“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”-Proverbs 25:21-22
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I only want the middle section of these verses, “for you will heap burning coals on his head”. I don’t really want to be kind to them, I don’t want to help meet their needs and I’m not looking for a reward. If I’m being honest, I want them to hurt as much as they have hurt me. I had to face that very truth this morning in prayer and it dropped me.
I consider myself a kind and loving person. I spend a lot of my time on other people and meeting their needs and that’s not to get any kudos, it’s simply being who God created me to be. But this morning, as I was lying face down on the ground in prayer, my heart actually asked God to make a particular person hurt as much as they are making me hurt. I’ve never seen that side of my personality before! It was raw, unhindered and damaged.
As soon as I prayed it, it was like God looked at my heart with this lovely smile and asked, “Do you really mean that?” And truth is, yes and no. Yes, I do because I don’t believe this person has a clue how much destruction their behavior has brought. No, I don’t because I would still give this person food and drink if they needed it because in the end, I still have love in my heart and I want to see reconciliation. So while I was being fully honest about my feelings, I quickly realized that it was equally as honest to ask a blessing on them and in that blessing, a hope for restoration.
People will hurt us, there no way to live a pain-free life and no way to know by whom or when pain will come. We have to be mindful of how we react to that hurt because therein lies our challenge and our witness. We can always lash out and typically, that brings us down to a level of a child with no reasoning and basically just throwing a tantrum. In that moment, we are truly trying to inflict a pain on the other person to help knock them to where they’ve knocked us, eye for an eye. However, that’s not the response Jesus wants us to have.
In Matthew 5:39, Jesus directs us to “resist an evil person” and to turn the other cheek when we are hurt. He isn’t saying not to feel our emotions honestly. He isn’t saying to be a doormat and allow abuse to be heaped upon us at the hand of someone else. He’s simply asking us to resist engaging further into the conflict. Man, that’s hard!!! It’s hard because at its core, this mandate is asking us to show grace in anger to someone who truly doesn’t deserve it. Wait, isn’t that what God has done for us? Ouch.
1 Peter 2:23 says, “and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously”. Jesus was abused, battered and beaten and never once did He pray that the people hurting Him feel the same pain He was feeling. Instead, He pleaded for their forgiveness. You and I were the ones inflicting His pain. You and I were the reason He was on the cross, bleeding and broken, and we deserved for Him to condemn us to eternal hell and damnation and instead, He loved us to death.
Yes, right now I’m hurting because of someone else’s behavior but I have no right to add to that pain by asking God to hurt this person. For my own heart’s sake, I have to resist that temptation because it is from the pit of darkness, and I have to pray blessings on this person and hope for their salvation and then reconciliation. My praying for them turns the focus off of the temporary and puts the focus on to the eternal and there is power in that shift. I have no idea reconciliation will ever come and guess what, it doesn’t matter. By shifting to the eternal and to grace, I open the door it healing.
If you’re holding on to anger and pain because of the actions of another, will you please consider allowing grace in anger? It’s ok to be angry, it’s part of our human experience, but pour grace into that anger and see what God will do. This piece of your journey isn’t about the other person, it’s about you and your heart.
If you need a prayer partner, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org