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December 12, 2016

Let’s talk about something awkward.

Has there ever been a person in your life who just “rubbed you the wrong way”? Let’s go a step further and ask, has there ever been anyone in your life that you could barely stand?

I’ll be the first to raise my hand. I’ve been there. I’ll assume that most of us have. Why is that, anyway? I’ve thought about it. And prayed about it. I think it’s because we are all innately selfish. And deep down, we want other people to do what makes us happy. Shouldn’t everyone in my life be all about me?? Could they all just work with me on my goals, desires, preferences, opinions? Other people have the nerve to be different than I am. They do things I cannot control, which can be infuriating! They make choices I would not make. Their priorities do not match mine. Other people simply do not bow to all my wishes all the time. How dare they!

I’m making light of a situation that can actually be pretty heavy. If there ever comes a season in your life when one particular person continues to rub you the wrong way, aggravate you, disappoint you, infuriate you, let you down, and overall just make your life miserable, then you have a serious problem. I’ve been there.

My greatest desire is to please Jesus and bring Him glory. So as I was constantly forced to deal with a difficult soul, I kept asking God for help. I understood that I could not control the other person’s behavior. So sometimes I begged God to just take this person away!! Please, God, do you see what I’m going through??

I once had a friend who agreed to babysit a child who eventually was driving her crazy. She told me, “I’m thinking of saying I can’t watch him anymore, because his behavior is making me not very Christlike!!” I gently told her that she was seeking to remove the thorn that was causing her attitude to sour, instead of just correcting her attitude and choosing to be like Christ no matter what.

Wise words, Christi. And years later, there I was asking God to just take this difficult person out of my life because of the resentment and bitterness that was welling up in my heart. OK, I knew that I just needed to change my heart, in spite of this terrible, awful person! (Yes, yes, very dramatic, I know). I was not being abused or mistreated here, by the way. I was just feeling IRRRRRRRITATED. Disappointed. Angry. Disgusted. There was one day where I sat in the shower and cried and confessed to God that I might just be feeling some actual hate. The H-word. Ughhhh.

I did many things to try to overcome the ugliness in my heart. I prayed. I read the Bible. I confessed to God. Many, many times. I chose forgiveness. I chose grace. I asked God to help me love like He does.

It was also a very lonely time. I try not to gossip, so I felt like I had no one to complain to about how hard it was to deal with this person! And somehow it irritated me even more to see other people thinking this person was wonderful. Oooh, if I could just tell them a thing or two about how annoying this person was!! But I didn’t. I sometimes confided in Seth, but I could see it made him dislike the person as well. That’s the problem with gossip. So I mostly just talked to God about it. Over and over and over.

One night I couldn’t sleep well, and so I began to pray. God reminded me that the ugliness in my heart had to go. It did not please Him. No matter what other people do, He expects me to let Him be their judge. Trying to silently punish someone by harboring bitterness would not do.

These verses came to mind that night as I was sleepily praying: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons that we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Years ago, I had used these verses repeatedly when I was fighting an entirely different spiritual battle. Every time I had an inappropriate thought, I would quote these verses. So now again, during the night, these verses came to mind, and I began quoting them over and over. I decided I should quote them every time I had a negative thought towards this difficult person.

Over the next couple of weeks, I quoted the verses again and again, most often while I was half asleep. Every time I awoke during the night, or had trouble falling asleep, I quoted them.

But I wasn’t sure they were working.

I decided to read some online commentaries about what kind of weapons this verse was saying we should use to fight our spiritual battles. It seemed to be what I figured. Prayer. Bible reading. I was doing those things. I kept asking God to help me let go of my bitterness. I put on the armor of God. I concentrated on the belt of truth. I reminded myself that the TRUTH in my situation was: 1) my bitterness was not doing a single thing to help change the situation. 2) I was allowing myself to be held captive in a prison cell because of my hate.

I pictured myself being in a dark cell, with the door wide open, yet I was too busy clutching my anger to leave the cell and claim freedom.

During that time, we watched one of my favorite movies The Count of Monte Cristo. The main character, Edmond, is horribly wronged and falsely imprisoned, losing his freedom, his future, and his fiancée. Later, he seeks revenge. When he re-encounters his former fiancée, she begs him to let it go and stop seeking revenge. He says, “Don’t rob me of my hate!! It’s all I have!”

And I cringed because I recognized myself.

