Relational conflict has dogged me recently, in spite of the fact that I’d naturally rather offer up a limb than experience—or inadvertently cause—conflict.
When someone accused me of sin, I prayed, “Lord, don’t let me flatter myself in my own eyes that my iniquity cannot be found out and hated” (Ps. 36:2). I know I’m stained with sin, but I couldn’t see my specific sin in this particular situation.
But then, through Romans 5:3–4, God called me to get off my knees, climb out of the weeds, and look at the bigger picture:
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.
Perseverance: One Gift of Relational Conflict
Hadn’t I just bemoaned to a friend that I had no perseverance? I realized this after a difficult week with my husband. He was depressed, and I took it all personally and acted desperately. My friend’s response was enlightening: “Don’t beat yourself up. You’ve only been married two-and-a-half years. You haven’t had enough hardships to grow that perseverance in you.”
Oh, right. Perseverance is produced through suffering.
Do you want the peace and fortitude you see that woman exhibiting in the midst of chemo? Do you long to withstand raging winds like that flexible palm tree? The only way to grow this kind of perseverance is through accepting the suffering God sends your way. How thankful I am for John Calvin pointing me back to God’s providence:
The Lord has willed it; therefore it must be borne, not only because one may not contend against it, but also because he wills nothing but what is just and expedient. To sum this up: when we are unjustly wounded by men, let us overlook their wickedness (which would but worsen our pain and sharpen our minds to revenge), remember to mount up to God, and learn to believe for certain that whatever our enemy has wickedly committed against us was permitted and sent by God’s just dispensation.
Today I’m writing over at TrueWoman.com. To read more about how relational conflict also produces character and hope, click here. More than that, though, I discovered that God uses these conflicts to draw us back to Himself, our great and only Good. This is the best gift of all. More on that too over at TrueWoman.com.
An Invitation If Relational Conflict Is Part of Your Life
I want to invite you to join me tonight (Tuesday, July 31) for a special event. Through my work with Revive Our Hearts, I’ll be leading a six-week online study on Abigail: Living with the Difficult People in Your Life. If relational conflict is part of your life right now, I’d love to have you join in at 7 p.m. ET. You can catch all the details here, and this is where you’ll go to watch the Live broadcast at 7 p.m. ET. Hope to see you there!
Do you feel inadequate to help teens in your life? Maybe you think you need a crash course in emojis as well as an active Snapchat presence before you can influence them for good.
You Aren’t Adequate to Help Teens
Maybe you’ve never gotten too close to teens because you’ve been afraid you wouldn’t know how to answer their questions or deal with their needs. Or maybe you’ve barraged them with Bible verses, but woken the next morning wondering, Did I really help them? Were my comments even relevant, or did I just heave a heavy burden on their back?
In one sense it’s not a bad place to be, realizing you have nothing to offer unless God works in their lives. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” You and I will always be insufficient this side of heaven.
But today, I hope to point you in the direction you need to head in order to be able to help teens with anything and everything. I’m not saying there’s no room for a varied education—I love to learn!—but if I could advise you, I’d tell you to learn one subject inside and out. I’d encourage you to learn to apply it from every angle to any person’s life situation.
The Gospel Is Adequate to Help Teens
Are you ready? It’s the gospel that your teen needs—yes, for salvation (Rom. 1:16), but also for life. He or she needs you to help them see how Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection has everything to do with their Friday nights and Monday mornings . . . and everything in-between.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
Did you catch that? These people received the gospel by faith (in the past), they’re standing firmly in it (in the present), and they’re being saved by it (in the present and in the future).
What is this gospel which is saving them? Paul continues:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (vv. 3–4).
Why It’s So Tough to Apply the Gospel
“But Paula,” you protest, “if everything my teen needs (and everything I need) is found in the gospel, then why is it so tough to make that connection and to apply it to everyday situations?”
I think it’s because we don’t fully grasp the gospel’s significance and outcomes for our own lives. Also, it’s easier to deal on the moral, what-I-can-see-with-my-eyes level. Connecting the dots to how teens need the gospel means we must want more than just outward conformity.
I wonder . . . do we? Do we really want their hearts to be captured by God, or are we just after outward conformity to rules that make us feel comfortable when they’re abided by?
If you want the former (and oh, how I hope you do!), you have to get to the heart behind why they’re doing what they’re doing. The bad news is this will take longer. It’s not as easy as just saying, “Stop it!” or “Fix it!” You have to dig deeper to root motives.
