How do I keep others from stealing my joy? Is it ever right to show a little attitude back towards those who are treating me harshly? and Why do some unbelievers seem happier than believers? If you’ve ever had questions like these stream through your mind, join Leslie in this new episode as she broaches these challenging questions (sent in by women like you!). Have a question of your own? Email us at [email protected] and we may feature your question in an upcoming episode or in our magazine Q&A!
Leslie Ludy: Hey, everyone! It’s Leslie Ludy, host of the Set Apart Girl Podcast: Biblical Encouragement for Women of All Ages. This week we’re going to be building upon what we talked about in the last episode, which I called the “personal fulfillment myth.” This week we’re going to be looking at a key question that a lot of women struggle with: What do you do when others try to steal your joy?
This episode was inspired by a recent online course that I did called, “True Happiness,” and some great questions came in for our Q&A that we do with every course. I want to highlight some of these questions and look at some biblical answers, but they all have to do with the right response when other people are trying to steal your joy.
Question No. 1: How do I keep others from stealing my joy?
Leslie Ludy: The first question that was asked was: How do I not lose my joy when I’m around people who have negative or pessimistic attitudes?
That’s such a great question because it’s one thing to have joy in your own soul, but it’s another issue to say, “How do I not be dragged down by somebody else’s negative attitude?” and when that person is someone you encounter on a regular basis, maybe you even live with them, that can make it even more challenging!
In looking to the Word of God, there are some really great solutions that God has for us. The first is found in Romans 12:21, where he [Paul] says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” That is a very encouraging Scripture because it shows us that we do not have to be overcome by sin or by negativity on someone else’s part, but we actually have the power and the grace through God to overcome that evil – or that wrong – with good, with godly conduct. The Bible is filled with practical ways to exemplify that godly conduct, which can turn the table on the whole situation.
Answers Straight from God’s Word
Leslie Ludy: Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” That is such a simple yet profound piece of practical advice when you’re around people who are negative, pessimistic, critical, angry, or constantly trying to stir up trouble, and most of us probably know someone who would fall into that category. What we tend to want to do is respond to them the way they’re treating us. So if they’re speaking harshly to us, our tendency is to want to snap back at us with harsh words. But the Bible says here that when you respond in the opposite spirit, when you respond with love, softness, and sensitivity – even in the midst of their negativity and their harshness – it diminishes and turns away that wrath and that anger. It’s a way of overcoming evil with good. But if we speak harshly back, all it does is stir up anger, and that’s an example of how evil on the part of someone else overcomes us, and we get pulled into their sin by our response.
Another great piece of biblical counsel is found in Philippians 1:28 where Paul says that we are not to be “frightened in any way by those who oppose [us]. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that [we] will be saved – and that by God.”
So if we are around people who are opposing, criticizing, and resisting us because of our stand for Christ, then we’re not to be disturbed, or ruffled, or in any other way set in a wrong attitude by those people. If we keep our eyes on Jesus and have confidence in who He is and not worry about how others are treating us, it is actually a sign to them that we have something to live for that is eternal. Oftentimes, it pricks their conscience, and they say, “Wow! She has something bigger to live for than just the here and now, and I want to know what that is.”
In Luke 6:22-23, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy … for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets” (NIV).
This is probably one of the most counterintuitive passages in the Bible. When people are excluding you, insulting you, rejecting you, treating you as evil, and hating you, the last thing you feel like doing is rejoicing – let alone leaping for joy. But Jesus says this is actually a blessing in your life because your reward in Heaven is great.
Eric and I, several years ago, began putting this principle into practice of leaping for joy. Now Eric is very literal, so he actually will literally jump up in the air and leap for joy when something like this happens to us. For me, I leap in my heart, because I feel a little silly jumping up in the air. I rejoice, I make a decision in my soul to say, “Lord, I rejoice that You are allowing me to suffer this shame, to be misrepresented, or to be falsely accused because I know that my reward in Heaven is great.” When you choose to obey this command of Jesus’ and say, “Lord, I agree with You. My emotions may not line up, but I still agree with You that this is a reason for rejoicing and so I choose to rejoice in You,” it unlocks this incredible grace and power in your life. There is a spiritual buoyancy that God brings into your soul. Oftentimes, you have to take that step of obedience – no matter if your emotions are feeling it or not – and then God begins to give you this extra measure of grace and you truly do feel a supernatural joy even when you are around people who are treating you terribly.
Leslie Ludy: Here are a few practicals that can really help when you’re around people who are negative, pessimistic, critical, rude, and harsh.
Memorize 1 Corinthians 13. That is the chapter in the Bible that says, “Love is patient, love is kind.” That’s, again, a very counterintuitive chapter because when you’re around someone who is negative, harsh, and critical, the outline of 1 Corinthians 13 is usually the last thing that you feel like doing or want to do and yet, again, it’s a way of saying, “Lord, I agree with You. I am not going to be overcome by this evil; I will overcome this evil through Your pattern, through godly conduct.” Memorize 1 Corinthians 13, and begin to live out those principles around people in your life that are difficult by the grace of God.
Memorize some of the Psalms, especially the ones that focus on the majesty, glory, and faithfulness of God. When you’re around people who are trying to pull you down, turn your eyes to God’s majesty, His beauty, and His power and fix your gaze on eternity. That will be another way that you can avoid being pulled down by evil, but you can overcome evil with good.
Ask for God’s grace to equip you to respond joyfully to other people’s negativity. Respond in the opposite spirit. Now, only God can give you the grace to do that. It’s a very unnatural thing to do, but when you rely on the grace of God, you can respond the way Jesus asks us to respond to the wrong of others. We answer the wrong of others with truth, love, and godly conduct – not responding in the same spirit.
Probably the best example in Scripture is Stephen as he was being martyred. All around him he has people who absolutely hated him and were killing him. They were so angry with him! They couldn’t revile another person more than they were reviling Stephen in that moment. And yet, his eyes were not on the hatred all around him. His eyes were fixed upon Jesus Christ, and it says that his face “shone like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). and he saw the “Son of Man standing on the right hand of [the Father]” (Acts 7:56). When he was martyred, when he gave his life, and when he was surrounded by the harsh, cruel intent of people who absolutely hated him, it was probably his most joyful moment because of where his eyes were fixed.
Question No. 2: Is it ever right to show a little attitude back towards those who are treating me harshly?
Leslie Ludy: Another question along these lines is this: If I am too joyful around those who are not treating me the way that they should, won’t they feel justified in their behavior if I don’t show a little attitude back towards them?
Again, that brings us back to, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Jesus says that when we are treated wrongly, we are to turn the other cheek (see Matthew 5:39). It’s the exact opposite of what our flesh wants to do.
Answers Straight From God’s Word
Leslie Ludy: In 1 Peter 3:8 it says, “Be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly kindhearted, and humble in spirit not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead. For you were called for this very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (NASB).
When we choose to bless instead of respond in like spirit, we inherit a blessing from Heaven. in 1 Peter 3:16 he says, “Having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” Again, if you choose to respond with blessing instead of cursing, you overcome evil with good.
Proverbs 24:29 reminds us that we are not to say, “I will do to Him just as He’s done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.” But then in Romans 12:19 God reminds us not to take revenge. It says, “Leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (NIV).
God will call that person to answer for the way that they are treating you, the way they are speaking, the way they are acting, but that is actually not your job to do that. It is God’s job to do that. Leave room for God to convict them and not to be the one to try to convince them that they’re wrong. Our human wisdom says that we need to respond in a like spirit when we’re being treated wrongly, but the wisdom of Heaven says the opposite.
This is a very, very practical way that we can take up our cross and follow Jesus; how we can deny ourselves on a daily basis saying no to that angry, harsh response that wants to rise up in you and say yes to the gentleness of God’s Spirit.
Then leave the outcome up to Him. Some people will be greatly impacted when you respond in love, some will mock, and some will not receive the way that you’re acting. But all that matters for you is obedience.
Question No. 3: What About Non-Christians Who Seem Happy?
Leslie Ludy: The last question that came in said: People say true happiness is found in Christ, but I’ve met many non-believers who were very happy, healthy people. My aunt and uncle have been married over 40 years and have a great marriage, wonderful kids, and a great life – and they aren’t Christians. And then I’ve met Christians who aren’t happy people, and they’ve endured a lot of suffering. What do you say to people who point things out like this when you’re trying to share the Gospel?
