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Yesterday I found myself getting agitated by a situation I have no control over and it’s been going on for a very, very, very long time now (over seven years). What that essentially means is that I can’t do anything about it no matter how hard I’ve tried (and believe me when I say I have tried very, very, very hard for a very long time). And therein lies the problem. It is not a problem I can solve on my own as I didn’t start it in the first place–others did; and it does not just involve me. It involves those others, too. The details of my situation are not important for the purposes of this blog post. The lesson from it is what counts.
If you find yourself in a similar situation that you have no control over and you get agitated over it more times then you care to count but can’t do anything about it on your own, you know the feeling. And it is not an uncommon dilemma in which to find ourselves in today, either (and I’m not talking about my particular dilemma but situations that come into our lives that are out of our control to change).
In the midst of my agitation yesterday a couple of verses kept running over and over again in my mind. Those two verses are found in Psalm 37:7-8. Here are several versions of those two verses:
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil. (NIV)
Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him;
do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way,
by the man who carries out evil plans.
Refrain from anger and give up your rage;
do not be agitated—it can only bring harm. (HCSB)
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
do not fret—it only causes harm. (NKJV)
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. (ESV)
Quiet down before God,
be prayerful before him.
Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder,
who elbow their way to the top.
Don’t fret, don’t worry, don’t be agitated, cease from anger, and forsake wrath–it only leads to harm.
Yesterday, I read a billboard in plain sight while driving on a major interstate (I-4 near Orlando) in massive traffic that states in very large letters Jesus‘ words found Matthew 5:44 (also found in Luke 6:27-28):
Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
Those words are well known words that most people are aware of but rarely follow. Just turn on the TV and watch the media circus going on in this election year here in America as an example. That we all “want what we want when we want it” is not an uncommon theme today from coast-to-coast, and we don’t seem to mind bashing or destroying others in the process if it will get us what we want. Even the advertising on TV is often touting “It’s all about YOU” in their marketing schemes–most likely because it works. We often think about our own comfort first and foremost over the comfort of others.
Now before I go any further, I was not agitated when I woke up yesterday morning. In fact, I had not even planned to do what I ended up doing, but due to my current housing situation of living in hotels (which I have discussed previously and it has not yet been resolved), I felt the need to “do” something in order to try to change it (although I have done everything I can possibly think of to do to try to change my housing situation since I first found myself living in hotels back in the fall of 2014 when I went to Houston for three months).
I pay for my hotel rooms on a weekly basis, and at this particular hotel every Thursday morning I pay for another week in order to have a roof over my head. And, I always hope that this will be the week that I will finally figure out how to find more permanent and affordable housing and can leave hotel living far behind me. Since Thursday was only two days away as of yesterday morning when I woke up (and hence, I will have to pay yet another $285/week to keep that roof over my head once again tomorrow–Thursday–morning), I felt the need to try and DO something again before another Thursday morning showed up (although it hasn’t worked for months now but I’ve never been one to give up either).
So I did . . .
. . . and ended up with the same result I’ve had to endure for the past year and a half since I’ve been forced to live in hotels. And that is when the agitation set in. By the time I went to bed last night I could have beat the pillow to a pulp that is not mine on the bed that I don’t own in a room that costs way too much on a weekly basis to be forced to live in for so very long now. However, I don’t even beat pillows (mine or others) when I’m agitated; although, you can, perhaps, understand my frustration. Actually, maybe it doesn’t matter when I turn on the TV and see a billionaire verbally beating up on a millionaire (and vice versa) for the highest office in the America. That is not meant to be a disparaging comment about either candidate, but rather a sign of the times that we are living in today. However, it does makes one wonder what our priorities are here in America. There is a lot of division going on in America right now; almost more so, it seems, then back in the tumultuous 1960’s.
In three Gospel accounts, Jesus clearly stated that “a house (and kingdom) divided against itself cannot stand.” Whether it’s confined to family, friends, and assorted others fighting among themselves for whatever the reason (money is often a big reason), or a nation tearing itself apart at the seams, the end result is still the same . . . destruction. Here is what GotQuestions.org has to say on the subject:
There are three accounts in the Gospels in which Jesus states that a kingdom divided against itself is laid waste or a house divided cannot stand (Luke 11:17; Mark 3:25; Matthew 12:25). All three instances of this statement are spoken in response to the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Satan—a blasphemy that Jesus said would not be forgiven them.
