By John Stallings
One second, and it happens! One careless mistake, transpiring in a fleeting flash of time, in “the fog of war!” The massive cannon is fired, and its deadly payload is screaming downrange locked-on to its intended target. There’s no way it can be stopped or retrieved now; its course is fixed and unchangeable. Problem is: YOU are the intended target, and its heading straight for you! And, the worst part of it all is that the person who fired it is a comrade, someone who was on your side. WHAM!! The missile strikes its mark and a ferocious and fiery explosion ensues! You’ve just been the unfortunate victim of every soldier’s nightmare — “friendly fire!”
But, this is not Gettysburg, The Battle of the Bulge, Pork Chop Hill, Baghdad, or Afghanistan. This is one of the most mystifying kind of war — “The War of Christians vs. Christians!” I’m talking about the many “walking-wounded” in the Body of Christ who’ve been hurt by other believers, people who have been battered and bruised by the betrayal of a comrade, a bunker buddy — a fellow Christian. Much like Malchus, the man whose ear was severed by Simon Peter’s sword, you’ve been hurt by some who basically is a “good person,” a fellow believer, maybe even a family member.
Only, in this case, the campaign of hurt and pain this person has launched against you is no “mistake” — they meant to fire those missiles, he/she meant to say those words, meant to carry out a plot against you, meant to wreak hurt and harm upon you in order to bring you down! And, you’ll never be exactly the same. The years you’ve spent building a respectable reputation will now be burned before your very eyes. As far as you can see at the moment, you will suffer with this for the rest of your life.
Among the results the hurt and pain of your wounds will produce are that you might find it virtually impossible to go back to any church for quite some time; you will retreat into isolation and insulation for Lord knows how long in order to lick your wounds; seemingly for the rest of your life, you’ll be “possessed” by the memory of the pain inflicted upon you “in the house of your friends.” And, those wounds, left untreated, run the risk of becoming infected and festering into malignant and potentially deadly bitterness of soul, “that rising up, causes trouble!”
We’ve all been hurt at one time or another. Sometimes it’s from “friendly fire,” and sometimes it’s a misguided missile intended for an enemy that lands right smack dab in the middle of our own hearts or lives.
Our parents hurt us, our children, our marriage partners, the people at work, the dog down the street, hurt us. Hurts come far too easily and numerously in this day and age. Yet, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” all throughout human history, beginning in the Garden of Eden people have hurt other people. It’s unfortunately become a sad and common fact of human interrelations that “hurt people, hurt people!”
The Biblical record is replete with people hurting one another. Abel was hurt; not only hurt but slain, by his own brother! Noah was hurt, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, Jesus, Peter, Paul…I could go right on down the line. None of us are so holy, so good, and so perfect so as to be able to escape hurt. The majority of people that I’ve tried to help over the years were in need of help because of some hurt they experienced.
I’m no expert on addictive behavior, but it seems to me that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the substances themselves people become hooked on aren’t as much the problem as is finding a way to quell the hurt that is silently racking the addict internally where no one can see.
Hurts come from a variety of sources and for a variety of reasons:
- The loss of a loved one, through death, divorce, or breakup;
- An emotional or physical attack from some other person;
- Long-term emotional or physical abuse that may or may not be currently happening;
- An unanswered prayer;
- An unmet expectation;
- A slight or offense from a coworker, a church member, classmate, etc.;
- Your boss fails to notice a job well done;
- A friend says something thoughtless and cruel.
Hurts can range from some of the most terrible things imaginable to slight offenses of some passing moment.
So, what do we do when we are stung by such hurts? I am going to try my best, under God, in this article, to offer some practical and spiritual answers to this common but nonetheless painful question.
