Charles Stanley - Healing Our Hurts
Somebody hurt you a year ago, ten years ago, or a lifetime ago, and somehow deep down inside, you can't shake it. Sometimes you say it never happened, but you know deep down inside, it did happen. So, you try to deny it, and that doesn't work. You suppress it and somehow it keeps popping out. And sometimes it pops out in an embarrassing fashion. You know that deep down inside something happened back there that you can really identify. In fact, you can point your finger toward the person. And what seemingly was merely a little hurt in the beginning, somehow it solidified like concrete in your mind. It's just there. It lays there, it hangs there, the burden of it is there. You'd like to shake it, you'd like to get rid of it. But somehow you just can't do it. You got hurt so badly that somehow you feel like I will never be able to overcome this.
Well, I want to tell you, my friend: yes, you can! Because you see, if you don't overcome the hurts of the past, what you'll find out is this: those hurts can do great, great harm to your life. Everybody gets hurt at some point in life. Children get hurt by their parents. Parents hurt each other. Friends hurt one another. Hurt is just part of living in the society in which you and I live. People say things they should not say to us, off the cuff. Sometime it's very deliberate, sometime it is malicious gossip. Sometimes it is physical injury. Sometimes it is abuse, abuse of a child, of a teenager, or of another adult. All kinds of things come into our life that causes hurt.
So what we have to do is we have to decide how we're gonna handle this hurt. Am I going to handle this hurt in such a way that it harms me in every aspect of my life? Or am I gonna learn how to handle this hurt in such a fashion that I can take it and I can handle it properly and be able to learn something from it, glean something from it, grow up as a result of it, and not allow it to hurt me. Because God does not want us to respond to hurts in such a fashion that we are devastated in our life, lose our witness and our testimony, go through life bearing some kind of emotional baggage that we are never able to escape.
So I want you to turn, if you will, to Ephesians chapter four. And in this fourth chapter of Ephesians, which is one of my favorite books of the scripture because Paul has jammed so much theology in the first three chapters and so much practical Christian living in these last three. And in this fourth chapter, he's been talking about things that you and I have to deal with in our life, about renewing our mind and dealing with anger and so forth. Then he says, if you'll notice in, coming down to the close of that in verse thirty, he says, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption". And we grieve Him in lots of ways, and he's just talked about some of those ways by our speech and so forth. Then he says in verse thirty-one, "Let all," look at this, "let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you".
Now, I think all of us know that there are some hurts in life that we can forgive rather simply and say, "Well, okay, you know, you hurt me, but I'm gonna get over it, and I understand that you made a mistake, or I understood that at that time in your life you were going through something or whatever". Then there are those hurts that are so deep in some people's lives that somehow they just can't seem to step out of it. They go to church, they hear the gospel, they know the truth, and they say, "Well, you know, I know that's what God says and that's what I feel, but". And somehow, oftentimes a person doesn't realize that hanging on to hurts, hanging on to hurts begins to do them great damage in every aspect of their life.
So, hanging on to a hurt oftentimes is a security for us. When a person has hung on to a hurt for so long, after a while, the very idea of giving it up becomes more of a threat than the damage that hurt does to their life. And when I think about little children who come along and they're abused by their parent, either sexually or physically or even verbally, and they grow up and they have to live with this baggage all of their lives. And what happens is they grow up with anger toward their parents, for example. And as a result of that, the relationship, of course, is never the way it ought to be. And they go through life wondering: Why do I feel the way I feel? Why do I feel toward my parents the way I feel, or toward someone else?
And so, oftentimes they can't identify it. Because what they say is, "Oh, yes, I was hurt back yonder, but you know, everybody gets hurt, and therefore I've just sorta forgotten it". No, you don't. You see, you don't just forget hurt. You have to deal with hurts in some fashion or the other. Hurts that are not handled properly will harm us in every aspect of our life. So I want us to look at this because here's what happens. Those hurts in our life, unless they're handled properly, will develop into an unforgiving spirit. And oftentimes that unforgiving spirit can be very subtle, and especially is this true if it is the result of something a parent has done because it is a natural, normal response for a person to say, "Well, you know, after all, she's my mother. After all, he's my father. Why, sure I love my dad. Why, sure I love my mother". And somehow this "I love my mother, I love my father, sure, they're my parents" is some form of verbal attempt to cover up and put layer after layer after layer of forgetfulness on what has happened back there.