Jesus’ argument to the Pharisees was logical: a kingdom that is at cross-purposes with itself will fall. Any household driven by infighting will tear itself apart. Jesus was obviously casting demons out of people. If Jesus was in league with Satan, or if Satan was somehow working through Jesus, it is unlikely that exorcisms would be a priority, because why would Satan cast himself out? Satan has more practical wisdom than to allow his demonic underlings to group themselves into warring factions.
By saying that a house divided cannot stand, Jesus is illustrating the fact that success relies on congruency. This is something we see in daily life all the time. Whether it is a machine, a sports team, a government party, or one’s own mind, things have to work together if anything is to be accomplished. The Bible says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8), and Paul appeals to the churches that there be no divisions among the believers (1 Corinthians 1:10). In fact, churches should be unified in their purpose and judgment, avoiding people who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to sound doctrine (Romans 16:17). Christians are not to quarrel but to be unified around a common understanding of truth. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
God commands unity among believers because once conflict enters the midst of any assembly or entity, productivity and usefulness inevitably grind to a halt and the whole organization is weakened and becomes vulnerable to attack. As Jesus said, “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.”
A fruit of the Spirit is peace (Galatians 5:22). Christians are, as followers of the Prince of Peace, peaceful people (Matthew 5:9). We are called to live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16) and, as far as it depends on us, to be at peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14). Jesus Christ is building His church (Matthew 16:18). His “house” will stand; “his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end” (Daniel 6:26). (Quote source here.)
“Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.” We are called to live in harmony with one another, and as far as it depends on us, to be at peace with everyone. Personally, I don’t see that happening very much in our nation today or even among Christians regarding those they consider to be “the enemy.” Our real enemy is clearly stated in Ephesians 6:10-18 and my last blog post, “Penetrating the Darkness,” gives the details.
We live in a time now where lying has become second nature, especially if the person or people we are lying to don’t mean anything to us personally and/or lying to them is to our own benefit (or will line our own pockets). And too often it doesn’t seem to matter if the people doing the lying consider themselves to be Christian or not. It seems that any excuse will do if it will benefit us. And people can pretend to be “oh so helpful” when they are not (and it is intentional on their part to not be helpful, too). We live in deceptive times, but then they have always been with us.
James 4 addresses the core of the problem:
Pride Promotes Strife
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
Humility Cures Worldliness
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands,you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
Do Not Judge a Brother (or Sister)
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?
Do Not Boast About Tomorrow
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (NKJV)
At this point, I think I’ve written enough for now. At least give it some honest thought. . . .
Either we care, or we don’t care . . .
And both are very obvious . . .
To others . . . .
YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:
I’ve been weeding through several boxes of books this afternoon that I have stored under the stairway leading out of my apartment as I’ve managed to accumulate, once again in my life, too many books (it’s my only fetish–see definition #2–at least that I am aware of). They are weighing me down in more ways than one and it’s time to lighten the load (also in more ways than one).
While tossing them into three different piles (those to keep, those to get rid of, and those I’m not sure of yet), one book really caught my eye, and when I felt the need for a break, I brought it back upstairs (where it is considerably cooler then the stairwell area) and started reading it. Let’s just say there is not a person in the world who couldn’t relate to the topic which is a universal problem–overcoming betrayal and dealing with revenge.
Intrigued? I found the book on a discount table for only $3.97 last fall (and didn’t read it back then). You’ll recognize the author’s name right away–Dr. Laura Schlessinger (e.g., “Dr. Laura”). The title of the book caught my eye and the price made it hard to resist. It’s titled, “Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land)” (2011).
There is no better way to describe an initial and sudden betrayal then a shark attack. It’s brutal and it rips apart the life of the betrayed. At this point I want to quote several paragraphs from Dr. Laura’s book on pages 17-20 which describes the cast of characters in all betrayals (the betrayed, the betrayer, and the “others”):
No matter what type of person you are, there are really bad people out there who are ready to disrupt your world and well-being to a magnitude you never imagined. If you don’t know or believe that, you are dangerously naïve. If you believe that all the people out there are bad, you are dangerously paranoid. In between those two extremes is the truth of the sad nature of human beings with which we must all contend: betrayals are commonplace.
Betrayals are a breach of trust to a code or a person, including acts of dishonesty, lying, cheating, or stealing, double-crossing, deception, gossiping, duplicity, unfaithfulness, treason, leading astray, undermining, selling out . . . to name only a few faces of betrayal.
Every single human being on the face of the earth has been betrayed, back-stabbed, undermined, screwed over, or had their reputation attacked at least once in their lives. It’s a horrible experience, leaving you stunned, scared, sad, and very, very angry; and sometimes you become so cynical that it changes fundamental ways you think and react to people for a long, long time . . . .
