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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

Dealing with Past Hurts

Frame from flickr by Eric WüstenhagenPast Hurts

We all experience them.  A painful break-up.  A friendship gone sour.  Reports that someone has slandered you.

We experience them, and they hurt.  Bad.

So what does God promise when we struggle with past hurts?

The God of All Comfort

God promises to comfort us.  You can see that in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 –

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction.

This is beautiful.  When your heart is in pain over what someone has done to you, God promises to comfort you.  He promises to ease the pain, lessen the hurt, and heal your heart.

And one way he does this is by reframing our past hurts.  Here’s what I mean.

A Frame Of Beliefs

Just like we frame pictures with wood, so we frame our past hurts with beliefs about what has happened.

Beliefs like –

  • This person took something valuable from me.
  • This loss means only more sorrow for me.

And when those beliefs frame our past hurts, we will feel bitterness, pain, and grief.

But God promises comfort.

Weeping with Us

When we grieve we can turn to Jesus, and know that he feels compassion for us (Luke 7:13).  He weeps with us (John 11:35).  He sympathizes with us (Hebrews 4:15).

It’s deeply comforting to know that the God of the universe loves and cares and feels our sorrows with us.

But that’s not all that he does.

Reframing Our Hurts

He also uses his word to reframe our hurts.

He doesn’t change the first belief, that this person took something valuable from me.  That’s true, and he grieves with us.

But the second belief, that this loss means only more sorrow for me, is NOT true.  So God changes it to — this loss does mean sorrow for me, but not ONLY sorrow.

And the reason He makes this change is because he gives us this crucial third belief – God will use this loss to bring me even more joy in Christ now and forever.

Is That True?

Yes.  Take Genesis 50:20.  Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery, causing him tragic loss.  But here’s how he frames that hurt —

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

God planned what Joseph’s brothers did, as a way to make Joseph the number two leader in Egypt, and to provide food for Israel during a famine.

So that’s the good God brought Joseph through his trials.  But what good will he bring us through ours?

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  Paul suffered from his thorn in the flesh, and asked God to remove it.  Here is God’s answer –

But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

There is no greater joy than to have Christ’s grace and power resting upon us.  So the reason God did not remove Paul’s thorn, was to give Paul more of this joy.

But is that what God does for all of us?  That’s what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17 –

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…

Our greatest joy is beholding Christ’s glory — now and forever.  That’s the same as having Christ’s grace and power resting upon us

And God uses our afflictions to prepare for us even more of this joy than we would have had without the afflictions.

So it’s true.  God will use our losses to bring us even more joy in Christ now and forever.

Change the Frame

So here’s the frame we need to build around our past hurts –

  • This person took something valuable from me.
  • This loss does mean sorrow for me.
  • But God will use this loss to bring me even more joy in Christ now and forever.

But I find that I can agree with these points, and yet still not be fully comforted — because there’s one more step.

Tasting Christ’s Glory

Too often I don’t see and feel Christ as my all-satisfying joy.  But if I don’t, then I won’t be fully comforted, because the promise of more joy in Christ won’t mean much to me.

But there’s good news.

God promises that when we seek him he will change our hearts and give us a taste of Christ’s glory.

Here are steps that I take –

  • Approach – I turn to God just as I am, trusting that through Christ I am welcomed and loved (Luke 15:20).
  • Confession – I confess that I’m not seeing Christ as my all-satisfying joy, which shows my unbelief and spiritual blindness (Jeremiah 2:12-13).
  • Assurance – I am assured that because Jesus paid for my sins, I am completely forgiven, and will receive from God all the help that I need (Romans 8:32).
  • Prayer – I pray for the more of the heart-changing work of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
  • Word – I set my heart on Scriptures describing Christ, praying over them until I once again see and feel him as my all-satisfying treasure (John 6:35).

Comfort

When we once again see and feel Christ as our all-satisfying joy, our past hurts will be fully comforted by God.

Even if we’ve lost a precious friendship, a fruitful ministry, or the possibility of marriage — our hearts will be healed.

Because we will know, and feel, that this loss will bring us more joy in Christ’s glory, and that this joy will be worth it all.

Questions?  Comments?

I’d love to hear them.  Leave a reply below — thanks.

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(The picture is by Eric Wüstenhagen and found on Flickr.)

Category: Feeling Grief or Sorrow?

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9 Responses

  1. K says:

    I KNOW I’ve asked this before, but on that first step, can we ask God to even give us the trust that through Christ we are welcome and loved? And if our mind is so crazy it doesn’t delight in that, assurance that He WILL change our mind? And if mind is obsessive and OCD and keeps saying we don’t want to be changed, how do we proceed?

    • Priscilla says:

      I am struggling too…but the Lord is changing me. He is working on me and I believe that by you writing that, K…He is transforming you too. This “wanting to want” the change is a start. Do you see?

      For a long time I actually resisted His calling to change me. I actually hung on to the pain of the past. I told myself that I deserved to feel pain, that I deserved to be punished and that everything was my fault. This kept me in a spiritual bondage for about 15 years. I fell into a depression that had me obsessing about the pain. That was when I cried out to the Lord to help me. First he reframed the pain by allowing me to see truth instead of the terrible lies I believed (that I deserved it, etc).

      He’s still working on me. Allow him to work in you too.

  2. K says:

    And let me back up even one more step–will the community here please plead The Lord will help me see my need and see life with Him as more wonderful than anything SO THAT I call upon his name daily? My mind tries to convince me I cannot see or am offended by my need/don’t want right things. Will you pray The Lord will hem me in from believing these thoughts and will draw my heart to mercy and grace and holy beauty? That He will give me a great appetite for truth and fear of Himself so I turn daily to trust Him, if that is something he can create for me? Thank you.

  3. Hannah says:

    hi K. Normally hate giving verses as responses, but does Jeremiah 17:5-8,14 help as a prayer you can meditate on?

  4. Kathy says:

    K, I did a double-take wondering if your posts were mine. I have struggled with the same things, specifically, does God really WANT me?

    I just read something on The Gospel Coalition that gave me some hope – http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-god-changes-hearts-through-open-adoption – specifically “When we encounter those who resist love, we must continue to pursue in the example of Christ, the ultimate pursuer of the broken. He pursued to the point of laying down his life so we could be secure.” Maybe Jesus is looking at us with compassion not frustration.

  5. Pieter says:

    I am the one that caused the harm. I caused irreversible hardship. I struggle to forgive myself. I know God has forgiven me, but I cannot get rid of the feelings of guilt that haunt me.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thank you for sharing your concern, Pieter.

      My encouragement is that if you feel like you have not yet forgiven yourself, that usually shows that you have not yet been assured of the full forgiveness from Christ.

      The reason I say that is because once you experience a fresh outpouring of God’s assuring love, that will so fill and strengthen you that you will feel clean and whiter than snow.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

      • Pieter says:

        Thank you, Steve. Your reply is sincerely appreciated and your blog is a real treasure packed with good teaching. I sometimes feel that I cannot be forgiven by God and that I am not worthy of the Kingdom of God.

        I have taken your advice seriously and currently I’m working through one of your other blog posts, “Being Forgiven by God”

        Many thanks

        Pieter

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