A while back I felt the need to ask God to help me know he was in me and working through me. And as I often do, once I take a request to God, I did’t give it much further thought.
I had been home for a couple hours working on my computer when an email arrived from someone I hadn’t talked to in a long time. I was pleased to hear from him and excitedly opened the message. I was floored as I read the most vindictive and mean-spirited email I’ve ever seen. It accused me of being selfish, unloving, stingy, and so totally caught up my religion that I was not balanced in how I approached other areas in my life. I was told I placed my religion above my family and that my beliefs had tainted my judgment. Many of the words were in all caps. Others were underlined and/or in bold print.
I stared at the words in a state of shock, wondering how in the world I was going to respond. His attack was based on misinformation and miscommunication that had evidently been brewing for some time. A lot of the misinformation came from a third party, who had informed him of a decision I had made. In the email the writer not only told me he was angry at my decision, but also at the reasons behind my decisions, and then he proceeded to tell me what those reasons were. None of his information was correct.
I wanted so much to lash out in retaliatory accusations, but I knew it wasn’t the thing to do. And I knew it would not serve to heal, but only to further deepen the wounds.
My morning prayer suddenly came to mind and I told God, “Thanks a lot. This is not what I need.” I really had no idea how to start answering the email or what to say. As I read it through one more time, the words hurt and offended jumped out at me. So I said another prayer, took a deep breath and started typing.
I began by telling the individual how sorry I was that he was so hurt. I shared that I had no intent to cause him any offense and that I had no idea these things had been building up to the point where he finally felt the need to send his email. Then I responded to each paragraph trying not to accuse, but to explain any misinformation and to clarify things so he could understand my intent, my thoughts and, well, me, better. I looked at each paragraph and accusation from his perspective and tried to understand why he was so hurt and offended. I prayed as I went through the email and asked God to help me respond as Jesus might respond.
At one point he said he realized he was burning any remaining bridge he had with me, but he felt the need to say the things he was saying. I responded that I could see that he was reaching out in his hurt and I wanted to help him through it so we could build bridges and improve our relationship, not destroy it.
I found it amazing that I was writing words of comfort and forgiveness when inside I felt ripped apart. I wanted so much to lash out in retaliatory accusations, but I knew it wasn’t the thing to do. And I knew it would not serve to heal, but only to further deepen the wounds. I knew I had to respond in love—Christ’s love.
When I finished my response, prayed over it again and then hit send, I wasn’t at all sure it was going to do any good. And I was admittedly still a bit frustrated with God. I was asking for confirmation, and he allowed me to be hit with accusations. I got up from my desk and decided to not do any more work for a while.
It wasn’t until the next morning in prayer that I realized God had granted my request. He didn’t answer it nearly in the way I wanted him to answer it, or hoped he would answer it, but he answered it. He answered it by enabling me to be Christ-like to someone who was attacking my family and me. He enabled me to respond to false accusations with humility and tenderness—actually focusing more on the writer than on myself. His answer did not take away the pain in my gut from the accusations, but his answer did exactly what I asked. God showed me that he was with me and was working through me.
In the midst of pain, God enabled me to be a light. Not by anything in me—I was too hurt—but by his grace, in spite of me.
Author: Rick Shallenberger