A few years ago my oldest daughter was the target of emotional bullying by her peers. These girls, who were supposed to be her best friends, did all they could to ensure Em knew she was unwelcome in their group.
Through no fault of her own, they went from her closest and most trustworthy friends to enemies overnight. At first we weren’t aware of what was happening. Em came home from school full of tales of how she had played with her little sister who had just started Kindergarten that year.
But then I began to notice a pattern where Em would go immediately to her room after school and stay there until someone literally dragged her out. My normally bubbly and social girl became sad, withdrawn, and empty of hope.
After plenty of coaxing and hugs, I was finally able to discover the cause of her sadness. It broke my heart to know my baby had to go through this trial.
To make matters worse, her “best” friend couldn’t decide what she wanted, so one day Em would come home flying high because they were friends again, only to crash the next when she was snubbed and ridiculed.
I remember going through many of the same things at school – really, how many of us haven’t experienced the roller coaster ride school friendships can be? But my experience didn’t prepare me for the heartache my daughter underwent for those six months as she worked her way through it.
One of the first things I reminded Em when she finally opened up to me was that even though she may feel like no one was around to listen to her or who could understand, in fact Jesus was right there with her.
He understood abandonment. His own neighbors shunned and ridiculed Him in disbelief, prompting Jesus to leave His hometown behind and preach His message of salvation elsewhere. “”Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” (Matthew 13:53-58)
I wasn’t sure how that would sit with an eight year old. But she took my words to heart. Awhile later I asked her if she was still praying about her friends, and she told me she talked to God about it every single night.
I believe with my whole heart that that single act of faith in my daughter gave her not only wisdom in dealing with these girls (at one point when one of the girls told Em she was her best friend, Em replied “Best friends don’t treat each other that way.”), it filled her hope.
During these days of hurt, instead of feeling sorry for herself Em embraced the friendships she had with her cousin and a girl she has been friends with since they were literally babies. She spent more time with her sister, establishing a kinship that I had only dreamed of for them previously. She opened up to me about her thoughts and feelings regarding the situation. And she reminded me that God was right there beside her.
In the end, these girls realized they were wrong and apologized to Em. And my girl did the one thing I am most proud of her for.
She completely forgave them.
Psalm 42:11 reminds us that when we are in the depths of despair, when we can’t imagine anything else could possibly go wrong, we have a choice. We can choose to wallow in our misery. Or we can choose to put our hope in God.
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God. (MSG)
I can only pray that when faced with my own trials, I can follow my sweet girl’s example and remember to put my hope in Him – the One who puts a smile on my face. The One who gives me hope.