Somehow we think that when we won’t forgive someone, it’s somehow righting the wrong they have done towards us. We think they deserve our despising, and so we cling to it. I know in my head that it really just holds the bitter person captive. Me! Captive. Remember this saying? “Unforgiveness is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Yes, yes, I knew this in my head.

Still I clung to the bitterness. I told God I was trying to protect my rights and my sense of self. I felt I deserved better treatment than this person was showing me. He reminded me that I am to give up my life for Him, and He will fight for me if there is a need. I do not need to fight so hard to protect my dignity. I knew all of this, and yet I still struggled. Ughhhhh, I felt like a slave to it! I wanted to be free. I wanted to be beautiful within. So many times I have given this advice to friends: “No matter what the other person does, do not let him make you ugly within. Please God in spite of his actions. You can only control yourself.” That sounds very wise, Christi. Go ahead and apply that to your own heart… No? Too difficult? Wow, that sucks for you.

And then one night I had a dream.

In the dream I was sleeping near an open window. Suddenly, something invisible pounced upon me and viciously squeezed my entire torso so tightly that I could not breathe. I knew it was an evil spirit. I was terrified. And yet I immediately knew what to do. Fighting the intense pain in my chest, with rasping bits of air I said, “Leave…me…alone. In the name….of JESUS CHRIST. Get out…of my house…in the name…of JESUS CHRIST.”

Instantly the binding sensation around my chest released and I could breathe! I lay there trembling.

In my dream I got up and felt fearful walking around my own home, but then I quoted this scripture, “God has not given us a spirit of fear….God has not given us a spirit of fear…” And I felt victorious as I confidently knew Whose authority I had.

I awoke from the dream with a start. I relived that horrible, clenching pressure around my ribs. It was so evil. It was so determined. I felt scared as I lay there remembering it.

But then, in the dark of night, in my bed, in spite of my grogginess, I remembered something I had read in the book The Spirit of Python: Exposing Satan’s Plan to Squeeze the Life Out of You by Jentezen Franklin. He said that the enemy tries to steal your breath. He tries to steal your joy, your purpose in the Lord, your spiritual life. The way to combat his tactics is to praise God! Out loud if possible! Praising God releases the enemy’s grip. We praise God in spite of our emotions, in spite of our circumstances, in spite of our pain and confusion. We praise God no matter what.

I knew what happened in my dream was meant to make me fearful. And so I began to mumble out some praise right there in my bed. It was hard because I was so sleepy, but I did it!

“Your praise will ever be on my lips…

I praise You for your power, majesty, and glory, O Lord Most High…

I praise You for always being in control…

I praise You because not a thing happens that You do not see, O Lord Most High…

I will praise You when I'm angry, Lord....

I will praise You when I'm confused...

I will praise You when I'm scared, Lord...

I will praise You when I'm happy...

I praise You for Your goodness…

I praise You for loving me, O Lord Most High…”

I drifted off to sleep.

In the morning I got out my journal. I began writing down my dream. And then I realized something.

The weapons! “The weapons that we fight with are not the weapons of the world…” During the night God showed me two spiritual weapons I had not been using. 1) The name of Jesus. 2) Praise!

Hope flooded my heart. Instead of dwelling on the other person’s behavior, I could fix my eyes on Jesus and PRAISE HIM fiercely every time a negative, bitter thought tried to hold me captive!

Ooooh, thank You, Lord!! This girl was on the road to freedom!

I used those weapons. All of them. But especially praise. And I was even able to feel joy while talking to and dealing with this person. Because God saw me, and spoke to me, and rescued me from myself. He’s so good at that.

My favorite verse this season has been: "I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

What about you, my friend? Is there someone you can barely stand? Sometimes it is the people we are supposed to be closest to that we can feel the most bitterness towards. I know people that have struggled with resentment (even hatred) toward their spouse. Or ex. Or former best friend. Or boss. Or coworker. Or sibling. Or someone at church.

Undoubtedly, there will be times when we have to deal with people that just make us miserable. Listen up: do not let that person make you a slave to bitterness and resentment. It’s poisonous. It’s ugly. It will squeeze your chest until you can barely breathe.

Turn your eyes away from the behavior that irritates you and fix your eyes upon Jesus. When you do that, you’ll want to praise Him! He is so worthy! Pour out His praises, and release the enemy’s grip on your heart.

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