or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. 1 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV)
I really enjoy spending time with the young children at church. Many of them have a special place in my heart, and I enjoy watching them play together. Since I have had my cochlear implants, I can hear and understand voices and speech much clearer than when my children were young. It causes me to enjoy hearing and listening to their conversations even more since it is a gift to be able to hear them.
As I listen in on these children when they play together, you often hear, “I want to play with this.”, or I hear them telling an adult that some other child took their toy. It is not instinctive for children to want to share something or think about what another child wants to play with because it is all about them while they are playing. As parents, we typically have to teach our children about sharing what God has given us with other people.
Even as an adult, it has been a struggle at times. Because of how others had treated me when I have given myself to them or when I shared things with other people and watched them treat them like they had no value, I have had a hard time sharing with others again. When God would prompt me to give or share, I would hesitate because I didn’t trust them to take care of it or treat it well.
Yet God calls us to love in a way that isn’t just about us. It is about the good of others as well.
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 1 Corinthians 10:24 (ESV)
just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:33
In my Life Application Bible Study notes it says: “Paul’s criterion for all his actions was not what he liked best , but what was best for those around him.
“The opposite attitude would be:
(1) being insensitive and doing what we want, no matter who is hurt by it.
(2) being oversensitive and doing nothing , for fear that someone might be displeased.
(3) being a “yes” person by going along with everything, trying to gain approval from people rather than God.
“In this age of “me first” and looking out for number 1, Paul’s starting statement is a good standard. If we make the good of others one of our primary goals, we will develop a serving attitude that pleases God.”
I don’t know about you, but I have fallen into all of these categories at one time or another. I have been insensitive and in a place where what I wanted was the main goal, even if it affected other people. As I look back, I think most of those times and actions came from a place of hurt and brokenness or a wounded place inside me.
Understanding this about myself has given me more compassion towards those I see doing that very thing. I stop and pause first before reacting to the hurt they have caused and take time to think about the other person, instead of my own hurt, and ask God to show me how to love that person at that moment. I ask Him to help me step outside of what I am feeling and let my response bring them closer to Jesus and to healing that place of hurt that causes them to live that way. That famous saying that says, “hurt people, hurt people,” is so true.
I have also been oversensitive and done nothing, living in a fear that someone would be displeased with me if I did do something. I have grown up in a place where I heard a lot about what I did wrong and not much about what I did right, so I have a deep fear of disappointing people, especially those I love. I would rather avoid that possibility than do something about it. I was made to feel that my feelings were silly and I shouldn’t be talking about them. Being sensitive and feeling deeply seemed to be strange to people or inappropriate.
I have learned along the way that is not the truth.
Our feelings can’t control us, but God has given them to us with purpose as well. He has given me a heart that feels deeply to serve His people in the gifting He has given me. They need to be led by the Holy Spirit and not my flesh, but they are not silly, and they do matter. Sometimes God gives me things to say that need to be said, or He directs those feelings in the way He wants me to act on something specific in someone’s life or in the church. If I sit and worry about if the other person is thinking I am silly or that my feelings are irrelevant, or I worry that I might mess it up, do it wrong, or become a disappointment to someone around me, that is not loving God, the other person, or myself.
What if God wants to use us to speak the truth to someone who needs it, and because of that fear we are feeling, we walk away and let them stay in the lie?
What if God is putting those feelings in our spirit to cause us to pray for someone who needs to feel loved in that moment and because we feel awkward we walk away and leave them there feeling alone?
What if what God gave us to say would help end an unhealthy cycle in a relationship or situation, and we walked away leaving that cycle to continue instead of being broken?
What if even though they are disappointed in the moment, it leads to their breakthrough and they recognize that later?
I am a “What if,” girl. I could talk myself out of something in a heartbeat because fear controlled my heart and I didn’t trust God as I should. As God has made Himself known to me and helped me work through the struggles of my heart, I don’t run from things quite as much. I have had to repent over many times I allowed fear to rule my heart and not just rob me, but others of what He was doing in their lives through what God was doing in me.
Because of God’s great love for us and others, He redeems, He restores, and He gives second chances. None of which I want to waste. Sometimes love means doing and saying the hard things. It is not always the mushy, gushy, easy stuff.
When my heart. needs truth, God speaks it to me, not to be mean, or put me down, but to love me and move me towards freedom. He loves me too much to leave me in the lie. I am grateful for that.
I have also been a “yes” girl. I am a people pleaser by nature. I want people to like me and love me, and it makes me sad when they don’t. I also think I have allowed people’s opinions of me to become my identity. If someone has an issue with me, it has become personal to me, and I want to fix whatever in myself that needs to be fixed to change that to make me whatever I am supposed to be.
This has caused me to fall into a place where I say “yes” to everything. Over the last five years probably, I have learned the word “no.” I have learned that it is ok to say no and that it can be loving to say no. The other person doesn’t have to understand why I say no, or like that, I say no for it to be a loving thing.
Another thing I learned is that it isn’t loving God to say yes to something that He has prepared for someone else to do, just because I don’t want to disappoint someone or I think by saying, “yes” that I will be liked more. That is a self-seeking motive right there.
I need to be willing to share with others and not try and do everything to make myself look like some superwoman to prove to others that I am not what they say I am. That has been a struggle with my hearing loss. People limit me sometimes, and they put me in a place where I feel limited. But I have nothing to prove. The things God has given me to do, He equips me to do in His strength anyway.
You have nothing to prove! If God leads you to say “yes” to something, then say “yes.” If you are just saying “yes” to prove something or not disappoint anyone or to fulfill some legalistic or religious obligation, say “no.”
Saying “no” is loving when that is the answer God is giving. God has said “no” to me way more than “yes,” but who is counting? LOL. I never used to think God saying “no” was loving, but I have learned it has been one of the most loving things He has done for me at times.
Just like those children who need parents and adults to come alongside them and help them learn how to love one another in their times together, let’s come alongside one another, encouraging each other and helping each other be brave to love in those hard ways when we need to and may we have soft hearts, open eyes and ears to hear how God uses each other to speak truth and life to us.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your love. Thank You for giving us your love for each other and ourselves. Help us to be brave to walk in Your love even when it is hard and scary. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear Your voice as You speak through others in our lives. Give us softened hearts to pause and see where others are hurting, and need love even when they are not lovable. Thank You for loving us when we were unloveable. Give us boldness to say “no” when we need to, and help us to be brave to say “yes” when we want to say “no.” Continue to help us to see love as YOU have defined it and not the culture around us. May others know You because of how they see us love each other in the body of Christ. In Jesus Name! Amen!