Encourage One Another

It’s wonderful that we can call on our friends to pray with us, and for us, when we are struggling during hard times. We should never be too proud to ask for prayer. Knowing you’ve been lifted up in prayer is so encouraging.  When I know friends are praying for me, it helps me to remember that God has my back.  God never leaves us.  When we are reminded of God’s love for us, we are encouraged.  Prayerful encouragement from friends goes a long way! “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV).

Freedom from Bullies for the New Year and Beyond

I’ve had discussions with plenty of friends about bullies this year. Bullies can be found everywhere and anywhere you go. They are in the workplace, neighborhoods, and schools. They can even be found in homes and churches.  Some bullies disguise themselves as nice people, hoping to be seen as moral, upstanding members of society.  “These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead” (1 Tim. 4:2 New International Version).
There are ways to educate yourself about a bully’s tactics.  Bullies use manipulation, guilt, and lies to control their victims.  They may engage in verbal, emotional, physical, and even spiritual abuse or a combination of these. They cowardly use projection to place blame onto others, instead of accepting, confronting, and dealing with their own deep issues. They often choose a scapegoat, or two, and cleverly blame their problems on innocent people, in order to avoid looking at themselves in the mirror. Then, they gather up “allies” by using flattery, half-truths, and flat out lies, to gain false affection.  This gives them a feeling of strength in numbers, and feeds the lies they have been telling themselves.
It feels overwhelming to be the target of a bully.  Satan wants to isolate victims of bullies.  He seeks to make the victim feel abandoned, and then begins to throw his fiery darts.  The flaming arrows are lies.  The lies make the victim feel condemned, worthless, guilty, anxious, and fearful. The child or adult begins to feel there is no one that can be trusted.  This is yet, another lie. We need to protect ourselves from the lies by reading the bible and praying.  “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). We need to wash ourselves in the truth of God’s love for us as His children.
Jesus knows all about the damage being caused.  He was brutally bullied.  He didn’t deserve it, so he knows how it feels to be mistreated. He was mocked, spit on, gossiped about and slandered, ignored, betrayed, and tortured.  All he wanted was to share God’s love with everyone, even with the people who bullied him. He wanted every single person on earth to have a chance to live with him eternally, and he still does. After everything they did to him, he still forgave them.  After every sin we’ve committed, he has forgiven us.  He died on the cross for every single one of us, and he died for every single sin we have ever committed.
Jesus was mercilessly bullied, but God did not abandon him. Instead, Jesus received victory over his enemies.  He wants the same for us.  Pray to God, and seek His help.  Ask Jesus to show you how to deal with bullies. Look for someone who will listen to you and help you.  Do not give up.  And though it’s difficult, pray for the bullies in your life.  Pray for Christ to convict them. Pray for their hearts to change. God will protect you, and He will heal your heart.
Ask God to help you forgive your bully.  Yes, this may cause some relief for your bully, but more so, it will bring relief to you.  It will give you the ability to live fully in the freedom of Christ, without anger and bitterness. Unforgiveness is a seed that grows into a thick root of bitterness, which will only weigh you down, make you sick, and destroy you.  Ask God to pull up the ugly root, and fill that space with His Holy Spirit.  Jesus speaks to us in this verse, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44)…
Bullying hurts the victim, and it hurts the bully too, who is taking his or her own current or past pain, and throwing personal problems onto others. Sometimes victims become bullies too, which causes a vicious cycle. Bullies, and their victims, need help. Some people don’t even realize they are being bullied until they are buried in pain. A victim must seek help to stop the cycle and start the healing. 
When children are being bullied, parents and guardians need to advocate for them. This can also seem like an exhausting task, for it seems impossible to beat the odds when a bully is at work, especially when the “teams” are not even. But numbers don’t intimidate God. He created so many stars in the sky, that they can’t be counted.  “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30).  If God knows how many hairs are on your head, then he certainly cares about you! 
In the bible, a man named Gideon fought for God. God cut Gideon’s army down from 32,000 to 300. He didn’t need all those people to do the job. “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength’ “ (Judg. 7:2 New Living Translation). God can do anything to help us, and He can do it all by Himself! He uses us to help him, in order to help us grow, and form a stronger relationship with Him.
Jesus had the power to stop his bullies at any time, but he endured the suffering, because he knew it was part of God’s bigger plan to save us from our sins.  Just as God carried Jesus through his pain and heartache, God will carry us.  He knows about the bullying, and he will provide a way out.  God promises to care for us.  When we turn to Him, He will send us people who will pray for, believe in, counsel, and befriend us. Don’t give up.  Jesus is our hope. “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40:31 NIV).
When you’ve reached the point where you most especially feel like giving up…pray!  Shout out to God for help.  Fall on your knees with your face to the floor.  Let the tears come. Our help often comes just as we feel we can hang on no longer.  Sometimes this needs to happen, so that we will truly know that our help comes only from The Lord.  This helps us learn to depend on God, and trust Him even more.
God wants to help us. Hold on to hope, and wait on His answers.  They will come. They will come in ways you didn’t expect, because God is working on the bigger picture.  He will send silver linings along the way… valuable lessons, new friends, joyful experiences, healed relationships, and fruits of the spirit.  Put your trust in Him, and give your pain to Jesus.  Place yourself in God’s loving arms.  They are the safest place you can be. 

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Heb. 10:12-13 English Standard Version).