He was one of “those kids”. From junior high school through most of college, no one could really tell him anything. He relied on his instincts to get him through most tough spots. When his instincts weren’t enough, he would go on the attack, figuring that the best defense was a good offense. Sure he was a Christian, he had accepted Christ as his Savior at the age of nine. He was very active in the church, but he struggled making application of the things he needed to do in his life. Very few people got through to him during those years. It did not get better with age. He carried that chip on his shoulder until he was 45 years old.
There were destructive things going on in his life, mostly behind the scenes where most people couldn’t see. Things only a handful of folks really knew about. The outward appearance was many times a mask that covered what was going on in the inside. There were times that he was able to “do good” and really walk the path that he was intended to walk. But it was hard for him to stay on the right path for long. It was a constant struggle, trying to balance his temper with the frustrations and anger that he had built up in his life. He was hurting and hurting bad. He had learned from past experiences that when you show weakness, you open yourself to attack. So he didn’t open up. He didn’t care to share what was tearing him apart inside. He wasn’t going to expose himself and get ripped apart by someone else he should have been able to trust. That had already happened way too often. Therefore, if someone did come with good advice, he wasn’t going to show that he accepted it, even if he had. That, in and of itself, would be showing weakness and leaving him open to attack. Needless to say, he wasn’t a very nice person to be around and he was nearly impossible to be a friend to. But he was always listening. Other people just couldn’t tell.
We cannot control whether or not a person will listen to what we have to say. We can only control whether or not we deliver the message. What is the message? How about a message of forgiveness? A message of love, encouragement and hope? A message of the salvation that can be found in Jesus Christ?
If we don’t deliver the message, there is no chance for the words to do any good. The person will not hear them and can’t respond to them. We must reach out. We must seek to counsel, to advise, to encourage, to support. Sometimes it means we get through to folks, sometimes it means we don’t. Many times it means they will ignore us. Sometimes it means they respond back with a response that isn’t always positive, especially if we are trying to gently confront them on an issue in their lives. But still, we must try.
After all, Paul wrote a little something about love that went like this:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Sometimes love means sticking by someone who seems impossible to love. Why do I say this? Because the person that carried that chip on his shoulder until he was 45 was me. I was one of “those kids”. And speaking from experience, I was indeed listening. I heard the words that were spoken to me in love…I just did not act like I did. It took a long time to have those words melt my heart, but make no mistake, those words impacted my life.
I have a handful of friends who stuck by me during that very dark period of my life. I am thankful for them, because I did listen to them. And eventually, as God shone His light upon me, I began to climb out of the darkness that was my life. These friends were examples of patience and they endured me and they bore some of my burdens upon their shoulders through prayer and attempts to reach out to me. Some even tried to intervene in the situations in my life which were so destructive. I am here today because of a God who loves me and rescued me and because of the friends He sent my way to keep me alive during those tough times.
And that’s why we can’t give up.
When our message seems to fall on deaf ears, we must persevere. We may be the lifeline God has sent to someone who desperately needs our love. Don’t give up. Rather, keep loving, keep praying, keep reaching out.
It may make an eternal difference in someone’s life.
It did for mine.