Are You at the Mercy of Someone or Something?
I have never been comfortable with this phrase I hear so often when something negative happens in a person’s life.
“You (or it) made me feel …”
Whenever I hear it I want to say –
Me: So, how did they do it?
Them: Do what?
Me: Get into your brain?
Them: My brain?
Me: Did they get microscopic and crawl into your brain through your nose and make you feel that?
Them: You’re an idiot … what are you talking about
Me: You know the thing that made you feel the way you feel – just how did they make you feel that?
At this point I know exactly what would happen, the person would shake their head at me and just walk away. That’s because we’re very used to 1 + 1 equals two. In other words, when someone treats us badly we react to that in a logical sequential way, we respond with a predictable emotion. (anger, frustration, sadness, contempt etc.)
I know what you’re thinking, “what the heck James how am I supposed to act – happy?” Let me share a secret – we don’t need to have our circumstances define our actions we actually can choose to respond to our circumstances the way we want to – not the way the circumstance dictates to us.
By the way, until we learn to apply this truth we will forever be at the mercy of every person or circumstance that we experience because whatever happens to us will dictate our response.
But don’t take my word for it, this is a central theme in Scripture and the hallmark of a true follower of Christ.
I have never been beaten, scourged, spat upon, humiliated and then nailed to a cross but Jesus was and he was able to say, while he was hanging on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing”.
It may not seem like it, but we do have a choice on how we respond to trying situations. The choice is this; will I let the circumstance define me or will I define the circumstance? Will I follow the broad road of predictable and unremarkable response or will I take this as an opportunity to bring redemption and healing into this situation?
Ultimately, our response to trials, difficulties, insults and personal injustice will define who we are and what we believe. Jesus’ response on the cross was as a result of his “entrusting himself to him who judges rightly” and therefore was able to defy human logic and reveal his true character.
We can too. But first, we must stop making feeble excuses for ourselves and accept responsibility for our own reactions. We ultimately choose how to respond, we have the opportunity to act in a way that is contrary to the “norm”. This ability is given to every believer and when we do we are demonstrating the character of Christ in us.
And here’s another secret – It is almost always counter to our initial emotional response. It is not “natural” for us to be kind when we've been treated harshly or be loving when we’ve been rejected – it’s supernatural.
And that my friend is the gospel at work in us. A gospel the world longs to see.