Insults Clarify Our True Needs: How?
Two weeks ago, we began a four-part series on the blessings hidden in insults. In our first segment, we discussed how insults help reveal trouble spots in our relationship with the Lord. Last week we explored how insults heighten our appreciation for God’s grace in our calling. This week we’ll focus on how insults clarify our true needs.
When Someone Insults You. . .
When we’re mocked and ridiculed—when we’ve become the target practice for a fool’s provocations— what do we think we need? Maybe a cutting retort on the tip of our tongue? Better yet: God’s instant vengeance? Or why not a miracle: for God to supernaturally beam us to a distant place?
Apparently, that’s not what we need, or our loving Heavenly Father would provide it. Like Paul when he pleaded for relief from his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-10), we plead with the Lord for relief from our tormentors. But as with Paul, the Lord often has something more that he wants to give us—namely his all-sufficient grace. Disappointed, we ask, “Can grace outshine relief?” Be encouraged as we consider how grace—Christ’s power in our weakness—supplies our true needs. There are four key areas we will look at: humility, meekness, trust, and thankfulness.
Paul came to understand God’s purpose in the thorn in his flesh. He saw it as protection from conceit. See, Paul was susceptible to exalting himself. God gave him great revelations and he was a prominent man by the world’s standards. Without the thorn, his great gift could have been a great stumbling block.
Likewise for us. All believers have been given spiritual gifts, but these gifts are usually accompanied by weaknesses, like insults and persecutions—lest we exalt ourselves.
Does the risk of being conceited seem like a lesser evil than the pain you’re enduring? Consider this: Conceit turned Lucifer into Satan. We too, are so naturally full of conceit that it’s only by grace that we have the desire to grow in humility. It’s only by grace that we have the power to say, “Lord, let your grace humble me as you desire.
The ability to surrender our agenda to the Lord is a test of our motives. Are we following the Lord because we believe he’ll deliver on our wish lists? Unrelenting insults reveal any impurities in our motives. Grace helps us say, “Lord, I want to respond to hardship with meekness and a teachable spirit. Protect me from bitterness and help me be trained by this, so I can reap a harvest of righteousness and peace” (Heb. 12:1-15).
Being reviled can crush us like we’ve been T-boned, but God’s grace propels us—crumpled wrecks that we are—into the lane that leads to “Trust-ville.” Bloodied and whiplashed, we turn to the psalms and find that grace opens our eyes to this foundational principle: trust grows when God’s people remind themselves of his character.
Consequently, there’s this sweet mercy: hard circumstances lose some of their impact on our souls. “Those who know your name put their trust in you” (Ps. 9:10) can be paraphrased: those who remind themselves of your character are able to shift their dependence away from you changing the circumstances to trusting in you to carry them through.
Sooner or later, we see evil in the mirror. We’ve become so attuned to our persecutor’s ways that we can’t help but see similar traits in ourselves. It’s horrible. And glorious—because in that humble place we’re more likely to ask, “When am I most likely to criticize or judge someone else? Isn’t it when I’m feeling inferior? Hasn’t my envy, my desperate desire to maintain a sense of superiority, caused me to belittle others? And the Lord has been so long-suffering with me!” In that way, the Spirit softens our hearts, plants seeds of compassion, pours in a measure of empathy, and leads us to pray more genuinely for the one who, evidently, is fighting their own demons.
If we could remember the power thanksgiving has to fill us with joy, happiness, and peace, our shelves would be groaning under the weight of countless gratitude journals.
Where to start? Look to Scripture for guidance:
“Thank you for your promise, Jesus, of great rewards in heaven for those who are reviled for righteousness’ sake (Matt. 5:10-11). Thank you for being my Redeemer who redeems all evil for my good and your glory. Thank you for your all-sufficient grace that refines me, strengthens me, and helps me love you more.”
Next week, look for part four: Insults Connect us to the God of All Comfort.