Detecting Surface Happiness or Genuine Joy
Leslie Ludy: That’s an excellent question, and it really is important to understand a biblical perspective on this because the enemy is so great at deceiving, and this is one of the areas that he’s been deceiving us. Christians who are not happy are simply not receiving what they’ve been given. The reality is that as Christians, we have everything that we need for perfect joy and perfect happiness in Jesus Christ, but the enemy so often fools us into thinking that we can’t be happy because of our circumstances or somehow God has let us down because of our suffering.
When Christians fall for this lie, we allow circumstances to rob our joy. This is a very common problem today, but it’s not a weakness with the Gospel, it’s a lack of true discipleship in the Church. People haven’t been trained that they’ve been given this gift of joy in all circumstances. It doesn’t mean that joy isn’t available, it means that we are not tapping into the amazing grace of God. It’s like leaving an amazing gift sitting there unopened. We don’t even realize it has our name on it! The only thing you can really concern yourself with is your own soul. If you are walking in the reality of the joy of Jesus Christ, it will make an impact on people who are unsaved, even if they’ve seen wrong examples of Christians who do not exemplify joy in the midst of trials.
Elisabeth Elliot often said, “A faith that doesn’t live your daily life, home, marriage, family work, etc. is no faith at all.” A lot of professing Christians today only have a head knowledge of Christianity. They’ve said a sinner’s prayer, but they have not allowed the Gospel to transform their lives from the inside out. And that’s really why Eric and I became so burdened quite a few years ago to begin our discipleship training programs because we wanted to help Christians to take their faith from head knowledge to daily life-change. Once again, your only responsibility is to live our your own example of living in joy. Pray and leave the rest up to God.
What I would say in regard to non-Christians who seem to be living happy, fulfilled lives is that for the most part it is a tactic of the enemy. If you’ve ever seen the movie God’s Not Dead, there’s a great scene that annunciates this deception very well. There’s a godly woman in that film who has Alzheimers, and she can’t even remember her own children. She has an adult son who seems to have the perfect life. He has money, popularity, a nice car, and everything’s going right for him. One night he visits his mother, who doesn’t even know him, and he asks her this question: “You prayed and believed your whole life. You’ve never done anything wrong, and here you are – you have dementia. My life is perfect, explain that to me?”
She turns to him and says, “Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God. Your sin is like a jail cell, except it’s all nice and comfy in there, and there doesn’t seem to be any need to leave. The door is wide open, but one day time runs out. The cell door slams shut and suddenly, it’s too late.”
I think that scene is such a powerful reminder of the deception that the enemy sometimes places upon Christians and non-Christians alike. For non-Christians who feel like their life is perfect and they don’t need God, one day they will find out that it’s too late; that they are in a prison cell, the door has been wide open, they haven’t walked out, they have chosen to remain in their sin. At the end of their story, it won’t be happy. It will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
For Christians, don’t be deceived. Someone’s life may seem perfect or happy on the outside, but there will be anything but happiness in the end unless they have Jesus. He is the only Source of true happiness. Non-Christians who seem to have a perfect life only have an illusion. They have a counterfeit happiness. This is a trap of the devil. Don’t look on non-Christians’ lives and say, “Hey! I don’t even see why Jesus is the only source of happiness, look at how they are!” The Bible says that, “in His presence is fullness of joy,” (Ps. 16:11) so look to Him for your source of happiness and nowhere else.
Leslie Ludy: I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s episode. If you would like to go deeper into this concept of living joyfully, building a Christ-centered life, and learning how to have true happiness no matter what your circumstances may be, I invite you to join me May 25th-26th for our annual Set Apart Conference. Our theme this year is Joyful Living, and this is a powerful, life-changing weekend for women of all ages. You can also stream it as a simulcast if you can’t make it to Colorado, and you can actually stream the simulcast up to three months after that weekend. Even if those dates don’t work for you, you can still be apart of this powerful weekend. So visit SetApartGirl.com to learn more! I pray you have a blessed and Christ-centered week!