This is the second in a series of posts featuring spiritual lessons God taught me through my family. Over the years these stories have been helpful to many a Client; I share them now in the hope that they might also encourage you. ❤️
There is much talk about bullies/abusers in the world today, but bullies have been around since the beginning. It was their fear of bullies, that resulted in Israel having to march around in the wilderness for forty years*; and Goliath (of David and Goliath fame) was nothing more than an oversized bully.
Of our three children, Amy (our middle child), was the most fearful. Amy was afraid of (or was resistant to) such things as:
- Volcanoes. When we received orders to move to England, our then four-year-old middle asked with serious intensity in her voice: “Are there volcanoes in England?” (All these years later, we still laugh that if we’d received orders to Hawaii, we would never have been able to get her on the airplane!)
- A boy in our village named Christopher Blackman. I doubt that Christopher (who was probably about 10 and DID have a bad reputation) had any idea that our little Amy had stopped going to the village shop for sweeties (candy) because she was afraid he might be there. Also, he probably was unaware that she immediately hid herself behind a garden wall or bushes if she saw him when walking home from school.
- Pick-pocketers. After traveling into London on a train, we heard an announcement warning that pick-pocketers had been active in the area that morning. Amy clutched the little purse I had made for her tightly against her chest as she said, “They should make them wear uniforms so we can tell who they are!”
- Learning to write–because she knew she wouldn’t be able to write as well as her sister–Amy resisted the pressure to learn to write.)
Yet despite her fears, Amy could also be the most courageous. When she saw a smaller classmate being bullied, she took it upon herself to stick up for them. On one such occasion, Amy was quite surprised when the bigger kid (not Christopher) knocked her down. Fighting back tears, Amy got up and yelled passionately, “I FORGIVE YOU!” (I heard later that the bully looked quite embarrassed as he slunk off!)
When I learned about the incident I was both stunned and proud. I had to admit that Amy’s response demonstrated a special courage and biblical wisdom that I lacked.
COURAGE defined: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)
True courage demonstrates moral strength to withstand danger despite our fears
as we take our stand against evil.
God chose to teach our family a deeper lesson through Amy’s second fear: Christopher Blackman.
BULLY defined: “a blustering, browbeating person . . . one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)
Our youngest, Luke (about 2 1/2 years old at the time), was notoriously friendly toward anyone he met. While taking Luke out to the local playing field in his stroller, Luke reached out to Christopher–who I had no idea was THE Christopher Blackman! Soon after, Christopher began showing up by our garden wall calling out for Luke. Having found out WHO the boy was, I kept Luke inside at first. But I remembered what Jesus taught about dealing with enemies in Luke 6:27, 28,
“Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.”
As we (Amy and I) began to pray for Christopher, something unexpected happened: God softened our hearts. I began to see that Christopher genuinely held a special affection for Luke–who Christopher called, “Lu-key”. As I made some inquiries around our village I learned that Christopher was in foster care and was waiting to be placed in a special school. (He had been put out of the village school because of something he’d done.) We reached out to Christopher’s foster parents and learned that because his foster mom was quite ill with diabetes, she put him out of the house after he’d had his breakfast each day to roam the village. I realized that Christopher was showing up at our garden wall, because he was lonely while all the other children were in school.
What happened next is really kind of a blur. We began by allowing Christopher into our garden and it wasn’t long until he became a special part of our lives. I cannot tell you how long it was before Christopher and a couple of his friends began attending church with us. Looking back, I do not recall even a hint of Christopher’s bad reputation being expressed in our time with him.
You may be wondering about Amy in all of this? Well, she now says that Christopher probably DID push her down, sat on her and pounded on her back one day before he became a special part of our family. But when she saw how he liked her little brother and saw our genuine concern for Christopher, she was okay with it. Besides, even as a child, Amy said, she “figured that it was what Christian families were supposed to do!”
Soon after we returned to the States Christopher started at his new school. We wrote back and forth for a while but then lost touch with him. After all these years, I still wonder what he did with his life and would love to see him again.
So what did I learn from my children about dealing with fear and bullies?
- To take sin seriously–my own included–in difficult relationships. Romans 12:9 says, “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.” God is both sovereign and good and worthy of our trust.
- To faithfully pray for my enemy. I have learned that by doing this God keeps my heart soft. Praying for my enemy also opens the door to miracles, as God also can work in the heart of the bully/abuser. James 4:7 hits the mark with this counsel: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
- To trust God to provide courage to resist being run by my fears. By standing up to bullies/abusers (and asking others to pray where needed) the sin is exposed for what it is. The wisdom contained in Ephesians 6 about spiritual warfare, lends powerful encouragement to all who seek Christ’s help:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against
the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when (not if) the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then . . . .”
After 25 years of counseling, I have learned (where bullying/abuse is concerned) that prayer and getting help (be it in the church or by calling on the civil authorities) to stop the pattern of abuse is the best course.
To allow the sin of abuse to continue without addressing it,
encourages disrespect in the heart of the abuser toward the one being abused.
To call for outside help often forces the abuser to face the ugliness of their sin.
In the end, there is opportunity on both sides of the relationship, for spiritual growth to take place as God works in both hearts.
All to His Glory
*Press here–> Joshua 5:6, to read the text.