I had a package for FedEx to pick up for my company. When the FedEx guy arrived, instead of making him walk up to my door to get the package (because I was already feeling a little bit guilty for not just getting in the car and driving it to the Fed Ex), I ran outside to give him the package. Coming back in, (Yes, I was barefoot, of course) I slammed my pinky toe into the step.
My eyes watered and I hopped my way into the house, throwing myself on the couch. Ouch. But after a few moments that searing pain went away and left just a dull ache. Tonight it is swollen and continues to dully ache, thumping with each heart beat. Stupid toe.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve given a lot of thought to the concept of being hurt by those we believe once loved us, or were once friends with us. Not in a whiny, poor me way; but rather in a “Why does this have to be a part of life?” way. And how does it mesh with scripture?
There are some sad stories in Scripture. Not everything is rainbows and sunshine and roses. Not by a long shot. One of the sad stories I’ve found in Scripture is in Acts 15—an incident that occurred between Paul and Barnabas. Here is the passage:
36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.
You see, Paul and Barnabas, brothers in Christ and ministry partners have a sharp disagreement. You can read why above. And they part ways. Now people have sharp disagreements from time to time. But we do not have evidence that Paul and Barnabas ever saw each other again or reconciled.
This story has always bothered me. Particularly from the point of Paul. Maybe because I hold him in high esteem. I don’t know. It seems that it would have been a beautiful story and lesson on reconciliation had they both let go of their pride, anger and hurt and reconciled once more to be the brothers in Christ that they were, even in spite of their disagreement.
Read this explanation of what happened:
Consider how grievous this was at the time: these men had been joyfully sent out by the great church at Antioch and served together boldly on a highly successful missionary journey. They both loved the Lord Jesus and were both so committed to the Gospel that they were used by God to establish most of the churches in eastern Asia Minor. Yet, now they were sharply divided enough to split up forever! How disappointing that must have been to the Christians at that time. —Scribe D
When I look back over my life, I actually am fairly fortunate. There are very few people that have hurt me deeply. Part of that is that I learned very early in life not to feel pain inflicted by others. I learned not to hurt. But there was some hurt–few and far between, but some hurt. I’ve been hurt by someone who was supposed to lead and teach me as a child. I’ve been hurt by cruel peers taking advantage of me. I’ve been hurt by family. I’ve been hurt deeply by my ex-husband, who pledged his love to me-to death do us part-on our wedding day, and pledged the same again when we renewed our vows. Good grief that hurt goes deep. And I’ve been deeply hurt by friends who have claimed to love and be family to my crew and I. The brushing off of promises and the destruction of trust and story that has been granted.
And you’ve been hurt too–hurt in ways that I can’t even imagine. I can’t imagine the pain one must feel when their son or daughter walks away from them and from God. The hurt of a physically abusive husband. The cruelty of bullying. The betrayal of a church member against a pastor. The stories are so varied and so many. I know my friend, I know you have been hurt in your life and hurt deeply.
It’s kind of like bashing my toe today. The pain was acute, sharp, breath-taking. And then it eased. It eased but it didn’t go away. It continued to ache, just like our souls continue to ache when we are hurt. Sometimes–I know from experience–the pain never goes away.
But what should our response be?
So much depends on the circumstances. But it must be biblical. This is hard. Very hard. I know that to be truth. So many verses about forgiveness. So many verses about reconciliation. So many verses about loving each other. Praying for one another. Community. Family. What applies? What doesn’t apply?
I recently had someone say to me that they would not be surprised if I looked them straight in the eye and said that I had not forgiven my ex-husband yet. I believe that I have, but it would not be a surprising thing had I not. And I don’t subscribe to the practice of placing an empty chair in front of a person and telling that person to “forgive” the absent person who is sitting in that chair. To me, that just seems like emotionalism.
But there has to be some way to live with the pain of being deeply, deeply hurt. Part of that learning is just time. In the same way that my toe just dully aches tonight instead of that sharp sting of this afternoon, time lessens the sharpness of the pain. But I don’t think the pain ever goes away. I have hurt from when I was 8, and when I was 15, and it remains a dull ache in my life still today. Some pain leaves an indelible footprint of remaining ache and deep longing for things to be different.
Part of the learning is to recognize that God still has a plan, and we don’t know what that plan is. Sometimes not knowing what that plan is, is infuriating. Other times it is a relief. Maybe God has a greater plan, a plan that will include healing of the hurt deep inside. A plan that will return that prodigal son or daughter. A plan that will lead to reconciliation and an asking for forgiveness.
But what if it doesn’t? I don’t know. My soul aches deeply when I think of this. When I realize that my ex-husband and I cannot have a marriage relationship ever again. That dear friends of mine and my crew have abandoned us with no sign of reconciliation. That the child in my home state who committed suicide due to bullying will never be in her mother’s arms again.
Whew. I hadn’t planned on ending this on a down note, and do not want to. I want to end it on a hopeful, positive note. A note that is Biblical truth. A note that we can all grasp hold of and gain comfort from. I can tell you the passage that I get great comfort in. It’s found in 1 John 4:16-5:1:
16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
Read the whole passage, the entire thing is vital; but cling to Verse 19…….We love because he first loved us. And Verse 18…..There is no fear in love. And verse 5:1: ….everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
So we must remember that hurt dulls over time, like this blasted pinky toe of mine. And we must remember to go to scripture for comfort and for answers. And we must remember to forgive; and to love. And to pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. Deeply and often, for those who have hurt us, and for those we have hurt. This is hard to do. But it must be done, if we are to understand the words “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”