"Anybody giving you a hard time?" How do you handle oppression….or are you the oppressor?

Anybody giving you a hard time?  Are you being held back in using your talents?  Is there someone who blatantly ridicules or picks on you? Are you left out of invites or projects on purpose?   Do you know of a few who enjoy to gossip about you?  Has someone hurt a loved one as a indirect offense to you?  Are you being bullied professionally or emotionally?  Is there a person that manipulates you to their benefit?

I have experienced just about all of these scenarios and have sat on the sideline, grimacing as my family and friends trudge through these dark valleys.   All of these situations and more are sure examples of oppression….so… what exactly is oppression? 

Webster’s Dictionary states oppression as…..

      “An unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power; a sense of being weighed down in body
        or mind.” 

Encarta Dictionary states oppression as……

     “To subject a person or people to harsh or a cruel form of domination;  to inflict stress on;
        or to be a source of worry, stress or trouble to somebody.”

“To be a source of worry, stress or trouble to somebody”….gosh that one really resonates with me….how about you?  I can also relate to the “unjust exercise of authority or power”……can I get an “amen” on this one?

Being the english, wordsmith, geek I am….I also looked up terms for oppression in the Thesaurus. Here are just a few…….”Persecution, discrimination, maltreatment, annoyance, intimidation, harassment, tyranny, torment, cruelty, torture, hassle, irritate.”

Ah…..there’s the words that can really resonate with a Christian.

Regardless of what form you have experienced oppression….it is important to remember when you are experiencing the circumstances listed above…..

 We wrestle not against flesh and blood (which is the authority, or the co-worker, the friend, classmate, church acquaintance, boss, spouse, neighbor afflicting us) but against the rulers, against authorities, against the world powers of the darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.”      Ephesians 6:12

You see….even though it is a person in bodily form that is afflicting you….they are being used as a tool of satan to oppress you….to discourage you….to keep you down.  Ironically….they are being abused by satan to either accomplish their own plans or they are blinded to their role in the scenario.

And…yes….they obviously have problems if they are causing you emotional suffering….for whatever reason….perhaps jealousy, or malice, selfishness or just plain evilness…. but they are being used in a grander scheme they have no knowledge of.

We’ll take more about how to handle these people and circumstances in a moment….but just humor me for a moment as I ask some hard questions.  

I would hate to come face to face with the realization that ugly feelings in my heart were being used of satan to oppress someone else….wouldn’t you?

It’s really hard to get honest with GOD and say….”Okay GOD….I don’t want to be around that new girl at church….why?   Or….GOD….why does this person make me act rude or impatient?  Or GOD why do I withhold love or good from this person?   Why do I not want to invite this person to serve on a committee or to my social gatherings?”

Or do I form assumptions based on another person’s opinion that causes me to treat that person different?  Well that’s not fair is it?  Who wants to be judged by someone else’s flawed opinion?  I certainly don’t because there is always two sides to every story and unless you are in the middle of it….you are probably not going to know everything. 

These are hard questions we must ask in order to be right with GOD. The devil’s playground in a church, job or any social setting is relationships.  He loves to whisper all those ugly things in our ears causing us to oppress, ignore, disassociate, and treat others poorly. Maybe we covet their blessings, or feel threatened by their skills?  Perhaps we feel inferior….or we’re just plain selfish and have our own agendas?

I encourage you to ask these hard questions if there is someone in your life you make a point to keep out of your group, business or ministry….because deep down….there is a reason and GOD will reveal it if we truly seek to be right with HIM.  Or maybe you know why you avoid them and just don’t want to face it?  Whatever the situation….it’s just not pleasing to GOD when we oppress anybody.

It is entirely possible for a person to be oblivious to the oppression they assert because their world exists around them and their causes.  All we can do is pray for those this selfish.

Having been on the side of one being oppressed….I can tell you, it doesn’t feel good.  You can’t put your finger on it….what or why you are left out….why you are mistreated…..why you are ignored…..what you did wrong to cause the rudeness or the mean spirit.  It hurts to be held back from using your talents.  It hurts to feel disregarded, judged or unimportant.  It’s a feeling that lingers in your emotions and one that can cause great discouragement…..it can cause us to give up…..and that’s just what the devil wants.

So how do we handle oppression directed our way?

1 –  Pray for those oppressing you.

“You have heard it said, Love your neighbors and hate your enemy.  But I tell you, love your    enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your father in heaven.”                                                                                      Matthew 5:43-45

Make it a matter to pray for those that treat you less than CHRISTlike.  Ask GOD to guard your emotions from their mistreatment.  Sometimes it’s even necessary to remove yourself from the situation if it becomes caustic or dangerous…physically and emotionally.

    2 –  Kill them with kindness.  Go out of your way to win them over.

 ” Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  1 Peter 4:8 

If you are up to the challenge….you can love them into submission.  It works….though it may be a long process requiring a lot of prayer and mental creativity….. it can work.

   3 –  Confront them in a CHRIST like manner.

     “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.  
       If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”                     Matthew 18:15 

Ask them point blank….Have I done something to offend you?  Why do you leave me out?  Why are you rude to me?  Why do you ignore me or gossip about me….or hold me back from opportunity?  You must be prayed up and ready to confront them as lovingly and in a calm matter as you can….yet it is important to express truth.  Be careful not to let the confrontation escalate to another level.  You don’t want to make the situation worse by the way you handle the conversation.  To add to that…make sure you have the conversation face to face because your tone, intentions and heart can be misconstrued in the impersonal format of email or text. 

  4  –  Tell them you are praying for them and you love them.

 Regardless of what the outcome and especially if it does not end well….make sure their reaction does not cause you to sin and say things you regret.  Tell them you will continue to pray for them and that you love them…period.  No reasons….no righteous declarations of your sinning against me….just plain love them and pray for them.  There is not much else you can do if you confront them with a clean heart.

   5 –  Refuse to let them discourage you.

 Stay in your bible….seek other opportunities….make new friends – perhaps others that are in the same boat with you.  Whatever you do….don’t let their sin….cause you to sin by gossiping, or retaliating, or carrying a grudge.  Learn from it….make a point to engage those that you can encourage…..teach your kids the right way to treat people….take something positive away from the situation.  GOD will show you in time what lessons or good that come from being oppressed.  One thing for sure….oppression will give you a more merciful heart.

Years back I was in a situation where I was denied the opportunity to use a certain skill set.  But GOD opened up a whole new world to me that I never dreamed possible as I followed his lead to pen my heart.  Today….I am so thankful for that valley….I would not be where I am now had I not walked through it.

 Just like Joseph said in the bible after his jealous brothers sold him into slavery….

     “You intended to harm me, but GOD intended it for good to accomplish what is now being
        done.”                                                                                        Genesis 50:20   

Regardless of the outcome of your oppression….GOD will let something good come out of it!!

 I leave you with this encouragement from GOD’S word.

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrong doers!  For they will soon fade like grass and wither like the green herb.  Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”                                                                                                  Psalm 37:1

Friends….take courage….give your hurts to JESUS….recognize the true source of your oppression and love your brothers and sisters in CHRIST regardless of what they do to you.  Be careful not to oppress or discourage……and hold tightly to JESUS’ hand while walking in the valley.

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