(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 3)
Life has its ups but it also has its downs. One day you are at the pinnacle of what people call success, the next, you are down in the dumps. There are times that life will usher us up on a mountain and at other times, shove us down in a valley. Some days we will find that there is glorious sunshine but on other days when we look up at the sky of our circumstance, there will be nothing but dark, uninviting clouds, full of thunder showers to come.
The thing with human nature is that people tend to gravitate toward you on your good days but are very scarce and unavailable when you are down and really need a helping hand. In your worst moments, you may find that, although that is the time that you need a whole lot of emotional support and love, you are instead, forsaken, misunderstood, unduly criticized and left to deal with your problem by yourself.
In essence, some of the worst things you will go through in this life, you will go through alone. You will hurt alone.
This is not how it is supposed to be, especially if you are a Christian but there are times when even those closest to you will give you no words of much needed encouragement, no warm embrace and instead, scoff at you and treat you as if you have been cast off forever by God for some sin that they have imagined or for which you have repented. Some treat you like an outcast, while others regard you indifferently, as if your issues do not even exist. This makes what you are going through all the more difficult, as you may tend to feel like you are fighting life’s greatest battles on your own.
How do we treat with such situations when we find ourselves in them?
Well, for starters, we must guard our hearts against becoming bitter when we feel like our friends and even family members have deserted us and left us to fend emotionally for ourselves in our situation. We must still be determined to love them and understand that there will always be times in most of our lives, where no one but God will understand our vision, our hurt, our journey, our reason for doing things, our trouble, our sadness, what we are going through, how badly we feel and what God is doing in our lives.
When people don’t understand why you’re going through what you’re going through, they tend to either become highly critical without any facts or desert you, leaving you to deal with your issues by yourself.
What we must remember though is that when men fail, (as they will on many occasions), God is still faithful. When men desert us and avoid our cries for emotional support, love and attention, God stays with those who are his children, for he has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). In this regard, he is such a good friend that, even on our darkest, most forlorn days, he sticks closer than a brother.
The pain of emotional neglect, lack of support and abandonment that you may feel in whatever storm you may be going through is not unlike what some men of God went through in the Bible. If you are a child of God therefore and are submitted to the Lordship of Christ, you are in good company.
They too, although they had been supportive and loving of others in their trouble, had moments of vulnerability in life where they were down and out, hurting, abandoned, misunderstood, emotionally neglected and left to bear whatever they had to bear by themselves.
It was extremely painful to them but because they had relationship with the true and living God, he gave them strength to endure. When all else failed and people let them down, they held on to the Lord, who they knew to be a present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). He preserved them through the worst, they made it through and now we benefit from their testimonies.
By God’s grace, you and I can do the same.
Let us examine some of these men in the Bible and what they went through.
After Saul had an encounter with the glorified Jesus on his way to Damascus, he believed on him and his name was changed to Paul. He then devoted his life to serve the Lord faithfully, in the spreading of the gospel of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ alone. He was also invested in edifying, building up, encouraging and rebuking fellow believers in the things of the Lord, whenever he saw the need.
Yet, despite how hard he worked for God’s Kingdom, he did encounter difficulties in life, had moments when people opposed him despite the good that he was doing for the Lord and times when everyone forsook him, although he faced serious dangers.
Yet, while deserted at times by others and left to fend emotionally for himself, he drew from the strength of the Lord and despite the pain of abandonment he felt in his difficult time, he did not become bitter against those who forsook him but prayed that God would not hold it against them.
In 2 Timothy 4:16-17, Paul states:
- “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
In my own life, I have been through situations where I felt the same as what Paul wrote. For example, there was that time some years ago, when I felt the need to give up a job and a stable source of income, which most people, even those closest to me, did not understand and were not supportive of.
Yet, I knew that God knew why I was doing it and that I was standing for what was right in his sight (not man’s) and without compromise. I moved painfully forward into the uncertain wilderness, alone, knowing that God knew the whole story and my motives, that he was enough to get me through anything and that he would preserve me, even in the face of unjust criticism, abandonment and ridicule from some.
People spoke evil of me and even concluded that I did not want to work but yet, my God knew all the facts of my story and held my hand during that period of awful drought. When he was ready, he opened another door for me and preserved me.
Years later, I still have not regretted my decision to leave that job and was at peace in my Lord when I heard over the national news, that the main person that caused me to leave back then, had been assassinated by some unknown assailants. To date, nobody seems to know the identity of the persons that committed that heinous crime and for what reason.
However, I looked on at the news stories which were endless and was so grateful to the Lord, that I left my job when I did. It wasn’t easy and I suffered financial hardship for months and months but God kept me and strengthened me and today, I have survived to tell my story. I shudder to think what may have befallen me, had I held on to that job and a steady income, as if that was my source and not God. Walking away had been the right thing to do, despite the fact that I did not receive support during my difficult season.
