My husband has traveled for work for many of our 20 years of marriage. I was feeling especially discouraged a few weeks ago and was recalling how often I have had to function as a “single” parent. And then my Voice of the Martyrs magazine came in the mail. Some Christians around the world are mistreated, thrown in jail, physically abused, and sometimes even killed simply because they worship Jesus. They may go for years without seeing their families. I read about wives whose husbands have been imprisoned because of their faith. These women are left alone to raise the children, work the fields, and try to make sure there is enough food to scrape by each day.
My pity party was over. I have nothing to complain about. I prayed Hebrew 13:3, that I would remember those in prison as if I were their fellow prisoner, and those who are mistreated as if I myself were suffering.
Shortly after this time, I learned that someone I thought of as a friend had spoken things about me which were untrue, and it happened when I was not present. I was upset and began to think of how I could explain myself and set things straight. I wanted to justify my position and make sure my convictions were understood.
Soon afterward, I found myself in a situation in which my feelings were really hurt. It may have been a simple misunderstanding, but the pain was very real. I found myself once again wondering how I could lovingly point out an oversight that had caused me much distress.
About this time, I came across a quote from St. Augustine. He once prayed, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.” Interesting. I had to think about that. Is that what I was wanting to do in each of these instances? I didn't feel angry or bitter, and I had forgiven, but there was something I couldn't seem to let go.
Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Was this desire to vindicate myself a form of looking for man's approval? If I am clearly following the Word of God in my actions, then I should not care about anyone's approval but God's. Oh, but that is hard.
Jesus didn't vindicate Himself. He was betrayed and denied by close friends. And when wrongly accused in front of the high priest, Jesus remained silent. Could I follow His example?
Once again my thoughts turned to my persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. They are forgotten and discouraged. They are turned in to the authorities by neighbors and friends. Family members turn against each other. But through it all, they remain steadfast and devoted to the Lord. They live out 1 Thessalonians 2:4, “We are not trying to please men but God, who tests the heart.”
Did you see that? God tests the heart. I had prayed Hebrews 13:3 just a few weeks earlier, and here I was crumbling under circumstances nowhere near the magnitude of persecuted believers. Will I live to bring glory to God as they do, no matter what, even if I am misunderstood or in pain emotionally? Even if my husband is often in a different state while I am home with the kids? Will I rejoice in the Lord even when my feelings have been crushed?
The Lord has given me peace about both situations without me saying a word to the people involved. Lesson learned, test passed. I am human and I know I will feel let down again. I guarantee my feelings will get hurt and there will be misunderstandings. But it is God's approval I am seeking, not man's. My job is to forgive and move on. If I am being obedient to the Lord and desiring to please Him alone, there is no need to vindicate myself.
Lisa Jisa and her family have been residents of Ahwatukee Foothills since 2000. She can be reached at email@example.com.