What Injures Us? Difficult People or a Wrong Reaction in our Spirits?
Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
Heb. 12:14-16 (NLT)
Reacting is resisting and rejecting God’s working in the midst of a disappointing circumstance. Our reacting leads to anger deepening into a bitter and unteachable spirit. Reacting to a circumstance is denying that God has a higher purpose in our difficulties (Rom. 8:28). Reacting comes from the flesh which prefers pleasure and convenience over spiritual growth and the glory of God.
Responding is trusting that our Heavenly Father has a divine appointment in our trials and tribulations. Responding comes forth from a thankful heart drawing us into the Holy Spirit’s wellspring of grace. We must evaluate our circumstances by our biblical knowledge of God instead of, as we have a propensity to do, evaluate our knowledge of God by our circumstances.
Do we believe what the Bible teaches about God’s character or do we judge God’s intentions by the difficulty of our circumstances, disappointments, and setbacks? Responding trusts that God in his wisdom has sovereignly cultivated circumstances in our lives for us to meet Christ and be transformed by his grace (James 4:6).
Responding is choosing to trust our Lord with people and their bad attitudes, difficult circumstances, persistent disruptions, confusing situations, and unexpected disappointments (Heb. 11:6).
Holiness, that is responding, consists of daily yielding to God our experiences of the Fallout of the Fall: sinning people, selfish actions, broken things, and disrupted plans (Phil. 3:7-8). The issue of holiness is not what people do to us, but how we respond to their fallenness (Heb. 12:14-15). Our choice: respond by thanking the Lord for difficult people and situations or react with burning anger toward God and others over my frustrating circumstances.
Amy Carmichael says that nothing anyone can do to to us can injure us unless we allow it to cause a wrong reaction in our spirits. Only our reaction can bless or burn.
Paul Billheimer, Mystery of God’s Providence (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1983), 15.