Job was a perfect and upright man in the sight of God, who feared him and hated evil. He was quite wealthy, had sons and daughters and servants, yet he did not allow this good fortune to go to his head but kept humble.
God in his sovereignty though, decided to allow the hedge of protection he had around him, to be removed by the devil, so as to show that Job was not serving him simply because of all the earthly blessings he had received but because he was God.
The devil then attacked Job and chose to do most of the damage all at the same time, so as to compound his grief, in the hope that he would curse God. He killed all of his children and took all of his riches around the same time, yet, when Job got this horrible news, he still worshiped God in the midst of his pain and grief.
Then, the devil went further with God’s permission and took his health, causing him to sit among the ashes and scrape himself with a potsherd (Job 2:8).
When Job thought that things could not possibly get any worse, his wife gave him bad advice which he promptly ignored and then three of his friends came to visit him, which at first, seemed like a show of support.
However, as is typical human nature when even those closest to you don’t understand why you’re going through what you’re going through, these friends who ought to have known of Job’s character and integrity throughout the years, manufactured reasons for why he was suffering, jumped to conclusions judgmentally and accused him of sinning against God. They decided, although God never told them the reason for Job’s sufferings, that he was being punished by God for his many evils and wrongs and they accused him of things that Job knew that he was not guilty of. They had no proof of any wrong doing on Job’ s part but yet, their tongues wagged on.
In his pain, both physical and emotional and at his lowest moments, these friends were there in person but distant from him in terms of rendering him the encouragement he badly needed. He wanted them to understand how he felt, as he too was confused as to why all that had happened in his life had happened. He wanted them to comfort him with loving words of support and encouragement, yet, every critical word hit him like a fresh dagger in his heart.
He therefore described them as ‘miserable comforters’. When he thought that he could not feel any worse, these friends came and made everything worse. It was better that they had not come, than to have come and spent their time criticizing him with untruths that the devil had planted in their minds, to make his suffering all the more grievous.
At one point, after they had pounded him with their cold and harsh words, the Bible states in Job 16:1-8:
- “Then Job answered and said, I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all. Shall vain words have an end? or what emboldeneth thee that thou answerest? I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul’s stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you. But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should asswage your grief. Though I speak, my grief is not asswaged: and though I forbear, what am I eased? But now he hath made me weary: thou hast made desolate all my company. And thou hast filled me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me: and my leanness rising up in me beareth witness to my face.”
Despite Job’s words and that this was clearly a man in deep grief, his friends proceeded with their callous tirade and without any proof that Job had done wrong. This caused Job, in the anguish of his soul and suffering to state to them in Job 19:2-23:
- “How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words? These ten times have ye reproached me: ye are not ashamed that ye make yourselves strange to me. And be it indeed that I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself. If indeed ye will magnify yourselves against me, and plead against me my reproach: Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net. Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment. He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths. He hath stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head. He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and mine hope hath he removed like a tree. He hath also kindled his wrath against me, and he counteth me unto him as one of his enemies. His troops come together, and raise up their way against me, and encamp round about my tabernacle. He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight. I called my servant, and he gave me no answer; I intreated him with my mouth. My breath is strange to my wife, though I intreated for the children’s sake of mine own body. Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me. All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me. My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth. Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me. Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh? Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!”
Although I cannot say that I have been perfect in this life and never displeased God, I know what it is to be vexed in your soul when people jump to conclusions and assume the worst of you, when you face trials and storms and for prolonged periods and they do not understand why. I too have experienced the desertion of friends, acquaintances and even some family members, while going through the fiercest of storms.
Often times when you are going through what you are going through, you yourself do not understand why or at times you realize that you are being chastened by a God that loves you, for your disobedience in some area. Yet, the things that people accuse you of are so false, you know it must have been motivated by the devil.
For example, you know that God has kept a detailed record of how you have fought throughout the years to hold on without wavering, to your integrity and without compromise in the field that you work, even if you had to walk away from job opportunities. You know how God preserved you and how mightily he worked on your behalf throughout those years and fought against your enemies for you, as you held on to what was right in his sight, even if you had to do so alone.
Yet, having gone through all of that by his grace alone, you hear lying, malicious and critical voices commissioned by the enemy and operating through people and even some family members, to the effect that you must have compromised or engaged in dishonest practices or that because you chose a particular field of work (after seeking guidance from the onset from God, mind you and him opening the door in supernatural ways and provision), that you are dishonest or did so for financial gain.
