Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Peace With Estrangement

There are many people today dealing with estrangement from loved ones. So just how should a Christian deal with it when it comes to their door?  

It's a delicate issue because no two situations are alike. But for a Christian, we can deal with it the same way we deal with every other issue - we must turn to the Lord and seek understand and wisdom from his Holy Bible. The answers we can find by searching the scriptures bring far more understanding and comfort than any other avenue I can fathom.

Being estranged from someone you love is a bewildering and painful experience.  Yet in the midst of the pain, there is an odd peace.  

Imagine that you were suddenly handed molten hot coals. Would you hold them while your flesh sizzled and burned or would you release them? I don't think anyone in that situation would hesitate to release them. 

What is the resulting feeling?  

Immediate relief. 


So it sometimes is with certain relationships when no other avenue for peace can be found except by releasing the ones we love. It's almost a knee-jerk response mixed with deep sorrow and relief. 

The person who's handed molten coals might try to hold them for a while, but when "fail" to, they may be ridiculed for not being strong enough. This can lead to total discouragement until they realize that dropping the hot coals is not only natural, but inevitable.  A narcissistic person is well practiced with causing loved ones to feel defeated all the time. They are masters at twisting words and situations around and around until they shine as the victim and you are the "villain". 

It is bizarre.

It's tempting to give in to the despair that lurks at the door in such painful circumstances. But to the faithful, the Lord has given a wonderful promise to cling to: 

 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it"I Corinthians 10:13

Isn't that beautiful? Even more beautiful is my faithful heavenly Father who sees in secret and rewards openly. 

Job's Story of Estrangement
In the book of Job, I love how from the very beginning we are given a glimpse into the supernatural realm as God is moved against Job "to destroy him without cause".  

It's actually comforting to read of all the woes that befall Job when we see the wonderful revelation at the beginning of the book: the Lord, in all his righteousness, was not punishing Job.  He was trying him.  Big difference!  

The Lord tested his people for 40 years after he led them out of Egypt.  He will test us, too.

I find it fascinating that the Lord actually pointed Job out to Satan!  
In our finite mind we can only marvel at this - who can know what God's ultimate purpose was to bring Job so low?  Job the man may have been shaken by the trials that befell him, but Job's faith in the Lord was not.  Those dealing with estrangement would do well to study this amazing book because Job knew estrangement. You would think his family and friends would have surrounded him with love and support. But, shockingly, we see that they become estranged from him in his darkest hour.

He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me.  My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. — Job 19:13-14
Furthermore, Job wisely accounts the estrangement of his family to the Lord.  Not to himself or even his family and friends. In estrangement, blame is always at the core of the issue but the Bible tells us it is the Lord who opens and closes ears, hearts, eyes, wombs, etc. Dealing with estrangement is difficult and painful enough without adding blame on top of the heap.  But isn't it a great comfort to read Job and see the hand of God at work in the smallest details?

David's Story of Estrangement 
In 1 Samuel, the story of David and Saul gives us a glimpse into a different sort of family estrangement between Saul and David.  Saul considered David his family. (See 1 Samuel 24:16)  1 Samuel records the account of Saul's intense jealousy which led to his wicked pursuit of David.  I encourage you to read the whole riveting story in chapter 18 (KJV), but here are the points that pertain to this subject:

1 Sam 18:1-2 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house

(David became as one of Saul's family. )

1 Sam 18:7 And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.

(Saul noticed David got more praise and adulation. How did he react?)

1 Sam 18:8 And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward

(The end result of Saul's jealousy is hatred which is equal to murder in God's eyes.)

1 Sam 18:10 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it.

(Saul's jealousy led to his attempted murder of David.  How did David react?)
1 Sam 18:11 And David avoided out of his presence twice. And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, and was departed from Saul.

David was essentially presented with hot coals in his hands by someone considered his family.  So, did he stick around for more?  No, he showed wisdom by avoiding Saul.  (Later he ran and hid.) Saul was afraid because God was with David.

Jealousy is not uncommon among family members. In some families, the "green monster" lurks quietly for years until opportunity knocks.  Estrangement originates in the heart of one who is jealous or bitter for some reason. Wanting/lusting after something they want but don't or can't have. The word of God warns:

James 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

God has commanded that we be content with what He has provided for us.  If you allow jealousy to enter your heart, you can be sure that sin is crouching at your door. What was the very first murder due to?  Cain's jealousy over his brother. 

Continuing with Saul's Story...
Look also at what happened the day after Saul's jealousy took hold

1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

God sent an evil spirit to trouble Saul. Jealousy (coveting and lust) is toxic and dangerous. How did King David respond?  With wisdom.  He chose avoidance/estrangement from Saul rather than "holding the hot coals".

If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest. Pro 29:9

According to the Bible, dealing with a foolish person is exhausting! Family members ought to treat one another as friends. And true friendship is loving, not exhausting.  Some friends and family members feel entitled to a relationship with you. People like this often make a ruckus if things don't measure up to their expectations.  But since when is anyone entitled to some one's friendship?  The answer is never.  Friendship is a choice. A gift. It's not entitled to anyone. These kinds of people ignore the fact that trust in friendship is earned.

