May 25, 2018 • Life for Leaders
With words of hatred they surround me;
they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me,
but I am a man of prayer.
What should you do if people trash you behind your back, or even to your face? How should you act if your colleagues at work say things about you that are mean and unwarranted?
Psalm 109 helps us to answer these questions. This psalm was David’s prayer when people around him were speaking poorly of him. Their criticisms, though untrue, were nevertheless painful (109:2). David’s pain was increased by the fact that those who accused him were people for whom he prayed—people he loved (109:4). When he treated them well, they responded with evil and hatred (109:5).
You may well have experienced something like David’s anguish as it’s expressed in Psalm 109. This often begins in childhood, when supposed friends gossip about us and criticize us behind our backs. Sometimes, demeaning words from our parents sear our souls, leaving us scarred and defensive. The workplace can even reward those who falsely accuse us, giving them the promotion that we earned. When I was a pastor, I sometimes found myself the victim of false accusations. They hurt even worse when they came from people I had tried to love and to whom I had vulnerably opened my heart.
So what should we do when people accuse us falsely? How should we act when we are victims of mean-spirited gossip? In such a situation, it’s awfully tempting to give it right back to those who have slandered us. This is especially true in a time when Twitter allows us to instantly trash anyone to get our sweet revenge. But Psalm 109 reminds us that our first response when we are victims of injustice should be to turn to God. Like David, we cry out to God, asking him to help us. In pouring out our hurt and anger, in letting God know everything we think and feel, we will open our hearts to his calming presence. We will be reassured because God “stands beside the needy, ready to save them from those who condemn them” (109:31). At times, we will even know the joy of the Lord in the midst of distress: “When they attack me, they will be disgraced! But I, your servant, will go right on rejoicing!” (109:28).
Prayer is not magic, however. When we turn to God in a crisis, we do not necessarily feel instant relief. Sometimes, like David, we’ll cry out: “O God, whom I praise, don’t stand silent and aloof” (109:1). We’ll wonder if God is even there to hear us. Yet if we turn our hearts to the Lord, if we seek him openly, he will, in his time, make himself known to us afresh. He will grant us his “peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7).
Something to Think About:
Have you experienced something like what David described in Psalm 109? When? What did you do?
How does turning to God make a difference in the way we respond to those who falsely accuse us?
Something to Do:
It may be that you are currently experiencing something similar to what lies behind Psalm 109. If so, tell God about it. Don’t hold back. Let God know every pain, every fear, every desire for vengeance. Open your heart to the Lord.
Gracious God, thank you for being there when I am falsely accused. Thank you for your calming presence, for your peace, for your reassurance. Thank you for helping me not to respond to my accusers in the way I might without you.
As I think about false accusations, Lord, I also realize how easy it is for me to consider even valid criticism as untrue. So, help me to sort out what is true and right from what is wrong and vicious. As I bare my heart to you, may I hear the things I need to hear, even if they are painful in their truth.
All praise be to you, God of truth and comfort. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
David’s Successes and Failures as King (2 Samuel 1-24)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.