“How do you let go of the pain others have caused? I have tried to forgive, but the memory of it haunts me.”
This is the question this week’s message will attempt to answer. Not knowing the context for the question, not knowing what pain was perpetrated and when, like if it was recently or a long time ago, and not knowing how long the person suffered the pain they need to be healed of, like if it was ongoing over a period of years or was a one-time happening, it is difficult to prescribe a specific way to freedom from that pain. However, I think Scripture gives us great insight on how to handle the things that happen to us.
Would you all agree that pain is part of the human experience? Let me see a show of hands. How many of you have been hurt by someone? That has to be 100% of us. So, the question is a great question because of the practicality for everyone who is listening to this message. I’m trusting God to give each of us some takeaways that will help us release hurt and to recover from it when it happens.
I want to start by sharing two “don’ts,” two things to avoid because they will prolong your release and recovery from pain.
- Don’t ignore or try to hide your pain.
Your pain won’t stay silent. It will continue to speak to you. There will be triggers that remind you of the hurt you have suffered. You’ll continue to suffer, but you’ll suffer in silence which will only intensify the inside wound that has built up in your life.
In Psalm 32:3, David was dealing with pain. It was pain that was self-inflicted. He had sinned greatly against God. He was an adulterer, a murderer, a liar, a manipulator of people. What he had done was a heavy, aching, constant pain in his heart that would not go away. He said, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.”
He had tried to ignore what he had done and the pain the was building on the inside. He needed to confess His sin to the Lord in order to have the weight of his pain removed. Our question for today deals with pain that others have caused, but I think the principle is the same. It isn’t healthy or helpful to ignore pain. It won’t go away, and the passing of time will only compound what is crushing you in your heart.
Ignoring your pain takes great effort. It isn’t the easy way out. You have to work hard not to think about the things that have been said about you, the things that have been done to you. Maybe we are successful at doing so some during the daytime, but perhaps our dreams remind us of the hurt in our hearts. Ignoring pain prolongs the hurt and postpones the healing God wants to bring to us.
Why do we try to ignore our hurt? Well, I have never met anyone who loves conflict. Sometimes, the path to recovery and wellness is through a valley of conflict with someone, and that isn’t fun. Sometimes, to start the healing process, we have to communicate to the other person just how badly we have been hurt. Confrontation can result in the loss of relationships or more hurt if things don’t go well. It can mean that the person who wounded you could spin the story and turn it around on you. It might mean further injury if they refuse to see or take any responsibility for what they have done.
It’s risky to deal with the hurt, right? But it is also reckless not to deal with it. Experts have determined that physical and emotional pain are processed in the same area of the brain. (https://outreachmagazine.com/features/discipleship/64735-why-unresolved-emotional-pain-is-an-obstacle-to-discipleship.html)
Your brain won’t discriminate between types of pain, whether it’s a broken arm or a broken heart. In your brain, pain is pain. Just imagine choosing to live with a broken arm. You can try to ignore that pain all day long, but you will have constant reminders that something is wrong, really wrong. How will you focus with the pain of a broken arm? What kind of mood will you be in? What things will you not be able to do or what things will you opt out of doing because you think they will cause more pain? I think you’ll agree it would be advantageous to deal with the broken arm, to resolve the pain, and to go through the process of healing. It might require surgery. It could mean a cast is in your future. Someone may have to help you dress and care for yourself for six weeks. You might not be able to drive. Quite possibly physical therapy might be prescribed. That might mean some additional pain. You will have to take time off of work. There will be some bills to pay, but the process of getting the pain resolved is worth all the time, effort, money, and the humility required to move on from the pain.
Some of us put off medical treatment because we don’t want to deal with the whole process of X-rays, doctors’ visits, and hospital appointments. We think whatever we are experiencing will just resolve itself over time. In the case of a broken bone, people who try to tough out the pain, who try to ignore the pain, who won’t deal with the problem, are setting themselves up for infection, for joint issues and for the possibility of a permanent deformity.
