Don’t Take the Bait

‘Don’t take the bait.’ God’s inner whisper cut through the music and singing that was rising around me. Right away, I knew what He meant.

I was annoyed. Angry. In a huff. My husband had done some things that morning that upset me. Now a torrent of emotions was swirling inside me—festering, gnawing and setting my whole body aflame.

We were at church—my happy place, where I hugged my friends, soaked up life-giving truths and sang with all my heart.

Not today.

Today I had crawled inside my pain, closed the shutters and posted a ‘Don’t Come Near Me’ sign.

It wasn’t that my husband did anything particularly bad. He just did things differently to what I thought he should. And because of that, I concluded he didn’t value me. It was a crazy mental leap, considering his devotion—through thick and thin—over twenty-six years. But I was offended—and that offence had dragged me to a place of mental turmoil.   

Offence is one of our enemy’s most cunning ways to lure us off-track. He often blindsides us, striking when and where we least expect it. In this world full of fallible people, we have many opportunities to be hurt. If we choose to hold on to the hurt and carry it around, our peace quickly evaporates, our view of people is distorted, our hearts turn sour and our words become fiery darts, doing damage wherever they land. Worst of all, offence puts a wall between us and God. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you,’ Jesus said.

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu on Pexels

I know this. I’ve seen the damage offence has done in other people’s lives. I’ve told them how important it is to deal with offences quickly. Yet there I was, stewing, and the fact that I knew the danger and was still rehashing my husband’s ‘crimes’ only intensified the burn.

The music built to a climax and I realised the time of singing was almost over. Closing my eyes, I mouthed the lyrics, trying to silence the voice of pain, let go of my anger and forgive. Red hot, the lava inside me kept bubbling. I peeped sideways at my husband. His face was upturned as he sang—eyes closed, his body rocking in time.

How can he sing like nothing’s wrong? I seethed. He mustn’t even realise I’m upset. Doesn’t he care?

When the song ended, we sat down. Folding my arms, I pursed my lips and focused on the guy on the platform—our pastor. His expression was joyful and his speech animated but his words washed over me without registering. My mind was thick in fog.

After a while, some listeners started voicing their agreement. ‘Amen.’ ‘So good.’ A few people even broke into applause at one point.

He must be saying something important. I should listen. I shifted in my seat and squinted my eyes, trying again to concentrate. It was no use. I’d dug myself into a hole so deep I couldn’t even figure out which way was up. I exhaled sharply through my nose. God, please help me.

I knew we needed to talk. On my own, I wasn’t getting anywhere. But we couldn’t resolve this issue here—there was too much to say, too many eyes and ears all around us. I leaned forward and pressed my fingers against my forehead, starkly aware that the hand that usually reached over to rub my back was absent. God, please. I’m stuck.

The preacher finished speaking and bread and juice were handed out ready for communion. Through my mind ran the words of Paul, ‘Anyone who eats or drinks in an unworthy manner . . .’

That was me.

I wasn’t ready.

Before taking communion, we’re told to stop and examine ourselves, check our attitudes and see if there’s anything blocking our oneness with Jesus. The Son of God gave His everything for us, enduring accusation, rejection and the most brutal of deaths—purely because of love. How could I insult Him by coming to this sacred time full of anger and resentment?

People around us closed their eyes in prayer and I saw my opportunity. Leaning close to my husband I whispered, ‘Please forgive me for being harsh and angry.’ I still felt upset. But I knew I needed to humble myself and admit my fault. That pride and bitterness was too big a burden to carry.  

His response was immediate. ‘I forgive you.’

I flinched. Is that all? Doesn’t he see his own fault in the situation? Doesn’t he want my forgiveness too? Like a spiked barb, offence started pricking me, trying to get a fresh grip on my heart.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

This time I breathed deep and refused to be snared. I’d already missed out on so much. It just wasn’t worth it. If I continued to hold on to offence, it would only cause more heartache.

Like a lion lying down to sleep, I felt my soul settle as the anger began draining away. I was still shaken and sad, shocked by my own intensity and wearied from the battle. But I could breathe. I knew we’d talk later and work through the issues.

It ended up taking a few conversations over the next week for my husband and I to fully understand each other’s perspectives and motives from that morning. Even after so many years together, we sometimes read each other wrong. This reminds us how much we need God’s help to walk with humility, honesty and compassion. God is the ultimate healer and restorer, able to build and strengthen our relationships when our emotions would tear them down.

How are you going in this area of offence? Have you taken the enemy’s bait?   

‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .’   1 Peter 5:8-9

Author and speaker, John Bevere, has written an excellent book on this topic, “The Bait of Satan”. Find it here.

Skinny Girl

I peered through my bedroom window. Morning sunlight shone through the gum trees in golden shafts.  Sheets billowed in the breeze as Mum wrestled them into position on the line. A tall mound of wet washing sat in the basket in front of her.

She’d be out there for a while.

Here was my opportunity.

Heart pounding and muscles tense, I crept down the hall, slowing my steps outside my parents’ bedroom. The bathroom scales were in there – waiting for me.

Tiptoeing into the room, I dragged them out and stepped on to the platform, my breath held tight.