Yet, you know that God is your vindicator. You remember how mightily he fought for you throughout all those years, causing even some in high office to lose their jobs after you prayed and you know that he will not allow people to continue in their lies against you indefinitely. He is your judge and every false word they speak against you, he will deal with in his own time and in his own way. You know in your heart, that you have held on to your integrity and all who insist otherwise, God will deal with them, for your record speaks for itself and they cannot change it.
In Job’s situation, despite all that he was going through alone and the ill that his friends spoke against him and his character, he put his trust in God’s purpose for his life, although he did not understand at the time what it was and wanted answers during the process. In Job 23:10, knowing that, contrary to what his friends accused him of, he had not let go of his integrity all those years and that God knew this truth, he declared in his suffering:
- “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.”
In Job’s situation, when God was good and ready and the miserable, lying comforters had said enough, he intervened and turned Job’s situation around. He gave him more riches than he had had initially and more children, his daughters being the most beautiful in all the land.
He also rebuked Job’s friends for all of their unjust and lying criticism against him which they had done without any facts and he told Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends, that Job would need to pray for them, as his wrath was kindled against them and he (God) might deal with them after their folly.
In Job 42:7-10, it reads:
- “…the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the Lord commanded them: the Lord also accepted Job. And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
As is typical human nature, people and even family members who were once close to Job or appeared to be close to him, had abandoned him during his season of suffering and only returned, it seemed, when God turned things around in his life and there was glorious sunshine again.
Unlike the Lord who stays with his children through thick and thin, people are fickle and many will only come around when things are looking up for you in life. When you are down and lonely and hurting and tired and confused and afraid and depressed and weak and emotionally distraught, they are no where to be found.
Yet, the story of Job closes on a note where it appears that Job has forgiven. He has prayed for his miserable comforter friends and he sits down again to eat bread and socialize with his brethren and former acquaintances.
The Bible states in verse 11:
- “Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him…”
As bad as people treat us in our down seasons therefore (and I can attest from my own experiences that they can be really vicious with their tongues), we must forgive them, pray that God will have mercy on them (especially when we know that their criticism is unjust and totally based on lies) and we must live peaceably with them without holding on to any ill-will, both during our storms and once God delivers us from our season of pain and suffering.
Joseph in Egypt is another example of this. His brothers put him through hell, sold him off as a slave to a stranger and abandoned him, yet, God was with him throughout his journey and he held on to his integrity. When he was delivered from all of the hardships and adversities he went through, he chose not to hold on to bitterness, although he was at one point, moved to tears. He forgave his family members and spoke peaceably to them, not having any desire to take vengeance on them when God delivered him from all that he had gone through and promoted him as second in command over all of Egypt.
David was anointed by Samuel the Prophet to be king of Israel, in the room of Saul. However, his ascent to the throne did not take place immediately after the anointing. He went through much suffering before that day, even with king Saul hotly pursuing after him to kill him.
There were times in David’s life experience, although he is described in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13;22), that he was betrayed by those close to him, ridiculed, criticized and deserted. Yet, in those painful moments, David always turned to God, instead of wallowing in continual self-pity and rejection. He poured out his heart to him and this is why we have so many Psalms today.
In Psalm 55:3-14 for example, while going through a down moment in his life, David speaks to the Lord of an incident where he was evil spoken of, not by those that he knew hated him but by those who were once close to him and were supposed to be emotionally supportive of him in his adverse situation.
The words he uses in the Psalm, underscores the extent of the pain and betrayal we feel, when family members and those who are supposed to be our friends, turn their backs on us when we need their emotional, psychological and prayerful support the most and in essence, position themselves as our enemies in our plight.
- “Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication. Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise; Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me. My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city. Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it. Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets. For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.”
On another occasion, while David and his men were away, the Amalekites came and kidnapped their wives, children and took everything they had at Ziklag.
The men with David were so distraught, that, given that he was their leader and despite the fact that he too was hurting because his family had also been abducted, they placed the blame on him for his leadership and even spoke of stoning him to death, in their anger and grief.
The Bible states that they wept and so did David and it must have hurt him even more, given that they blamed him for their mishap. At a time when they should have banded together to comfort each other, they ostracized David, it seemed, as they wanted someone to blame.
This made David all the more distressed, as pain is intensified when it is borne alone, when people point fingers in your direction and blame you for whatever negativity has transpired.
David received no emotional support from anyone and went through his pain alone. The situation was not his fault. He had not known that it would have happened and could not have possibly predicted it. He was already dealing with the grief of losing his own family and perhaps the regret that he wasn’t there to prevent the destruction and abduction but at that moment when he was most vulnerable, his men blamed his leadership.
Yet because he knew God, David did not stay in the dumps with depression. He mustered up the strength and prayed to God, asking him what course of action to take.
The Bible states in 1 Samuel 30:
- “And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire; And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way. So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.”
