Sometimes we humans like to wrap ourselves in philosophies meant to protect us emotionally from life—like bubble wrap minus the super fun moment of childlike glee behind your closed office door. We say, “Sticks and stones…” and “It’s not personal…it’s business…” and expect the hurt to magically go away. But much to my personal chagrin, life isn’t “You’ve Got Mail” and we all don’t get to marry the adorable and witty Joe Fox at the end of a time of personal heartbreak.
So what do you do when bitter words come flying your direction? How do you respond when a friend rejects you over a misunderstanding? How do you move forward in ministry with one that has broken your heart, whether intentionally or unintentionally?
It’s not Bible, but I believe the first step in forgiveness is acknowledging that you are human and the situation that has transpired has caused you pain. In “You’ve Got Mail” Joe Fox is trying to mend fences with Cathleen Kelly after his company put hers out of business. He tries to explain himself by saying with a shrug, “It wasn’t personal. It was just business.” Her response is pure truth. “Well it was personal to me.” You are a human being dealing with other human beings. We all have fallen natures. We all sin. We all cause and feel pain. It doesn’t make you less of a Christian to admit that.
The second step is much harder. You have to choose forgiveness. Or in the words of a popular song, we have to “love ’em like Jesus.” The book of 1 John is very helpful in working through the process of love and forgiveness. In chapter 4 it says this:
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4:10-11
Love isn’t a feeling. Hurt is a feeling. Pain is a feeling. Love is an action. We choose to forgive others regardless of what they do to us because love is of God and He loved us despite what we did to Him, to the point of sacrificing His own Son. That is love. God is love. And as followers of God and His Son, Jesus, whose Spirit resides in us, we have to act as He acted. We have to choose to face pain and heartache for the benefit of others.
Does that mean that we have to continue to engage with abusive people? No. Does that mean you have to just “suck it up” and move on? (I know…cheesy metaphor overload. I apologize.) No, it doesn’t. That doesn’t work anyway. Lean into Jesus. Take your hurt feelings to Him. Ask Him to help you leave them there.
Understand that forgiveness might not be a one time action either. Going back to my first point, we are human and that means messy emotions. When those emotions spill back out, wrap up that mess and take it back to Jesus. Rinse and repeat as necessary until the hurt stops hurting and His love heals your heart. It’s not fair. It’s not easy. But it’s what Jesus did for all us and what He asks us to do for others.
So while it is very personal, remember that God is in the business of broken hearts. He understands them. He heals them. He died for them. He will help you do the same.
Photo credit: Daniel*1977 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA