He was beaten, stoned, imprisoned and in danger everywhere he went. He was hungry, cold, naked, thirsty and on the run. Friends turned to enemies and those he thought loyal abandoned him, but he just kept on going, a spiritual equivalent of the Energizer Bunny! His story amazes me. (2 Corinthians 11)
But one of the most nightmarish incidents happened on the Island of Malta after one of those shipwrecks (Acts 28). Paul and some of his fellow survivors washed up on shore and they were, fortunately, greeted by some friendly and hospitable islanders who made them welcome and quickly built a fire. Paul, in his helpful mode (and maybe wet and freezing) grabbed an armful of brush to throw on the fire, but low and behold, he was bit by a viper that happened to be hanging out in the brush.
In my minds eye, this nasty thing latched onto Paul's hand between his thumb and index finger...right there in that tender part of one's hand. I believe Paul, in one swift, but powerful, flick of his wrist sent that snake flying and went on about his business-while everyone else watched and waited, expecting him to swell up and die sooner than later! I believe Paul literally shook off that poisonous viper.
So my question is, and in truth this is addressed to women who have been called, by God, into ministry, what do you do with the criticism; the nasty letters, the snide remarks, the passive-aggressive comments and "the look" bestowed on you by those who believe that THERE IS NO PLACE FOR WOMEN IN MINISTRY?
If you have bravely, courageously, faithfully followed after God and entered into ministry, at His beaconing, then you more than likely know exactly what I am talking about! I read just such a post on Facebook today. And, what really caught my attention was the number of women who had experienced similar criticism and the reoccurring theme was, "I just can't shake it off!"
May I suggest that criticism wears the face of and flaunts the fangs of a poisonous viper? If we don't learn to shake it off, it will poison us...slowly, painfully and deliberately. Unfair, undo, unwelcome, ungracious and hateful criticism is the enemy's poison; his subtle destructive way of discouraging, devastating and devouring women who desire to be used of God.
My guess is most of us are sensitive. We are empathetic. We have tender, soft hearts. We are often, unless we have "grown thick skin" vulnerable and open and we take things (like criticism) personally. But, Sisters, unless we choose to "shake it off" we will remain wounded and hurting. And, while I believe in "Wounded Healers" I also believe we need healing for those deep wounds in order to continue to be effective in whatever ministry God has called us to.
We HAVE to learn to shake it off!
I have totally taken Isaiah 52:2 out of context, but I believe there is a word here for each of us who find ourselves the object of criticism because of our role in God's kingdom...
NLT "Rise from the dust, O Jerusalem. Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
ESV: Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
Don't be held captive by criticism.