Choosing Peace Over Revenge
I vividly remember how her sharp, critical words cut deep into my heart. First, my insecurities leapt to mind. Does she see a failing that others are too nice to mention? Am I in over my head in this situation? Am I not smart enough, hard working enough, capable enough? Does everyone see me as a hopeless catastrophe, just stumbling along without a clue? Clearly, my peace was interrupted.
My next response was to visualize turning the tables on her. I rehearsed for days, just what I would tell her about herself. I would say that most of her colleagues found her abrasive, no one trusted her, people saw how she pawned her work off on others, and her “friends” talked about her behind her back. I wanted to hurt her; I wanted her to feel the pain she’d caused me. This was not my finest moment, and surely not a peaceful one.
The two friends who were aware of her comments were completely dismissive of her remarks. They said, “You know how she is. Don’t give it another thought.” But, I couldn’t forget; I couldn’t let go. I plotted ways to get even with her, to embarrass her, hopefully in front of a lot of people. Deep down, I knew that I’d never act on these imaginings, but obsessing on them gave me a certain pleasure. It was disturbing, but comforting in an odd sort of way.
How did I turn this dreadful spiral into a peaceful circumstance? The answer is so counterintuitive that I know it had to come from God. I hadn’t actually been praying for God to torture her, but I sure thought that He could orchestrate circumstances so that she’d realize how dreadfully she’d treated me and others. But, of course, His plan was nothing like that. His plan was for me to pray for her to be blessed. “What?” I said, “That doesn’t make any sense! She doesn’t deserve that!” Then, I remembered His grace; I hadn’t earned His love and blessings either.
So, for once in my life, I began to pray for her to be blessed, for her marriage to bring contentment, for her children to excel, and for her to have the pleasure of a satisfying life. Honestly, it was excruciating at first. I don’t know if God answered those specific prayers in her life, but He changed my heart, and my bitterness slowly began to dissolve. It didn’t happen all at once, of course, but one day when I ran into her I was actually able to greet her in a sincerely amiable way. She will in all likelihood never be in my closest circle, but the animosity that I felt (that was eating me up) was gone. I felt peace. There was serenity in the deep confidence that God brings harmony in turmoil.
In John 16:33, Jesus says, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world.” What if “overcoming the world” means living in a way that is good for all, not just a way that seems satisfying to me (revenge)? What if we don’t have to wait for Heaven to experience God’s peace? What does it look like to trust Him to heal our hearts and to bring peace? In this season of political turbulence, what would happen if believers sincerely prayed for God’s blessings on those with whom we disagree?
Lynn Karneboge is a retired primary school teacher. She and Rich are the parents of two grown sons, Aaron and Bryan. She enjoys reading, gardening, and eating out with friends.