But what I'm telling you is this, it doesn't disappear simply because you say, "I love my mother, love my father". And oftentimes if there has been real hurt there, you don't really and truly love them. You would like to love them. You want to love them. You're supposed to love them. You should love them. We say in our heart, and therefore we think we do, when deep down inside, that hurt is like a deep cancer down inside. And while on the surface everything looks pretty well, deep down inside, it's never healed. And so it's like leaky poison. It's just poisoning our whole system. And this is why oftentimes later on in life, parents and children come to great conflict and there's a blowup and someone says, "Well, I've been thinking this, or I've felt this for years and years and years".
And sometimes a person will say to their parent, "Twenty years ago, thirty years ago, forty years ago, here's what you did to me". And sometimes it is something that a parent did not even realize that they had done, or something maybe a friend did a few years ago and they didn't even realize they did it. And all the time it has been there. And sometimes it reaches down so deep into the core of your heart and soul, you are shaken by it, maybe thrown off base by it and thrown off course. And so, we have to back off and say, "Okay, how am I to respond to this"?
Now, listen carefully, no one, no one can cause you and me to have an unforgiving spirit. Nobody can cause us to do that. No one can make me have an unforgiving spirit. No one can make me angry. No one can make me hostile. No one can make me have malice in my heart. Those are responses that I have to agree in my own emotional being to accept or reject. And so, if I allow these emotions to encompass me and allow them to overflow in my life and to control me, it is because I choose to be angry, I choose to have malice, I choose to be unforgiving, I choose to have that kind of an attitude.
Now, here's the thing that has helped me above everything else in my own personal life, and that is, when I think about the fact that when the Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross, He took all of my sin on the cross with Him. No matter what I've done, will ever do, He has already forgiven me of every single solitary thing. How can I hold against someone else, be unforgiving toward them, when He has not been unforgiving toward me? Now, that person may be obnoxious. They may be obstinate. They might not want to be my friend or have anything to do with me. Now, how they respond is one thing. How the other person responds is one thing. But the issue is: How am I gonna respond? Am I going to allow an unforgiving spirit, a hurt in my life, become a harmful thing to me? Or, am I gonna respond no matter how the other person responds?
When he says, "Put these things away from you," he says, "with all malice, and be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other even as the Lord has forgiven us". Well, what are the harms that you and I face? The first thing is damaged emotions. There are many, many people, in fact probably most people. I wouldn't say everybody, but most people are damaged at some point in their life emotionally. They live with damaged emotions. Somehow, they don't recognize it, they don't understand what it is. They just know they're unhappy. They just know they don't have any contentment. They just know that somehow things don't work out for them. Somehow, they just can't seem to really and truly get on with enjoying life and moving ahead. Somehow, they can't lay the past behind them.
And I'll tell you one of the tragedies of life is to find somebody who's holding on to past hurts, holding on to past injury. And they can't let it go, won't let it go, refuse to let it go. It becomes their security. And then if they had to let it go, they don't know what they would do because it has become, listen, like this elephant in their life. It's this big thing in their life of somehow feeling and expressing and harboring and nurturing this kind of resentment and hostility. Well, one of the things, in one of the areas which it causes hurt, is emotional damage.
Now, think about this for a moment. When a person is feeling all these things that he said here: anger and resentment and so forth, and they can't escape them, here's what happens. It colors everything in your life. There's no exception to this. It colors everything in your life. If you don't deal with it, it colors everything in your life. And what happens? Here's what happens. Your emotions freeze. Listen, you cannot have hurts in your life that have caused you to become bitter and resentful and unforgiving and hostile and angry. As well as you may be able to suppress that, you know what happens? It freezes your emotion. You cannot love. You may try to but you can't. You can't love, you can't be free, you can't be giving, you can't be generous, why? Because something's frozen you up. It's hung you up and stuck you up. Your emotions are frozen.
Not only can you not genuinely love someone else, you can't accept it. And oftentimes husbands and wives, one cannot accept the other's love. Why? Well, they don't know why. They just can't, they say love me. Please, please, please love me. And at the same time, they're pushing the other person away, why? Because something cemented, something froze down in there. Something down in there is wrong. Something needs to be, listen, it needs to melt. Their anger and resentment and hostility, those hurts need to melt away. And God needs to bring some healing in that person's life. They can't love. And so what happens is we carry this emotional baggage. We freeze our emotions. We freeze our capacity to love.
And listen, someone may try to love you, love you, love you, love you. And you know what? Somehow you don't trust them. Or somehow you just can't feel it. You can't experience, you can't receive it, you can't. Because you've been hurt so badly, you just can't. You don't know why you can't. And so what happens? You have to be, you know, tough. Well, my friend, listen, you can be tough all you want to. I'd rather be tender. He says, listen, be tender-hearted, loving one another, forgiving each other even as the Lord has forgiven us. And if you're one of those persons and you've wondered: Well, why am I not free to love? Why can't I just give myself away? Why can't I not do that? Maybe you need to ask yourself the question: What is there inside of me that maybe I have never dealt with, that I need to lay down, that I need to face up to, that I need healing in my spirit, healing in my soul, healing in my damaged emotions? Well, it will certainly harm us.