When you are attacked, the first reaction is shock and disbelief. Next you try to shut down what is happening. When that doesn’t work, you strike back–which usually makes the situation worse. After a while you turn to others for solace, emotional support, and assistance in getting the betrayer to back off.
You probably found that most people were sympathetic at first, and then they didn’t want to hear about it anymore. You also probably found that not too many people would step up to the plate and speak up for you. Why? Because they don’t want a bull’s-eye pasted onto their backs next. People who betray are very powerful because “good people” are more than willing to stand by and do nothing to avoid discomfort in their own lives.
That means that adding insult (no valiant supporters rushing to your side) to injury (the betrayal) becomes your personal reality. Expecting rallying support from people becomes a huge disappointment added on to the original betrayal. In fact, the whole battalion taking a step back when you ask for volunteers to help you fight your battle can be a more devastating experience than the original betrayal. You end up being not only victimized but abandoned to fight your fight alone. It makes you wonder what friends are for. It makes you also doubt the legal and social systems that appear to lean way over backward to protect the perps (perpetrators).”
“People who betray are very powerful because ‘good people’ are more than willing to stand by and do nothing to avoid discomfort in their own lives . . .” Dr. Laura goes on to describe one of her own personal stories of betrayal and how a friend, who was among the betrayers but not one of them when the verbal attack took place, just stood in silence and said nothing in her defense. Nothing at all. And he didn’t even offer any support the next day after it happened, either. He remained silent.
Dr. Laura states these “stand by” folks will try (if they try at all) to defend their inaction by minimizing the betrayal. But she adds a big “however” to the equation when she states:
You [the betrayed] are usually wise enough–especially after a night of sleeping on it–to know the difference between a glitch in communication and a frank betrayal of your trust, faith, privacy, truth, status, reputation, relationship, and so forth (p. 23).
She goes on to state on the same page regarding folks who betray others that it is the “everyday” people (and not just sociopaths) that should worry us the most as they are capable of hurting us in the most extraordinary ways. She states the following:
It is the everyday people, in service to their own egos, social status, financial opportunities, envy, and petty meanness, you have to worry about the most, as they are likely to pop up from the most unlikely places: school, church, family, neighborhood, circle of friends, work . . . anywhere you interact with people.
Do these people know that they are “bad” or have done something “bad”? I talk to people every day who have performed the most egregious acts of hurt and betrayal, yet deny that their behaviors weren’t righteous. Righteous! They try to give examples of what was done to them (usually innocuous) and convince me that their actions were necessary or justified. These “everyday” folks often just don’t think about the humanity of their victims at all, and in fact would deny that their targets even are victims” (pp. 23-24).
There is not a person on the planet who hasn’t hurt someone by actions or attitudes and who felt justified in doing so or denied that it was done with any intent to hurt or inflict harm on that person. We are all guilty of that, folks. And while sociopaths absolutely don’t care what anyone else thinks and they like inflicting pain on others, “everyday” folks will justify their actions of betrayal or deny them to the nth degree. And when “everyday” people keep silence in the midst of the betrayal being done to others to protect themselves or keep out of the line of fire, it is just as Edmund Burke stated, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (quote source here). Silence is not golden.
While I haven’t read the rest of the book yet (and just in case you’re wondering), Dr. Laura never, ever encourages revenge. She does deal with the topic in a couple of chapters. Also, from a Biblical perspective, the apostle Paul states in Romans 12:17-21:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
My long term unemployment started from an act of betrayal that just keeps on giving after four plus years and sometimes my anger and frustration comes out (well, I spit and cuss in the confines of my apartment). But the truth is, all the spitting and cussing hasn’t changed my situation one bit. And yes, I pray daily about it (the entire situation). But this past week I ran across a portion of Scripture that really gave me pause for thought, and if you find yourself in a situation right now that seems insurmountable (like I do), maybe it will give you some encouragement, too. It’s found in I Peter 4:12-19:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
This long term trial with unemployment has been one of the hardest and is the longest trial I have ever had to endure, and after four plus years with no light at the end of the tunnel, it’s hard to understand why the Lord hasn’t allowed me to find employment yet or at least to be able to move on with my life. It’s in times like these that I have to remember that we don’t get to see or understand what is going on in the “big picture” of our circumstances except what we go through personally on a daily basis. And the big picture really is much bigger than just “us,” and it always is.
So as Peter advises in 1 Peter 5:6-11:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
And that is very good news . . . .
YouTube video: “He’s Got It All In Control” sung by Shirley Caesar and Joe Ligon: