What do you do when you’re down? We may not want to think about it, but all of us do get upset at least occasionally, and we all react differently when we’re in a bad place emotionally. Some of us only get upset rarely–maybe on a day that holds particular significance to us, like Christmas or Valentine’s Day–others feel the downward pull of their negative emotions more frequently. Yet how we handle ourselves when we’re down is of utmost importance–to ourselves, to the those around us, and most importantly, to Jesus!
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NIV)
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty good emotionally most of the time. I know myself enough to avoid dealing with important issues after a certain hour of the day because everything seems more depressing the later it gets, and things that seem catastrophic at bedtime frequently reveal themselves to be of almost trifling significance in the light of the morning. Yet we all have an Achilles’ Heel; an emotional weakness–something that can really attack our hearts and minds, if we let it latch on.
It might be the memory of a loved one who is no longer with you, whether because of death or abandonment, or a holiday that should be wonderful, but which you have come to genuinely wish you could avoid because of a negative experience or association. For me, it’s my birthday–and not because I’m a year older!
Now, you’d think a birthday a happy day, and it typically is. You get greetings from people you normally don’t see often, and maybe, if you’re lucky, some cake and gifts, or a meal out or even a party. But each of us is different, and for me, this particular day each year seems to overwhelm me with reminders of my perceived insignificance to others–of not being loved.
I could delve into my childhood and pull out memories of birthdays not being particularly special occasions, or that I was an only child, or the absence of friends to whom I was special enough to make a big deal over. I could bring to mind all the festive celebrations I’ve participated in over the years, and watched others being made much of, and somehow, perhaps–whether rightly or wrongly–come to the conclusion that if you are loved, you will be made much of–if at no other time, at least on your birthday.
This might actually sound absolutely ridiculous to you. Your trigger might, in fact, be something completely different than mine—but when it attacks, how do you respond? What do you do? Do you get angry and yell and scream, or maybe, hold it in and become bitter? Do you reach for something destructive–for a drink, a cigarette, or a pill? Or, do you look for some other dramatic way to let others know just how wrong they were to not fully meet all your expectations of them?
Well, it was my birthday again today, and I felt sad. I’d like to say that I fell on my knees right away, spent much time in prayer, and was then wonderfully better, but the truth is that I quietly cried and felt sorry for myself much of the evening–not a response that brought glory to God in the least! Eventually, I decided to take a walk. It was completely dark by this time, so I basically kept going around the blocks near my home over and over again, and over, and over again, and then–something amazing happened: my spirit began worshipping God! Perhaps it was the physical exercise kicking my mind out of its funk, or maybe it was the sound of the crickets, or the beauty of the trees contrasted against the darkened sky, but whatever it was, it was nothing short of amazing, because instead of continuing to wallow in my private pity party, I was drawn out of myself into the majesty of God–I even started to sing worship!
And that’s what it’s all about–Whom it’s all about. Whenever we descend into our own particular downward spiral, whether once a year or once a day, chances are we’ve done so because we’ve lost sight of Whom it’s all about: we’ve lost sight of Jesus! If we keep Him ever before us–if it’s really all about Him in our lives–we won’t become so bent out of shape when we feel we’ve been wronged. Because, if you think about it, whenever we get bent out of shape, that’s really it–we almost always feel we’ve been wronged, that somehow our person or our rights have been violated (whether they actually have or not).
Yet, Jesus–as in every situation of life–is our example in this too. He suffered the utmost violation on the cross–so much more than anything we could possibly ever go through–and His response was one of utmost goodness: “…Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV) He gave the perfect example of not being overcome by the evil that attacked His body and threatened to attack His mind, but rather, He overcame it–and gave us an example of how to overcome our “attackers”–with good!
So, the next time you find yourself going to a emotional place you know isn’t honoring to God–stop! Back up a couple of steps and do what you probably don’t at all feel like doing at that instant–call out to God. Ask Him to help you not be overcome with evil, but rather to overcome the evil that threatens you with good–and then–praise Him! Sing worship aloud to Him, speak the Psalms–do anything that affirms His glory and majesty and goodness and preeminence in your life. And if you resolve and continue to focus your eyes continually on Christ, watch Him pull you up out of your deep place and help you overcome the evil that threatens you with good!Believe it–He will!!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help us not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good! Amen.