Ever been hurt by someone? Ever been dealt an emotional, mental, or spiritual pain that may or may not have accompanied a physical hurt? You know the kind of hurt I’m speaking of… a soul-searing ache that shoots into your heart and mind, eliciting responses of fear, anger, and hate as well as the temptation to react with fight or flight. For those who try to run away, pain has a way of pursuing them relentlessly, like an awful hound of anguish keeping them constantly looking over their shoulder in dread. Or the pain slyly disappears from view for a time, hidden in the waters of busyness and life, only to resurface unexpectedly, laying hold of its victim with its icy fingers and tempting them to either hide from life or lash out even at those who love them.
Perhaps you’ve tried to numb yourself to such pain, burying it with pursuits of other things that promise to mask the hurt as you medicate yourself with activities, accomplishments, pleasures, drugs or faulty relationships. Maybe you reason that such vices are better than violently seeking revenge on those who have hurt you. Still, in time the pain one buries has a way of taking root and shooting forth tentacled vines of regret, suffocating you and even controlling you like some alien weed that makes you something you never dreamed you could be – even in your worst nightmares.
At first, such strategies seem to work. You have a “respite” and so you buy into the lie that ignoring what hurts you, closing your eyes to the pain and locking memories in a closet of denial, will somehow make the hurt go away. But the problem with masking painful hurts, running from painful memories, or avoiding painful situations is that the pain remains. It’s still there, all the while injecting the poisons of bitterness, fear, and despair into your spirit. You can neither live fruitfully nor fellowship fully with others as long as pain is allowed to control your choices. Nor can you enjoy God and what it means to be His child as long as your pain is unaddressed. Consequently, you cannot be all you could be because of the control that unsurrendered pain has over you.
Let’s not oversimplify things, but let’s recognize that addressing pain victoriously begins with engaging the source of the pain itself. Acknowledging the pain and its source is essential to recovering from it. As you admit and “own” your hurt and what it is or was that hurt you, you can move on to the healing act of forgiveness.
Letting it go through the grace of forgiveness has less to do with letting someone else “off the hook” then it does with letting yourself “off the hook” of keeping score of what others deserve and the weighty obligation of taking them to account for their sins against you. And as you forgive, hearkening to God’s admonishment to forgive others (Matthew 6, Mark 11, Luke 6, 2 Corinthians 2, Colossians 3, etc.), you then trust in God’s forgiveness of you (1 John 1:9) and finally begin to find the holes in your soul beginning the process of healing.
Forgiveness, as opposed to running away from your pain or taking revenge out on those who have wronged you, allows you to move on to the new things in your life that God has in store for you. You let go of the former things (even your broken dreams) and press on (Philippians 3:13) allowing these new things (and new dreams) to fill up the empty spots in which your past experiences try to keep you trapped. This applies to even your own mistakes, failings, and sin… you set right what you can but you know that all the rest is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Walking obediently with Him (in even your attitudes as well as actions) allows His healing to become effectual in your experience. The more of God in your mind, heart, and experience, the less room for the bitter fruits of the past.
Healing takes time, by the way, and only the faithful and patient application of “waiting on the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31) allows you to experience the reality of recovery from the powerful grip of pain.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 ½ years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.