When my husband was pastoring a small country church, I took a part-time job in a bank to help make ends meet. I liked my work and my co-workers. But one young woman frequently made unobliging remarks or deliberately did things to hurt me.
I found myself resenting Paula* and feeling sorry for myself because I had to put up with her cutting remarks. Such things are known as abuse, and can quite ruin one’s day!
Lord, how can I handle this? I want to live peacefully with everyone but it’s hard not to answer back. And when I don’t, it lays on me like a rock! It was hard not to harbor resentment and anger toward Paula. But I knew if I did that, it would rob me of peace and even cause me to respond harshly towards her.
As I prayed, Proverbs 15:1 came to my mind: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Then I remembered Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about how to deal with those who hurt us. I decided to pray for Paula and to seek God’s help in being especially friendly and thoughtful toward her.
It worked! Before long, she and I became good friends, and what a difference it made in my work day. When my husband became pastor of another church and I left my job at the bank, Paula threw a wonderful going-away party for me.
Love is God’s answer to hostility. It is counter-intuitive, yes, but Jesus said this in Matthew 5:44: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Love our enemies? Even though it goes against our instincts, God can express his love through us if we depend on his Spirit to do so. And here’s the first step: pray for them.
As I have prayed for Paula and others who have hurt me, God has helped me realize that something in their background has probably contributed to the way they speak and act. Often, they are miserable people. This fills me with compassion for them and makes it easier to trust God for the power to forgive and pray for them.
The Lord also told us to return good for evil. As we do this in his strength, we will see God at work.
*Name has been changed