This week, the word “withstand” came to mind during a prayer time. Not a word I typically use. It means, “to not be harmed or affected by something…to deal with an attack or criticism successfully.” Here’s how the Lord unpacked what He was saying to me with a single word.

withstand resentmentIn June, Hollywood star Jim Carrey spoke to ex-gang members in Los Angeles about forgiveness, grace, and Jesus. Watch the 8-minute video here.

Father Gregory Boyle hosted Carrey. Boyle has worked tirelessly to help gang members leave their destructive lifestyle through faith, employment, and choosing to let go of deep retaliatory grudges that have put countless people in coffins. Boyle’s story and the ministry of Homeboy Industries are wonderfully told in his book, Tattoos on the Heart. 

Carrey said. “We have to somehow accept, not deny, but feel our suffering and feel our losses. And then we make one of two decisions… We either decide to go through the gate of resentment, which leads to vengeance, which leads to self-harm, which leads to harm to others. Or we go through the gate of forgiveness, which leads to grace.”

we must withstand the path of harmEvery person faces this choice.

At the very beginning of Terrence Malick’s movie, The Tree of Life, the mother in the story says it this way:

“The nuns taught us there are two ways through life–the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you will follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. It accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. It accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself, get others to please it too, likes to lord it over them to have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it, and love is smiling through all things. They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.”

if we forgive we can withstand anythingThe problem is that many of us don’t intentionally make a choice of one path over the other and end up floundering somewhere in between.


We apologize and forgive when it’s expedient or we’re backed into a corner. Otherwise, we have simmering grudges and hidden resentments that flare up when some trigger pinpricks the pain. Our reactions are usually out of proportion, and often more wounding takes place.

hard to withstand being in-between choicesThis in-between place is torturous. God wants us to be clean inside, free of any backlog of unresolved hurts. When we choose forgiveness and grace, God builds in us the ability to withstand current situations and problems.

Nearly twenty years ago, my husband and I stood in the Armadale Castle in Scotland and discovered that our ancestors were deadly foes. In February 1692, Clan Campbell feigned peace with Clan Donald after years of rivalry. But then, after several days of feasting, the Campbells murdered 38 Clan Donald men in their beds. In the days that followed, 40 women and children perished from exposure after their homes were burned. The betrayal came to be known as The Massacre at Glencoe. In Scots law there was a special category of murder, known as “murder under trust,” considered to be even more heinous than ordinary murder.[i] The Massacre at Glencoe serves as a clear example.

people withstand in pastMy husband has Campbell lineage, and my maiden name is Donaldson—“son of Donald” or MacDonald. I looked at him after reading our history and said, “Well, that explains a lot!” We laughed.

But we also didn’t laugh inside.

During our time in Scotland, we met many Campbells and MacDonalds who still carried deep bitterness even though centuries had passed. One pastor said both groups attend his church but never speak to each other, though they take communion side-by-side. What’s wrong with that picture? Jesus taught us to make peace among ourselves before coming to God.[ii]

we can withstand if we forgiveSo we stood on the shores of Scotland and repented for our ancestors, releasing forgiveness over the land. We prayed that our family and generations going forward would not be tainted with betrayal. We chose the path of forgiveness and grace.

Still, we have to choose that path in current painful circumstances. I believe that if we’re intentional instead of floundering, God grows in us the capacity to withstand— empowering us to offer good in place of evil, kindness instead of vicious spite, compassion instead of prejudice.

God spoke to me through a single word. He can speak to you too.

withstand brings light“They can be like a sun, words.

They can do for the heart

What light can for a field.”

—John of the Cross, Love Poems from God


[i] John Prebble, Glencoe: The Story of the Massacre, Secker & Warburg, Ltd, 1966. p.185.

[ii] Matthew 5:23-25


  1. WOW, can you think of applications for this principle behind the word “withstand” like all OVER the place right now? i won’t say anymore than that, except there are many forms of clans around. and then, i’m thinking of a play i’m currently in rehearsals for called “the laramie project” which is very much about major forgiveness and the implementation of grace by the families involved. the show is about the murder of that young man in wyoming who was gay. out of it came what’s known as the hate laws or something similar to that. anyway, this is a really important blog you’ve presented. always timely i’m thinking. thanks, you.

  2. Anne DeVries :

    Love this today. And the beautiful photos and quotes add such food for thought. I, too, have a strong Scottish heritage on my mother’s side (and my sister married a Campbell….hmmm).

    Looking forward to pondering this idea of “withstanding”, further.

    Have a blessed Sabbath Day.

  3. Linda Holden :

    Your words speak to my heart. I didn’t know Jim Carey was a Christian. How wonderful.

  4. Wow, Susan! You hit a home run with this one!

  5. I’ve been thinking about this for about a month having been laid up in bed all last month due to someone’s negligence. It’s a tough choice but I needed to read this. God help me.

    And, it’s so curious that one of the most memorable and stunningly beautiful places I visited in Scotland was near Glencoe. There was a palpably sinister feel in the air though. May that landscape be redeemed.