We must understand that there is only so much we can do when something doesn’t go our way, and we have to trust God to work out what He needs to in the other person.
Life is hard, and I bet if you turned to the person to your right or left they could tell you at least 3 things that have gone wrong for them recently. Some people might think that when you become a Christian you’ll have it easy in life and that things in this world will all work out smoothly for you, but it doesn’t take long to discover how opposite living a Christian life here on Earth can be from that ideal. Truth is, some of my most challenging battles to fight have been when I’ve followed God’s way instead of the world’s.
There is no greater gift than what we are promised as believers and that is eternal salvation with our Lord and Savior. With that truth, and knowing the evil that is against us, how do walk the balancing act of living in a fallen world while also keeping our hope in heaven? The best example I can think of when wanting to learn how to react in a godly way to something that doesn’t go your way is to go straight to the source and look at how Jesus did just that in his 33 years walking amongst us.
What Would Jesus Do?
There was a popular phrase back in the 1990s during my youth group days that was everywhere from bracelets to stickers and t-shirts. It was “What Would Jesus Do?” or “WWJD” for short. I still remember my burgundy bracelet and its black stitching. I really loved the reminder it gave me to think about how Jesus would respond to a situation instead of just how I felt at the time. The good news is that we don’t have to wonder how Jesus would respond to a lot of situations because we have the Bible that instructs us and teaches us how He did respond.
Jesus gave us a plethora of wisdom during his time here on Earth that is recorded in the Scriptures, and one of his most infamous was the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew, we see Jesus’ heart for the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers. We read about his views on murder, adultery, divorce, praying, fasting, and giving. And what I think could have been one of the most thought-provoking concepts was Jesus’ instruction on how to handle difficulties and difficult people in life as he explains in Matthew 5:38-48:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
So, when something doesn’t go our way, are we supposed to seek revenge? Nope, we forgive, we bless, and we pray for the other person. Loving people who only love us back is easy, but Jesus asks us to be different. To be the “salt and light” of the world and to seek His kingdom and mercy to our neighbors here on Earth is our calling. Is it easy to react this way, or is it our first inclination? I’ll answer that one by honestly saying “Nope,” but when we fight our sinful nature and go with Jesus’ way of life, the reward is much greater than the cost. And who doesn’t know what costs more than our Savior, Jesus Christ?
Prayer and the Word
When troubles come brewing in our lives, it can be either a spontaneous reflex to pray or it can feel like not enough if you want to take action quickly. Responding to someone in a heated conversation, while you’re getting broken up with, or on the phone with HR finding out you’re losing your job, are just some situations that can prompt us to respond in the heat of the moment. The little regrets or times I wish I’d said something differently are times when I let my emotions move ahead in response to a person or situation instead of taking a quick pause and prayerful posture. Praying is an integral part of my day, but I’ll admit that I don’t always remember to go to prayer first when my emotions get stirred. You might be able to relate to that too.
What I find so interesting is that Jesus, both God and man, studied the Scripture like His peers, found time to step away from the crowds and pray, and communed with God with purpose and fervor. I find it comforting to know that Jesus, perfect as He is, needed time to be with God and commune with Him for replenishment as we see in Luke 5:15-16: “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” The human side of Jesus, although still sinless, reacted to the world and those around Him with the tools that we have, and we would be smart to use them as He did.
Jesus knew how to respond to people much easier than we do, and when others would question Him or try to trip Him up, He always stood His ground. After fasting for forty days and nights, Jesus knew how to stand up to the ultimate tempter, Satan: “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:5-7). We must take heed from Jesus and have such a strong hold on the Word and prayer that we can utilize the Sword of the Spirit when Satan attacks.
Shake It Off
I’ll bet you had a certain pop star’s jingle going through your head as you read off that headline, huh? I’ll admit, I did too, but did you know that this phrase is actually in the Bible? When Jesus is giving the disciples instructions about how to handle the people in the towns they were headed to preach the gospel message to, He tells them this: “If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town” (Matthew 10:13-15).
Do you find it hard to speak up for Jesus when you are in the midst of people or online? Jesus does tell us to keep preaching, keep asking, and keep forgiving, but we also must understand the healthy boundaries that He is talking about by understanding when to keep speaking up and when to step aside and move on to His next mission. I can find myself wanting to clarify, explain, ask why, or show the other person my side of the story. And while this may help sometimes, if I am honest, I will see that I am really trying to just serve my own pride or ego. We must understand that there is only so much we can do when something doesn’t go our way, and we have to trust God to work out what He needs to in the other person.
Drawing healthy, loving relationship boundaries with family, friendship, work, and community can not only help you with being able to react in a godly way to your surroundings, but it can give you peace beyond your own understanding. When we remember that we are mere humans and we need to let God be God, we can begin to have more empathy with other sinful humans like ourselves. This world is not our home, and it’s full of trouble. Jesus experienced that in full force yet still reacted to those who hated him with love and forgiveness. I am so grateful for Jesus and His example to us on how to live. He is the purest example of reacting in a godly way that I can think of.
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Mandy Smith started her blog, My Joyous Heart, in 2011, began freelance writing in 2013, and is now the proud author of Almost There: A 30 Day Journey Where Tomorrow’s Uncertainty Takes a Back Seat to the Promise of Today. Mandy is single, currently working as a full-time speech-language pathologist, and lives in Atlanta, GA. Communication in its many forms has been a major part of Mandy’s life thus far personally, professionally, and spiritually. You can read more of her writing at www.myjoyousheart.com and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube.
LISTEN: Being Complete in Jesus (Understanding Matthew 5:21-48)
Hearing Jesus is a devotional journey through the gospels, where we explore the teachings of Jesus chapter by chapter. If you're seeking to live a life that reflects God's, this podcast is for you.
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