The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.
The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.
Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.
Before I was called to ministry, I spent a few years in journalism. It was a rigorous way to make a living, but I came out of it with a valuable lesson in how to take criticism. I would submit what I thought was a great story, only to see my editor take to it with chainsaw and hatchet, chopping it up and rearranging it until it was hardly recognizable. It didn’t take me long to learn not to take it personally, it was just part of the business.
Still, it’s hard not to take criticism personally. When we put ourselves into something, a bit of us dies with the first negative word or disapproving frown. It’s especially hard to be criticized when we did what we thought was right and good in the eyes of God. The Hebrew prophets knew all about this (they would have made good journalists!). Almost every time they spoke God’s word, they were met with rebuke and criticism (being ignored is often the most insidious form of criticism). Luckily, that did not stop people like Isaiah from doing God’s will.
Some people just aren’t happy if they are happy. They have to find someone to criticize, and sooner or later you’re going to be their target. When that happens, and it will, I suggest following Isaiah’s advice: Keep your ears open to God’s word, don’t sink to their level by fighting back, and let God handle the rest. Remember, it is the Sovereign Lord who helps you. Who can condemn you?
Patient God, help me to tune my ears to Your voice, and not to the shrill din of my accusers and critics. Help me to act with dignity, so that I may honor the gifts You have given me with faithful service, and so that my attackers may be silenced by my faith and not my anger. Amen.