Just as we cannot truly ignore physical pain, we cannot ignore emotional wounds either. It is better to resolve to deal with the hurt, no matter what it involves, because in the long run, we will be better off. You won’t forget the time you broke your arm, but if you get the treatment needed, you’ll be able to move on from the pain. Isn’t that what we long for when we are in pain? To get to the place where even if we remember it, we aren’t overcome with the anguish of it anymore?
So, number one, don’t try to ignore or hide your pain, and second:
- Don’t try to run and hide from your pain.
In Psalm 55:4-8, David said, 4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. 5 Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. 6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. 7 I would flee far away and stay in the desert;[c] 8 I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”
David wished he could run away. His situation must have been really bad. He spoke of anguish, the fear of death, trembling in his body, and being overwhelmed by horror. Who wouldn’t want to run away from all of that? There is no true escape from emotional pain, but we’re good at trying, aren’t we? We do things to try to escape the pain we are experiencing. If we just drink enough alcohol to take the edge off, if we just smoke something to help us forget about our troubles, if we just down a pint of ice cream we can replace negative feelings with happy ones, if we run away from our relationships, no one will ask us questions that we don’t want to answer, if we bury ourselves in work we can distance ourselves from our suffering.
You can’t run away from pain. It goes with you. Running away cuts you off from life-giving people that can give you support while you deal with your pain. Running away, hiding, gets you right where Satan wants you…alone. The only thing worse than being in emotional pain is being in emotional pain alone.
In Psalm 109, David recounts having been hurt by some people. Sometimes the wounds we suffer come from multiple people at the same time, like we get ganged up on, or at least we feel that way. Listen to the first five verses:
1My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, 2 for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. 3 With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. 4 In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. 5 They repay me evil for good,
and hatred for my friendship.
David turned to God in prayer when he was suffering the wounded from people who were lying about him. Talking to God about our pain is a must. People had maliciously ganged up on David with words of hatred and had attacked him without cause. These were people he had shown kindness to, but instead of receiving kindness back, they sought to hurt him. David took his pain to the Lord in prayer.
The word, “accuse” here is the same basic Hebrew word that we would also translate to be “Satan, the accuser.” I believe that Satan was at work in the hurt David was suffering. It makes sense. The one who wants to steal from you isn’t just out for your money. He wants your happiness, your well-being, your peace. The one who wants to kill and destroy you will tarnish your reputation and spread lies about you. There was wickedness and injustice being perpetrated here. So, David began to call on God to deal with this satanic and unjust situation.
Skip to verses 21ff: 21 But you, Sovereign Lord, help me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. 22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. 23 I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust. 24 My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt. 25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads. 26 Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love. 27 Let them know that it is your hand, that you, Lord, have done it.
Being honest with yourself and God about your condition is super important. Pretending we are OK is not going to be helpful. We have to let go of the pride that can keep us all in a mode of self-reliance. Until we admit our condition and recognize that we don’t have the answers for our pain, we won’t fully trust God for the healing we need. Revealing your feelings will invite God’s healing.
Psalm 34:18 tells us that God is close to the brokenhearted and heals those who are crushed in spirit. You are never closer to God than you are when you are hurting.
Dealing with pain, if you will come first to God with it, dealing with pain can become the greatest discipleship moments of your life. You can become aware of God’s presence and care as never before. You can receive the tenderness of God’s supernatural healing in ways you cannot imagine. You can have a deeper understanding of His Word than ever before. You can gain spiritual insights not only about your present pain, but about other facets of your life, things you can only discover and uncover because you are intentionally bringing your broken heart to Him, but you have to come to Him.
You probably can’t forgive the people who have hurt you without coming to Jesus first. At least, I don’t think you will want to forgive them. Our flesh doesn’t want to forgive. Our flesh wants to tell everyone on social media how we were wronged and try to get back at the people who have hurt us. We want them to feel what we have felt. Our flesh wants people to pay for what they have done to us, but if we will turn our pain over to Jesus, He will deal with those who have hurt us, AND He will give us the supernatural capacity to release them through forgiveness.
I also believe our burden gets lighter when we invite others into our healing journey. In James 5:13 we are told that if anyone is in trouble, he should pray. The Greek word for trouble is “kakopatheo” and it can refer to either physical or emotional pain.
