It is hard, when we have been hurt by other Christians, not to close ourselves off, and make our lives smaller in order to insure against more hurt. This is a huge internal battle, especially if one is engaged in leadership or ministry where they feel that they keep giving and giving and the relationships are not equal or balanced, and they feel constantly depleted or judged or misunderstood or taken for granted (which is pretty much what regularly happens if you are engaged in real ministry).
We have an enemy and he is always sowing seeds of hatred, division, and fear. He wants us to rip each other to shreds, so to speak. He wants us to be crippled with pain and ineffective to run our race. He wants us bitter and vengeful. He wants us to believe our worst fears. Not only does he want us to believe lies about ourselves and others, but he wants us to spread them around.
I believe that God can use what was intended to wound or halt or even destroy us…to better us.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
The trick is humble forgiveness. And perspective. True forgiveness is both a choice and a process. Depending on what has happened, we must will to be humble and forgive, which goes against our nature, so, of course we need supernatural help with this, and we must simultaneously realize that this may take some time, as we process our hurt and bring it to Jesus and again, process and bring. Stay honest through this process, and trust your Father. There is no rush. True healing and forgiveness is the goal. Allow Him to work in your heart and keep honestly bringing the hurt to Him, and eventually, as He leads with kindness and hope and gentleness, the order will switch. We will begin bringing our hurts to Jesus in order to process them. That is when you know you’re truly on the mend. And that is also when the pain starts to lose some of its power. There is a powerful lesson to learn in this: God’s love and voice, in our hearts, can be more powerful than the hurt caused by others.
This is where perspective comes in. The only perspective worth having is God’s. Other perspectives may entertain, pacify, pet, justify or even comfort you, but essentially, in the end, they are a waste of time and will not bring the vitality, energy, refreshing, and vision that we all desire.
You need to know what the Maker of all things thinks. What are His thoughts on pain and wounds? What is the truth about the people who have hurt you? What is the truth about this earth and yourself? How does He feel about people, even hateful ones? To understand the full form and function of a building, consult the architect. To understand the context of our lives, including sorrow, we must consult the Creator.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things…” Romans 11:36
Meanwhile, we can work on building better relationships. We often have played a part in our own wounding. We can learn to love better and also, to leave better. There is a time for everything – sometimes, it is time to move on, only we need to wait on the grace and peace that accompanies leaving in the right way, with the right words, as a peacemaker. This is not always possible, but it is possible far more often than we usually allow.
Sometimes you have to set better boundaries, which might not be respected at first, until those you are interacting with see that you are serious. Keep this in mind – healthy boundaries – which many of us did not learn to set in our formative years – are profitable and right. They are not meant to punish anyone, or make us less open, but to help us to live with value – to guard your heart and steward your time and gifts, and to become mature and fruitful, which requires pruning and cultivation. It is necessary, in order to go forward. It must be intentional. We must let go of the guilt and condemnation that can come along with trying to have healthier, more effective relationships and habits, as a result of better boundaries. These negative emotions are not from the Holy Spirit. There is only one Accuser, and it is not Jesus.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
The runner who trains for a marathon does not eat whatever they want and stay up at all hours of the night and spend quality time with those who hate running. No. The distance they are about to run, what is required of them and the cost that will be demanded from their body and spirit and mind, demands focus and respect. It demands boundaries.
Anything you have been called to do is going to be hard. Marriage, parenting, morality, ministry, Christian friendship – these are marathons. We must become spiritual athletes or we will be felled by lesser, sillier things. We must become intentional. We must be willing to work out our wholeness with good boundaries, and humbly forgive with the right perspective.
Forgiveness is intentional.
So is humility.
And also, perspective.
The catch is that these cannot be manufactured by us. Not really. They flow out from our relationship with Jesus. From prayer and worship and studying His Word. We are given grace that empowers us to walk strong in these three. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, while you must athletically turn your heart in the right direction, that is, the direction of the Word – Jesus – it is He who comes and fills and inspires and helps us to endure and bounce back. It is His energy being expended, and we are protected from bitterness and burnout and cynicism in this way.
The only effective prescription for truly and repeatedly recovering from emotional/spiritual wounds, is to allow Counselor and Helper and Comforter and Friend (aka Holy Spirit), through His Word, with the love of the Father, to lead you into all truth.
We cannot heal ourselves. We need Jesus in order to be whole and to bring that wholeness to others.
We cannot minister from our own hearts alone. We need Jesus to shed His love abroad in us, or everything we do begins the process of decay. We need His eternal, lively, lovely Words. Only His Words remain.
We cannot forgive in our own power. We need help. We need to realize God’s forgiveness in our own stories. This is profound. There is grace and space for this. There is time for you walk out good healing, and then lead others through the same process. No good commander would expect a soldier to jump back into combat whilst bleeding mortally from the head. He would surely be destroyed, and endanger the lives of fellow soldiers, who are counting on his unhindered abilities, in the process.
If you want to recover from a wound, recharge from weariness, find clarity from confusion, and run your marathon in love, you must go to the Source of healing, energy, wisdom, love, joy, peace.
Jesus. Go straight to Him. Open His Word. Ask Him right now what you should do. Allow Him to be your Shepherd.
“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”‘ Matthew 11:28
“But his mother told the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.'” John 2:5