1. Don’t curse the hurt.
Joseph Richardson, a New York millionaire, lived and died in a house only five feet wide, believe it or not. It was called the “Spit House.” It was called that because you could stand against one wall and spit all the way across to the other wall. Mr. Richardson owned a plot of land that was so narrow that it was of no use to him. So, one day, he decided he’d sell it to the adjoining landowner. However, that landowner did not want to pay Joseph what he felt the property was worth. To spite him for not buying the property at the price he wanted and refusing to lower it, Richardson built the “Spit House,” which aesthetically disfigured the whole block, and condemned himself to a life of discomfort and squalor by taking up residence in it, where he lived the rest of his life. The “Spit House” became the “Spite House,” at least in Richardson’s mind. The morale of the story is self-evident: it was not the neighbor who was in any way harmed by the eccentric millionaire’s spiteful actions, but Richardson himself!
Let me ask you a question: Do you have any “spit houses” or “spite houses” in your life?
The story is told that a woman left instructions in her will for the executor to take one dollar from her estate, invest it, and pay the interest to her husband, “as evidence of my estimate of his worth.”
Another woman bequeathed her divorced husband one dollar to buy a rope with which he would hopefully hang himself.
Banks have long printed checks in a wide spectrum of colors. Some, as you know, have offered checks with floral or scenic backgrounds. The modest-sized Bank of Marin in Marin Country, California, has gone one step further. Its customers can simply bring in their own photograph or drawing and have it printed onto a standard check form. Undeterred by the higher cost, more than 500 customers signed up for the illustrated checks. But perhaps the most imaginative (and vindictive) customer is the one who ordered special checks to be used solely for making his alimony payments. They show him kissing his beautiful new wife.
When his wife filed for divorce, a Swedish man cashed in all their investments — worth $81,300 — and burned the cash. Following the “spite fire,” nothing was left for either of them but a pile of ashes.
In each instance, who hurt worse, really: the hater or the hated? The answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it?
A few questions for you now:
- How many acts of disrespect does it take, how many years of dishonor must be lived out, before one has fully repaid a mother or father for being an alcoholic, an abuser, an absentee parent?
- How many put downs will it take until the other person is sufficiently put down?
- How many checks showing the man kissing his new wife will it take before the debt is paid in full?
Sometimes repayment is impossible! Faith plays a part here. If I truly believe that God fights my battles for me, then I can leave the matter up to Him. If I do not believe that, then I must take matters into my own hands. But, Hebrews 10:30 says, “For we know Him who said, ‘It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, the Lord will judge His people….”
Deuteronomy 32:35 adds, “It is Mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time, their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”
Romans 12:17-19 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Revenge belongs to who? God! The fact is, when you retaliate against another person, then God stops acting on your behalf. If you’re disciplining one of your children, and I intentionally step between you and your child, you’d no doubt stop disciplining your child and reprove me. God operates the same way.
Romans 12:14 offers a better way to handle hurts: Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse.” The opposite of blessing is cursing. To bless means to speak positively to/about those who are speaking negatively about you. Build up those who are tearing you down. To prevail over your enemies you cannot operate in the same spirit they are operating in, but rather you must operate in the opposite spirit they are operating in!
Encourage those who discourage you. Do not respond in kind to those who disparage and demean you, but rather hold your tongue and keep your silence. Follow the example of Jesus. Isaiah 53:3-7 notes:
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
Jesus did not curse them. He certainly could have, but He didn’t. He blessed instead of cursed. He died praying for His enemies and their forgiveness by His Father-God. His example is our model and standard.
Have you noticed that today mental health professionals hammer away at the point that it’s not what happens to us that determines the quality of our lives, rather it’s how we respond to what happens to us that determines the quality of our lives? The quality of our lives is mediated through our point-of-view, our mind-set, our thinking, our mental assumptions, and our emotional responses.
2. Don’t rehearse the hurt.
In the late 1990s, Pete Peterson was appointed U.S. ambassador to Vietnam.
Peterson had served six years as a prisoner of war in the dreaded “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp. When asked how he could return to the land where he’d endured years of starvation, brutality and torture, he replied, “I’m not angry. I left that at the gates of the prison when I walked out in 1972. I just left it behind me and decided to move forward with my life.
