Church gossip used to get me down, until I learned this
Obsessively cycling between fear, anxiety, and despair in the face of church gossip is like living under a “curse.” What might God say about that to help set us free?
Once after a move, I became aware of some unkind things said about me. When the gossip escalated, I felt like a fish on the end of a line, yanked along with zero control over my reactions. Feeling desperate, I searched the scriptures for examples of difficult relationships -- there were plenty. Job's friends told him HE was to blame for his personal tragedies, and Joseph of Egypt's brothers sold him into slavery. Even The Savior was forgotten, betrayed and denied by some of His closest friends. But God brought progress and healing to every situation where faith was involved. Faith defeated unfairness! I wasn't sure how to exercise faith like that, but "opportunities" to figure it out kept coming. With those opportunities came a persistent thought:
Hurt and angry feelings are a temptation, not an entitlement.
The gossip that had hurt so much had been in connection with the devastating loss of my pregnancy. How could I not be entitled to hurt and angry feelings? But, then I thought, Isn't one of the functions of a temptation to destroy peace? Whether or not my feelings were “justified,” hadn't my peace had been destroyed? I started seeing how situations with gossip and hurt feelings were unearthing weakness in me, not just others. Friends had been saying I shouldn’t care. Why was that so hard for me?
I found one possible reason:
“Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusted in man, and taketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.”
- Jeremiah 17:5 (KJV)
I don't believe God is saying He will curse us if we rely too much on what others think, I think He's pointing out that the only 100% stable place for perfect love and acceptance is with Him. Obsessively cycling between fear, anxiety, and despair IS like living under a “curse.” It's like buckling up for the unpredictable ups and downs of a rollercoaster ride.
I also love this funny assurance:
“I am he; yea, I am he that comforteth you. Behold, who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of man, who should die, and... be made like unto grass.”
- Isaiah 51:12
When I read that, I picture God saying to me, “Who are you to be so afraid of people? Have you forgotten who I am?" That scripture is kind of funny when you think about it; People die, their bodies return to the earth and they become grass... In other words, the harm they do is temporary.
At the time, my capacity to put it into practice what I learned wasn't great, but I strived to act on the invitation to exercise my faith to overcome unfairness. I tied to maintain a perspective shift, and remember:
Anger destroys peace and is a temptation, not an entitlement.
Trusting in God for love and acceptance is secure/reliable; trusting in people is not.
People are temporary in their ability to cause harm.