Beth Moore told a story in Faithful, Abundant, True: Three Lives Going Deeper Still about a time when she was duped by a woman with a testimony that seemed too amazing to be true. When Beth learned that she and her ministry had been deceived, one of her staff members said: “We’ve been punked!”
I decided to look up the word “punked” online to see some of the definitions for this slang term that has become popular in recent years. Here are a few of the definitions I found: punked: A way to describe someone ripping a person off, tricking, teasing; humiliated completely, as in disrespected; putting oneself in a position of being open to ridicule; having been lied to or fooled.
Like Beth, I still wince when I think of a few times that I’ve been “punked” by Satan through hard circumstances with others. While I’ve never had someone “punk” me in such a deliberate way, I’ve experienced my fair share of pain. What I chose to do with the pain often led me down a path of being spiritually attacked. People may hurt us intentionally or unintentionally, but it is really Satan who does the “punking.” First Peter 5:8 says it clearly: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” When we’re hurt, we can either draw closer to God or look for unhealthy ways to cope that leave us spiritually vulnerable.
Looking back, it’s clear there were times when I made myself pretty easy prey for that prowling lion looking for someone to devour. Beth Moore gave a big and extreme example of when Satan used a situation to “punk” her, but we all have situations that can lead to being “punked” by him. It’s just one of the down sides of living in a fallen world. We can be sure that even if someone didn’t intentionally mean to “punk” us, Satan looks for ways to capitalize on our hurt and use it against us. Here are a few situations he can use to “punk” us when we’re not staying alert:
-A pastor or ministry leader disappoints you personally causing you to withdraw from Christian community or to stop attending corporate worship services
-A pastor or ministry leader’s sinful nature is suddenly exposed and you stop trusting anyone in a leadership position and cynicism begins to take root in you
-Your tight knit community of friends fractures and goes its separate ways causing you to feel hurt and wary of engaging in deep relationships anymore
-Your spouse, friend or business partner betrays you, leaving you choking on your own bitterness and unable to see past your own problems
-Your teen or adult child seems to do the opposite of everything you taught him, leaving you disillusioned about the Christian parenting tools you thought were foolproof
-The ministry where you’ve been serving seems to be changing in a way that doesn’t fit with your vision so you disengage and stop seeking ways to use your gifts
-You have a difference of opinion with someone you serve with and decide it’s not worth it to be involved in ministry anymore
-A close friendship falls apart and your fear of being hurt prevents you from cultivating new friendships
If you can relate to any of the scenarios above, you are not alone. What if it’s too late? What if you’ve already been “punked?” Here are a few thoughts on dealing with the aftermath and moving back into a place of health and wholeness.
-Don’t let being “punked” make you bitter
Ephesians 4:31 tells us: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” When bitterness takes root in us, it flavors everything in our lives negatively. Bitter people rarely exude joy, peace, or grace. It’s hard to share the love of Christ when bitterness plunges its roots deep into the soil of our lives. Pray and ask God to remove the bitterness you feel welling up inside of you.
-Don’t lose trust in all people because you were burned
In Matthew 10:12-14 & 16 Jesus says: “As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet…I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Being shrewd and innocent means having discernment to know the difference between people who are trustworthy and people who are not. It is unwise to assume the negative about all people you encounter because of one or two bad experiences.
-Pray against cynicism
Colossians 3:12-14 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Cynicism doesn’t coexist well with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love. It makes us sarcastic, jaded and unable to be authentic in our relationships with others.
-Don’t lose sight of the other good things in your life
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Sometimes it’s easy to focus on the hurt we feel and to miss all of the other places good things are happening. Good things and hard things usually co-exist in our lives. We show wisdom when we can be thankful noticing the good and instead of fixating on the bad.
-Get help to access the tools you need for healing
Matthew 18:15-16 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’” Often we try to muscle through hard situations on our own when what we need is the help of others. There was a time when the same person was repeatedly emotionally hurting me. I was afraid to talk to anyone about it for fear of being a gossip. When I finally confided in a wise friend, she spoke the truth and reassurance I desperately needed to hear. Eventually a Christian counselor equipped me with the tools I needed to heal and learn from what I’d experienced. The ways I grew by facing my pain caused much good to come from a very difficult situation.
Matthew 6:14-15 says: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” I don’t think I could say it any clearer. If we love God, then we need to forgive. This is a choice we make, not a feeling. Think of forgiveness as a cycle that may need to repeat rather than a one-time transaction. You’ll feel tremendous relief when you’re able to release your hurt at the feet of Jesus.
-Take time to heal, but don’t withdraw permanently
Matthew 5:14-16 says: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Taking time to heal is healthy and good, but we can’t hide our lights forever. If you need to push the “pause” button for a while to re-group, that is a good thing, just don’t let it become your new “normal.” Hebrews 10:25-26 says: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
-Don’t let Satan sideline you and keep you from using your gifts to bless others
1 Peter 4:10 says: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” If you’ve been hurt while serving in a specific area and want to step back, take some time to pray and see what is next. Maybe there are some issues you need to confront in your current situation. Maybe it is time for you to find a new place to plug in and use your gifts. Just make sure you don’t leave any unfinished business behind before you move on. Running from a difficult or frustrating situation doesn’t bring healing– it just delays it.
-Put on your spiritual armor
Ephesians 6:10-18 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Be aware that you are vulnerable to spiritual attack and access the spiritual armor God gives you to stand firm against it.
Just in case you need a reminder if you’ve been “punked”, you are not alone. You might be wondering how I compiled the list of suggestions above. It’s all from personal experience. I’ve let the messiness of life open me up to being “punked” by Satan more than once. Hopefully, the things I’ve learned will bless you and enable you to avoid having to learn the hard way like I did.
There are many helpful resources to assist you if you’ve been “punked” and don’t want to find yourself there again. A few books that have made a difference for me are:
Forgive and Forget by Lewis Smedes (Don’t let the title fool you- this book is about learning from your hurt so that you won’t be doomed to repeat it)
Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
If you have other resources that have helped you, please make a comment and share them with others.
Need a little encouragement right away? Click on the link below to hear the song “Holding Nothing Back” by Ryan Stevenson. It will remind you that it’s best to keep our eyes on Jesus in the midst of our hurts and disappointments. There is no better way to safeguard against getting “punked.”