It’s Narcissist Friday!
“The question is not how well you can hold on to Jesus,
but how well He can hold on to you.”
Not too long ago I said those words to a mother worried about her son who says he is no longer a believer. I suggested that people go through rough times in their faith, that statements and decisions are often made in the midst of grief or despair, and that those struggles or compromises do not define us. Instead, believers must trust the Lord to get them through those times. Sadly, years can be spent in the struggle.
Jesus said His people would have times of tribulation. For some, that means persecution on the basis of faith. For some, it means marriage struggles or financial struggles. For others, it may mean times of intense depression or personal doubt. But He promised that He would be with us in those times. We might not feel His presence or even believe in it, but He will be there.
The Lord wants us to know this. He promises many times that He will be with us in our “valley of the shadow of death.” Nothing, He says, will separate us from His love. For those who have trusted in Him as savior and hope, it is His strength and faithfulness that gets us through. In those times when our own faith is so obviously inadequate, when it seems we have been living a lie, when we no longer feel His presence or enjoy the promise—we need something more than ourselves. His strength is our hope. It was never our own that would save us.
Yes, dealing with narcissists and abusers and evil systems can drag us down. In fact, they can drag us a long way down. They whisper their lies into our hearts until we begin to believe them instead of the Lord who love us. It isn’t just our faith that is lost, but our identity. We lose the people we once were when the lies worm their way into our hearts. Then, as we seek to establish a sense of sanity and control again, we find ourselves rejecting what we were and trying to define someone new. The once loving and carefree person becomes suspicious and cool toward others. We seek to protect ourselves from pain, rather than to enjoy life.
Thoughts of despair and rejection of self are normal parts of dealing with the pain and confusion narcissists and other abusers bring into our lives. They reflect the tearing and breaking that is happening within us. If someone makes a harsh statement about the Lord or rejects the hope they used to have, we must understand the source. Pain causes us to react in ways that are inconsistent with our desires.
Heart pain is real. Just as you might jerk your hand away from a hot burner and spill your coffee as you do it, you might also react violently against a certain criticism with words or actions you would not have chosen otherwise. Sure, we are still responsible for what we do, and we may still have to clean up a mess, but the fact of our reaction is not evil. It’s normal.
Don’t beat yourself up for stupid or mean words or actions that came out of your pain. Do what you can to settle things with others. Apologies are not really that hard. Then move on. Find the way back to the person you know you are, especially the person who knows and loves the Lord who has never left you.
And be willing to forgive and let others who have done similar things move forward. Their heart pain is just as real to them as yours was/is to you.