Mike has suffered more in gossip and mistrust than anyone I know. He has lost his ministry, started another, nearly lost this one. Sure, Mike has his personality quirks and problems like all of us; but he had not fallen into sexual sin, stolen money or done grave misgivings. Yet he had lost friends, family, associates, his life savings and his reputation over a process of five years.
I’ve expected any day to hear that he has decided that it’s too hard; and he has gone completely into the secular world to gain back “what the church locust hath eaten.” But I receive his church email twice a week and I marvel. There is no hint of reprisal or resentment. Mike has never lashed back or sought revenge. In fact, he has paid off debts that he did not owe while others have profited in the millions from his hard work.
If the story sounds familiar or even much like what you have lived through, welcome to the real world of hard spiritual growth. I am convinced that God is not the author of this kind of hardship. Nevertheless, He is the redeemer of vindication. I’ve seen so many others travel down this highway. The circumstances are always different but God’s vindication is the same.
I, first, saw my mother pick up her bruised reputation and walk sorrowfully down this road. I asked her one day how she could take the hurts and lies thrown at her and not retaliate. “Honey,” she said, sadly, “when you’ve had as much said about you as I have, you’ll learn that reprisal does no good. God takes care of me and my reputation. I don’t have to do it.”
Much later, I had to pack my scarred bags and do some traveling down that road of Bruisingandhurt Boulevard. It was not easy; but I learned the hard way that God brings vindication. As leaders, there will be times that even those you hold close to your hearts will turn and walk away. There are principles that work in circumstances like this.
- As much as possible, keep your heart pure before God.
- While there is some dispute about how forgiveness works and I don’t understand it all. As an act of my will, I repeatedly forgave those who had wounded me.
- Cast away the hurt and resentment. I mean physically pick up that pile of junk and toss it away from you.
- Ask God to bless those who despitefully use you.
- Look for opportunities to be gracious and kind to those who have hurt you.
- But give it time. Time will heal the wounds that are so raw now.
- Learn to wait on God. His timetable is almost always a lot slower than ours.
As David left Jerusalem fleeing because of the rebellion of Absolom, there was a relative of Saul who cursed and jeered at him. David would not let his men punish this man in any way. David had been wrong and he was suffering the consequences of his sin. Yet, the jeers of Saul’s relative had not been part of what God had promised as judgement. Even so, David took his unjust slander.
Vindication will come. However, even more redeeming is the process. God will teach us valuable lessons. And it seems we can only learn them walking down that hard road of misunderstanding and abuse. Is that road too hard for you at this time? Remember God’s love never fails even when we do and all those around us that we trust forsake us. What are some of the things you have learned during hard times of misunderstanding?