Job 5:2 (Good News), “to worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish thing to do.”
Resentment is one of the great killers of our modern age. When you’ve got resentment, you’re focusing on the past, not on the present or the future.
Ephesians 4:31 says: “Get rid of all bitterness, anger, slander along with every form of malice.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (God’s Word translation) says, “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. It isn’t rude. It doesn’t think about itself. It isn’t irritable. It doesn’t keep track of wrongs.”
The Message puts it this way:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others….
Every time you review a hurt, it gets bigger. For instance, let’s say that someone criticizes you. Criticism hurts. I know. But if you keep thinking about the criticism, in time you begin to think that the whole world’s against you. The event gets blown all out of proportion. It gets magnified every time you rehearse it.
Quite honestly, I have known some very angry, bitter people. It’s almost as if they have all of their past and current hurts stand in review each and every morning. They inspect them, rehearse them, and make their vows before them. It goes something like this:
- “I will get even with him even if it is the last thing I do…!”
- “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth…!”
- “He got me once, I will get him back twice!”
- “She will live to regret the time that she hurt me. I do not get mad, I just get even!”
Every day it is the same evil thing – rehearsal time.
Here’s a short illustration from the movie, “Antwone Fisher.” Based on a true story, the film tells of a young man who grew up in an abusive foster home. Over the years, Antwone grew bitter towards his natural family for giving him up. By the time he enlisted in the Navy, his anger got him into so many fist fights that he was sent to Navy psychologist Jerome Davenport, played by Denzel Washington who becomes a father figure to Antwone.
After they have built trust with each other, Antwone shares a powerful poem with Davenport. At this critical juncture, his counselor raises the key issue that Antwone must deal with to find healing.
The conversation takes place just after the Thanksgiving meal at his counselor’s house. Antwone gives Davenport a folded piece of paper, and Davenport reads it aloud thoughtfully.
Who will cry for the little boy
Lost and all alone?
Who will cry for the little boy
Abandoned without his own?
Who will cry for the little boy?
He cried himself to sleep.
Who will cry for the little boy
Who never had for keeps?
Who will cry for the little boy
Who walked the burning sand?
Who will cry for the little boy
The boy inside the man?
Who will cry for the little boy
Who knew well hurt and pain?
Who will cry for the little boy
Who died and died again?
Who will cry for the little boy?
A good boy he tried to be.
Who will cry for the little boy
Who cries inside of me?
Davenport says, “This is excellent, Antwone. You’re good because you’re honest. You are more honest than most people. Even in your anger—the only thing you’re not honest with yourself about is your need to find your own family. Your natural family. You’re upset with them because you feel they didn’t come to your rescue. Maybe they didn’t know.”
Antwone replies bitterly, “How could they not have known?”
Davenport says, “That’s the question you need to ask.”
Antwone says, “Why do I have to forgive?”
Davenport answers, “To free yourself, so you can get on with your life.”
I like those last two lines. “Why do I have to forgive?” Davenport answers, “To free yourself, so you can get on with your life.”
3. Don’t nurse the hurt.
Let me put it bluntly: Hatred is nothing more than a slow form of suicide. It can and will kill. Someone once put it this way, “It is not what we eat as much as what eats us that kills a person.”
Someone else described it like this: “Seeking revenge is like taking poison and hoping the other person is going to die.” Or as the Chinese say: “If you’re not willing to forgive, you better get ready to dig two graves.”
During World War II, the U.S. submarine Tang surfaced under cover of darkness to fire on a large Japanese convoy off the coast of China. Since previous raids had left the American vessel with only eight torpedoes, the accuracy of each shot was essential. The first seven silent missiles were on target. But when the eighth was launched, it suddenly veered off course, and instead of hitting its intended target, it boomeranged back unseen to strike the crew that had launched it. Too late, the emergency alarm to submerge rang out. Within a matter of seconds, the U.S. sub received a direct hit and sank almost instantly.
