Case Study: If there was a word that Amy hated it was “politics.” She wasn’t good at it and didn’t want to be. Falsely she hoped that by never running for public office, she would be able to avoid it. But unfortunately politics is not the exclusive domain of professionals.
Two other women in her office knew what was “best” for the business. They were not the owners, or even the manager, but these women “had the boss’s ear.” Amy didn’t even realize she was setting off an office bomb when she offered to take on a new responsibility in order to gain some extra pay. But later she learned the significance of “by-passing” the “powers that be.”
Her two co-workers, who were peers by position title, were offended that Amy would try to show them up and cheat them out of money. Amy thought everyone knew her husband was a construction worker and that they were facing hard times during the down economy. Their husbands had stable salaried jobs.
The spin was ferocious. Soon Amy was a silent, distant, money-grabbing, power-player who wasn’t interested in the team atmosphere of the office. It was as if the other two women were professional character developers for a sitcom writer. Amy soon had a type-cast role that reinterpreted her every response. Whenever Amy finally spoke up, the other women were indignant that Amy would accuse them of slander “after all Amy had done.” This only made matters worse.
Amy’s first response was fear and her second response was hurt. She woke up at night thinking about losing her job. Then she thought about how miserable it would be to stay at her job now. Her 13 years at the office seemed like they had been thrown away in one innocent request for extra work for extra pay to supplement her family income. For weeks she cried frequently while eating, sleeping, or talking infrequently.
One day she started looking for words for her experience in the Bible (she didn’t know where else to look). She began in the Psalms and didn’t make it to the second page before she reached Psalm 4 and read her story written before she lived it. She returned to this Psalm often and even personalized it in her own words.
Pre-Questions: This case study is meant to challenge you to think biblically about the real struggles of life. These questions will not be answered completely in the sections below. But they do represent the kind of struggles that are being wrestled with in Psalm 4. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.
- What is the hardest part of being blind-sided by consequences that don’t naturally flow from your actions?
- How does a lie create an “alternative narrative” for your life that reinterprets your every action?
- How should Amy find the strength and courage to persevere in her difficult work environment?
- How should Amy respond to the fear and hurt she feels?
Read Psalm 4 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 4 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Amy to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Amy would need to pray many times as she struggled with insecurity.
A re-write of Psalm 4
1. Lord, I need you now. Please here me when I pray. I was trying to follow You even when this mess got started. You are bigger than this crisis and You offer more peace than a paycheck but I sometimes don’t see that. Be patient with me as I pray through this same thing many times.
2. How long will these two women spin my attempt to work hard as if it was an under-handed action? How long will they enjoy creating scenarios to reframe my words and seek for ways to substantiate their revisionist history?
3. Lord, I know You have saved me and set me apart for Yourself. That is why I can pray to You with confidence. I am Your child long before and long after I am their co-worker. You define me. I am not sure they even know me.
4. Lord, Cause them to be angry for the right reason (at deceit or laziness, not willingness to work hard). If they were angry at the right things they wouldn’t sin like this. Cause them to ponder integrity night and day and with each waking thought.
5. Show them their actions are not right. Show them the type of work and relationships You bless. Cause them to put their trust in You rather than their “pull” within the office.
6. Lord, I am sure they would say, “We think we are doing the right thing. Show us where we are wrong. If God can be against what we are for, we must not know God.” I can’t break through that kind of thinking. Lord, only You can. I give them to You.
7. Lord, I have more joy in You than they do in all their power and clout. I don’t want what they have and they can’t take what You give. When I remember this, I can avoid being drawn into a competition I don’t want to win.
8. This gives me a rest that I haven’t known in weeks. Lord, only You can allow a person to rest well in uncertain times. Keep this perspective impressed in my thoughts as I sleep, when I wake, as I go to work, and when I return home. Safety is neither a place or a dollar amount; it is being with You. Thank You for being ever-present.
Passages for Further Study: Psalm 55:19-23; Proverbs 26:4-5, 23-28; Jeremiah 9:7-9; Matthew 5:2-12; Mark 7:14-23
Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 4, examined how Amy might rewrite it for her situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:
- In what ways does the action of being lied about tempt Amy to take her focus off of God? How does this affect the things she thinks about and what she feels?
- How does the “effectiveness” of lying shape the way we define “success” in life?
- How would your answers to the “pre-questions” have changed as a result of reflecting on Psalm 4?
- For what instances of being lied about or relational betrayal do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 4?