Two Roads Diverged
If you're holding hands with a friend and he chooses a different path than you do, one of you must let go or else be taken down a path they did not choose.  God says his way is narrow (unpopular!).  Choosing his narrow way will not be popular with "friends" (or family for that matter) who are choosing a different path.

Estrangement is often the result of one person letting go of their companion's hand and choosing a narrower way.  It can be a painful and lonely path. The temptation to please loved ones can be great.  But the Lord gives us the choice: we can follow and obey his still, small voice which can mean being scoffed at, or we can follow friends and family and remain popular with them. I know the one I will choose every day and twice on Sunday.  I'll follow God.

Estrangement seems to be hardest on women. We are more emotionally involved and attached with others and typically more prone to people-pleasing than men.  The agony can be intense in these situations when a woman is tempted to "make everything OK". 

Don't Bear it Alone
But the Lord has an answer for this. He has given every wife a leader or a "Head" so she doesn't have to bear the weight of a heavy burden that's not hers to carry in the first place. God intended for us to lean on our husbands and seek their guidance in times of uncertainty. 
If a woman has a wise husband, she can seek his comfort and guidance. God set each of us in a subordinate order. The husband is her head.  Christ is her husband's head.  And God the Father is Christ's head. It's imperative that a woman remain obedient and supportive to her husband's leading.  Why?  Because God said so.

This order of command has nothing to do with whether or not a husband is a believer or whether or not they deserve it. 

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. — I Cor 11:3 

Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.1 Peter 3:6

It is devastating to be the object of false rumors but if you are blessed with a good man, his direction and leadership can be comforting.  Seeing those you love have itching ears and believe false accusations against you is indescribably painful.  But the Lord is at the helm and sees it all.  Keep your heart pure before him.  Cast your cares on him and walk in the light of obedience and faithfulness to his word.  Honor your head (your husband), for the Lord has given him to you for your protection. 

What about  two-faced "friends" or family members?
The Lord settles the matter of loyalty here:

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matt 6:24

Abe Lincoln said it this way: "A friend is one who has the same enemies as you you have". That puts it into perspective doesn't it?  

Friends can't have it both ways - they must choose. So when someone says one thing to you, and another to someone else, he/she is not a friend. 

Those who've had hot coals dumped in their hands are anxious to restore fellowship with their loved one(s). But there is one major  comfort for those who are hurting from this kind of betrayal and that is that the Lord knows.  Look what wise Job said about this:

"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:10

God knows! Those who engage in malicious behavior and are quick to believe evil against a friend, display their heart.  Many people proclaim Christianity but display bitterness, envy and strife.  Maybe they should listen to fewer sermons and just feed on the pure word of God instead.  I've heard things said like, "family shouldn't treat each other that way."  But isn't it interesting that this is said about family? As though family (blood) are more important than others?  Who did Jesus consider to be his family? Read Mark 3:35 to find out.

The following scripture is evidence that God knew estrangement would take place among families.

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.  He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Mt 10:34-37

The word of God is a comfort and a light to our feet.  We live in a world that is constantly contrary to God and his ways.  I recently found several scriptures that illustrate that contrast. 

The worlds:  "Blood is thicker than water."
The Bible: Jesus said, "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?" And he stretched forth his hand TOWARD HIS DISCIPLES, and said, "Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."  Mt 12:48-50

The World: “The love of a family is life's greatest blessings."
The Bible: If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

The World: “Family is the most important thing in the world." - Princess Diana
The Bible:  Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecc 12:13

The World:  "Tolerance, tolerance! Don't judge others or hurt their feelings."
The Bible:   "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 1 Cor 5:11

The World:  God loves everyone.
The Bible:  God's "love" was manifest in ONE act: the blood sacrifice of his only begotten son, Jesus Christ.

God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. Psalm 7:11  

The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.  Psalms 11:5

The World: Who are you to judge me?
The Bible: Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 1 Cor 6:2

God's Ideas about Family Vs. Man's
From scripture, I see that God's ideas about family and man's ideas about family are quite different.  Who does Jesus consider to be his family? Those who obey his commands. God's family is not limited by blood relation. He is looking for those who will be faithful to him to the end and do His will.  

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Mt 7:21

I know that God is good and it is up to him to rectify as he sees fit. If you're hurting at the hand of someone who sought evil against you, wait upon the Lord - He is your strength.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. — Prov 18:10

Whatever the initial cause might be, estrangement from loved ones is difficult. The mourning process is similar to a loved one's death.  But while we wait on the Lord, he promises to renew our strength. 

We can be at peace knowing that that the trial of our patience worketh experience and experience hope and hope maketh not ashamed!  When you're the target of an adversary and you walk away from it, at the very least, there is peaceful relief.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."  Hebrews 12:14 
If a relationship becomes impossible to handle, "following peace with all men" would mean stepping back or avoiding the "hot coals" situation as King David did.  The Peace that results is the presence of the Lord that dwells within,  even in the presence of our enemies. 

Above all, trust the Lord for the outcome and pray without ceasing. God is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" Eph 3:20.
Walk in peace.

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