Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
There are moments in the Christian life when we see clearly the works of the unkind hand of evil. In recent weeks and months I have dealt with several people who have struggled with the after effects of abuse in their childhood. The early years of our lives are foundation-building and from the vantage points we gain in those tender years we are shaped or misshaped for the rest of our lives. One of the greatest challenges anyone can face is to seek to gain a proper perspective of life in spite of the abuse in the foundational years.
And the abused often become abusers themselves. When there is anger, distrust, pride, lust for power, and a painful childhood, there is very likely to be gossip, slander, divisive speech, and angry confrontations. Jesus said that the blind cannot lead the blind or they will both fall into a ditch, and childhood abuse blinds us. It twists reality around in our heads so that we cannot see life, individuals, relationships and events clearly. Some cower in the face of any perceived threat. Some shout down the opposition in anger. Some do both.
God’s solution for overcoming and for helping others to overcome is through “the humility that comes from wisdom.” It means to put ourselves under the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, as He uses His word and God-anointed teachers and a loving community to instruct us. It means that we share our journey with others, that we open ourselves like a book to others – others we can trust – to hear and to share and to journey together. “The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God” wrote James (1:20), and rarely do we aim correctly when we fire back angrily. We normally hit the innocent ones.
Humility requires trust and when trust is compromised, perhaps virtually destroyed, due to manipulations and abuse of others, we must still come to God in utter humility. Our safety is not in acknowledging the abuse and confronting the abuser alone – important steps that these are. It is in the God-given ability to acknowledge the wrong done to us and to still forgive, to place our lives back under the Lordship of Christ, and to move on.
A sad observation of human life is that the abused is more likely to take the event with him through his life than the abuser is. Regardless of how bad the abuse might have been, un-forgiveness on our part will do us even worse damage. The one who was abused and does not forgive the abuser helps him (or her) to do even more harm.
Unless we let God heal our hurts, then we will take these with us through the rest of our lives. And if we do not do the same precise act to others, we will still harm them in some way – perhaps by misdirected anger, over protection, suspicion and slander, punishing words, or worse. The only real cure that I know of is to take these thoughts of our hearts to the Lord in prayer, to seek the counsel of His word, and to share these pains and hurts with trusted other believers.
But this is the hope of faith, that God does heal hearts, that He can make the rough person gentle, the hard person tender, and the wounded person whole.