I like to make people happy. If someone is angry, the first thing I want to do is disappear. I’d guess most of you are the same.
But what happens when something you believe in makes someone angry?
Last year I received the harshest criticism of my life. I’d written an article about how fantasy fiction can open our minds to knowing God more. I believed it strongly, and still do. But when I read those words condemning me and my writing, I didn’t know who I was anymore. I felt like an arrogant young person blundering about with my opinion. I forgot how God had called me to write what I had written, and how He had led me to that place in my life. I tried to reason through the criticism and come out on top, but my mind turned to a sandstorm.
Only when I let go of needing to know who was right, except God, did He give me peace. A deeper peace than I’d known before my belief was tested with criticism. Then I saw what a gift that criticism is. We will all be criticized many times as we seek to follow God, but it is our choice to accept it as a gift.
Criticism is a gift because it opens our eyes to our purpose here on earth. It reminds us that we serve God, not ourselves and not man. We can too easily make God’s dreams into our own, and forget that He gave them to us. Criticism can take away our self-assurance and lead us to God-assurance instead. It can show us how to look at people, those who criticize us and those who support us, with God’s eyes. Our purpose here is to show others that we are not the ones to be praised, God is.
Criticism received as a gift opens our hands to new and more powerful dreams. God wants our lives consecrated to His service. He can’t use us to fulfill His will if we’re already full of our own will. But if we open our hands and offer ourselves to Him, the power He can give is limitless. Jesus said in John 4:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” Jesus expected us to be able to do great works with the help of the Holy Spirit, who came because Jesus returned to His Father. I don’t know what all those great works are, but I believe they’re enough to turn the hearts of men to their Father in Heaven.
Criticism can open our hearts to trust our loving Father. When we turn to Him as children, we can trust Him to show us how to walk. Criticism received well will cause us to turn humbly to our Father, willing to change whatever was criticized. We need not be afraid of the opinions of others when we can trust our Father to lead us perfectly. Of course we will all make mistakes, but if we find our confidence in God’s leading rather than our own, we can have peace when we respond to Him.
I’m deeply grateful to God for teaching me this lesson. Though it brought a time of confusion to me, I now know I’m one step closer to having faith like a little child. Reason is necessary and a building block of faith, but it can’t be relied on to lead us to God. He requires trusting, childlike faith, and to own such a faith we need open eyes, hands, and hearts.
What has been your response to criticism? Can you see improvements in your life–spiritual and material–because of negative words people have said?