No doubt, there are some relationships in your life that are thriving, whose steady beat brings joy to you. But there may be some relationships that steal your breath and damage your heart.
In order to experience joy, it’s wise to take a look at those difficult relationships that loom in your life.
We marvel at David’s confrontation of Goliath. While the nation of Israel cowered beneath this giant, believing him bigger than God, David ran at him, leveling him with a stone. God trumped the giant.
- Sometimes we view people in our lives like the Israelites viewed Goliath, as bigger, stronger, and more important than God.
- We value others’ opinions more than we listen to God’s.
- We fear someone’s unkind words more than we seek God’s kindness.
- We forget that God is bigger still.
How can we be set free from this people-pleasing and people-fearing mindset?
One ancient school of thought involved detachment, becoming dispassionate about others whose lives negatively affected ours. In early church history, they called this apatheia. Not the same as apathy, it’s a deliberate disconnection from people for the sake of being able to thrive when relationships were painful.
I could’ve used this school of thought in college and early marriage. When my relationships went sour, or pain came my way through the hand of another, I atrophied. I couldn’t move, think, work, or do anything. I’d become so enmeshed in the pain of others that I couldn’t navigate my life.
Our task on this earth isn’t to fret over everyone, allowing others’ choices to dictate our moods; it’s to seek hard the favor of God, to let Him be our fulfillment.
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Other people don’t have the power to throw us into depression. We have the choice to exercise apatheia, to disconnect for the sake of prayer and our own health.
It’s important to note that persecution also comes at the hands of others. Paul asserts,
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 ESV).
It’s inevitable. Those who pursue Christ passionately will tick off the powers of darkness that will then incite people against us.
If we are fully tied to their opinions for us to move forward in our lives, we will quit. Paul endured extreme persecution, often at the hands of fellow countrymen, and sometimes from people whom he had poured his life into.
But as I read his epistles, he doesn’t spend an inordinate amount of time directly addressing those folks. He points them out as a cautionary tale, but he doesn’t seem to spend emotional energy on them. If he had, he most likely wouldn’t have taken the second or third missionary journeys.
The truth? People don’t have godlike powers over you. They can’t make you disobey God unless you give them power. Goliaths may holler today, but they are small compared to the God who gives us strength.
Action point: Take some time today and ask yourself, “Who is a Goliath in my life?” Then choose to put Goliath in his/her place by remembering God’s bigness.
Prayer: Jesus, who are the Goliaths in my life? Help me recognize them and remember that You are bigger than they are. Help me to rest my reputation and worth on what You believe about me, not in what bullies think of me. This year, I want to be set free from the painful barbs of others. Amen.
This is an ongoing Thursday series based on the book Everything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus. It’s the book I wrote that details how exactly we can grow in our relationship with Jesus in a life-altering, hope-fueling way. It’s everything I know about discipleship and growth.