I’m going to be honest. This is one of the harder messages I’ve had to write. If I’m being really transparent, I’ve been hurt a lot, and hurt deeply. I won’t go in to the details of all of my hurts, but I’ve carried some deep wounds around for a long time. For most of my life, they defined who I was. They defined my attitude about life, my relationships, and even some of my friendships, which is part of why I always found myself with the same type of person. I know some of you have the same story. Some of you grew up in an abusive household, just like I did. Some of you have been cheated on, just like I have. Some of you have even been told you’re not good enough, or called worthless. I’ve been there too. At some point, after you’ve been through the same hurts and experiences enough, it almost becomes part of your normal life. I’ve stayed in relationships with women who told me I was undeserving of their love because it’s the way my mother treated me most of my life, so it seemed normal. I’ve even stayed in abusive relationships because of the way I was raised. After a while, you start to look like a dog that’s been beaten, and the only thing it knows to do is crouch under a table and hope no one notices him so he doesn’t get beaten anymore. I’ve been there. It’s one thing to live with hurts, but it’s another to accept them as normal. That kind of treatment is anything but normal.
This week, we’re closing out the Grace Wins series by looking at how grace wins over our hurts. Part of the reason that this message is so difficult to write is because it means that I actually have to look at my hurts, and practice giving grace to those who have hurt me. As much as we may long for the strength to do this on our own, it oftentimes doesn’t happen that way. Some of us have scars that go way too deep to deal with them on our own. Ephesians 4:30 – 32 (NLT) says “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
I’ve been reading a book called A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. He has an incredible and tragic story. One night, on their way back from an Indian reservation with his family, Jerry was hit head on by a drunk driver, and in an instant, 3 generations of women in his family were gone. He lost his mother, his wife, and one of his daughters. In his book, he says “Gifts of grace come to all of us. But we must be ready to see and willing to receive these gifts. It will require a kind of sacrifice, the sacrifice of believing that, however painful our losses, life can still be good – good in a different way than before, but nevertheless good. I will never recover from my loss and I will never get over missing the ones I lost. But I still cherish life…I will always want the ones I lost back again. I long for them with all my soul. But I still celebrate the life I have found because they are gone. I have lost, but I have also gained. I lost the world I loved, but I gained a deeper awareness of grace. That grace has enabled me to clarify my purpose in life and rediscover the wonder of the present moment.”
Matthew 18:21 – 35 (NIV) says “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. ‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.’”
One of the beautiful things to me about grace is that it meets us where we are. Quite often, that’s in the place we are least expecting it, but God is still always willing to give it. We’re going to look at three things that I think are crucial to experiencing grace in our hurts, and the first one is this:
1. Acknowledge Your Hurt
This seems like common sense, right? The truth is that many of us repress our hurts. We feel like, if we admit that we have been hurt by something or someone, that we are showing weakness, but admitting that we’re hurting is crucial to experiencing the grace of God. Psalm 147:3 (NCV) says “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” This is especially hard for guys, I think. Most of us grew up thinking that we couldn’t admit to weakness, or we would be made fun of. We couldn’t cry when we were hurt, because men don’t cry. God tells us the opposite. We are called to be humble and meek, and to admit our weakness. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 – 10 (NLT) “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
As much as we may fight against, the quickest way to true healing is admitting our hurts. For me, this started a few years ago. I had joined a men’s Bible study at the church I was attending at the time, and after a while, I began to open up to them about the things I had been through. I told them about the abusive childhood, the failed relationships, my fears, doubts, and the depression I suffered as a result of all of it. What I found was that I had brothers who cared about me on a deeper level than I had ever known before. I learned that many people had similar stories, or similar experiences. It was a wonderful thing to know that there were other people I could come to and be vulnerable to, and who would give me godly counsel to help me through it. The second thing that we need to do is this:
2. Release Your Right To Get Even
This one is a little more difficult to do. We always have a DVR ready to replay the things that hurt us over and over, and we spend so much time thinking of how we can hurt the people who hurt us back. Have you ever been bitten by a mosquito? Where I grew up, we have them everywhere. When you get bit, the first thing you usually do is kill the mosquito that bit you. If you’re like me, you make it your mission to kill as many mosquitoes as you can, just because of the one who bit you. This is a lot like how we react when someone hurts us. I don’t mean that we kill them, and their whole family. I mean we often lash out and try to hurt them in the same way that they hurt us. Releasing your right to get even doesn’t mean that we have forgotten about the hurt that was caused us. It doesn’t even mean that we don’t set up boundaries to prevent that hurt from occurring again. It simply means that we forgive the person who hurt us, and turn the pain over to God. Kimberly Jane Pothier says “Grace is when somebody hurts you, and you try to understand their situation instead of trying to hurt them back.”
