Today’s post is a continuation of my last, “Love Does When Love Faces Opposition,” about how to love through all the opposition you will encounter in life. It’s a fact that no matter who you are or what you are trying to accomplish in this life, somewhere along the way, there will be people and forces that conspire against you. I’m sure you can relate to what I’m saying here. I’ve been looking at the book of Nehemiah, the master of overcoming opposition, to find ways that we can use love to get past any type of opposition that may come our way. As we learned in Nehemiah, and I discussed in my last post, the first step to overcoming opposition is to be prepared for it. By knowing that it’s coming we can better guard ourselves against all the different forces that may be working against us: outside, inside, and internal. But that’s not all we can do to love through opposition. Let’s continue to look at Nehemiah to see what else he can show us about overcoming the hurdles and obstacles that cross the path that God has put us on.
Listen to Your Critics
That’s right. You heard me correctly. If the first step to overcoming challenges in life is to be prepared for the opposition that is coming your way, then the second step is to listen to what they have to say. Everyone, everywhere has an opinion. Am I right? And some times the opinions people express just aren’t that smart. Let me give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Check out these comments from the National Forest Service registration sheets and comment cards.
- “The places where trails do not exist are not well-marked.”
- “Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.”
- “Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the area of these pests.”
- “A McDonald’s would be nice at the trailhead.”
- “Chair lifts need to be in some places so that we can get to wonderful views without having to hike to them.” (My personal favorite and I have to admit that some times I agree)
Those examples are exaggerations, of course and if all criticism were like that, dealing with criticism would be easy; wouldn’t it? But the fact of the matter is that it’s human nature to dismiss other people’s criticisms of us even if, unlike these examples, it might have some basis. We all want to just crumple up the piece of paper that criticism is written on and forget about it, but the wise person knows that there are times when criticism can be valuable. In fact, every time the Bible mentions criticism, it’s challenge is the same. Listen up:
If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31
To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry. Proverbs 25:12
Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. Proverbs 29:1
There is no easy way to handle criticism. Let’s face it; it’s just hard to hear someone suggest that you could do better. Obviously, like the examples above, not all criticism is valid so you don’t have to listen to all criticism but you can’t just throw it all away either. The secret lies in getting good at evaluating criticism. So how can we differentiate between the criticism we should listen to and the criticism, like suggestions that the park service received, that we should dismiss. Let’s see what the Bible has to say on the subject. Check out these verses that talk about valid criticism; according to the Bible, the first step in handling criticism is always prayer. Look at what Nehemiah prays:
Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. Nehemiah 4:4-5
I love this prayer. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Who wants to join me in a prayer for those people who criticize us. Let’s name them right now. Let us pray. Oh lord, smack ‘em!
[bctt tweet=”Don’t get mad, don’t get even, get prayer when people criticize you. #CanyonSprings” username=”canyon_springs”]
I know those words sound brutal, but do you know what I read in there? Nehemiah’s real. He’s authentic. He’s telling God what he really wants. He’s not sugar coating it. That’s refreshing to me. Have you ever wanted to pray one of those prayers on a person who has slandered you? How about the guy suing you? Anyone want to pray that kind of prayer on a guy or girl who broke your heart? Well…Who’s stopping you? God’s okay with it. He may not follow your advice and key their car like you want, but he’s okay with our honesty. Remember: to handle criticism well, first, start with prayer.
Don’t Waste Time On Unwarranted Criticism
What is the first thing most of us do when we face unwarranted criticism. I don’t want to speak for you, but when I get unwarranted criticism, I want to fight back and defend myself and my actions. Nehemiah didn’t do that, though he could have. He could have pulled out his letter from the king and showed it to these guys. He could have gone over all of the reasons why he’s right and they’re wrong. But he doesn’t do that. He prays and moves on.
I don’t know about you, but this is a lesson I need. It’s so easy for me to get caught up and fixated on criticism. I get caught in brain debates of all the things I’d say to put these people in their place. But not Nehemiah. He simply prayed, “God, deal with these punks” and moved on.
Do Take Valid Criticism Seriously
They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. Nehemiah 4:8,9
When Nehemiah faced a threat he responded in two ways. Again his first step was prayer, but he didn’t stop there. He combined the spiritual with the practical. He prayed and posted a guard. And that wasn’t all he did to protect his people. Look at verse 13:
Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. Nehemiah 4:13
Nehemiah came up with a military strategy to stand against the threat. Now look at verse 16
From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah Nehemiah 4:16.
Nehemiah realized that his people were not only under attack from the outside, but they were fatigued as well. So Nehemiah lessened the load. He had only half of them work while the other half stood guard. When Nehemiah came across a valid criticism, he took action. He took their fears seriously. That is a very important step especially in one area of leadership.
Most of us have had the privilege of leading a family and if you have, then you know that in order to love children through their fears or problems, you need to put yourself in their shoes in order to understand their perspective, but too often we forget to do that with others who we may be in charge of leading. Let me give you an example: I was watching a show with comedian Brian Regan talking about how some parents treat their kids when they lose a balloon. “Don’t worry about it kid. It’s just a balloon. We can get you another balloon.” Then he went on to say, “But what if one day your wallet started floating away. How would you react if someone said, ‘Don’t worry about it. It’s just a wallet. We can get you another wallet?’” You wouldn’t appreciate that anymore than your child would if you told him to suck it up when his balloon took off into the sky never to come back again.
To lead people, we need to see life from their perspective. We need treat their fears seriously. Maybe with our kids, it’s fear of a baseball when they are standing at bat; maybe it’s fear of bad guys breaking into their room; maybe it’s fear that a teacher won’t like them. Even though in our minds we can see that there is really nothing to fear, that doesn’t mean the fear isn’t real to them. The same is true in marriage. Have you ever wanted your spouse to go to a party and had them react negatively because they didn’t want to have to meet new people? You’re thinking, “Get over it, they are just people. Come on now.” But If you love someone, you will take their fears seriously and love them through it.
There is one final way to deal with criticism and opposition. It’s a very short but it deserves it’s own point:
We can love through opposition by remembering all God’s done for us already
After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14
Remember. Nehemiah has dealt with the opposition, has heard their fears and responded, and now comes the pep talk and it revolves around this one word. Remember. Remember who God is. Remember who you are fighting for. Remember. Folks I know you will face opposition and if there was anything I could give to you it would be this. Remember who you are in Jesus Christ. Remember all the things God has done for you:
- Remember his promises to bless you and take care of you.
- Remember he has bigger plans for you than you can ever know.
- Remember that even when hard times come he can bring great things.
- Remember the people around you in your family that love you.
When you face opposition, remember: We have a great God.