People are going to be the death of me yet.
I wronged plenty of people in my life, but sometimes, watching the things other humans due to one another astounds me. Considering that we all come from a God of love, the volume of harm we cause each other, both deliberately and inadvertently, amazes me.
While we are not responsible for the actions of others, it is easy to absolve ourselves of the parts we played in an offense and even easier to place blame completely on someone else. I am not saying to let everything go, to not stand up for yourself, or to be a doormat. What I am saying is that you cannot change the other person. Pointing fingers at those who insult us serves no purpose. No amount of reasoning, words, anger, or unforgiveness is going to make someone have a change of heart. Only God can do that.
How often do we “tell” the story in such a way that it places us in the best possible light? Are we oblivious to our own flawed actions that may have contributed? Psalm 139 ran across my path several times in the last few weeks. The application within this passage to areas of conflict sheds light on what we can do next after undergoing maltreatment at the hand of another.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV).
God can test us and discern our thoughts when it comes to our human interactions. God knows our hearts. This alone is scary. Never delude yourself into thinking that God doesn’t see every poor motive, sin, or negative thought. He perceives everything.
So what can we do? Own our parts.
We can take a look at ourselves, what we have said, done, and thought, that may have led to or been a catalyst for the events that occurred. More often than not, I find there is something that I can work on. Verse 23 goes a step further with an invitation for God to test us, the God who created the universe and spoke the world into existence. That’s a big dare (like inviting a can of whoop-ass to be dumped on our heads).
The beginning of verse 24 is equally as daunting: “See if there is any offensive way in me.” Of course, there is an offensive way in me. I am not perfect, and I make mistakes all the time. How bold to ask God to show us our flaws and our areas of weakness. However, God assures us that He is with us and will lead us to a place of His peace and love.
How do these verses instruct us?
1) God leads me in the way everlasting. He is love and mercy. The God of hope reigns and is in control. I can relax and have confidence that the God of the universe knows what is happening and will use it ultimately for good in my life. God has got this: all my pain, all my sadness, and all my hurt. He’s got this.
2) I can invite God into my world with me, to take an inventory of my thoughts and my desires, and to bring peace and relief to whatever struggles He may find. I grow from self-examination even when the fault in a particular situation doesn’t lie squarely on me.
People will be people. I cannot change anyone. Though sometimes I wish it weren’t so, I need other people. You need other people. We are meant for connection, and God has a way for us to get through the rough patches.