A second area in which I think it harms us is this, and that is it erodes, listen, it erodes our fellowship with the Lord. You see, I cannot be right with Him, I can't be free with Him. And there've been times in my life when I was not, when I was dealing with things that I knew I had to deal with, and somehow, I didn't have that freedom and liberty in my relationship with Him. It will erode relationship with the Lord. You can't hold on to hurts, friend, you can't hold on to hurts and hold on to bitterness and hold on to resentment and be right with God. And so what happens? You get down to pray and you can talk to Him all you want to, and I can tell you exactly how it feels. Something doesn't click. You can say the things you used to say, and doesn't make any difference. You can try to conjure up some kind of feeling, won't work. Because you see, you cannot be unforgiving.
Now listen, it has nothing to do with what the other person does. They may be forgiving or loving, or they may be hostile, angry, bitter, resentful. You know what, has nothing to do with how I respond. It has to do rather with my relationship with the Lord and how I'm gonna react and how I'm gonna respond, how I'm going to receive or reject or handle those hurts. And so it will erode your relationship with the Lord. You, listen, you cannot walk in this place and rejoice and sing and praise the Lord in freedom and liberty and enjoy yourself and, at the same time, you have this something deep down inside you that's just gripped you and it's just there. You'd like to but you can't. You want to but you can't.
I mean, you'd just give anything if you could just be free enough to praise the Lord and sing and just glorify God and thank Him. Can't do it. Why? Because there's something on the inside that's harming you, harming, listen, harming you internally, harming your relationship to the Lord. But likewise, it harms us in our health. Now listen, friend, if you think that you can have hurts in your life that are undealt with, and that if you don't deal with it, ultimately it's not gonna have any effect upon you, you better think again. It is going, listen, there's going to be a fuse blown physically in your body somewhere, somehow, unless you deal with the hurts that are there. It's gonna happen.
It would be interesting if you took the average drug bill in the average home in America and you analyzed what those drugs were. More than likely, they have to do with headache, backache, chest ache or stomach ache or some abdominal pain. Usually it is because, not always, because a person can have a bad disk, or they could have some kind of problem in the stomach that they didn't, necessarily was not the result of anger or some, I'm not saying that all disease is that, but oftentimes, oftentimes these things are the result of something going on inside of us that's affecting our body. You see, God wants to get our attention in one way or the other. Now, He'd rather us just listen to a message, get on our face, deal with it, repent of it, and move on. But if we don't, what happens?
So here's what happens. Instead of dealing with their hurts and having them healed, it is easier to go to the doctor. Well, doctor, here's what I'm just tired. I just feel bad all the time. And I hurt here, I hurt here, I hurt over here, and I imagine most doctors, when people walk in, they've already got a prescription. They're just hurting over this, that, and the other. And so what do they do? They write you out a prescription. To do what? To help alleviate your pain, not heal your problem. And so what happens? I agree. It's easier to go to the doctor, get a prescription, make you feel a little bit better. But you know what happens? When that prescription runs out, what do you have to do? You have to go back and get another one. And there are people who've been on drugs for years and years and years and years and years, because they will not deal with the hurt deep down inside that may have happened way back yonder years and years and years ago in their life.
It's easier, it is much easier to take something to, listen, these are the kind of people who live for the moment. Just let me feel good for the moment. I'm not worried about the future. I'm not worried about hurt, not worried about the ultimate consequence of this. I just want to feel good right now. And I'm here to tell you it's devastating. It will, listen, it will damage you emotionally. It will erode your relationship to the Lord. It will affect your relationship to other people. It will affect you health-wise ultimately. Somewhere along the way, some fuse is going to get blown if you and I don't do what He says. And that is, He says here, He says, "Put away from you. Let all bitterness and resentment and hostility and all these things be put away". Now, you say, "All right, suppose there is somebody I need to forgive. How do I do that"?
Now, listen carefully, let's define what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not justifying the other person's actions. Forgiveness is not forgetting it. Forgiveness is not tolerating it, saying, "Well, you know, everybody makes mistakes, and so whatever". It is not denying it. It is not excusing what that person's done to you. It is not saying, "Well, you know, inevitably time will heal this". No, it won't, unless you're willing to deal with whatever it is that's caused that hurt and pain in your life. You see, if I forgive someone, here's what I've done. I've said I deliberately and willfully lay down, put aside this debt that you owe me as a result of somehow, the way you've hurt me. And so I'm willing to lay it aside. I put it down, no longer hold it against them anymore.