But the good news is when you apply the gospel to heart issues, it has the potential to bring about real, lasting change from the inside out. So how can you begin?
4 Practical Ways to Get Started
Here are four tips for you as you seek to apply the gospel to teens’ lives (or anyone, for that matter).
Meditate on gospel truths. Familiarize and re-familiarize yourself with the gospel. Think about it. Pray prayers based on it, read books about it, and memorize verses about it. Talk about it with Christians and non-Christians. Pray that God would restore your wonder in what He has done for you through Christ. Breathe it, live it, talk it, and sleep on it. Don’t get over it.
Interact with teens. Approach them in church and show interest in their lives. Go see the play they’re acting in. Invite them to go shopping with you. Or come over to color with you (yes, coloring is fun for big people, too!). Love the teens around you; don’t just try to change them. Get to know them, listen well to them, and enjoy them. (Click here for ten practical ways to push past social anxiety.)
Pray. Rather than focusing on the fact that you don’t feel relevant, pray for the teens around you. Ask that:
God would help you see them as He sees them.
He would fill you with love for them.
They will “get” gospel truths and implications.
He will do what only He can do and give them full, abundant life in Christ.
Apply the gospel to their life situation. If your teen still has a glazed-over look, it’s possible you didn’t explain it clearly, or it’s possible their heart is hardened and their eyes are blinded to the good news. But know that the fault never lies with the gospel itself. It is, and continues to be, as Romans 1:16 says, “the power of God for salvation.”
Click over to TrueWoman.com, and practice applying the gospel to a specific teen’s struggle.
No one had to teach me how to lie; I was spinning the truth almost as soon as I learned to talk. It came naturally, as you can see from this funny example my mom journaled about when I was just three years old:
Paula came to me today with diaper rash cream all over her hands and said, “The top came off.” She had spread it on the bottoms of two cloth clowns and put blankets over their bottoms (diapers, you know).
It’s a humorous story, but bending the truth—no matter how young we are—is never cute or innocent. We all have plenty of experience with lying, though. It’s human nature to cover up and cast ourselves in the best light whenever we think we might get into trouble. We’ve been doing that ever since Adam and Eve played the first blame-shifting game in the Garden.
So if lying comes almost as naturally as breathing to us since our first parents’ (Adam and Eve’s) fall into sin, how can we ever tell the truth? Or how about . . . what should motivate us to always tell the truth?
Several years ago right here on this blog, I asked, “What motivates you not to lie?” Many of you responded like this girl:
You know, the whole “don’t lie” thing. God doesn’t want me to lie. Why would I flat out disobey Him in something like that?
Did you know that God’s commands reflect His character?
When God tells you and me not to lie, it’s because God never lies. In fact, He cannot lie. Here are just a couple verses that point this out:
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Num. 23:19).
. . . God, who never lies . . . (Titus 1:2).
Why can’t God lie? Because God is true. That’s just who He is. In fact, Jesus said that He Himself is truth:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, emphasis added).
You may have had people break your trust right and left. You might wonder if you can ever trust anyone again. But you never have to wonder when reading God’s words if He is exaggerating a bit, if He is stretching the truth, if He is being insincere, or if He will go back on His word. God never lies; He always keeps His promises.
But what does this truth about God have to do with us not lying? Well, because . . .
We are created to represent God.
God cannot lie, and we are made in God’s image. Our purpose is to show the world the truth about who God is and what He is like:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26–27).
When we lie, we misrepresent Him and act more like Satan:
“He [Satan] . . . does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, emphasis added).
God has created us in His image. We are made to represent and image Him rightly to the world around us.
Have you lost your parents’ trust? It’s a crummy place to be, I know. I lost my parents’ trust my eighth grade year, and it felt like it took eons to regain it.
That summer, my family moved to a different state, and soon I started attending a new school. I felt like I didn’t have a lot of options when it came to choosing wise friends (there were only fourteen students in my whole grade!). It wasn’t long before my new friends were encouraging me to date a guy I liked behind my parents’ backs. I was all too happy to listen to them. Life was going well until . . .
One horrible, rotten day, a letter was delivered to our home (yep, that was before Facebook!). A friend from my old school had written me. But instead of addressing the envelope to “Paula Hendricks,” she wrote my nickname on the front. When my parents saw the letter, they didn’t know who it was for. So they opened it. And this is what they saw: “I can’t believe you’re dating Neil behind your parents’ backs!” (Busted!)
