Isaiah 57:15, 20-21 (NLT)
The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirits of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts…But those who still reject me are like the restless sea, which is never still but continually churns up mud and dirt. There is no peace for the wicked,” says my God.
Have you ever known people who like to stir up trouble? You might live with such a person, or you might encounter one at a family gathering or a community meeting. These mud-churners can’t seem to resist stirring the pot; they throw down words like gauntlets just to see the effect. Their well-aimed barbs cause others to feel pain and embarrassment, confusion and anger, while they puff themselves up and enjoy their sense of power and control.
Those nasty barbs are especially painful when they are inflicted by those we love best. Our friends and family know us well and can wound us where we are most tender and vulnerable. Whether their attack is indirect, as in malicious gossip to a third party, or a direct verbal assault, our pain is doubled when we feel our trust has been betrayed. We express anger or indignation, but inside our spirits are crushed and our hearts are bruised.
God’s words in the Isaiah passage give us keen insight into the mindset of a mud-churner. Unlike “those whose spirits are contrite and humble” (that is, those who live in the fear of the Lord), the mud-churner does not recognize God’s lordship over a situation but seizes control for self-gratification. Moreover, the peace that God promises to those who repent and seek his ways does not appeal to this person. The mud-churner’s actions oppose God’s ways in every sense—escalating conflict instead of promoting peace, hoping to hurt rather than to heal, sparking friction and discomfort, crushing spirits and damaging relationships.
God calls this person wicked and thereby gives us the key to effectively dealing with such a person. We view the situation as a spiritual battle, and we call on spiritual weapons to defend ourselves. We make God our fortress, we hold firm to our identity and worth as God’s valued child, and we obey God as best we can in a situation meant to throw us off-balance. We arm ourselves with grace and patience to counter the barbs. We resist slipping to the dark side of our nature despite provocation. We refuse to let this person’s words distort our thinking but hold onto the truth that God gives us about ourselves, our worth, and our purpose. We strive for peace and healing despite this person’s determination to injure and disrupt.
When we are faithful to serving God through such an assault, we may be surprised at the outcome. Our firm stand for peace and grace may be just the weapon God will use to pierce the mud-churner’s heart and expose the darkness that motivates such wicked intent.
FATHER, I have been the target of a mud-churner and felt the hurt and confusion of being under attack. Give me grace, I pray, to discern the spiritual ramifications of such a situation and to remember that you are my God and my fortress. Quell my human desire to retaliate or to crumble under my attacker’s words. Help me to stand firm and shine for you in every way. Guard me also from the wicked temptation to churn up mud myself; forgive me for the injuries I have caused with my own sharp words and selfish manipulations.
Proverbs 2:6-15; Romans 12:19-21
Who in your life might you consider a mud-churner? What grace do you need from God to help you stand firm in this person’s presence?