In that same chapter there is encouragement to bring your pain, to bring your suffering to mature Christian people who can pray with you and for you. Instead of running from pain, we are told to bring it to the Lord and to bring it to trusted believers. If you isolate yourself, you remove yourself from one of the biggest ways God helps people get through pain and that is by using members of the Body of Christ to pray for your healing and to support you through the steps it takes to become whole again.
So, to begin to let go of the pain others have caused, bring the pain to Jesus. After that, invite mature Christians into your healing journey.
Now, if the pain you are experiencing is traumatic, you may need to get a Christian Counselor on board to help you emotionally separate yourself from the person who victimized you. Some examples of the kind of trauma I am talking about include physical, verbal and sexual abuse, neglect as a child, the betrayal of a spouse, or being forced to do something against your will. I’m not trying to minimize all other pain by calling these traumatic, but there are wounds that come into people’s lives because they were dominated by someone or were betrayed by someone that should have been their protector or their best friend, like their parent or spouse, and those wounds can lead to post traumatic stress. In those cases, I suggest you get help to walk towards the wholeness that is possible.
The devil wants to use our pain to his advantage. I’m encouraging you to surrender your pain to Jesus so that He can heal and transform it. As disciples of Christ, all of life is about discipleship. Discipleship isn’t just about coming to church to worship or witnessing, praying, and tithing, but it is about surrendering every area of our lives to God. After you bring your pain to Jesus and invite believers into your journey, choose to View the processing of your pain as an act of discipleship. What you go through, you can grow through. Discipleship involves picking up our cross and following after Jesus, Luke 9:23. Crosses are heavy. Jesus wasn’t exactly thrilled about the cross He faced. He asked if there was another way that God’s will could be accomplished. He was told that the sacrificial and hard work of the Cross was the only way to salvation, which is the healing of our souls, the only way it could be obtained was by Him going to the Cross.
Following Jesus involves the laying down of our lives, the laying down of our wills, to do and to experience God’s will. It isn’t God’s will for you to be bitter, mad, depressed, lonely, angry, dejected, hate-filled, emotionally pained for the rest of your life. In order to accomplish God’s will, you will have to humbly admit your need for help to God, to invite others into your story, and to do what God directs you to do. It might require time off of work, some emotional therapy, some evaluation of the depth of your trauma, some investment of time and money, there might be some spiritual surgery, you might have to humble yourself in the process, but in the end, it will be worth it if you aren’t walking around with a broken heart!
Everyone’s journey to wholeness and the releasing of pain will look different. Some of you will be able to forgive those who hurt you more quickly than others. Some of you may have to ask God to give you a heart of forgiveness. Some of you may have to say the words of forgiveness over and over until your heart catches up with those words. It’s a process. Release from your pain will come as you release the person who hurt you through forgiveness. Releasing them doesn’t mean you are letting them off the hook for what they have done. It means you are turning them over to God who knows how to deal with the people who have wronged us. (Ephesians 4:31-32, Colossians 3:13)
View your road to recovery from pain as an act of discipleship. It will require faith. Even ability to forgive others involves faith because as we forgive, we are exercising faith that God will deal appropriately and completely with the person who has wronged us. Pray for the person who wronged you. Pray they acknowledge and understand what they have done. Pray for spiritual revelation in their life. Pray they find forgiveness from God for what they have done. It isn’t easy to pray for people we have had bad experiences with, but that’s what disciples do. They pray for people, even their enemies, Matthew 5:44.
God hasn’t caused your pain, but He has a plan for it. It has been factored into a discipleship path for you that will wind up being helpful in some way, Romans 8:28.
You’ll never know how Jesus can use your pain until you give it to Him and commit to walking through the process that He wants to take you through in order to deliver His healing.
Let me speak to the person who wrote the question. Something bad has obviously happened to you. I’m so sorry. You couldn’t control that. You can’t deny that. But don’t let what happened to you define who you are or will become. Let Jesus define you. Let Him direct you into the future He has for you. Choose to be a disciple of Christ, even in this process of releasing pain and finding His healing.