Now, does that mean that everything is absolutely correct between us? Not necessarily, because you see, listen carefully, you and I are not responsible for someone's response to our forgiveness. You may be forgiving. God may heal you, and the other person who did something to you may not ever be healed. They might not be interested in healing. They might not be, listen, their malice is just as strong today as it was yesterday. And so therefore, they may never change. But you know what, you and I are responsible for changing no matter what the other person does. We are not responsible for another person's actions. They are responsible for their own responses. They give an account to God for their own responses.
And you say, "Well, suppose it's somebody that hurt me long time ago, and they live in a distant state". Or maybe what they did to you, you could not even begin to share with anyone else under any condition. Or suppose they died. Then what? And I think of the tragedies. Now, here's a real tragedy. I think of the tragedies, the things that happen between children and their parents. And then the parent, for example, the father or mother dies, and this bitterness and resentment and hostility, they say, "Now what do I do? Have I got to live with this the rest of my life? Do I have to live with this stuff in me the rest of my life? Now I can't settle it. I couldn't at the time, and now they're gone. Now what do I do"?
Here's what you do. And this'll work. You get by yourself. You set up two chairs. You sit in one of them and you put the other person in that other chair. That person may live on your block, but they won't talk to you and they won't deal with you. That's okay. Or they may be dead. You put them in the other chair and you sit in this chair. And then here's what you do very carefully. You express to the other person all the feelings that you have, the way that you believe they hurt you. And all the feelings that you have, let them out. And then you say to that other person, "Because the Lord Jesus Christ, who is my personal Savior, went to the cross and paid my sin-debt in full, and because He has continually forgiven me over the years, I choose to forgive you for what you have done for me".
And then you pray this prayer. Father, I want to thank You for giving me the power and the privilege to lay down this hurt that has been there for years and years. I want to thank You for enabling me to be able to forgive my father, my mother, my sister, my brother, my son, my daughter, my friend. Thank You for making it possible for me to forgive them, and then accept, listen, accept the forgiveness that you have given to the other person as done. And my friend, from that moment on, the healing process will take place in your life, begin to take place in your life. And what could have or was harming you and hurting you far more deeply than you realized, the healing process will begin to take place, and God will set you free of the hurts that would ultimately have harmed you and ultimately have destroyed you.
Now, you know, only you know who in your life, what in your life, what experience in your life has caused you great hurt. Only you know how deep and how marred and marked you may feel. And I understand that there are some situations and circumstances that are so devastating and so evil and so wicked and so vile and so bad and so injurious and so hurtful and painful and difficult to handle. I understand that. Nobody probably understands how you feel the way you feel. And so you can't compare yourself with someone else. You just have to ask yourself the question: Do I want the hurts to harm me physically and emotionally and my relationship to God and my relationship to others? Or do I want to be healed? That's a decision you have to make. And I'm simply saying this. God the Father, if you will trust His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as your personal Savior, the Holy Spirit will come into your heart, and here's what He'll do. He will enable you to be forgiving. He will strengthen you and help you. He will place such a love in your heart that you'll be able to look at the other person and think about them differently.
You'll see them oftentimes in a different perspective. You'll see them as someone who's been injured in their life, and therefore, they just responded to you. Or that, in a time in their life, they reacted in the wrong way. In a moment of weakness, they did something to you that harmed you deeply. Your whole attitude will change. Here's what'll happen, when you trust the Lord as your Savior, He enables you to be able to be forgiving because, for the first time in your life, you understand what it means to be forgiven yourself.
And so, I want to encourage you that if you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, my friend, you may think that you're getting along with life, but you see, the truth is you're hurting on a deeper, invisible level than you realize. Ultimately, it's going to take and have its affect upon your life. If you are a believer, and you know that you're saved, and yet you say, "Well, you know, I thought I'd forgotten those things. I thought just forgetting that and shoving it aside, that somehow would go away". No, it doesn't.
And I want to encourage you. It may be that you say, "Well, I don't know about that sitting down with somebody, talking to them". Try it. If you don't want to do that, here's what you do. You write them a letter. You just write it out in longhand in, however you want, just write it out, all the things that you feel. And then you express in that letter. Write out your prayer in that letter, and then here's what you do. You burn it up. And with that burn goes your anger, resentment, hostility, bitterness, and all the hurts that you nurtured all those years of your life. My friend, the Father wants you free. Here's what He says, He says, "If you know the truth, the truth will set you free". And here's the truth that sets you free. When you and I are willing to be forgiving, even as our Father has forgiven us, we will be free of the hurt, we will be free of the harm that those hurts could cause to us if we will trust Him for it.