Be the Lord’s servant; if you can’t do it for this person, do it for Him.
Read Alma 8:8-18
You know, sometimes we have a relationship that is toxic, flat out toxic and honestly, you do still love this toxic person. But the reality is, this person isn’t interested in change at this point, or they are completely blind to the areas they need to change and no matter how you word things they just. Don’t. Get it.
Truth be told, when you have a person that is uber toxic, often that’s something that’s been passed down generationally. Sometimes those are harder to see, because it’s what Beth Moore calls “the family baggage”—everybody has it, so it’s technically the norm—which makes it harder to spot and harder to deal with—it’s so entrenched in the very intricate details of the family DNA and one is surrounded by it. In that case, the person often doesn’t know or understand any thing different.
You may also have a person who is very willing to change but “the family baggage” is so strong, it keeps them from seeing what they need to see, in order to change. In a sense, the family baggage is causing the blindness. That can throw up a lot of obstacles in sorting out issues.
Then, on the other end of the scale, you have people who know exactly what’s wrong with them and they would rather stay in their dysfunction and misery than embrace happiness and truth. They have absolutely no desire to change, whatsoever. At the point they are at, they are deliberately choosing to stay in their bondage.
Either way, it is no piece of cake. It’s times like these that you just want to throw in the towel and give up. Throw the relationship in the garbage can. I know that’s awful to say, but the reality is THAT’S HOW YOU FEEL SOMETIMES! Ok, maybe not everybody does, but I sure have in the past and know others that have.
How, in the world, do you stick it out, when all everything in you wants to do is run like hell the other way?!
I love our scripture for today and I think it illustrates some really good points. We are going to take a lesson from Alma today on how to deal with toxic, blind and often unrepentant people.
Alma 8:9 tells us that Satan had a hold of the people’s hearts, which kept them from hearing the truth—there’s your blindness, or deafness, in this instance. We are dealing with the ultimate enemy, Satan himself. That is an enemy we cannot win on our own. NO way. Hands down. Not gonna happen. Therefore, we have got to get some Bigger Guns than ourselves backing Truth up or we’re sunk.
But how do we get the Bigger Guns?!
Alma 8:10 gives us part of the answer: “[Alma] labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer”. Now, I know that sometimes prayer seems like the easy way out, and kind of cliché, but let me tell you here, sometimes prayer is the only way out. You are connecting to Satan’s archenemy by asking God to be your ally and send in reinforcements because you yourself don’t have what it takes to win on your own.
Ammon, one of Alma’s friends, says at one point:
Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.
Do you have someone in your life who is, for all intensive purposes, going out of their way to destroy everything they touch? Well, here you’ve got Alma, pretty much doing the same thing.
Mosiah 27:14 tells us that it was the result of Alma’s father’s and the other saints’ prayers of faith that caused the angel to come to Alma in the first place, which resulted in his own amazing repentance story. (See Alma 36 for more details on that.) Alma had experienced, first hand, the effects of mighty prayer.
So, step #1 for dealing with a toxic person is: PRAYER.
And lots of it!
Now, does prayer mean that suddenly the Red Sea is going to be opened up and all your enemies are going to be swallowed up in the depths thereof?
In fact, in Alma’s case the people got so angry with him, their anger resulted in them throwing him out of their city! (Alma 8:13)
“Get him out of our lives, he’s telling us we’re sinners!” The mantra seems to go, between the lines of course :-).
Well, to be honest, having someone tell you you’re on the wrong path is not always a pleasant experience–no matter how nicely they say it. Let’s be honest. But if we never have people in our lives who are brave enough to “get in our faces,” so to speak, there are places we would never look at that need to change.
You know the next thing I notice here in Alma’s story? Here Alma’s been thrown out of the city, and these people have been mean—I mean down right nasty (v. 13). Hello, didn’t their mothers teach them not to spit on people? They have also been reviling him, which I didn’t know what that meant exactly so I looked it up. My dictionary says:
Criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner
he was reviled as a traitor: criticize, censure, condemn, attack, inveigh against, rail against, castigate, lambaste, denounce; slander, libel, malign, vilify, abuse; informal knock, slam, pan, crucify, roast, tear into, badmouth, dis, pummel; formal excoriate, calumniate. ANTONYMS praise.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been guilty of that at times. That’s a sobering thought. And that’s not something I’m proud of. That is rather sad to realize. I’ve also been on the receiving end and it’s not fun. No one likes to be on the other end of it. Most people on the receiving end of that crumble like a cupcake. They shut down and can’t handle it. Can anybody just raise a hand and say “been there, done that”? Me. I can.
