When We’re Treated Unjustly
He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exalt over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
Confidence in God’s sovereignty in the lives of people should keep us from becoming resentful or bitter when we’re treated unjustly or maliciously by others. Bitterness usually stems not so much from the other persons actions as from the effects of those actions on our lives.
Consider the following scenario. You have unjustly fired from your job for reasons unrelated to your performance. After months of fruitless job hunting, you find yourself standing in the unemployment line. Standing there, you brood over the injustice perpetrated on you by your former boss. You’re resentful and bitter.
But suppose on the day you were fired, as you walked out the door, you met a man looking for someone with your skill and experience who offers you a better job at twice the salary. There is one additional qualification. You must have had the experience of being unjustly fired. You gladly accept the job and thoroughly enjoy your new position. Do you become bitter? No. Instead you think how fortunate you are that you were fired. It’s the effects of being fired, not the act itself, that determines whether your tempted to become bitter.
God sometimes allows people to treat us unjustly. Sometimes He even allows their actions to seriously affect our careers or our futures viewed on a human plane. But God never allows people to make decisions about us that undermine His plan for us. God is for us, we are His children, He delights in us.(Zephaniah 3:17). And the Scripture says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”(Romans 8:31). We can put this down as a bedrock truth: God will never allow any action against you that is not in accord with His will for you. And His will is always directed to our good.
What distinguishes Christians from non-Christians is how they respond to life. Anyone can be glad, happy, delightful, and calm when life is going along well. All know how to celebrate life when good things are happening. But it’s in the dark moments that our faith as Christians shines. How we respond to tragedy, struggles, unfair treatment, and the like defines us as Christians. Though the sin-nature in us pressures us to respond with anger, bitterness, and even violence; our Christ-nature pushes back with quiet confidence in the sovereignty of God.
I realize that there will be those who will say to me and rightly so, “But you don’t know what I’m going through!” That’s absolutely true but there is One who knows exactly what you’re going through in the minuscule details. Our warped perception of life and how it should be causes us to question the love and protection of God especially during times of suffering or injustice. We even hear preachers who teach that we as the children of God should always walk in blessing and success. But that is not what the Bible teaches. Jesus told us some very important truths. First, He told us that we would have trouble in this world so we shouldn’t be surprised when it comes.
33 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]
He tells us that when tribulation and distress and suffering come, we can be confident in Him and His love and that through Him we too can overcome this thing. It is not to say that we can just ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist. We bring those burdens, cares, and woes to the source of help. Job in all his suffering brought his complaint back to God for he knew that ultimately it would be God who ruled on his behalf. We read that God is the one who will bring justice and if needed vengeance and as Christians we trust Him to do exactly that. For some this may sound like we aren’t engaged. Truth is we are more engaged when we are bringing the matter before God than when we are presenting our case to other humans. We know that God is just and righteous in all His ways and His ruling will always be right. In these days of trouble let us turn fully to God, trusting Him to work His plan in our lives. Let us trust that if life isn’t working out according to our plan, it most certainly is according to His. Let us trust in the sovereignty of God who holds the entire creation in His hands and yet notices the little sparrow.
“Then Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head [in mourning for the children], and he fell to the ground and worshiped [God]. He said, “Naked (without possessions) I came [into this world] from my mother’s womb, And naked I will return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”
“Love is to be sincere and active [the real thing—without guile and hypocrisy]. Hate what is evil [detest all ungodliness, do not tolerate wickedness]; hold on tightly to what is good. Be devoted to one another with [authentic] brotherly affection [as members of one family], give preference to one another in honor; never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord; constantly rejoicing in hope [because of our confidence in Christ], steadfast and patient in distress, devoted to prayer [continually seeking wisdom, guidance, and strength], contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality. Bless those who persecute you [who cause you harm or hardship]; bless and do not curse [them]. Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty [conceited, self-important, exclusive], but associate with humble people [those with a realistic self-view]. Do not overestimate yourself. Never repay anyone evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and gracious and proper in the sight of everyone. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “ Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
If there’s ever been a time to live out our faith in a visible way, surely it is in these times. While the world is reeling with all its troubles, while the reactions of non-Christians to these things are troubling, and while there is much searching for solutions, let us as believers live out our faith. Let our testimony be more that words. Let it be in our attitude and our actions in such a way that it produces wonder in those who know us. Now I know to practice what Romans instructs us to do is not at all normal. It certainly isn’t and won’t be easy. We will have to find help from the Lord if we’re going to override our sin-nature. To live this out will require that we are filled with the Holy Spirit. It will require that we bring continuously our feelings, frustrations and desires before God and that He gives us the patience and hope until we see Him working it all out according to His plan. It will require that we accept what He chooses and that we surrender our will to His will. None of this will be easy and may seem impossible, so we trust God to work it in us. So we will wait.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone.] After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be]. To Him be dominion (power, authority, sovereignty) forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Peter 5:6-11
May God grant that His church becomes so.
Dr. John Thompson