What would they tell me this time?

Every day it was the same. Measure, eat, count calories, exercise, re-measure. This routine had ruled my life for months now.

I’d never meant for it to be this way. My strict diet and exercise plan was supposed to be a fleeting thing – a quick snatch at the slender days of my teens…when men said I was beautiful. It was supposed to transform me from the girl I loathed – unwanted and lonely – to someone attractive. Someone worthy of love.

Months before, my world had changed suddenly. The departure of a loved one had set me reeling, flailing about like a tiny boat tossed in stormy seas. This rigid plan provided an anchor point – a solid structure I could cling to. It was supposed to rescue me – to sculpt my outside and somehow fill up the holes at my core. Instead it became my obsession – my first thought in the morning, my last whisper at night and every heartbeat in between.

Little by little, I shrivelled under its demands. The faith and passion of earlier years ran dry as losing weight became my sole focus. All that mattered now was the numbers – the calories I ate, the distance I walked, the weight on the scales.

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When the numbers were good, relief came – though only for a little while. Happiness was a fleeting visitor. Whatever fragment I shaved off my frame, it was never enough. There was always further to go – more weight to lose, more flaws to fix.

I thought attaining my ideal size would give me confidence. But when I reached that point, my deepest fears were realised. I still felt the same – empty and unlovable.

My appearance wasn’t the problem.

I was.

I was the flawed one, ugly inside, smeared with failure and shame. No diet, however strict, could erase the grime of my past.

Still, I tried. Maybe if I pushed further, tried harder, then I’d feel better.

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My body began to protest but I ignored its cries. Fluttering heart, skin turning yellow, strength declining – what were they but whining complaints from one already rejected?

What would it matter – really – if my tormented life came to an end?

Friends and acquaintances frowned and tut-tutted, sending me scurrying like a cornered mouse. They didn’t understand – had no idea what I felt. Fearful and angry, I retreated into my own narrow world – a tunnel with room only for me.

The way ahead was dim and my eyes strained to see. Where was the light?

Didn’t tunnels always have light at the end?

Reality crashed down on me like a heavy weight. There was no light, no way out. I’d built this world around myself and now I was trapped inside it.

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Life became a sombre march, one foot plodding in front of the other. Every day was the same routine, a desperate cycle of striving that only took me deeper, lower.

Through the blackness, a clear voice beckoned. You need to give this up.

My Father God – the one I’d hidden from – was speaking to me.

His words were soft, yet urgent. Give it up. Turn around. Let go.

He was right, I knew. This tunnel led to death, as sure as the darkness.

But He was asking the impossible. I couldn’t let go. Not ever.

If I did, I’d drown.

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Friends were watching, talking, praying. Urged on from above, one group approached me. “You can’t stay in there. It’s dark. And dangerous.”

Angered by their comments and terrified of judgement, I withdrew further.

They followed me.

“We want to help you. Please. This isn’t who you are. Take our hand. We’ll walk with you out of this – for as long as it takes.”

Cracks rippled across my determined facade and a tiny light began to glimmer, drawing me towards it. These women stretched their arms wide, embracing me just as I was. Slowly, gently they helped me pull down the walls I’d built around myself. Professional help was arranged and paid for. When fear tried to overwhelm, they offered peace and held me steady. All the while they enveloped me in prayer.

Their kindness gave me courage to face my inner turmoil.

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Slowly, gently, I was led through the process of healing. The lies which had entangled my heart were removed, strand by strand, and replaced with life-giving truth.

My worth wasn’t in my size.

Nor was it in the attention of males.

I had worth simply because I’d been created. I didn’t need to fit an image or achieve great things to be loved. I already was loved, cherished by the One who’d formed me as a unique reflection of Himself. He was the source of my value.

Pure, heavenly light shone on my greatest wounds and deepest shame – exposing infection and offering forgiveness. God’s abundant love poured over me like a waterfall, washing me clean, filling up all my empty places. This love was pure and perfect, strong enough to set me free from my past and launch me into a future full of promise.

Where despair had dwelt expectancy began to bloom. I turned my back on the tunnel’s ruins as one year came to a close and a fresh new season unfurled. The path stretching out before me was bathed in warm sunlight.

I launched out, my hand firmly grasped by my Father.

With Him beside me, I knew everything would be alright.

And it was.

 

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2

“(Jesus said,) ‘Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:32

 

A note to my readers:

Do you relate to my story? If you’re struggling as I did, please consider talking about it with a person you trust. Letting someone in was my first step towards recovery – so terrifying but so worth it.

You may find professional help is needed. Psychologists and counsellors have the experience to help you deal with the issues behind your struggle. Getting help is not a sign of failure. It’s a proactive step towards freedom and a better life.

Can I also encourage you to get to know God, your Maker? He is the One who knows you better than anyone. There’s not a moment of your life when He hasn’t loved you. All His plans for you, even through the hardest of times, are good. Below are a few verses you may like to read.

Matthew 11:28

Psalm 139:13-14a

Zephaniah 3:17

Jeremiah 29:11,13-14a

Isaiah 1:18

John 8:36

The process of healing can be both painful and exciting. Beyond it is a life too good to miss.