“Declare me innocent, O LORD, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.” Psalm 26:1 (NLT)
Mistreatment can send you into an emotional tailspin. It’s unfair, and it hurts. How do you take it when you’ve been done wrong? It’s one of the greatest challenges in life. Whether it comes from people we know – and thought were friends – or from strangers, mistreatment is hard to take. Everything inside us wants to fight back. I don’t deserve this! This isn’t fair! The world says, “Don’t get mad. Get even!” “Revenge is sweet!” But, if you’ve ever responded like that, you have felt the hollowness it brings. That sweet promise of revenge soon turns bitter, and we wallow in our hurt. Injustice is the product of a fallen world.
In Psalm 26, David shows us how he was able to respond with integrity in the face of mistreatment.
- Take it to the Lord and stay close to God. (Vs. 1)
Rather than playing the victim or, even worse, accepting the mistreatment as though it was deserved, David turned to God in prayer. You can take the mistreatment personally, you can take it out on those who mistreated you, or you can take it to the Lord. David took it to God and said, “Declare me innocent, O LORD, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.” (Vs. 1) That’s the first step to handling mistreatment.
- Ask God to examine your heart. (Vs. 2-3)
Then, David goes a little further. Before dismissing it totally or acting as if the mistreatment was completely unjust, David invites the Lord to examine him thoroughly. He knew he wasn’t perfect and, despite how much the mistreatment may hurt, he wanted God to review the case. In verses 2 and 3 David prays, “Put me on trial, LORD, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart. For I am always aware of Your unfailing love, and I have lived according to Your truth.” David was willing to hear from God even if there was merit to the mistreatment he experienced because he knew God loved him no matter what. Let God review your case before you dismiss it.
- Be careful where you get your counsel. (Vs. 4-5)
Next, avoid turning to those who don’t walk with God. Mistreatment can make you vulnerable to bad counsel. Satan can use the pain you feel to influence you into becoming bitter and vindictive. In verses 4 and 5, David said, “I do not spend time with liars or go along with hypocrites. I hate the gatherings of those who do evil, and I refuse to join in with the wicked.”
- Stay positive. (Vs. 6-7)
Rather than replaying the mistreatment in your head, redirect your thoughts in thanksgiving and praise. You can pout, or you can praise. It’s a choice to rejoice. David said, “I wash my hands to declare my innocence. I come to Your altar, O LORD, singing a song of thanksgiving and telling of all Your wonders.” (Vs. 6-7)
- Connect with faithful Christ followers. (Vs. 8)
One of the reactions to mistreatment is to isolate ourselves and withdraw from others, even the fellowship of our church family. Don’t do it. That’s a snare of the enemy. We need one another, and the Scripture says we belong to one another. When one hurts, we all hurt. And, when one rejoices, we all rejoice. We are to bear one another’s burdens and pray for one another. David said, “I love Your sanctuary, LORD, the place where Your glorious presence dwells.” (Vs. 8) When you’ve been mistreated, you need to connect with other faithful Christ followers and worship. It will bring perspective and balance back into your life. There is healing, deep healing, in heartfelt worship.
- Wait patiently trusting God to work things out. (Vs. 9-12)
This may be the most difficult step to take. Who likes to wait? We want instant justice when we’ve been mistreated. It’s hard to wait, especially when we don’t see anything happening. David returned to his plea for vindication in verses 9-11: “Don’t let me suffer the fate of sinners. Don’t condemn me along with murderers. Their hands are dirty with evil schemes, and they constantly take bribes. But I am not like that; I live with integrity. So redeem me and show me mercy.”
Having turned to God in prayer when he was mistreated, David had confidence that God heard his prayer and would handle the situation. He regained his emotional balance and could say, “Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the LORD.” (Vs. 12)
When you experience mistreatment, it’s easy to lose perspective and react. Instead, be proactive and follow the steps of Psalm 26.