Jesus loved perfectly, nevertheless, He was hated, despised, rejected, mocked, beaten, and crucified. God used this suffering to put Jesus in a place of choice. He could choose to endure the pain or He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy those who hated Him. He chose to endure and God used this suffering. The Scripture teaches us that Jesus was perfected through suffering. That passage can seem a little strange because we think to ourselves that Jesus was the Son of God and He was already perfect. We have to remember that Jesus came to this Earth as a man in the flesh. He was tempted in every way the Scripture says but He never fell into the temptations. For Jesus to be able to die for our sins, He had to be a perfect man, not a perfect God. Only a man could take the punishment for mankind. Jesus was tempted because He chose to live as a man and we are tempted. He was perfected through suffering because the suffering afforded Jesus the opportunities to face temptations and resist.
The beatings and crucifixion were extremely cruel and excruciatingly painful. But I would draw your attention to the emotional suffering. His best friends could not even stay awake to pray with Him though He was overwhelmed to the point of death. Judas who He invested three years into got up from the table where Jesus had just washed his feet, showing the full extent of his love, to betray the man who had loved him to the end. Peter, even Peter, would soon deny that he even knew Jesus. They would all fall away. The nails hurt, but imagine how his heart was pierced when these men fell away. Imagine the heartbreak when He stood with Barabbas and the crowd chose Barabbas. Imagine the heartbreak He experienced to hear those who had shouted “Hosanna” now shouting “Crucify Him.” Yet, God was using all of this to move Christ, living as a man, into absolute perfection.
What if there are some things that God wants to do in your heart that can only come about in heartbreak? What if there is a faith that can only happen when your husband walks out on you? What if there is a healing that can only work when all the people you lean on abandon you? What if there is a strength that can only come to us when the people we love turn on us, hate us, reject us, mock us, beat us, and leave us dying within with a crushed spirit?
Yeah, I don’t like the way this is going either. If I could tell myself to ‘shutup,’ I would do it now. Yet, this is how we are perfected. The people we depend on for love, acceptance, and approval might keep us from depending upon the Lord as the source of these things. Heartbreak, a crushed spirit, these are the things that push us to the edge. We have a choice. We can learn to turn to the Lord and overcome. We can turn inward and embrace depression or vengeance. We can lash out against those who do not like us, love us, approve of us. Only one of these though can move us to a place where we are no longer slaves to the unrealistic expectations of people who don’t like us. Yes, you know the answer. You don’t have to raise your hand—just blurt it out—JESUS!!
Look at this passage:
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken (NIV)
The Lord saves the righteous when they are crushed in spirit. He saves us when people hate us, criticize us, ignore us, mistreat us, all of the things people do to crush our spirit. Hold up! Hold up! Wait just a minute! If the Lord saves the righteous, why then do we all experience a crushed spirit throughout seasons of our life? How is He saving us if we are already crushed in spirit? I don’t know of anyone who has lived their life exempt from heartbreak. So, obviously, this doesn’t mean that He will protect us from being crushed in spirit. I can say that confidently because I have been crushed. I know you have been crushed. Some of you are reading this with a crushed spirit right now.
The word ‘save’ in this passage comes from a root word that means ‘made to feel safe.’ He promises is not to keep us from heartbreak, but to make us feel safe even as people are hurling their insults and shouting their critiques, breaking our heart. How can I feel safe when it becomes very clear that there are people in my life who just don’t really care for me at all?
The key to all of this is found in that word ‘righteous.’ The righteous will be saved and made to feel safe when people say all kinds of things about us and accuse us of wickedness. I have been speaking a lot lately about the Armor of God in the series I have titled: Fighting the Good Fight. One piece of the Armor of God is the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate protected the heart. And the Lord intends for righteousness to protect our heart. It makes us feel safe even when we are under attack from others. There are two types of righteousness. One is the righteousness we receive by faith when we make Christ our Lord. But then, after this, the Lord calls us to live a righteous life. And this righteous life lived out is what protects us from heartbreak when people don’t like us and make sure we know it.
To be righteous is not simply an obedience though it includes obedience. Righteousness and obedience are two different things. I can obey with a bad attitude. Bad-attitude-obedience is unrighteous. Righteousness not only obeys, but honors. When we are righteous, we are living our life in a way that honors the Lord as He should be. We concern ourselves more with pleasing God than we do pleasing man. We spend so much of our time trying to get people to like us and approve of us. We put forth so much effort trying to earn the affection of others. The problem with this is that if we seek their approval more than we seek the approval of God, we are not living a righteous life. And if their disapproval steals our joy, our peace, our purpose, we have elevated them above our Lord and this is not righteous.
To put on the breastplate of righteousness, it requires a change in our mindset. We force ourselves to be only concerned with pleasing the Lord above everything else. So that when you are looking at the person who is raking you over the coals for no reason, you are not nearly as concerned about their disapproval as you are about God’s approval. Because of this new mindset, rather than lashing out or turning inward, you try to respond in a way that pleases the Lord. You take captive that thought telling you to smack them across the face as hard as you can (in the name of Jesus J) and your force that thought to turn and please God and you begin to think something like….I don’t know…maybe…kind of like…well, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Instead of hating them, you keep loving them.
Hey! There is no need to yell at me! I know this would be very hard. I know this is asking a lot. But let me remind you that this is what will protect your heart from heartbreak. How you ask?? I am so glad you asked me that. In order to live to please God, I must lay down my desire for people to like me. My heart can only be broken if I need the approval of people. I can only be enslaved to something I feel that I must have. When I realize that the approval of God is all that matters, little by little, I will no longer need for you or anyone else to like me anymore. I will release this need and unchain my heart from your approval of me.
This may sound crazy right now, but remember, this is a God thing. It is a mystery how He works in our heart to move us and perfect us. This almost sounds too holy for anyone to be able to do. But we must remember that Jesus told the disciples that when the Holy Spirit would come to us, we would do even greater things… The Lord helps us to make this change. He transforms our heart so that even under attack, we are so confident of His love and approval that we have a sense that He is with us even as people are against us. In His presence then, we feel safe. He saves those who are crushed in spirit.