That was probably the first seed of distrust that was (rightfully) planted in my parents’ hearts. And then guess what they went and did? They prayed that God would help them find out whenever I was covering up my sin. He seemed to answer their prayer time and time again. It wasn’t long before they knew I couldn’t be trusted.
As much as I hated my parents at the time for reading my mail and being so strict, looking back I have to say they were right to not trust me. I was a deceiver. I lied. A lot.
Have You Lost Your Parents’ Trust, Too?
I wonder if you can relate. Have you given your parents (or others) any valid reason not to trust you? Are you one person around them and a different person entirely when you think they’re not looking?
Are you always wondering if you’ll be found out? And then when you are, do you know the feeling of having the people closest to you not know if anything you say is true? We both know that’s not a fun way to live. So what can you do?
How To Get Your Parents’ Trust Back
If you’re one of those girls who has been walking on eggshells around a couple of suspicious parents, here’s how you can regain their trust.
If I have the story right, after my dad asked my mom out, she commented to a friend, “Why do the creepy guys always ask me out?” (Obviously she changed her mind about my dad not too long after that!)
Maybe you feel like my mom felt all those years ago. Why does it seem the guys you don’t like are always the ones pursuing you?
I can’t answer that question for you (except to assume that you’re lovely, and they’re smart enough to realize it!). Instead, may I throw an important question out there?
When a “creepy guy” asks you out, how can you turn him down in a way that glorifies God? More specifically, how can you love a guy well while turning him down?
I’m so glad you asked! Let’s look at a few ways you can love him before, when, and after you turn him down.
Love Him Before You Turn Him Down . . .
Remember that this guy has worth. You might think he’s creepy, but everyone—including this guy—is made in the image of God. That means he has great value and worth in God’s eyes, and he should to you, too—even if you don’t like him “like that.”
Go to God rather than gossiping about him to your friends.Ask God to give you wisdom to lovingly but truthfully communicate with this guy. Ask God to draw this guy closer to Himself through this disappointment. Pray that this guy wouldn’t believe lies about his worth. Pray for wisdom in your interactions with him. You get the idea.
Accept this as God’s assignment for you. You might be frustrated because you don’t want to deal with this. I get that. But God is sovereign, and He has allowed this to happen. So can you receive it from Him?
Don’t rush. You might want to get this guy out of your life ASAP. A quick text might seem like the simplest solution. But is it really best? Pause. Breathe. Pray. There’s no need to freak out about this. You’ve got this, girl, and you can do it in a way that honors God and loves this guy.
Love Him When You Turn Him Down . . .
Own it. Don’t blame God by saying something like, “God hasn’t given me a green light,” or “I just don’t have peace,” or “I don’t feel God wants me to date right now.” Say it like it is: You don’t want to date him. (I mean, come on. If a hot, godly guy came along right now who liked you, would you really tell him you didn’t think God wants you to date right now?)
Tell the truth. When I was a teen, I thought covering up the real reason I didn’t like a guy would protect him. Wrong! “Not hurting his feelings” never justifies lying. Proverbs 24:26 says it like this: “Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.” So give him a “kiss” of truth—lol. It’s the least you can give him. Don’t tell him what you think he wants to hear. I’m not saying you can just blurt out whatever you’re thinking and be oblivious to his feelings. Use wisdom, but be truthful. If you’re not attracted to him, tell him you’re just not feeling anything beyond friendship. If there’s a deeper reason—a reason that would help him know where he needs to grow—share that with him in a direct, loving way. You get the picture.
Affirm him where you can. Even if you don’t like him, you can let him know it’s an honor that he would take an interest in you! More than that, he demonstrated an enormous amount of courage in putting his feelings out there and asking you out. Tell him how much you admire that and that you hope your response won’t keep him from pursuing the right girl at the right time.
“The Christian life is simple. Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when you fail.”
This sentence has lodged in my gut and changed my days—possibly even my life—since I heard it.
The Christian Life Made Simple
A pastor spoke these words simply as I sat in a circle of complete strangers (you can read that story here). But that’s not the point of this post.
What I want to communicate is that this truth has been changing my thoughts and actions since I heard them. And I think they’ll do the same for you.
See, for years I’ve scurried around trying to chip away at my to-do list. But just when I’d eliminate one task, three more would pop up.
So I’ve lived with the mentality that “after my work is done, I’ll rest.” (All that did was result in a giant physical and emotional crash several years ago.) But recently God has used other means—as well as this one, simple sentence—to calm my anxious heart and change my whole approach to the Christian life.
