I have suffered a lot of pain in life; much of it has been emotional. I have often thought that the pain I have felt over the years is the fault of people, as it so appears.
Of course, I did not choose to be in pain, and I did not deliberately inflict pain on myself. People did. But what I discovered was that I had a choice. I gave them permission to hurt me.
This does not sound logical because you would wonder, “How and why would anybody give permission to someone to hurt him or her?”
But it is true! It is true for two reasons; first, everyone has the gift of ‘choice’. It was given to us by God. He shows up and helps us to ‘choose’, only when we invite him.
So yes! What we allow into our hearts could only be something that we accepted.
The second reason is still tied to the subject of ‘choice’ – we do not only choose what we allow into our hearts, but also what stays!
You may allow someone to ‘hurt’ you unwillingly, but God’s gift of choice is abundant enough to allow us the opportunity to reject what we have already allowed into our hearts. So who or what stays is still a question of ‘agency’.
But how do we control these things? How do we choose joy when we have been terribly ‘hurt’? Initially, I mentioned how much I suffered emotional pain for many years.
I have tried ways to overcome pain and hurt simply by choosing to be joyful or ignoring what others do to me.
Most of the time, I would stay away from these people and I was sure that was the solution. After all, when I do not allow the person into my life, there is no way they can hurt me. This was my approach.
Literally, it sounds like a very wise thing to do. And I am sure it is a common approach for unbelievers and most believers. But does it work? Does it attract the fruits of the Holy Spirit?
Is it the way God wants us to respond? I do not think so. You could stay away from the people who hurt you and you could be physically free from them.
This means they may not get the chance to hurt you again.
However, as long as the initial hurt stays, they are forever present with you.
One day, I was going about a normal daily routine and as I prayed, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. I had been asking him for emotional healing from the pain I had to endure throughout the week. I was hurt by someone I loved.
And the more I employed my ‘approach’ of overcoming pain, the more it hurt. So as expected, God showed up when I invited him.
I got the word as clear as it could be and there was no way I could have doubted what I heard - “Forgiveness”! As soon as I heard it, I had to engage in some sort of ‘self-talk’ – “I do not have anything against this person. I have loved this person. I am the one that is hurt, and it is the pain I needed to heal.”
Then the spirit made me understand that it is not so much about forgiving, but how we forgive. Remember, if we ask God for something we must be willing to do it his way - obedience to his word!
So what does Scripture tell us about those that cause us pain? It tells us to love them, to pray for them and to forgive them (Matthew 5:44; Luke 17:3-4; Mark 11:34) as long as it depends on you (Romans 12:18).
Here is a beautiful quote by a Christian sister that sums it up:
“A never-ending test for you will be loving someone that has failed you. The easy thing is to retreat. To put up a guard. To cuss them out and carry on with your day. Yet God says ‘love them anyway’. As hard as it is, love is the only way you will truly look like Jesus.” ~ Jackie Hill Perry
The writer is a student of the International Institute of Social Studies, The Netherlands.