3 steps to moving past the hurt
By David B.Crabtree
The classroom seemed unusually warm for October. I shifted
uncomfortably in my chair, stole a glance at the teacher, and checked the
position of my cheat sheet.
From former testing encounters it was clear that science was
not for me. I was not at all enamored with chlorophyll, photosynthesis or
osmosis. I did, however, recognize that failing a class would generate unwanted
heat at home, so I made my first and last foray into the shady business of
My careful preparation was paying off as I flew through the
first page of multiple-choice questions. But cheating takes a lot of
concentration, and I lost track of the teacher … up until the moment he snatched
the test from my desk. He marched to the front of the class, seized his red pen
and fashioned a rather poorly formed “F” before dropping the worthless paper
back on my desk.
A girl named Sandra sat to my left. She knew my sister. She
rolled her eyes. She would talk. I was toast.
I don’t remember much about the seventh grade, but I’ll
never forget the last 20 minutes in that testing room. I felt like I might be
coming down with a fever. Getting caught is unforgettable. But I’m grateful I
was caught. Continuing down that path would have had unthinkable consequences.
Truth is the first casualty of the con artist. Those who
don’t get caught forget how to tell the truth. And that moral handicap soon
threatens friendships, careers and marriages.
Cheating puts nations on the brink of war, institutions in
insolvency, families in free-fall, and innocents in anguish. It swells prison
populations, shrinks profit margins, and stifles growth. We all bear the costs
when losses from corporate and government cheating are recovered through the
Cheating is pervasive in today’s culture. With the rise of
relativism, we shouldn’t be surprised by the attitude that says, “It’s only
cheating if you get caught.” One might as well say, “It’s only murder if you
get caught.” Truth is not determined by consequences, but by fact. But in our
culture, facts are too often distorted in a black box called interpretation.
The Bible does not hide its cheats or those cheated.
Ironically, the man who would give his name to God’s chosen Israelites has the
most detailed biblical rap sheet of them all.
Israel, first known as Jacob, cheated his dullard brother,
Esau, out of the family birthright. Not content with that triumph of
subterfuge, Jacob set his sights on Isaac’s patriarchal blessing. He calmly
deceived his nearly blind father, then skipped town to escape his brother’s
But Jacob met his match in an uncle named Laban. The
swindler got swindled. Laban promised Jacob the lovely Rachel in return for
just seven years of labor. The morning after the marriage, Jacob woke up to the
surprise of his life — Leah, Rachel’s sister, had been behind all those
veils. His uncle/father-in-law was only too happy to offer Rachel as a second
wife, but it would cost the cornered Jacob seven more years of work.
At this point we’re tempted to cheer because Jacob got what
was coming to him. If we do, we miss the point of the biblical narrative. God
wants us to see our own tendencies reflected in Jacob. He wants us to mend our
inner disconnect with honesty in a relationship with the One called Truth. And
when we meet a Jacob and find ourselves cheated and taken for granted, He is
also the One who can bring healing.
1. Give it up.
Life is filled with offense and wounding. You can waste all
your strength and time seeking restitution. But when you experience God’s grace
toward your sins, you realize that a whisper of that same grace, when shared,
can restore your soul.
Some stuff just needs to be written off. No apology will be
offered. No refunds will be made. If you labor under the assumption that life
is fair, life will be inexorably hard. Life is unfair, but God is good and just
and longsuffering and faithful. Sweating the small stuff in life, we miss great
opportunities for joy and progress.
If you’re going to enjoy camping, you’re going to have to
put up with bugs. If you’re going to enjoy the great outdoors, you’re going to
have to put up with a little rain. If you’re going to live with any sense of
freedom, you’re going to need to learn to write off uncollectable debts and
move on. It’s called forgiveness, and it liberates the captor as surely as it
frees the captive.
2. Give it time.
When Jacob, the swindler, had worn out his welcome with
Laban, he returned to the land of his fathers with his wives and children. He
was older and wiser and learning to live faithfully for the God of his fathers.
But as he approached his homeland, Jacob faced an ominous threat. Esau, the
brother he cheated, was still in the neighborhood and had grown quite powerful.
Jacob learned that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. Fear gripped his
But Esau met Jacob in the spirit of peace and reconciliation
(Genesis 33:4). Time had healed the hurts that had once filled his heart with
murder. Some loose ends are tied off by the hands of time. Our rush to exact
justice will often frustrate God’s grace that flows freely through a change in
perspective. God works through time. You may find wisdom in waiting.
3. Give it over to God.
In the Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus
instructs us to bless those who curse us (5:44), to forgive those who sin
against us (6:14), and to give our cloak to the one who has taken our tunic
(5:40). In the natural, we might conclude that the Christian life is a study in
victimization. But reading the full text of the ultimate sermon, we find a God
who holds himself accountable for our complete provision in life — even
if we have been sorely cheated by men (6:25-34).
We are warned against taking vengeance (Romans 12:19-21).
Within the body of Christ, the apostle Paul argues that it would be better for
us to accept the wrongs done to us and let ourselves be cheated rather than
take a fellow believer to court (1 Corinthians 6:1-7). At issue is our perceived
source of provision and justice. Do we truly trust God to deal with His people
and heal broken relationships, or must we seek our own way and find our own
When dealing with a cheater we are testing the reach of
grace, but God’s grace never fails the test. Grace can triumph when it seems
that all is lost. But grace is a choice we make, and often against the
pain-filled wounded cry for vengeance and justice. Choosing grace isn’t always
easy, but choosing anything less will leave the soul wanting. We need to turn
the tables in a victim culture dominated by feelings and be a people who
respond to our hurts with grace, love and faith.
DAVID B. CRABTREE is the lead pastor of Calvary Church, an
Assemblies of God congregation, in Greensboro, N.C.
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