Instead of hitting the ground running each morning in an effort to tame my beastly to-do list, I’ve realized that my task for each day is simple: Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when I fail.
Then, I’d love to hear from you. How does this simple summary of the Christian life focus and/or redirect your hectic life? Do you need to repent of not loving God and others and believe the gospel—that in Christ you are forgiven? What can you do today to cooperate with the Spirit in you in loving God and others?
Do you deal with social anxiety? This girl does. She asks:
How do you deal with social anxiety? I get so nervous around people sometimes and always feel awkward. I’ve been praying about it, but it’s still bad. I want to witness to others, but I practically have a panic attack when I do!
So for her—and anyone who can relate—here are ten helpful ways I’ve personally found to push past social anxiety.
You have to push past social anxiety to love others well.
First, though, a disclaimer: If you’re an introvert, you don’t need to become an extrovert! Think of the following list of suggestions as a few tools for you to take or leave. No one is asking you to get a whole new personality and become the most gregarious person at the party. What we are seeking is to love and welcome others as we have been loved and welcomed by God through Christ.
Hopefully one or more of these suggestions will be helpful to that end.
10 Practical Ways to Push Past Social Anxiety
1.Don’t hide behind your phone. Put it away when you’re with other people. It will help others feel more cared for and will help you engage them more easily. I’m guessing you’re actually better than you know at engaging people when the phone isn’t vying for your attention. You’ve got this!
2. Know that your approval comes not from people but from God. If you are looking to people to tell you what you’re worth, you will fear them instead of love them. Remember that we are all equal, each made in God’s image. If you have surrendered your life to Christ, you now have God’s full approval. And you have been given a mission to love Him with all your heart and to love others as you love yourself. You have to push past social anxiety to love others well.
3. Don’t be afraid to be awkward. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said or done awkward things. But here’s the deal: It’s not a sin to be awkward. It is, however, a violation of God’s law not to love others. In order not to stay perpetually awkward, give yourself permission to be awkward for a while. And if you hurt someone in the process, be sure to seek forgiveness.
4. Ask questions. If you can’t think of questions to ask on the spot, it’s not cheating to have some prepared. For example, when I see someone new at church, I’ll often ask, “How long have you been attending?” followed by “How did you hear about us?” Then I can think of other spontaneous questions to ask them once the conversation is rolling.
5. Listen well. Now that you’ve asked a good question, your job is done, right? Wrong! Don’t let your mind wander. Listen well to how they answer your question. Don’t worry about thinking through your response or your next question—just listen well.
6. If you really want to go the extra mile, jot down notes after you talk to them while the conversation is still fresh in your mind. I often take notes on my phone when I meet someone new whom I think I might bump into again. My notes consist of their name plus an identifying characteristic and maybe something interesting I learned about them. That way, I can always go back and reference my notes later if (okay, when!) I forget their name.
7. Pray. Even though I usually feel like leaving the building right after service on Sundays, I’ve gotten into the habit of asking God, “Who do you want me to talk to today?” I then look for someone to introduce myself to or to say “hi” to. My husband and I are almost always the last to vacate the premises!
8. Practice. Stretch yourself. Try sticking around on Sunday until you’ve found someone to talk to. Practice striking up a conversation with the cashier at the mall. Try smiling at the strangers you pass on the street or in the halls at school. See and engage people wherever you go, just like Jesus did while He lived on earth.
9. Remember that others are insecure, too, and don’t take it personally if they don’t seem interested in talking back. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but you should seek to consistently be friendly. Don’t only talk to the friends you’re comfortable with. Seek out new faces, and do your best to make them feel welcome.
10. Focus on becoming a “there you are” person. There are a few blog posts you read and never forget. This one by Jani Ortlund is one of them for me. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it was to me!
What did I forget? Any other tips you’ve found helpful for pushing past social anxiety? Why do you think it’s so important to work on it?
Do I care enough about the next generation—and ultimately God’s glory—to fight for them even when there’s nothing in it for me?
This is the question Hezekiah and Josiah’s stories have me asking myself.
Just as a little refresher: Hezekiah and Josiah were both kings of Judah. Hezekiah was crowned in 715 B.C.; Josiah began to reign seventy-five years later in 640 B.C. Overall, the Bible tells us they were both good kings (see 2 Kings 18:1–8 and 22:1–2).
But as I read through their stories recently, I stumbled across a troubling difference between these two men.