Not Alma. He wasn’t going anywhere. He didn’t leave till they threw him out.
And once they threw him out he didn’t just go on his merry way, feeling grateful that he’d gotten away from these nasty people. Nor did he go into a pity party because of how mean they had been to him. He did something that takes a much bigger person. He was “weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people of Ammonihah” (v. 14).
Why? Do you think? Did he feel such sorrow, tribulation and anguish for these abusive people?
Was it not because he had come so close to being lost himself?
If you read in Mosiah 27:8-10, 28-31 you have a glimpse into what he experienced and how close he came to being lost forever. It was an excruciating experience. His friend Ammon, articulates the same type of experience as well in Alma 26. Alma knew what he was asking these people to do. It was something he had done himself. He knew how hard it was, how painful it was, and how freeing and beautiful it was.
Ammon and his brothers, that Alma had started out with, had also repented with him. Their hearts had been called to go and teach their enemies and brethren the Lamanites. Every other attempt before that had failed. What motivated them to go anyway?
Alma and the four sons of Mosiah had a very real encounter with the eternal consequences of their wickedness. They had enough of a comprehension of what it meant for a person if they did not repent that they couldn’t withhold doing all that they could to spare someone else that fate if they could.
This is why Alma was weighed down with sorrow and tribulation and anguish of soul. He knew what this unrepentance was going to cost these people.
You know, sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in what pain another person is causing us that we forget what it’s costing them. And yet, Alma seemed to count his sufferings as nothing compared to the sufferings that these people would face if they did not repent.
I would break this composite step up into three parts: GODLY SORROW and COMPASSION and PERSONAL EXPERIENCE—and as my dad said not too long ago, experience is the one thing that cannot be taught. I would here add that compassion is about the same—it’s not something that can be taught, but is only gained through going through your own personal sufferings. In Alma’s teaching of the people of Ammonihah, I don’t think he would have been near as effective without these things.
Now I want to bring out another step here, which is mentioned a little later in our focal chapter, but was relevant both in Alma’s recovery and in his experience with the people of Ammonihah.
And this is the step of FASTING.
Sometimes when we need some extra umph we need to combine our mighty prayers with mighty fasting. Even Christ said, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)
To be very honest, I am quite unsure what it is about fasting that benefits us so much, so we are going to be learning together.
Bible Dictionary: Fasts.
“Fasting, a voluntary abstinence from food, is a principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ for developing spiritual strength; it has always existed among true believers…It was regarded as a natural way of showing sorrow.”
Some of the scriptural references on fasting and a brief synopsis of its uses, expressions and spiritual benefits listed as follows:
Alma 5:46-47—prayer and fasting unlocks revelation and prophesy
Alma 17:3-4—prayer and fasting produces the spirit of prophecy, the spirit of revelation and being able to teach with power and authority from God.
Alma 28:6—fasting and prayer an expression of sorrow.
Alma 45:1—fasting and prayer for thanks and joy to God for what He’s done
Helaman 3:35—fasting and prayer=stronger humility, firmer faith, souls filled with joy and consolation, purifying and sanctifying of hearts because of yielding hearts unto God.
Moroni 6:5—the church met together oft to fast and pray and to discuss the welfare of their souls.
D&C 59:13-14—fasting equates to joy being full and rejoicing.
D&C 88:76-80—fasting and prayer empower you to learn and teach.
While I was reading through these scriptures I remembered that Christ fasted Himself for forty days, and He then went about His ministry. The thing that made Him stand out was that He taught as one having power and authority. Even His interaction with evil spirits was that way! (See Luke 4:1-13, 31-36.)
We can see by these scriptures that teaching with power and authority from God does not come by accident, it comes by diligence, which it seems to me, anyone who obtained these things, did so by coupling their prayer with fasting, among other things.
One of the other things I see here, is that prayer and fasting has the power to bring souls to repentance, or at the very least to assist and be a catalyst in the process. There were those who continued to reject the truth when it was laid out plainly before them, but there were a great many who were convinced of the truth by those who were diligent in their preparations to be able to teach them with power and authority.
