I do not doubt that we have all been hurt by things our friends, and even family, have said or done. We all experience it to varying degrees. You might be dealing with it almost every day or maybe not much at all, but I'm sure it's something we all face. It's inevitable, and it's hard, primarily when these words target things we deeply care about and our insecurities. We know the saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me". This saying couldn't be any more false. Words have great power; they either build us up or break us down. So what are we to do? How do we face our peers? What do we do with the comments and remarks?
Sin has infected every human heart, and because of that, we very often hurt each other. Whether it be the things we say or do, as sinners, we constantly live out unrighteous behaviours. As said in Romans 1:29-30, "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents". The list goes on and on. We are bound to be hurt and hurt others because of our hearts' wicked and deceitful nature. When these moments arise, we must choose what to do and how to respond.
Knowing Your Worth
I want to start by reminding you of the greatness of Christ’s love. Yes we are wicked. Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we constantly hurt God and by our own self we are unworthy. But God has chosen to love us, to love the unworthy. We are undeserving of His love, but it is by being in this very love that changes us from worthless to having worth. Being in Christ’s love we are transformed and are given a new identity in Him. As said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” You are incredibly precious in the eyes of the Lord. He created you, and He has not created one other person like you, nor will He ever. He lovingly sent His son to die on the cross for you, that you might have hope to be with Him and know Him. He has chosen to love us despite our unworthiness, and as a child of the sovereign God you mustn't forget that.
Let's look at Isaiah 43:1-2, "But now, this is what the Lord says - He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze'".
Think about this for a moment. The great Creator knows you intimately. He knows all your strengths and talents. He also knows all your weaknesses, thoughts, downfalls, dark secrets and fears. He redeemed you, recovered you with a very high price. Despite knowing all this, He looks at you with mercy and out of His love He wants to redeem you, wants to die for you. He calls you by your name, and He calls you His own. And if you are truly a child of God, He will be with you wherever you go. Whatever things you will face, you will not be overcome because He is with you. His strength is made perfect in our great weakness.
Keeping the Truth
We often forget about our worth and new identity in Christ, which is precisely what Satan wants us to do. He aims to beat us down, to convince ourselves that we are worthless. Satan can use our friends to tell us lies about ourselves to bring us away from the truth and away from God. This is right where Satan wants us to be.
So how are we to fight this? We need to put on the armour of God. Every day we must guard our heart, mind and body against Satan's many attacks. And so we must put on this whole armour of God daily. We need this armour to stand our ground and win against the devils many schemes. We must "be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power" (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Living as a Christian, learn to stand your ground. Stand firm against the roaring lies of this world, and even if you are mocked and bruised, stay sure of your identity in Christ. Never should you seek fulfilment and approval from this world (including your friends). "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things" (Colossians 3:2). If we seek fulfilment and approval from this world, we will never be satisfied. Giving our lives in dedication to something other than God will only end in our downfall.
Fellow teens, do not seek approval from others and do not put their opinions deep in your heart. Instead, deeply value God's opinion and His approval. We cannot be loved by both God and the world; it is one or the other. There is no compromise to the truth, you cannot bend the truth to please others. By changing the truth to fit in, it is no longer the truth. Proclaim the truth in its entirety and have no compromise. Not only do we proclaim the truth, but you must first accept the truth in its entirety. Accept your new identity and worth in Christ.
If we are true followers of Christ, the world will hate us. Our friends (specifically those who aren't our brothers and sisters in Christ) will turn on us and the truth. This is stated in the Bible, and we only need to look at Christ's life on earth to see this.
Remember what is said in John 15:18-20, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also".
Because of our faith, we are bound to be excluded and talked about behind our backs. If we are mistreated because we proclaimed the truth, it is only further proof that we do not belong in this world. Those who are despised and rejected for Him, God calls His children. God calls blessed things that the world outcasts.
Prayer and Forgiveness
I cannot emphasise enough how vital prayer is when facing these hurtful comments. Prayer strengthens us. Through prayer, we receive the protection, power, and word of God that we need to face Satan's attacks.
I have struggled with being mistreated by people I call 'friends' for years now, and to this day, I still do. Finding how to deal with it was hard, mainly because it never stops. It was and still is something I face every day. It got to a point where I dreaded recess and lunch. I found myself believing so many lies my friends would tell me about my insecurities and my life as a Christian. Before one wound would heal, another wound would appear. But, it is these very wounds that we need to bring in front of God and to lay all our pain at His feet.
Bring our scars and our tears to Him, as it is said in Psalm 56:8 "You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?". Every struggle we have, every tear we cry, every time we are bullied or put down, remember that God collects it and holds it close to His heart. Like we discussed earlier, know your worth. Seek God and pray earnestly for Him to heal our scars and strengthen us, that we may persevere in sharing His Word.
Pray not only for yourself but pray for those who are unfriendly towards you. They are sinners too, and just like us, they desperately need God's grace and mercy. Most of the time, people don't realise the total effect of their words and the power of their tongue. As said in James 3:8, "but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.".
Unfortunately, we can be unaware of our lethal words. So, be quick to forgive them, and pray for them that their hearts may be changed and God may bless and forgive them. Not half-hearted prayer with grudges, but honest prayer with the same longing we would have when we pray for ourselves. Just like Christ said when He was dying on the cross, "Have mercy on them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). For God has first forgiven us, we must also forgive those who sin against us.
Extend patience and grace towards them, as Christ has to us. There is no denying how hurtful it can be, but as hard as it is, show empathy to them. Especially if they don't yet know Christ, keep in mind that they are lost and searching. Perhaps they have a great struggle that causes them to do what they do. Don't be quick to judge because we don't know their whole story. We are not better than them, and we should never think that because, at times, we are the ones inflicting pain onto others. We also must remember to watch our words and think before we speak. Do not constantly dwell on their words, but instead dwell on the word of God. Do not lash out in your self-talk, but instead ask God to help you be forgiving and understanding. God will never let us suffer alone, for He has made you for a reason.
Stand firm in Christ, and remember who you are. Fight Satan's lies using God's strength and truth. Most importantly, pray. For yourself and your oppressors, that God's will is done and that He may be glorified through and in our lives.
Your sister in Christ,