A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

Frankly, I didn’t think the woman looked like a good role-model for the women in our church, even if she was the evangelist’s wife. This was years ago. Walt had invited her husband to preach a series of messages in our church, and his wife was to sing for us. When they arrived, I saw she was beautifully dressed. But I thought her skirt seemed a little short and her neckline a little low. She wore clumps of costume jewelry, and her make-up was a little garish, I thought. And those spiky heels she was wearing! How her feet must hurt! Poor woman, I decided from my lofty perch of superior knowledge; she just hadn’t been taught well.

By the end of that first day, God helped me realize how badly I misjudged her. Her voice was not only lovely, she sang with deep feeling and earnestness. Every song she sang tugged at your heart and made you want to love the Lord Jesus more. Her kindness and compassion to every member of our congregation won their hearts. She talked about Jesus with everyone she met.

Jesus said, in John 7:24 “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” How could I have possibly known that dear woman’s heart just by a single glimpse of her?

When the Prophet Samuel was seeking the man God had chosen to be King of Israel, he saw a tall, handsome and well-built man, David’s older brother. “This is the one,” Samuel thought. But the Lord said to him, “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). It was the youngest son, David, the boy out tending the sheep, whom God had chosen.

I came to love and respect that dear woman and we were friends for many years.

No doubt you have often found yourself misunderstood, criticized for something you are trying to do for God. Find great comfort remembering that God knows your heart. He knows what you want to be, and how you struggle to become more like Jesus. He understands when you fail, and He promises to help you overcome those flaws your’re so aware of. Psalm 33:15 reminds us, “The Lord made their hearts, so He understands everything they do.” John the Beloved disciple adds:

This then is how we know that we belong to the truth,
and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence
even if our hearts condemn us.
For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. 1 John 3:19,20

Let’s not fall into Satan’s trap, as I did that long-ago day. We must not feel critical of people when we know absolutely nothing about what’s inside their hearts. Why? Because God will judge us by exactly the same standard we used on them! Jesus warned us, in Matthew 7:1,2:

Judge not, that you be not judged.
For with what judgment you judge,
you will be judged;
And with the measure you use,
it will be measured back to you.

God help us to find the right balance, to be discerning and loving in every relationship.