In dealing with someone who is toxic, blind, and maybe even unrepentant we have a great opportunity to go to the Lord diligently in their behalf in prayer and fasting. Not only will this be a benefit to them, but we may be made instruments of the Lord directly in their behalf.
This next step I want to bring out is: RECEIVING AN ERRAND FROM THE LORD aka AUTHORITY.
We find record of Alma receiving his errand to Ammonihah in Alma 8:14-17, by an angel. Ammon and his brethren also received an errand recorded in Mosiah 28:5-7. All throughout scripture you will find that no prophet went until he was sent by God.
There are times when we do the best we can, according to what we know, and then there are times when God specifically calls us, even commands us, to go forth and teach, to go forth and call someone or some people to repentance. We need to do all God requires of us, that we can be prepared when that time comes, that we can be used as the instrument that He intends for us to be. I am not by any means saying this is an easy task, calling someone to repentance. But if God gives us that commission and we are not faithful to it, we will be held at least partially responsible for those sins. (See Jacob 1:17-19.)
The next thing that I want to bring out is that of PATIENCE.
“Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.”
Sometimes when we’re dealing with toxic people, it’s the same way. God asks us to be patient, and “in a way, long-suffering.” But what does it really mean to be patient?
My 1828 dictionary says:
- The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness. Patience may spring from constitutional fortitude, from a kind of heroic pride, or from Christian submission to the divine will.
- A calm temper which bears evil without murmuring or discontent.
- The act or quality of waiting long for justice or expected good without discontent.
- Perseverance; constancy in labor or exertion.
- The quality of bearing offenses and injuries without anger or revenge.”
You know, the first definition has always stuck out in my mind, but today, the fourth one really jumps out, as does the third. You know, the words that come to mind as I read these definitions of patience here?
Diligence: because no matter how bad it got, and it got really hard–we’re talking hungry, thirsty, didn’t have a decent place to stay, getting thrown in prison, going without decent clothing or having none at all–regardless of how bad it got they kept at it.
Kindness: because they didn’t return treatment in like fashion. They weren’t revengeful. They didn’t want to “get back” at the people who had treated them that way. They kept working with them, to convince them of their errors and help them to see the truth.
Trust: because they took God at His word, that He would make good on His word, what He’d said, in His own due time.
If you take any one of these three words and plug them in that verse in place of patience, you get a deeper, broader feel of what I think patience is.
“Go forth amongst thy brethren and bear with (kindness) thine afflictions and I will give you success.”
“Go forth amongst thy brethren and bear with (diligence) thine afflictions and I will give you success.”
“Go forth amongst thy brethren and bear with (trust in Me) thine afflictions and I will give you success.”
That Josh Groan song “Don’t Give Up” or “You Are Loved” or whatever it’s called 🙂 comes to mind.
There is this saying that my mom has been quoting a lot off and on:
“Let patience have her perfect work.”
I think it’s a scripture quote actually, but I can’t remember where at the moment.
I think that concept of patience having her perfect work is quite the concept. From my observations, those who are patient have a way of getting a lot more accomplished, both in tasks etc., as well as in relationships, and they do it in a way that empowers everyone around them, causing them to feel valued and loved.
Now, as we mentioned, part of being diligent, being patient, was in confronting people about their wickedness. You can call that a lot of different things: wickedness, sins, dysfunction, “family baggage”…you get the idea. I found a verse that really got me thinking on this topic and is the jump off point for another step:
“…And they contended with many about the word.”
I thought contended was an interesting word, so I looked it up. Here’s what I found:
CONTEND: [Latin, to stretch…]
- To strive, or to strive against; to struggle in opposition.
- To strive; to use earnest efforts to obtain, or to defend and preserve.
- To dispute earnestly; to strive in debate.
- To reprove sharply; to chide; to strive to convince and reclaim.
- To strive in opposition; to punish.
- To quarrel; to dispute fiercely; to wrangle.
This painted quite the interesting picture in my mind. There were some pretty intense discussions going on here! I see some heated words being passed from the opposing party and some calm, but firm and very clear and distinct, I would say sharp in their distinctness, counter-opposing views being passed back. I mean, can you see this exchange happening, right outside their synagogues? That must have been quite something to have watched. Do we get to watch a replay somewhere in heaven. That’s one I want to see.