Hezekiah’s “Me-Only” Mentality
The story goes like this. One day, God sent the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah to tell him that the people of Judah would be taken captive to Babylon because of their sin and rebellion. God let Hezekiah know that even some of his own sons would be taken captive. And this was Hezekiah’s response:
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19, emphasis added).
Hezekiah was fine hearing this bad news, because it didn’t impact him personally. How often do I have the same reaction? I hear a story or encounter a need, and I shrug my shoulders. After all, I’m busy, and thankfully that situation doesn’t impact me. . . . Or does it? Is it my little life and kingdom I’m living for . . . or the advancement of God’s kingdom?
I relate far too well with Hezekiah’s standoffishness. But then I read of Josiah’s very different response.
Josiah’s “It Matters” Mentality
King Josiah’s challenge to me picks up when he was just twenty-six. He sent a few men to the temple of God on a specific mission. While there, these men stumbled across a copy of the Book of the Law. They came back and read the book to Josiah, and when he heard it, he tore his clothes and wept before God. He then sent men to inquire of the Lord what would happen, because Josiah knew the people of Judah hadn’t been obeying God’s law.
So these men went to Huldah the prophetess, and she told them that God would indeed bring disaster on these people, because they had forsaken God and made offerings to other false gods. “But,” she continued, “tell King Josiah this:”
“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place” (2 Kings 22:18–20, emphasis added).
What You and I Can Learn from Josiah
Like Hezekiah, Josiah heard of Judah’s soon demise and was also assured that this would happen after his death. But even though it wouldn’t impact him personally, Josiah instantly got to work.
He led the people in making a covenant with the Lord, that they would keep His commands with all their heart (v. 3).
He burned all the idols that were in the house of the Lord (v. 4).
He fired the priests that previous kings had hired to make offerings to false gods (v. 5).
He destroyed the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the Lord (v. 7).
He wrecked “Topheth” where parents sacrificed their children to the false god, Molech (v. 10).
He commanded the people to start celebrating the Passover again (vv. 21–23).
And much more!
Even though captivity wouldn’t impact him personally, Josiah fought for the next generation. Since captivity was punishment for Judah’s sin, Josiah did everything in his power to help the people return to God.
Fighting for the Next Generation
Josiah’s story convicts me big time. Do I really care about the next generation, even when what happens to them won’t impact me personally? For starters, do I know the names of the children and teens in my local church? Am I aware of what is going on in their lives? If not, who can I deliberately reach out to this next Sunday?
Do I long for God’s glory to be seen in the next generation? Do I care that the next generation obeys God and doesn’t worship false gods? Is there someone I could begin to invest in and build a relationship with—even if it’s just to invite them to come with me when I run errands next?
How about you? Do you have the same heart attitude as Hezekiah . . . or as Josiah? What action can you begin to take today to get to work for the next generation?
Don’t think you’re boy-crazy? You just might be surprised.
Take the Boy-Crazy Quiz
Take the Boy-Crazy Quiz to find out where your focus is. Simply answer “yes” or “no” to these thirteen questions.
In a room full of people, do you always know where “he” is? (yes/no)
Are boys your number-one favorite topic of conversation with your friends? (yes/no)
Do you often dress to catch a guy’s attention? (yes/no)
Do you replace one crush with another almost as soon as you realize the first relationship is not going anywhere? (yes/no)
Have you asked a guy out? (yes/no)
Do you have your eye on more than one guy at a time? (yes/no)
Do you believe you’d finally be completely happy if you had a boyfriend? (yes/no)
Do you change your schedule or plans in order to bump into him? (yes/no)
Do you tend to have more guy friends than girlfriends? (yes/no)
When you’re relaxing with a good book, movie, or song, do you pick those that are filled with ooey-gooey romance? (yes/no)
If you journal or pray, are your pages or prayers filled with thoughts and requests about guys? (yes/no)
Are you always trying to figure out which guys like you? (yes/no)
Would you be willing to get a total makeover for a guy? Not the hair, make-up, and new-clothes kind, but the “I’ll change who I am at my core if that’s what it takes to get you” kind? (yes/no)
Where to Go from Here
If you answered “yes” to several or all of these questions, that says something important about your heart. It clues you in to what your heart loves. What your heart fears, even. Do your answers point to you being more crazy about your Creator God or about guys?
Speaking from experience, boy-craziness is a road that will ultimately lead to heartache and loss (Ps. 16:4). True joy and freedom, on the other hand, are found in God’s presence (Ps. 16:11).