In the same way, we’re also capable, while intent on attacking others, of doing irreparable damage to ourselves. The missiles of anger and hate we launch can return to hurt us. Again, anger can be a poison that kills.
Whenever we nurse a hurt, we give life to it. In short, we encourage it to grow and grow. How do we do this?
- By showing it off to others.
- By parading it around for others to see.
- By enlisting people to share in the offense.
- By emphasizing it, by exaggerating it.
- By feeding it.
And how do we feed a hurt, you ask?
- We feed it self-pity.
- We feed it anger.
- We feed it bitterness.
- We feed it hate!
The more that we feed it, the more it grows until the hurt can literally become all consuming. Someone has written that “blowing out the other fellow’s candle won’t make yours shine any brighter!”
Ephesians 4:26-27: “Don’t let the sun go down while you’re still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.” It’s OK to be angry. Anger is a legitimate response to hurt. However, it is important to remember that anger must have a time limit. It can’t go on and on and on and last forever. When we hold on to anger for an extended period of time, it can turn into bitterness, resentment, or even hatred. All of those things are sin. Job 18:4 therefore warns, “You’re only hurting yourself with your anger.”
You cannot please everybody! In fact, in trying to please everybody you’re guaranteeing you’re going to be hurt. Just about the time you get “Person-A” pleased, “Person-B” gets upset. Just about the time “Person-B” gets satisfied, “Person-A” gets upset. No doubt, you’ve seen it happen yourself.
Even God can’t please everybody! One person is praying for rain today. Someone else is saying they want it to be sunny. You get two people on opposite sides of the ballgame, both praying for their team to win. This is an election year. Millions of people are going to pray for the Democratic candidate to win in November, while millions more are going to pray for the Republican candidate to win. Whose prayer does God answer? Which group does He please, and which group does He disappoint? Again, even God can’t please everybody. Only a fool would try to accomplish what even God can’t do. Give up your hurts – now – to God. Vengeance belongs to Him anyway.
No longer curse your hurts, rehearse your hurts, or nurse your hurts. Instead, just hand them over to God today — once and for all. In other words, forgive.
Don’t place absolute trust in people. Jesus is our model, and He certainly didn’t entrust Himself to any human: “But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men” (John 2:24). God warns in Scripture: “Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD” (Jer. 17:5).
In the interest of balance, you and I must come to terms with the fact that everyone is human, and thuse will fail you at one time or another. Even the pastor will make mistakes. The only one you can trust entirely without fail is God.
Realizing that any human can fall short, the degree of trust we place in people must be limited and will depend on their track record. The more we get to know a person’s character and the history of their behavior, the more we’ll be able to determine how trustworthy they are. This is one of the reasons why the scriptures tell us to get to know our pastors and spiritual leaders — so that from their godly lifestyle, we’ll be able to trust their leadership. “And we urge you, brethren, to know those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” (1 Thes. 5:12).
There’s a difference between “love” and “trust.” Remember that love and forgiveness are something we should grant unconditionally, but trust must be “earned.” Trust is confidence in a person predicated on their actions. We certainly can and should trust people who show trustworthy behavior; but because all people have the potential for failure, we should never ascribe infallibility with regard to trust to anyone but God.
When the Clock Stops
My first pastorate was a very small church in West Florida. One of my families was a poor family who lived in an old house on the banks of the Suwannee River. I would go to visit periodically, and we would sit in their living room and talk. One day I noticed that the clock was wrong. It said nine o’clock when, in fact, it was noon. I said nothing. But I saw the same thing the next month and then the next month. Finally, I said something to the husband and wife. Tears came to their eyes. “That was the moment our boy died ten years ago,” they replied. For them, the clock — time — stopped at the moment of their greatest hurt.
The pain of friendly fire can stop the clock in your life. This happens to people who get hurt and fail to turn it over to God. The clock stops! They go through life, month after month, year after year, but the clock stopped way back at some moment in their lives when they were hurt. Today it’s popular to be a victim. But being a victim is not a good way to live because life cannot go forward when the clock has stopped at the moment of our last betrayal.
