The Bible teaches at least five steps in God’s healing process. If you want God to bring healing to hurtful memories, from recollections of the past that cause you pain, step two is this:
Release those who have hurt you.
You only have a certain amount of emotional energy and you’re going to spend it in one of two ways. Getting even or getting better. Getting even will not take away your pain. Getting even does not erase the hurt and pain that someone has caused you. The only way to erase that pain is to forgive that person. You might object “But they don’t deserve to be forgiven!” Well I would agree, but you don’t deserve to be forgiven either and neither do I. But God has forgiven us our sins and expects us therefore to forgive others their’s. Forgive them for your sake, not theirs. Because you can’t get on with your life living with the bitterness and resentment of unforgiveness.
Romans 12:17-19, Never pay back evil with more evil…Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. The reason we sometimes seek to take revenge is because we forget this verse. We forget that God saw what happened to you and that God will one day settle the score. But Psalm 56:8 says “You, God, have kept a record of all my tears.” God has kept a record of every one of your tears – a record of every time you were abused – a record of every time you were hurt in some way. Friend – You don’t have to hold on to the memory of that hurt because God is holding on to it. You don’t have to remember what they did – God will remember it so that you can let it go. Let it go and let God settle the score. Let God balance the books. He saw the hurt and will mete out justice at the appropriate time. You can spend the rest of your life trying to do it or you can let God do it.
Jesus certainly understands hurt and abuse. I suggest you do what Jesus did when someone hurts you emotionally. We read in 1 Peter 2:23, “He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” When Jesus died on the cross he didn’t just suffer physical wounds (i.e. head wound, face wound, back wound from the whipping, hand wounds, feet wounds, side wound where they stuck a spear in him, etc). He also suffered hidden wounds (i.e. betrayal, rejection, hatred, injustice). And Jesus could’ve retaliated and destroyed his enemies in an instant! But instead he said in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
And it’s not just Jesus who says you need to forgive. Even non-Christians are now saying you need to forgive the people who have caused hidden wounds in your life. In 1999 Time magazine published an article entitled “Should all be forgiven?” The heading of the article stated “Giving up that grudge could be good for your health. Researchers are pioneering a new science of redemption based on the old form of grace.” Well I’m happy to see that scientists are finally figuring out what the Bible’s been teaching and what people of faith have been believing for thousands of years!
I know that what God tells us to do is hard, so let me give you some reasons to forgive others for the hurts they have caused you:
- First: Because God has forgiven you.
- Second: You’re going to need more forgiveness in the future.
- Third: Resentment and bitterness is contagious. Hebrews 12:15 says, “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” Resentment poisons everyone around you. Be careful parent that your bitterness doesn’t infect your children. Be careful husband that your bitterness doesn’t infect your spouse.
- Fourth: You steer where you stare. That is, you will become like whatever it is you’re focusing on. Some of you don’t ever want to become like your dad or your mom that hurt you, but you’re constantly thinking on them and what they did. If you’re not careful you’re going to become just like them because again – you steer where you stare. You become like what (or who) you focus on.
- Fifth: It’s the only way you’re going to find healing from past hurts. There’s no other way. You’ve got to release your right to get even and turn that person over to God.
I remember how bitterness tore me up on the inside as a result of the way I was treated in Maryland. And I remember how much better I felt once I chose to forgive the people who hurt me. And I remember the healing God brought after a season of praying for the people who hurt me so deeply. I would pray God’s richest blessing on their lives. I was hoping God wouldn’t answer my prayers, but I made myself pray them 🙂 And as I prayed for them daily for a season God began to heal my heart. My bitterness evaporated and love flooded my heart. In other words: I worked the word and the word worked! When you hold on to bitterness and resentment and harbor unforgiveness in your heart, you only hurt yourself, so God says to release those who have hurt you. This is God’s second step in the healing process.