We’re giving away three copies of Confessions today. To enter to win one, log on to the giveaway widget and then leave a comment below by Valentine’s Day, letting me know what you learned from taking this quiz.
In the meantime, let’s continue this conversation. Over the next couple of days, we’re going to explore two questions:
I was moving fast when my friend texted me her grievances against another. Company was due to arrive within the hour, and everything seemed to be happening at once. Between combining the liquid mixture for the corn muffins and texting my hubby about what I needed him to pick up from the store, I texted some hard truth to my friend in response to her message.
Then, with messy hands, I forwarded my response to three people who were aware of the situation and who were praying for my friend. I wrote, “Just sent this to our friend. Please pray. Her heart is so hard.”
Only I accidentally included my friend in the group text. Ugh, ugh, double ugh.
Yes, I had been growing increasingly concerned for her, but after this incident, I realized it would have been best to share my concern with just her and God. Instead, I hurt her deeply. Where did I go wrong?
I was moving too fast. Proverbs 19:2 makes clear, “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”
I assumed the role of savior, which only belongs to God. How much better to pray for my friend, “[I] do not know what to do, but [my] eyes are on you [God]” (2 Chron. 20:12).
I forwarded a text, which reeked of gossip. Paul warned of those who “learn to be . . . gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Tim. 5:13).
I shared a prayer request about someone else without her permission to do so. As Proverbs 25:9 says, “Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret.”
Three Resolutions for Becoming a More Trustworthy Friend
As I asked God to change my heart and make me a more trustworthy friend, I set a few boundaries in place.
1. I resolved not to share prayer requests about anyone other than myself, unless I’ve explicitly asked their permission.
Proverbs 11:13 says, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.”
Someone who reveals another’s secrets is a slanderer, according to the Bible. The King James calls such a person a “talebearer.” We probably don’t think of prayer requests as “bearing tales,” but if we dropped the “Please pray for so-and-so,” would it look any different than talebearing? Let’s not use prayer as a way to gossip through the back door.
2. I resolve not to forward other’s messages to me (or my responses) without permission.
It’s way too easy in our connected world to share other people’s struggles with others. It often feels necessary, as we believe in the power of prayer. The more people praying, the better, right?
But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe, just maybe, you and I are using prayer as a thin guise for gossip, fear, frustration, and support.
3. I resolve to wait to share hard truth with others until I can talk in person or on the phone.
This requires slowing down. It requires not freaking out in the moment and thinking that a problem’s resolution depends on you and you alone. It requires boldness to address a problem without the protective wall of electronic text between you. And it requires crying out in deep dependence to the one and only Savior, rather than trying to do His work for Him, as if He’s on vacation.
Six Questions to Ask to Prevent Subtle Gossip
What if we asked ourselves the following questions before sharing someone else’s business with others?
Has my friend given me permission to share this “prayer request” with others? Am I considering my friend before myself (Phil. 2:3)?
How much time has passed between the time I learned of this need and the time I’m sharing it with others? Am I sharing it impulsively?
If not a lot of time has passed, am I sharing this in a panic? Am I trusting in the Lord to act (Ps. 37:5), or am I trusting in myself to be the savior?
How seriously have I prayed about this issue myself before reaching out to others? Have I knelt in prayer? How long did I pray over it?
Do I believe that the earnest prayer of a single righteous person avails much (James 5:16)? Or do I think my prayers are not enough to move the heart of God?
Could I be embarrassed at some point that I sent this text or email? (If so, I probably shouldn’t send it.)
It Takes More Than Good Intentions
Oh, I know it’s easy to think our intentions are good. I thought that originally, too. But maybe we should distrust our intentions a bit more than we do. Even if our base intentions are good, we should always be on guard of having mixed motives. Love can often attach itself with the sinful desire to know other people’s stuff, to be “in the know,” or to feel puffed up that our lives aren’t so messy.
In my case, regardless of my original motives, I broke trust, and at that point, the only fitting response for me was one of repentance.
So that’s what I did. That evening after our company left, I called my friend and left a voicemail asking for forgiveness. I gave her space to call me when she was ready to talk. Eventually, she graciously forgave me, but because of the trust I damaged by sharing what was not mine to share, it will take time for her to be able to regard me as the fully faithful friend that I desire to be, with God’s help.
How about you? Will you strive to love faithfulness more than the pleasure of gossip? Will you join me in resolving to be oh-so-careful before we share about others?
Let us strive to be like the women recommended in 1 Timothy 3:11: “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.”
After all, we serve and represent the most trustworthy, faithful Friend of all.