Sometimes the people who we love and who love us the most are also the people with the greatest capacity to hurt us. If you’re a human and if you’ve had relationships, you’ve experienced this.
Choosing to face hurts against us with peace and forgiveness over retaliation and retreat, is like applying a healing ointment over a gaping wound. Giving in to the immediate desire to rant and run may feel satisfying in the moment, but it doesn’t heal, it’s only a band-aid that later leaves room for contagious infections.
Below are 5 ways to help you better process and overcome hurts in a Godly, healthy way.
1. Seek Curiosity and Find Empathy
Is it ever all about now? Instead of immediately condemning the accuser, allow yourself to take a break from your anger reaction and be curious instead. What is behind the words or the actions? What is going on that could result in displaced emotions and feelings? Are they possibly reacting to their own hurt, hurt caused by me or another?
Do we have eyes to see the broken human underneath the projected pain? This curiosity pause can diffuse a great deal of regretful reactions by helping us to see one another through a heart of compassion.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
2. Seek God’s Face and Find Gratitude
Nothing that happens to us is without God allowing it to, as hard as that is to accept at times. Ann Voskamp talks of this in her book, One Thousand Gifts, “I have to learn how to see, to look through to the Largeness behind all of the smallness. Isn’t He here?”
Seek to see God’s face in the faces around you and be thankful for the Jacob struggles that God uses to break us at our strongest point in order to bless us.
Voskamp so eloquently continues, “I look for the ugly beautiful, count it as grace, transfigure the mess into joy with thanks and eucharisteo leaves the paper, finds way to the eyes, the lips.”
Finding gratitude in our hearts in the moments they are breaking allows the God joy to shine through.
“Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love? …… When I choose–and it is a choice–to crush joy with bitterness, am I not purposefully choosing to take the way of the Prince of Darkness?……'[God] Thank you for here and now. Thank you that You don’t leave us in our mess.’ My heart rate slows. Something hard inside softens, opens, and this thanks aloud feels mechanical. But I can feel the heart gears working.” – Ann Voskamp
3. Seek the Truth and Find Growth
And the Voskamp wisdom continues, “But if we don’t intentionally commit to the hard practice of seeing, don’t we die in barren wilderness? Anger, frustration, emptiness?” When hurtful words are said, the tendency is to ruminate, to dwell, and to allow them to take up painful residence.
Can we stop dwelling and instead look for the truths and seek ways to grow from it? Swallowing our pride and seeing if there is an error in our way that we can work toward correcting and then throwing the rest away is a good way to find purpose in the pain. God uses us to sharpen each other and to sanctify each other.
“Iron sharpens iron,and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
4. Seek to Find Forgiveness
We know our darkest thoughts, the hidden motives, the repeated offenses, the continued failures. Do we take God’s forgiveness for granted and just expect it for ourselves, but then hold it back from others?
Forgiving doesn’t release from the consequences of actions and it doesn’t always mean we are no longer angry. Because it doesn’t remove the hard feelings, it can seem impossible to forgive. But we cry to God for hearts that melt and we make the choice. When I forgive I say it out loud to myself. I forgive you for this and I’m not going to let bitterness into my heart (when anger starts to transition into sin). And I repeat it often.
The story that always resonates with me when I think of forgiveness is that of Joseph and his jealous brothers. Joseph’s brothers threw him in a pit and left him to die. I can’t think of a more grievous sin. A sin I would never recover from.
When Joseph was reunited with his murderous brothers in times of peril in the land, although being in the power position, he freely pardoned.
“Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:18-21)
We find forgiveness when we can trust that God is in and over all things.
5. Seek an Intentional Outcome
Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” For the healthy relationships in our life, the outcomes should be to restore peace and to speak the truth in love.
As believers we are to keep each other accountable with a spirit of restoration because lashing out at each other in hurtful ways is never okay. Speaking the truth always takes bravery and it takes being open to losing the relationship that isn’t willing to hear and be restored.
If you’ve been hurt by someone and reacted and retaliated, it’s never too late to revisit it and seek reconciliation.
The Peace Power is in Christ
Although words may be pretty, no matter what advice anyone can give us, we are hopelessly inept to deal with our broken selves without the power of Christ working through us. When you open a book and it’s Words speak to your very soul and you know they’re spoken directly from God to your heart, your broken situation, you can’t help but weep and break, repent, and change. In your own situations, close your eyes and pray because He hears you. Today, open His Word and read because He has so much waiting for you.
May you find peace and healing for your hurts in Him today.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24