A very dear friend in our Monday morning Bible study group made some comments yesterday that turned me inside out in a productive way. My friend and I are very different – polar opposites in every way except in our love for the Lord. We often laugh about how we can be such good friends and yet be so very different. I guess opposites really do attract.
The topic of the morning focused on Philippians 4 and being content with our circumstances. Members of the group began by discussing the positives and negatives in our lives. However, like most good, in-depth discussions, ours slid this way and that as we tried our best to stay on topic.
Everyone joined in as we began to discuss the differences between joyful and broken-hearted people. My friend represented the joyful side while I took the side of the broken-hearted (not necessarily negative, just broken-hearted). Even though I facilitated our discussion, she became the teacher. She spoke of gratitude as being her motivation as she interacts with others throughout the day. She truly walks her talk. Though she has had her heart broken and gone through trials, she keeps most of them to herself and focuses on Jesus. It’s the joy of the Lord that’s become her strength. It’s that kind of joy I believe I’ve finally found.
The conversation rocked on until my heart felt that old familiar sting of conviction. I used to proudly resist that feeling. Now I welcome it because I know something wonderful always waits for me on the other end of that stinger.
We soon discovered our biggest sticking point. It drew a little good-natured venom from each of us. I hesitantly confessed that sometimes the people who always seem to have a smile on their face, no matter what’s going on, get on my last nerve. (That’s not good to admit, I know, but it’s true.) To me, it often appears they are sweeping their hurtful things under the rug and not dealing with their pain. I’ve done that and dealt with the infection it caused in my soul. I’d rather not watch the people I love go through that when it could all be prevented. So, with the best of intentions, I’ve tried to pull things out of friends entirely too soon, and that’s so not fair!
That confession encouraged my friend to admit that she perceives a judgmental attitude from some people. One that causes her to feel as though they are judging her as being two-faced or counterfeit, and that makes her very angry. While we’ve never experienced that kind of tug-of-war between us, we’ve both battled other people on similar ground.
That led to more questions in my mind as I travel my new path of peace and joy. How do we give God all the credit for our triumphs if we don’t talk about our tragedies? Do we want the tragedy or the triumph to define us? What do we want others to see when they look at us?
Here are a few of my take-aways from our group discussion. Try a few of them on for size and see if they work for you. If not, toss them out.
- Be willing to share your stories with someone who might benefit most from hearing them.
- Remember, good things are usually born out of pain, but nobody likes to hear about that same pain over and over and over. Amen?
- Mentally return to your hurtful moments to meet Jesus there. Take note of every second you saw Him working in you or through someone else. Whether you realized it or not at the time, He was there!
- Praise God for all He has done, is doing, and will do!
- Focus on the people God has placed right in front of you. Find new ways to love and support them.
- Thank the people who love you well.
- Let people love you.
- Spend time with those who are in the healing process – even if you think they are judging you. Chances are they aren’t judging you, they’re trying to find out how to get what you have. Sometimes they squeeze you just to see what you have inside.
- Encourage everyone as often as possible by speaking life!
- Give everyone the benefit of the doubt until all doubt has been erased.
- Take it easy on friends who can’t or won’t open up. Your job is to simply love them.
- Spend time praising Jesus.
- Spend time thanking Jesus.
- Spend time singing to Jesus.
- Love God, love others!
“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”Philippians 4:4-7, The Message