I admit to being a failure at this on many occasions. When I’m hurt, I have had a tendency to lash out in return. 1 Peter 4:12 – 19 (NCV) says “My friends, do not be surprised at the terrible trouble which now comes to test you. Do not think that something strange is happening to you. But be happy that are you sharing in Christ’s sufferings so that you will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory. When people insult you because you follow Christ, you are blessed, because the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is with you. Do not suffer for murder, theft, or any other crime, nor because you trouble other people. But if you suffer because you are a Christian, do not be ashamed. Praise God because you wear that name. It is time for judgment to begin with God’s family. And if that judging begins with us, what will happen to those people who do not obey the Good News of God? If it is very hard for a good person to be saved, the wicked person and the sinner will surely be lost. So those who suffer as God wants should trust their souls to the faithful Creator as they continue to do what is right.” We are told not to lash out at those who do us wrong, but to leave them to God to deal with. The last thing that we should do is probably the most important:
3. Pray For Those Who Hurt You
Matthew 5:43 – 44 (NIV) says “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is by far the most difficult part of this equation. Jesus tells us that we are to pray for the people who hurt us. Ephesians 4:26 – 27 (NLT) says “And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” If we hold on to our hurts for too long, they will begin to eat us alive. Remember our key verse for this series. It’s Hebrews 12:15 (NLT), and it says “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”
When we’ve been hurt, it’s very easy to allow bitterness to set in, and even to take hold. There’s a new movie coming out soon called Venom. It’s based on a comic book, and I’m admittedly not much of a comic book guy, but I think I get the basic premise of the movie, seeing as how part of it played out in one of the Spider-man movies a few years ago. In the Spider-man movie, Peter Parker is overtaken by rage when he comes into contact with a symbiote that amplifies the traits of whatever it comes across. Peter is hurt because his girlfriend has left him, and is spending time with his best friend, and he allows his anger to eat at him from the inside. In the new movie, a man named Eddie Brock, who wants to get revenge against bad people finds himself being controlled by the symbiote and hurting everyone he comes in contact with. Bitterness is very much like that symbiote, in that it can make us into someone who has no concern for those around us, so long as we are able to hurt the people who have hurt us. God’s grace gives us the ability to forgive that hurt, as well as the ability to pray for those who have hurt us.
We thank You today for Your grace, even in our darkest moments, and even when are hurt. Lord, please help us to feel that grace when we are in the darkest places of our lives. Help us to know that we don’t have to hurt those who have hurt us, but that You call us to show grace to them. Lord, I pray that anyone who has never experienced that grace would have a desire to come to know You in an intimate way, and experience that grace for the first time in their lives. Thank You for loving us enough to send Your Son to die for our sins so that we could all experience Your grace. It’s in Your Holy Name I pray.
Next week, we will be starting a new 5 week series called Experiencing Joy, and we will be walking through the book of Philippians. Again, if you have never experienced grace, or if you would like to know more about what it means to have a relationship with Jesus, you can send us a message or comment on this page. If you need prayer, you can do the same thing, and we will get back with you as soon as possible. Have a blessed week!!!!!