A while back I got a magazine from No Greater Joy Ministries. I like the stuff that they put out that I’ve been exposed to. In one of the issues that I read there was an article on street preaching. There was a convention or something where there was a man who street taught in Europe. He was at the event, sharing his experience and there to kind of be a mentor type person to people who wanted to do the same type of thing. I couldn’t help thinking of him as we are discussing this. It sounded like his experience was rather exciting as well. It sounded like his experiences had some similar flavor to our Book of Mormon friends here.
The next step that I want to bring out today is SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES.
This, again, is not only another thing that Alma and the sons of Mosiah have in common, but all of the Saints of God. Things that the scriptures are for:
- To bring about repentance. Searching the scriptures is a sign of repentance. If we remain in a state of repentance we will continually be searching the scriptures.
“And it came to pass that after he [Alma] had made an end of speaking unto the people many of them did believe on his words, and began to repent, and to search the scriptures.”
- To give us knowledge to be able to recognize God’s voice of truth. To give us an understanding “founded in truth; firm; strong; valid; solid; that cannot be overthrown or refuted” (Webster’s 1828, SOUND)
“…yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.”
- To know things for ourselves. To have our own testimony that we can stand on and be firm in against all opposition.
Acts 17:11 (KJV)
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
- To prepare us for the work that God has called us to. To help us maintain the mind of Christ when those who are swayed by faulty doctrines are apt to persuade us from the truth.
2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:1-5 (NIV)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
…I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
- That God can work with us and help us in our thoughts and attitudes and mold them to be like his. He meets us where we are at, and the scriptures that we need will be brought to our attention to nourish us and cleanse us and help us to have the mind, thoughts and attitudes of God.
Hebrews 4:12-13 (NIV)
“For the word of the Lord is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
- God’s word is meant to be our spiritual food. If we do not “feast” on them, we will spiritually starve. We must partake of the Scriptures often that we may spiritually live.
Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
- God’s word is given us that we can obey them. They do us no good if they just sit on the page. The word is alive and active in us when we obey it. When we obey the word of God, it feeds us and nourishes us, and fills us. Obeying the word of God gives us sustenance to sustain us through the ups and downs of life.
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work…”
Our last step for today is: POWER OF CHOICE.
In examining the story of Alma and the people of Ammonihah, we see two groups:
- Those who believed Alma, repented and began to find out the truth for themselves.
- Those who refused to believe Alma, persecuted and murdered those who believed him, and they were eventually destroyed.
You will find in many stories of scripture where the Lord requires those who heed Him to work with those who don’t. The Lord gives many opportunities for repentance and is very forgiving as long as we continue to repent. But when one is constantly going back to sin and then decides to settle in and make sin home, when one knows better, there eventually comes a point where God says, “It’s enough.” The Book of Mormon has several instances where those who choose to follow God are lead away from those who deliberately choose wickedness. There comes a point where the wheat is separated from the tares. Whether one stays with the tares or goes with the wheat, all depends on one’s choice.
Only God knows when a person is settled in to righteousness or wickedness. Only He has the authority to say to our hearts, or affirm it by the Holy Spirit when others speak, that enough is enough. Unless that time comes, we have an obligation and a duty to keep working and trying and persuading as God calls us to. God calls us to be diligent.
Sometimes God chooses to save us from a toxic relationship in what feels like a lot less glorifying and wonderful manner than we had anticipated. Sometimes the way He chooses to save us, and to save our toxic loved one or friend, is to send us back into the fire with them. Kind of sounds like a suicide mission, sometimes, doesn’t it? However, we are not alone, not only have all of the prophets and godly men and women of the ages before us done the same, but Christ Himself, gave up His own life that He might save ours, not only in this world, but in the world to come. We are not alone because He is with us. And the One who walks with us, knows how to overcome the world, in all its facets, layers and tentacles. We must follow His lead and do as He did.
Assignment for Dare 19:
Set aside some time to fast and pray for your loved one, and to ask God how He wants you to be involved in this person’s life; ask Him what actions He wants you to take. Write your answers down, so you can refer to them if needed. Then BE BRAVE and do what He’s asked of you. If you’re having trouble mustering up the courage, pray and ask God to give you the courage you need to do what He’s asked of you.