Did you know that as believers in Jesus, we have a secret weapon for those all-too-familiar times when the chips are really down relationship-wise?
As Pastor Scott noted Sunday, we can always first utilize three tools at our disposal:
- Confront without being mean
- Ignore without becoming angry
- Get help without whining and complaining
But when we’ve exhausted those avenues and the mistreatment at work keeps going and the bullying at school doesn’t stop, we can pull out the secret weapon — and that’s outlined in 1 Peter 2:19: “For it is commendable when someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.”
We have Jesus as our example for this instruction, since he suffered for us all yet committed no sin. No retaliation. No revenge. And just like Jesus, we must turn over our sorrow and pain to the One who always judges justly rather than lashing out and attempting to take control.
We saw this truth played out in Genesis 16, didn’t we? It was a real soap opera-like drama between Abraham, Sarah, and Sarah’s Egyptian maidservant Hagar. First off Sarah — who is barren — apparently grew impatient and told Abraham that she’ll give him Hagar so she can get pregnant with his child. But rather than talking to the Lord about it, apparently Abraham forgets — again — God’s promise of countless offspring and just goes along with Sarah’s idea. And as you can imagine, all sorts of problems commence.
Hagar looked down upon Sarah and developed a bad attitude, then Sarah blamed her problems on Abraham rather than looking in the mirror, and Abraham washed his hands of the entire situation and failed to practice godly leadership. In short, Satan produced what Abraham figured was the best idea before waiting on the Lord’s best solution. Then we see in verse 6 that Sarah dealt harshly with Hagar, which resulted in Hagar running away. A huge mess!
But since God has a big heart for those who feel alone and mistreated, as usual God played his familiar role of pursuer, and an angel of the Lord found Hagar and counseled her with a rather jaw-dropping instruction: Return to Abraham and Sarah.
Hagar must have been thinking, What? Go back to the very source of my problems? To all that emotional abuse? That’s nuts! Thing is, though, God always has a plan. And when the Lord’s directions seem crazy to us, we need to trust that he has our best in mind. And in this case — and perhaps with us in various situations — God knew Hagar needed to grow and work things out in her heart and develop a better attitude toward Sarah.
As Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5, “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Think about your own life. What is God asking you to endure? And what fruit do you imagine your efforts may bring? Don’t forget the example Pastor Scott shared about him talking to a young person who was at his wits end about his annoying little brother. The kid wondered what the point was of going through all his trouble, and Scott reminded the kid that learning how to deal with his annoying little brother will one day help him when he’s older and inevitably in another situation with a person who’s difficult to get along with: Character development! And such an example isn’t just for young people. We all know that every time we face a challenge and see it through with God’s help, it’s going to come in handy the next time a challenge comes along. So, don’t shy away from difficulties — walk right into them with God as your help and guide!
Furthermore, we see in Genesis 16 that the angel of the Lord who found Hagar revealed to her that seeing things through will result in her having a son Ishmael, which literally means “the Lord hears.” And Hagar is so moved by God meeting her personally that she declares, “you are a God of seeing.” How true! In the same way, none of us should ever feel as though we’re going through life alone — even when there’s no one else visible: Because as the Lord found Hagar, he will find us. God see all of us, and he knows better than we do the problems and challenges we face — and how to get through them.
So, don’t forget your secret weapon of bearing up under difficulties and doing the right thing despite the obstacles in front of you. But while certainly God brings many things into our lives that he wants us to endure, many other things he does not want us to carry. Therefore, let us be done with them. Let us cast our cares of retaliation and revenge and anger upon the Lord, who alone can deal with them — and deal with our hearts. Let our complete focus be on God and his goodness — and let him handle those things we cannot.
And remember — as Abraham often failed to do — that the Lord doesn’t always accomplish his purposes in the timeframes we desire. But in his time God will see us, hear us, and find us. As we’ve been learning over and over again through the Lord’s message in Genesis, he wants so desperately to give us unimaginable blessings. All we need to do is trust him.