I’m sick and tired of being the good guy.
Ever said it? Ever thought it? If you haven’t, just live longer. Liars win in courtrooms. Backstabbers win in boardrooms. Cheaters curry favor. Those living in chains take great lengths to make sure you do too. And there you sit, asking hard questions and picking up real scraps of human feelings from the floor. Why do bad guys always win? Why do schemers succeed?
I’m so glad we’re not the only ones asking these questions. In 1000 B.C. King David cried out, “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.” He realized 3,000 years ago what we know too: Some people are bent on hostility.
Fast forward a few hundred years to when the prophet Jeremiah had a word with God about His justice:
“Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all of the faithless live at ease?”
God’s answer in Jeremiah 12:5 is brilliant. I am obsessed with it. It is renewing my mind. It is changing my life.
“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?”
Well that shuffles the deck. Sounds like God’s not interested in watching us lob grenades back and forth in low-level battles. Time and time again, scripture reminds us He’ll be our Defender, our Vindicator, our Strong Tower, our Restorer. He will take up our cause. He will do the heavy lifting. He will contend with those who contend with us.
We’d like to fix it up a little first. Add our dash of devastating wit. Make a few phone calls to enlist our allies. Return a round of fire or do a little damage control. Rev up the prayer chain. And then, hand the mess over to God and ask Him to rescue us.
He’s not having it. He calls first dibs.
God wants us to see Him show up. He wants our first flinch to be trust. David ran quickly toward the battle with five stones and a slingshot, but that didn’t happen in a void. His Rescuer had saved him before, and David trusted Him to do it again. These low-level conflicts in our lives? They’re just the training for bigger, higher-stakes battles.
God is looking for warriors ready to drive back the powers of darkness, not delicate flowers who pout and fling mud pies.
If we crumble at inconsequential, we’re not fit for fierce.
If we trade petty insults, we’re not prepared for high-octane opposition.
If we weary ourselves running against men, how will we ever run with horses?
This isn’t to be dismissive of your present reality. People may betray, abandon or swindle you. Strife-makers may take shots at you. People you trusted may spin false narratives about you. All of this hurts like crazy. You may pay a public price. You may pay a private price, which actually is worse because that’s the one where bottled-up emotions and bottled-up prescriptions meet hard questions screamed into pillows about when God will ever show up to fix this mess or if He was ever there or if He ever cared.
But there is a fork in the road. You can stiff-arm God, fight the battle yourself, and become exhausted in the foot race. Or you can let God take up your cause, be patient while He vindicates you, and take the baton from Him to run bigger races. We learn to run better and faster that way, you know. My friend Courtney ran the 400m in high school. Her time was almost a full second faster when she ran it in the 4×400 relay compared with when she ran it alone. Why? She was running for someone other than herself.
Oh, strife-makers may still hurl insults from the stands. But rest assured, God does not lack an opinion about the bullies and oppressors of this world. In Isaiah 7, God reassured the prophet Isaiah when two menacing, opposing powers were closing in to attack: “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood.”
Two smoldering stubs of firewood. I literally can’t get enough of that. God knows what’s up. He sees when there’s more smoke than fire. His view of your opposition is accurate. His restoration plan for you is in place.
You don’t have to do a thing — other than the hardest thing to do: demonstrate self-control.
A friend of mine suffered a betrayal in her workplace many years ago. She resisted the flinch to do damage control and relentlessly took the high road. Several years later, the record was finally set straight. And she never had to say a word.
Are you there? Waiting for God to clear your name? Waiting for a Defender to absorb these body blows? If you’re willing, I Peter 3:9-11 will leap off the pages of scripture and chase you down. The passage is life-giving and commissioning: You can love your actual life and see good days. But it doesn’t happen by trading evil for evil or insult for insult. The Rx is in doing good.
Still feeling sick and tired of being the good guy? Or are you starting to see goodness as the gateway to living a life you love — a life of high-octane ministry, lasting influence, and abundant peace? Maybe we’ve had the question wrong all along. Maybe it never was “why do bad guys always win?” Maybe the real question is: “How many seconds will You shave off my time?”
Beautiful things happen when we stop pulling pins on grenades. Beautiful things happen when we trust God. He will reveal Himself as our Defender and Friend. He can restore what our enemies — or the enemy — has taken. He can train us to guard our hearts without hardening our hearts. He can pull our perspective above the foot races to see the heavenly battles. And He can soothe us with his reassurance that it is a gracious thing in His sight when we “do good, suffer for it, and endure.”
Let’s not tire of doing good.
Let’s put pettiness to death.
Let’s relentlessly choose the high road.
It’s ok to set the conflict down.
It’s ok to not have the last word.
It’s a freeing thing to release your opponent from under the thumb of your grudge.
It’s a powerful thing to see God take up your cause.
Don’t let the schemes of men wear you out in a foot race.
You were meant to run with horses.
– Jeremiah 12:5, Isaiah 7:4, Isaiah 49:25, I Peter 2:20, I Peter 3:9-11
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