comfort a friend who’s infertile or grieve with parents who have miscarried, it is also good and right for that friend and those parents to rejoice on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with those whom God has chosen to bless with children, or to celebrate with loved ones who have just announced a pregnancy. We take the focus off ourselves and put it on others, just like Jesus did.

 

Life hurts sometimes. And it’s OK to feel that pain. To grieve over loss. To mourn over suffering. But we cannot let those feelings be the boss of how we act and think. If we are to follow Christ, we must ask Him to help us follow His example of dealing with our raw and tender feelings: not expecting people to tiptoe around us, not allowing bitterness or unforgiveness to take over our hearts, not allowing our pain to reign and cause us to sin. We follow Christ’s example by taking up our cross daily, following Him, serving others, and living to the full the lives God has ordained for us. Whether it’s easy or it’s hard. Whether we’re joyful or sorrowful. Whether we feel like it or not.