“Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.
“Lord my God, if I have done this
and there is guilt on my hands —
if I have repaid my ally with evil
or without cause have robbed my foe —
then let my enemy pursue and overtake me;
let him trample my life to the ground
and make me sleep in the dust.”
— Psalm 7:1-5 (NIV)
For many years, I have watched how a friend who serves in ministry has handled attacks that have come against her.
Just as the psalmist describes, I’ve seen her ripped to pieces with seemingly few coming to her defense.
And yet, she always seemed to repent before God.
Her repentance puzzled me. Clearly, people had attacked her. I didn’t see where she was doing anything wrong. She seemed the innocent victim. Why would she repent?
I’m not talking here about false repentance, taking on oneself the blame for something another person did. I’m talking about saying just what the psalmist said: “God, what is my part?”
Today I was reading Psalm 7 and finally I understood. Regardless of what came against my friend, she was making sure she was walking rightly with God. She didn’t want any reactions from her flesh or any judgments against her accusers to take root in her heart. She didn’t want unhealed wounds to turn into bitterness. It wasn’t about what had been done to her. It was about keeping her accounts short and keeping her relationship with God pure.
It finally made sense to me. We are all a mess. We all hurt others in different ways.
It might be easy to see overt attacks when someone tears up another person’s heart. But what about the times we hurt others by grumbling under our breath? Or yelling at the person who cuts us off in traffic, even if we only yell inside our own car and they can’t hear? How about the people we’ve written off or given up on? Or that difficult-to-love person God keeps putting in our path, who needs our prayers and His presence through us, but we keep ignoring them? And what about the people we deprive of our blessings when we hide our light under the bushel of self-deprecation?
There are many ways we wound others. And it’s the subtle ways that may trip us up the most and deceive us because they’re hard to see. God calls us to repent for our part in each circumstance. He wants us to let Him change our heart.
Where we are tempted to lash out at blatant arrows that come against us, we should be repenting before God for the ways we continue to hurt others — including the ways we lash out at God in our hurt and anger, of which I am so often guilty. Our repentance invites God into the whole situation, for the sake of others as well as ourselves.
As Psalm 7 goes on to show, God will bring justice in each circumstance. But it’s our repentance that invites Him in. When we take justice into our own hands, we block what God desires to do. When we turn our heart to Him and acknowledge that we all need Him, then He can move into the situation and bring His justice.
And we need to remember, when God brings justice, it’s not to avenge us. We are all a mess. He moves in justice to realign things to His way — His very best for all of us. That person who hurt you — He wants them healed and saved. The circumstance that has just about taken you out — He wants that to be a bridge to turn things around, not just for you but also for whole families and communities. The wounds others inflicted on you — He wants to turn those into your testimony that will help others find God and get healing. He didn’t cause those wounds, but now He wants to use them to change you to be more like Him.
So now I understand why my friend, following in the footsteps of the psalmist, has repented in the face of things that have come against her. Repentance is the key to inviting God in. In the moment of pain, we may want salve for our wounds and we may want to shout about our injustice. But what we really need is for God to be in the middle of that situation with everything He desires to bring.
Copyright © 2020 by Janet Eriksson
Janet Eriksson is an intercessor, writer, and teacher in Dahlonega, Georgia. She loves conversation with friends, front porch swings, sweet tea, and spending time on lakes and rivers. The author of nine books and editor of many more, Janet blogs and teaches at Adventures with God and publishes Reflections Christian online magazine. She enjoys volunteering with Transformations. Janet received her M. Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary.