But I do understand how folks suffering extraordinary sorrow find this posture tempting. In pain and fear we long for relief. During times of great distress I have found balm in Psalm 130:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But the Psalmist does not stop here: he claims God's Love and Promised redemption with these words:
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. (respected)
I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
and in his word do I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
At our darkest moments, during our most fearful and despairing times, God longs for us to keep our focus on Him rather than on our fears, uncertainties, distractions and sense of being forsaken. God longs for us to embrace His peace, His love, His guidance, His capacity and willingness to redeem and restore us to the purpose for which we were created.
And an essential part of this is letting go of our fear of our enemies. This is not something that I even know how to do outside of God's help, but I have experienced the power of it. When we fail to return rage for rage and hate for hate we do confuse those who would harm us.
And when we pray for those who would harm us, we open ourselves to new ways to respond with wisdom and insight that can initiate some amazing changes in situations. Does this mean that we should passively accept being abused, be it verbal, financial, emotional, sexual or physical? I do not believe that is what is meant at all. I believe that when we are freed from emotional and rage-filled responses, we are better able to protect ourselves and our loved ones with God doing the heavy lifting. I know that I have never made a better decision because I let my emotions run away with my judgement and I only learned to manage that as I let God teach me new ways of doing..
That is why, when I read this today: Jesus said, “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” from Matthew 5:44, I was filled with gratitude for every time God's mercy has been poured out on me in ways that have allowed me to take the high road. By God's abundant grace, I pray I will continue to grow in ways that make this a more instinctive response. Until then I'll just keep working on intentionally making this choice.
Because this way of living makes more room in my life for joy and peace and hope and love.