It seems like God is always in the process of teaching me something important. I'm so glad it seems He really only focuses on one deep-rooted issue at a time. I don't think I could handle more than that at once! This week has been very painful, but I'm beginning to see what He's up to and honestly, it's pretty cool. But I won't lie, it's been tough.
Last week I came across an article written about me by a woman who attended an event I spoke at about a year ago. She wrote things that were very hurtful. She claimed I said things that I did not say and she held me up as the example of what not to be as a Christian. She said I was telling people to "vote unbelievers out of their lives" and she said I was the epitome of a mean Christian. I was devastated after reading this. Why would she say these things? Had I done something wrong? My doubts began.
If you know me or if you've heard me, you know that is no where near the message that God has given me. She says she is a Christian, too, and I suppose that is why it hurt so badly. I really struggled as I found myself reading comment after comment on her article about how other Christians agreed that I was a "lousy messenger" and they gave their opinion, one after one, about my actions in the Buddhist temple in China on Survivor.
The week has gotten better as I focused not on what these people were saying, but on what God had to say about me. He knew the truth. He knew everything that was going on - even before I did. And I have to trust that He has a purpose in allowing me to stumble across this article. Every Christian speaker I know has this issue at some point. We all face this. Even the Apostle Paul did. Look at 2 Corinthians 6:7-8:
We faithfully preach the truth. God's power is working in us...We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors.
He goes on to say in verses 11-12....
Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us.
I'm really sad that Paul had to go through that but honestly it gives me comfort to know that even he struggled with this very thing. Our being accepted by those who we speak with is not the issue - the issue is were we obedient in saying what God wanted us to say! And if so, we need to trust that He will use it to open the hearts and minds of those we speak to. And when we mess up, we need to trust that God will still use what we say because even when we are unfaithful, He is still faithful. He will use it to help us grow, one way or the other. What we cannot do is cower in the face of public opinion and become fearful of speaking out again. That is exactly what Satan would love for us to do.
God will allow these things in my life to test me and see where my heart is - will I crumble when people don't like me or slander me? If so, I'm in the wrong ministry because every person I read about in the bible who stood for Christ and spoke about Him was hated by many, many people. Yes, there are days when I wake up and think "It sure would be easier if I could just keep my mouth shut!" but it's in my bones - I cannot keep from speaking about Him. And I hope that when this happens again (I won't be delusional and assume this is the last time!) I pray the hurt and pain will go quickly as I dwell on scripture and truth, not slander.
I choose to surround myself with godly people who are in the scriptures and get counsel from them. I cannot take counsel for this ministry from people I don't even know or who don't know me. I have a group women who I meet with each week and we pray, seek truth together and go through each talk I give to make sure we are being good stewards of God's Word with this ministry. I have a husband who gives me honest feedback. God has blessed me with an amazing mentor who helps me stay on track. These are the voices God gives me to listen to. And what a blessing they are!
I'm learning that public opinion is no yardstick for measuring truth. If I base my ministry on what those who do not know me say, I could become discouraged, begin to doubt my call and I could be easily deceived. Do I believe this is what God has called me to do? Absolutely. Will I mess up occasionally? Absolutely. Will I be slandered? Yes, I will. But will I give up?
...A person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people. Romans 2:29b