“Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:8,10
When People Talk
Many years ago, while in college, I received a mean email first thing in the morning from a “friend”; It really hurt! What that person said about me made me feel like a hopeless case. I struggled with questions about how I should react. How much of it is true, and how much is false? Should I continue to let it affect me? Am I really the way that person says I am?
However, I’m truly excited to share. Do you know why? Because I did the right thing the first time! That doesn’t normally happen to me! Just kidding. Kind of…
When I received the piece of criticism, I sat in my bed for about ten minutes with my fingers poised above the keyboard, speechless about how to respond. What I read really hurt my feelings and caused me to question myself and feel like a terrible person. I decided not to respond just then. Instead, I grabbed my Bible and journal, made my way to my favorite quiet time spot with some tea, and sat down to process.
I began by telling God what was said about me. I then wrote how I felt about it and what my questions were for God. I asked Him to speak to me, and then began to read the New Testament. I read lots of verses about wisdom and humility (which was part of the criticism I received). Two verses from the book of James (James 3:17-18 and James 4:8-10) really stuck out to me.
From these verses, I confessed to God that I needed to humble myself; I had not been conducting myself in a wise way. I was not seeking peace above all else. I was not being considerate or impartial, although I wanted to be those things. I accepted the words of criticism in this area as conviction, and I repented, promising God I would fight those tendencies and try my best to be humble before Him and before others.
The Lord also took me to Psalm 37:5-6, which says, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will do this: he will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
From this verse, I prayed that, yes, I want to be humble and act rightly in the eyes of others, but at the same time, I want God’s opinion to matter more than anyone else’s. I want to live for approval in God’s eyes only. He is the one who will make my sincerity and righteousness before Him show through to others. I shouldn’t try to impress people. If I impress God, He will take care of others’ opinions.
He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
This verse comforts me in the knowledge that, even though I feel hopeless to change myself, it is God who will change me into the likeness of His Son, not me. Even though I feel like I’ve failed, it’s okay; He will do the work in me.
Now here’s the weird part: I didn’t feel like I came to any sort of resolution through this. But after my quiet time, I was filled with an inexplicable inner joy throughout the rest of the day, which was odd.
I woke up to this message thinking, “Great, now my entire day is ruined. Why did it have to happen in the morning?” But that wasn’t at all the case! I was so happy! And in retrospect, I know why. And here’s my clincher for this devotional: the conviction of the Holy Spirit never brings condemnation.
He will never assault you with thoughts like, “You’re a terrible person! You’re hopeless! You’ve blown it!” Those are only from the devil. When God convicts you, it is always constructive. He will build you up and leave you with encouragement, not hopelessness. So if you come away from a conversation with someone who has criticized you feeling broken down and discouraged, that is not from God. Reject it!
The person who criticized me left me feeling terrible about myself and hopeless about my situation. But when I took it to God, He gave me hope and joy. Yes, He convicted me and told me to change (with His help), which made my situation constructive, but I felt empowered when I closed my Bible. This is conviction from the Lord.
Blessings and Love,
- What criticism have you allowed in your life from other people? Is it about you? Your walk with God? Your kids?
- Have you taken it to God? What does HE say about you? If you feel confused or discouraged, reject those thoughts. Condemnation is not from God. He is not the author of chaos, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). He did not come to condemn, but to save and redeem (John 3:17). Walk before Him as best you know how, not before men for their approval. Allow Him to convict you, yet embrace His encouragement, affirmation, and love, and let HIS description of you define you, not the judgment and accusations of others.
Pick a night this week during dinner to go around the table and share three things you love about each family member. Remember to remind yourself and your family what’s great about you!