Nearly every Christian I meet has been hurt on some level in some context, and many have been hurt in spiritual contexts—environments and relationships that promised to be a haven from hurt. Hurt is not the exception, hurt is the norm. Everyone has a story of someone who hurt them at some point, or many points in life. In a fallen world, we should expect hurt and expect the need to process hurt biblically by God’s grace.
Perhaps you are a ministry leader who has been hurt in ministry. Perhaps you are a Christian who was hurt by another Christian. Whatever the case, how we process hurt will, in many ways, determine the path and outcomes of our lives. Let’s explore how to process hurt biblically…
Victim or Perpetrator?
The first place to stop in “processing hurt” is to see myself is not only victim but also a perpetrator. You see, I haven’t only “been hurt”—I have also “hurt others.” Sure the scales and magnitude vary—perhaps someone has deeply hurt you, and you have not returned that magnitude of hurt upon another. But the fact remains, just as you have a story of being hurt by someone else, someone else has a story of being hurt by you in some way.
This is the human condition in a fallen world. We hurt. We are hurt. And we perpetuate hurt. Hurt people hurt people. Only seeing myself as “being hurt” will cause me to play the victim. It will slant my perspective and my response. But seeing myself as one who has also “hurt another” will humble me to see the real problem of my sinful heart. It will remind me of my own deep need of grace and the power of the gospel to heal my hurt, and mature my tendency to inflict hurt.
The Gospel Applied to My Hurt
The second place to stop in “processing hurt” is to see Jesus on the cross being hurt by me, being hurt for me, absorbing all the hurt I’ve ever inflicted on others, and absorbing all the hurt I’ve ever experienced personally. The gospel of grace—the inexhaustible love of God displayed in Jesus suffering—shines a bright light on the topic of hurt. It gives all of my hurt a very different context. (See Hebrews 12:2-3)
Jesus suffered for me. Jesus suffered like me. Jesus suffered with me. Jesus absorbed my suffering. Jesus suffered to rescue me from hurt, heal me from the wounds of hurt, and redeem me from the living death that hurt creates. He suffered to restore within me a whole heart—capable of forgiving hurt and growing in maturity—that I might bless others and hurt less.
This is one reason of many that the gospel is more than simply the way to be saved. The gospel is God’s power of transformation in every area of our lives!
Healing or Hiding?
The third place to stop in “processing hurt” is to come out of hiding and face the mirror of God’s grace. These first two positions—seeing myself as a perpetrator; and seeing my Saviour as the one who absorbed my sin and my suffering—force me to reckon differently with hurt. These are transforming realizations.
Because of Jesus, I no longer need to coddle my hurt or return hurt on others. Because of Jesus, when I’m hurt, I am able to forgive others as Jesus forgives me. I can allow His grace to heal my hurt rather than to go on hurting others and holding on to my hurt. His grace gives the ability to be “tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” (Eph. 4:32)
When I hurt someone else, if I’m aware of it, I can repent and seek forgiveness from the one I hurt, because Jesus’ love and grace makes me secure enough to seek the healing of those I’ve hurt. His grace humbles and give the ability to “confess our faults one to another” which is a part of God’s process of healing! (James 5:16)
In light of the gospel, nursing hurt is not an option. How often do we cultivate or harbor our hurt; when God makes His grace available for healing? Cultivating hurt is a choice—a terribly self-destructive one. Processing my hurt in light of my sinfulness, Jesus suffering, and the healing of God’s grace is the only way to turn hurt into fruit. (See Hebrews 12:11-13)
Through the gospel of grace, God takes the bad things that happen to me, and the bad things that happened through me—and He turns them into the peaceable fruit of righteousness. It is only the power of the gospel that can make this happen.
Hurt—Expect It, Resolve It, Grow Through It
We can’t ever expect to fully escape hurt until we get to Heaven. As long as we are engaged with people in real community and ministry, we face the possibility of being hurt. Yet, we can hope to hurt less, and more importantly, we can have the maturity and wholeness to understand how to process hurt through grace. We can learn how to allow God’s grace to heal our hurt and to simultaneously crush our fleshly tendencies to be hurtful.
God’s heart for my hurt is to heal it. God’s heart for my tendency to hurt is to mature it. This only happens as I yield to the daily power of God’s Spirit as He uses the power of the gospel to transform my heart.
As long as there are Christians on earth, gathering together in local churches, there will be hurt; hence there must be forgiveness, grace, growth, and patience. There must be maturing Christians who value the gospel enough to process hurt with grace. Mature Christians know they will be hurt. They also know that they are capable of inflicting hurt. Therefore they forgive those who hurt them, and they repent when they inflict hurt.
On both sides of the equation, they respond in grace and process hurt God’s way—with humility.
Not Processing Hurt…
Unresolved hurt results in anger, bitterness, resentment, faithlessness, self-segregation, and self-preservation. We can’t go there. The world needs to gospel too much for us to hide out in leper colonies of hurt! Withdrawal from gospel ministry and from Christian community is not an option. Courage calls us out of hiding and into humility and grace, where hurt can be healed.
If you become a hiding leper, your suffering will continue, your hurt will multiply, and your heart will grow increasingly numb and self-destructive. This very decision inflicts more hurt upon the cause of Christ. When Christians walk away from church, refusing the allow healing, the whole church is hurt. On the other hand, when Christians courageously mature in grace, the gospel advances, the church thrives, and hearts heal!
When you are hurting you have three options…
—Hide it—bury it and let it eat you from the inside.
—Hurt others—compound the hurt by reacting and striking back.
—Heal it—at the cross and through the gospel, allow God to heal it.
Spiritual immaturity hides or hurts. Spiritual maturity heals in grace. Spiritual maturity absorbs like Jesus did, and because Jesus did! We don’t have to hide or hurt—we can let God HEAL!
Let the gospel of grace do a work in your heart that nothing else can! You will find that God’s grace is still quite amazing!