I wanted to punch something. My daughter was again being ignored. Two best friends had no room for her unless it was to bring them something they didn’t feel like getting themselves. She sensed it, but tried to be brave. I finally stepped in and pulled her away for some mama-loves, away from the girls who acted like she was irrelevant to them.
Then there was the time we were so bruised and battered by a “good”, growing church that I never wanted to attend church again. We were chased off and punished for not fitting a predetermined mold–a mold that wasn’t even Biblical. Even when we left, they pursued us.
It’s inevitable. We will be hurt by people–people we love, respect, and admire. They will hurt us to our core, not even realizing what they are doing.. Even worse, they will hurt our kids. We will watch our children be rejected, ignored, and belittled, no matter how popular they are. How do we recover from this kind of soul hurt? How do we forgive and move on? We must take care of our focus to keep these injuries from weighing us down.
Let people be people.
So often we assume that because someone is a Christian, they will not hurt us, but nothing could be further from the truth. Christians might be forgiven, but we still have many, many areas where we have not let God transform us. Yes, even professional pastors, counsellors, and ministers are merely human, with the same potential to wound relationships. Even the most godly Christians with the best of intentions will offend us at some point.
We must choose grace. Grace doesn’t excuse bad behavior. It doesn’t minimize our hurt. It simply allows flawed humans to be flawed humans. I want others to extend grace to me when I react poorly in a stressful situation…so I must offer that same grace to others. The girls that have hurt my daughter probably don’t realize the damage done by their careless actions. The church leaders that hurt us have no idea that their actions almost made me swear off church. They were simply acting a sinful humans in need of God’s righteousness…just like me. Since I don’t have it all together, I can’t expect others to be what I am not.
Focus on the good.
One summer night, we headed out of town late one night, looking forward to relaxing trip away from the demands of work and life. We were about half-way out of town when one of our tires blew out on the side of the freeway just after midnight. We sat there at the side of the freeway, stranded like sitting ducks waiting for a tow truck. The kids and I finally went home in a taxi at about 2:00 am, while my husband stayed with the vehicle. It was tempting to be angry that our trip had been ruined. All that packing and preparation had been for nothing. Instead, we chose to be grateful that the tire blow-out did not cause an accident or leave us stranded out of town. God provided new tires, safety, and peace.
When my daughter was constantly excluded, my mom reminded me often that God could use the struggles to form her character for some big task He has for her. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it was everything I needed to hear. I can advocate for her and protect her from the worst, but I cannot protect her from all of life’s unfairness. It is my job to cover her with prayer so that God’s purposes will be accomplished in her life. What if God is preparing her to be tough and independent so she won’t cave to peer pressure in the future?
Regarding the hurtful church, I could remain angry at their behavior. Or I could focus on the lessons I learned: Don’t idolize any church. Don’t have super-human expectations for human leaders. Don’t allow pursuit of church involvement to substitute my pursuit of Jesus Himself. Honestly, that pain was the catalyst for so many good things God has brought to us since then. Focusing on that actually brings feelings of gratitude for the whole affair.
Concentrate on your own improvement.
People, even Christians, can be awful. However, they are not meant to be our focus. We can pray for them and show them love in the face of meanness, but we cannot focus on their sins and shortcomings. In the case of destructive behavior, we may need to remove ourselves from the situation, but we must keep our eyes focused on our Savior. Jesus is the only one who won’t let us down. He may allow us to walk through trials, but He will walk right alongside us.
When we are focused on the holiness of our Savior, we cannot help but be overwhelmed by the great lack of holiness in ourselves. When Isaiah came face to face with God’s glory, he had a striking reaction to his own guilt.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”Isaiah 6:1-5 ESV
While Isaiah acknowledged that he lived among a people as guilty as he was, he didn’t point fingers away from himself. He was undone at his own sin. He recognized that his own personal sin made him unworthy of God’s glory. So it should be with us. We don’t deny the wrongs of the people around us, but we don’t camp there. We simply are too busy mending our own ways to become bitter over theirs.
Dear Christ-followers, the enemy wants to tear apart Christ’s church in any way he can. One of those methods is to rip us apart from the inside out, causing hurt, bitterness and unforgiveness between God’s people. We cannot let him win. We fight back by surrendering to the control of the Holy Spirit, purposely focusing on the praiseworthy.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8 ESV