In obedience to God’s command and with God’s help I am sure, David was able to persuade and mobilize the same men to go with him. They pursued the Amalekites and with God’s help, all of the people who had been kidnapped and items that had been taken were recovered.
After this victory, nothing is heard or mentioned of any bitterness that David harboured against the men who did not initially support him. Like with Job, Joseph and Paul, he forgave them for the time when they deserted him and turned their backs on him.
Jesus the Son of God, also experienced a lack of support by those closest to him, during one of the lowest, most difficult moments of his life.
He had come to earth on a mission, to do the will of his Father and he was intent on fulfilling it. However, this involved giving his life into the hands of evil men and allowing them to crucify him, so that his blood could be shed as an atonement or pardon, for the sins of all men.
This was God’s requirement for the reconciliation of sinful men and women to himself and Jesus came to earth willingly as a baby, to fulfill it.
Yet, as the time of his crucifixion drew near, Jesus went through a painfully sad and lonely period of time and wished that he did not have to go to the cross. He therefore prayed to the Father to change the plan if it was possible but yet he concluded that he wanted his Father’s will, whatever that was above his. If it meant he had to go to the cross, he would go and he did.
Yet, although he had gone through such inner turmoil in Gethsemane and wanted the three disciples he brought along at a distance to watch with him, support him and to share in the grief that he felt for the awful suffering he knew he was about to go through, each time he returned from praying to God, he found them sleeping.
After all, they were not the ones about to be crucified for the sins of the whole world and their sleep, in my view, underscored the fact that this burden was one that Jesus would have to painfully bear alone.
In Matthew 26:36-45, it states:
- “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”
To make matters worse, after Jesus had been taken captive voluntarily by his enemies, Peter, who had previously informed the Lord that he would never be offended because of him and would not deny him even if it meant he had to face death, chickened out and denied that he knew him, when he was confronted and identified on three occasions, as one of the men that had been around Jesus.
Jesus was seemingly in trouble and he (Peter) did not want to jeopardize his own safety by admitting to having been with him. He therefore chose to lie as a way of escape and three times, leaving Jesus to bear all that he was going through and about to go through, by himself.
Thankfully though, he repented of this dastardly act of cowardice and Jesus forgave him and appeared to him in his glorified body, after he rose from the dead. He asked him on three occasions if he loved him and after Peter said yes, he gave him the same command, to feed his sheep.
Having been forgiven and empowered by the Holy Spirit from on high, Peter then went on to do mighty things for God’s Kingdom, not putting the preservation of his life above the need to spread the gospel.
From the above examples, we are reminded of the following:
- People tend to disappoint us and desert us emotionally when we are down in the dumps or going through adversity;
- We ought not to get bitter against them but should continue to love and forgive them for how they may have mistreated us or spoken evil against us during our difficult season;
- Unlike humans who are fickle, God is always there for us to cry out to in our pit experiences. He gives strength to go on and once we have relationship with him, he will help us endure whatever we have to go through, even if it is a path that we have to trod alone.
- When we go through what we go through with the correct attitude, when we look to God for guidance and draw from his strength (and not man’s), he gets the glory out of our lives and can use our story as a testimony to others.
On another note, in 2015 or thereabout, while going through one of the lowest, darkest and most sterile moments in my life (all within God’s awesome sovereignty and control), I wrote some memoirs in the valley, in response to all of the ridicule, badmouthing, criticism and lies that were spoken about my situation, by some of those around me.
Instead of providing the emotional support and love I needed, they decided to allow the devil to use them mightily, to showcase the worst of their fleshly natures by using my situation (unemployment), as an excuse to cut me down and attack the field of study I had humbly pursued and completed with God’s help. Interestingly, I had never once told them that I had studied this area but they had obviously found out through gossip and the grapevine.
On the whole, they made fun of the situation that God, who never lost control, saw it fit for me to go through and although they thought that he had deserted me, his hand was still upon me, during that season.
What they did not understand and maybe still don’t to date was that that valley experience was a necessary chapter in the beautiful story that God was crafting for me. He never intended me to stay on that page but that page needed to be written!
Such persons know who they are and God knows them by name as well. I rest confident in the fact therefore, that he heard everything that was said, even when I was not within earshot and he has all the facts, the good, the bad and the ugly.
I have learned that I need to perfect the art that Jesus demonstrated when he was here on earth. The Bible states in 1 Peter 2:23, that: “…when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”
I have since quietly forgiven those persons who positioned themselves as my enemy during that difficult season, as God expects this of me and I too have spoken badly of persons in the past. I therefore committed them into the hands of almighty God and my only hope is that they don’t make the same mistake again.
(Written on 09th November, 2018)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article useful, edifying or interesting, then you may also be interested in reading the following under the ‘BROKEN Daughters of God’ Page:
- Note 9 – ‘When Family Disappoints’