"He that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do right; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil."1
No doubt, most of us, at one time or another, have been hurt deeply either through a misunderstanding or purposely by another. When we are, how do we handle our hurt and angry feelings in a gracious and God-like manner? Not always easily I have to admit.
Recently I received a letter from a pastor that was the most vitriolic letter I had ever received from a church leader in over 40 years of ministry. It was over an extremely simple issue. In an advertisement in a pastor's magazine I had offered a free copy of my I Hate Witnessing book providing the recipient paid only for the postage. One pastor, after he received the book, accused me of extortion because I offered the book for free but requested he pay the postage. He added further nasty words about California Christians. He told me never to contact him or his church again! I don't get my feelings hurt very often, but I confess, this letter not only hurt my feelings, but it also ticked me off (triggered my anger).
So how did I respond? Not in a hurry as I know it is never wise to answer anyone when feeling hurt, upset and/or angry. I admit that I wanted to give this man a piece of my mind so when I was ready to reply, I had to pray that God would help me to be "as Jesus" to this man. I did reply and sent this man a copy of the ad where it was very clear in two places that the book was free providing the recipient pay only for the postage.
Before mailing the letter, however, I sat on it for a couple of days, and also had Joy, my wife, read it to make sure there wasn't any bitterness in what I had written.
The day before I wrote the first draft of this letter, I read the following timely quote from Leonard Hodgson who said: "Whenever pain is so borne as to be prevented from breeding bitterness or any other evil fruit, a contribution is made to rescuing God's creation from the devil's grip."
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, whenever I am hurt and feel unjustly criticized, please help me always to deal with my emotions in a creative way, never lash out and hurt back, and always be 'as Jesus' to the one who lashed out at me. And when the criticism is justified, please help me to accept it graciously and make changes wherever such is needed. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 1 Peter 3:10-12.
P.S. In addition, at the time of writing, of the 430+ pastors (including a few church leaders) who received a free copy of the book—two months later—only 75 had paid for the postage. I will send a third reminder, graciously.