It’s been my experience that when I get down and depressed I draw back within myself and put on my defenses. Because I’m withdrawn and on guard during those times it’s easy to lash out even when someone has the best of intentions.
I have to say that being a dog lover gives me perspective on this that I’m not sure that I want to admit to being true sometimes. Just like humans every animal has its own individuality but at the extremes there is a lesson to be learned. One example of this is taking an otherwise gentle, loving family pet who when injured or is in pain lashes out in defense of itself. The normally gentle creature doesn’t know that the person is there to help, yet in that moment it is ready to fight to keep from being hurt any further. The other extreme is one that I can gather from a pet I had as a child. His breed is known generally for the exact opposite response. This gentle, loving pet did not exhibit symptoms of pain even to the point that when hit by a car and fraught with extreme injury he was loving and tender while freely allowing the care to be given to him that he needed.
How do you respond while dealing with extreme pain whether physical or emotional? As I write this, I am reminded about Stephen in scripture.
“Now when they heard this [accusation and understood its implication], they were cut to the heart, and they began grinding their teeth [in rage] at him.
But he [Stephen], being full of the Holy Spirit and led by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory [the great splendor and majesty] of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;
and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened up [in welcome] and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
But they shouted with loud voices, and covered their ears and together rushed at him [considering him guilty of blasphemy].
Then they drove him out of the city and began stoning him; and the witnesses placed their outer robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
They continued stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit!”
Then falling on his knees [in worship], he cried out loudly, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them [do not charge them]!” When he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].” (Acts 7:54-60 Amplified Version)
These verses bring both examples to light. Hebrews 4:12 tells us in the New King James Version “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” This is shown by the reaction of the group who had taken Stephen before the council. Verse 54 says that these people were “cut to the heart” by what he had said to them. Yet, they reacted out of the conviction and pain that it had caused by becoming angry and violent even to the point of murder.
Stephen on the other hand, was filled with the Holy Spirit and while enduring the extreme horror of being stoned to death He was able to cry out to the Lord and ask to be welcomed into the presence of Christ and to ask God’s forgiveness of the ones who were stoning him.
I find two things remarkable and quite humbling in Stephen’s reaction. Not only was he able in that moment of extreme pain to (as the text illuminates) worship God but, also he was so tender hearted and like Christ that he was able to ask God not to hold his death against the very people who were attacking him.
I don’t know about you but that leaves me quite convicted. The next time that I am retracted within myself because of my pain, I should think about my reaction before responding in a negative way.
How do you react in these situations? When in pain do you lash out at others or do you respond gracefully even to the point of being ready to forgive?
Let’s ask God to give us a heart like that of Stephen so that we can not only endure but worship and forgive even while in the midst of pain. Let’s ask for a heart that is soft and tender enough not to lash out at those around us.
Sovereign God, I bow before you humbled and convicted. I love You deeply and more than life itself. Please forgive me God for lashing out in the midst of my pain even at the mundane or best wishes of those around me. God, I ask out of love for my brothers and sisters who read this post and prayer that you would forgive them too. Open the eyes of our hearts and allow us to see your truth and give us hearts like those of Stephen. Anoint us with the strength and ability to not only react with a spirit of peace and self control but also a spirit of worship and forgiveness even during the trials, torment, and pain that this broken earthly life brings. Shine the light and warmth of Your love upon each of us and let us each experience the sweetness and security of Your loving arms wrapped around us. We ask these things of You Father God with the authority of the name and the blood of Christ. AMEN!