What’s the most religious or spiritual thing you can do in a case like this? I would say, unequivocally, the most spiritual thing you and I can do in all cases of hurt is to — FORGIVE.
There was a time in my life and ministry, when some things came together to bring pain. I can’t relate many details. They’re too painful to me and too personal for others. Suffice it to say I was hurt and I brooded over my pain. For a while I was unforgiving in my heart toward several individuals. The pain festered for a long time. I would say, “These folk have hurt me and thereby ruined something good for me.” I was wrong. Fact is, they did not have the power to ruin anything in my life; only I did!
There is no resurrection for those who suffer without Gethsemane Submission, wherein we subordinate our will unto the will of God, and forgive our assailants who wounded us. Without that Gethsemane Submission Jesus modeled, there is no resurrection or new life; there is only the death and the grave.
If your story is like mine, it doesn’t have to end that way. There is always a Gethsemane Moment available for you. For me, I found my Gethsemane in a small apartment where I lived alone for nearly two years. Finally, I said, “Lord, this is in YOUR hands now; not that person’s, not those people’s.”
One day, I saw the shadow of a cross coming over me. I knew crucifixion was coming, and it came. There were moments when I felt like the Father had abandoned me. But, in my heart of hearts, I knew He had abandoned His Son, “but for a moment,” so that He would never abandon me. I knew that in order for new green shoots to again appear in my life, I had to embrace the thing that had come against me, to release and forgive those who seemed to have provided the hammer and nails and the cross. I cried, and I cried. But, then the tomb opened. I arose, and I lived again!
It didn’t take years of counseling. It took one moment of saying, “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection in my life. I want to take up my cross and follow Him, to claim Him as Sovereign King, even in my rejection and my betrayals!”
Friend, God will transform you if you’ve been hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, or betrayed. You and I can go from being a victim to being a victor by trusting in the One who was hurt, wounded, and rejected on our behalf.
The question isn’t, “How do we stop hurt from coming?” The question is: “What do we do with it when it comes, for it will surely come to us?”
Then, after hurt has come into my life, the question will be: “Will I remain a victim, or will I move on to being a victor with and in Christ?
There IS an answer; there IS a way to healing. But I warn you, it will involve another kind of pain — the pain of Christ’s cross of death. As the Apostle Paul said, “I DIE daily.” We must die daily to the carnal nature within as well. But, that cross of dying to self will bring resurrection and “new life” that will start the clock ticking again.
In the Spirit, Jesus Christ has transformed the cross from an instrument of destruction disdain by humanity to an instrument of salvation ordained by God.
In Him there can be no more victims — but rather only victors. Remember His words as He read from the scroll of Isaiah:
God’s Spirit is on me; He’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free. (Luke 4:18; The Message)###
John Stallings is a leading award-winning Southern Gospel music composer of numerous classics such as: Learning To Lean, Love Grew Where The Blood Fell, Touching Jesus, One Day I Will, You’re All Invited To My Mansion, Blessing After Blessing, Light The Light, Angels Camping All Around Me, God’s Gonna Do It, and many more. His songs have been recorded by many well-known Gospel artists, including The Blackwood Brothers, The Speers, The Stamps Quartet, J.D. Sumner, Wanda Jackson, Del Reeves, Wendy Bagwell, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans, among many others. His singing career was launched at the age of six in a citywide revival at famed Soldier Field in Chicago, and he began preaching at the age of sixteen. John was Nashville’s prestigious Dove Award recipient in 1977, and many other awards over the years. He’s also a veteran pastor, evangelist, church-planter, and travels internationally with his wife, Juda, as singing evangelists. They reside in Altamonte Springs, Florida. John’s twin-daughters, Mary Alessi and Martha Munizzi, in addition to co-pastoring churches with their husbands, are both award-winning Gospel recording artists and songwriters in their own right. John’s blog, Wisdom and Wit of John Stallings, is a featured column here on Spirit Life Magazine.
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