By Jennifer Slattery, Crosswalk.com
The heart is a fragile yet powerful organ. Nurture and feed it well, and life and health follows. When we neglect it, allow hurts to sink deep and then fester, bitterness begins to invade every crevice, strangling our joy and peace. That’s not to say we should ignore, suppress, or deny our hurts. In fact, I’d argue doing so only leads to decay. Somehow, we have to learn to feel and to heal. To grieve with Jesus.
And perhaps that’s the difference between those who manage to move forward and those who seem to remain forever stuck, not just in their wounds, but in all the byproducts that come from unresolved, and often fed, past hurts.
A while back, after a powerful women’s event that proclaimed the freedom of forgiveness, of emotional release, I talked to a woman who’s been struggling for years. Maybe ten. Someone in her past hurt her deeply. They betrayed her trust, had abandoned her, and treated her unjustly. She had every right to be angry, and she was.
For nearly a decade, in fact. And her anger was destroying her, imprisoning her, only it didn’t show up as anger. Instead, those deep wounds presented as anxiety and chaos, as depression, sorrow and distrust. We spoke about this briefly, and I encouraged her to grieve with Jesus, following His lead in full surrender. But she couldn’t.
No. She wouldn’t. Her injustice felt much too unjust for her to just let go. I suppose she thought releasing the offense would simultaneously absolve her offender of guilt. She couldn’t see how she was allowing him to hurt her all over again, continuously.
She was letting him snuff out her candle. Her inner spark. What made her her. As a result, she was walking through life not only weakened, but many times, already defeated. And in this, she was robbing herself of the life Christ had died to give her.
Consider the converse. A couple of years ago, a friend called me. “Pray for my heart,” she said, explaining how she’d been wounded pretty deeply. She didn’t tell me how or offer a name, nor did she need to. Instead, she asked me to surround her candle, her inner spark, with prayer. She grieved the hurt, absolutely. But because she invited Jesus into her pain, bitterness never took root.
I’ve heard it said, anger is often a secondary emotion, arising, most often, when we’re afraid or have been hurt. It’s so easy to bypass the hurt, which can make us feel weak, and jump straight to the anger, which often gives the illusion of strength. But Scripture tells us, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:4-5, ESV).
Before we react, God tells us to pause. To ponder. And to trust.
Dr. Allender and Longman, authors of the Cry of the Soul, put it this way: “Anger should lead us into silent pondering rather than direct action. Usually, anger is a starting gun that signals us to leap from the blocks to control, consume, destroy. Instead, anger should be a starting gun that calls us to sit down and think.”
What hurts lie beneath our anger?
Why do those hurts hurt so deeply?
What lies have we attached to them? We almost always do this. We’re not simply hurt because someone snubs us. No. The hurt often comes when we assign motive—“They don’t value me.”—and then a falsehood—”I’m annoying.”
Pause to prayerfully consider how that’s been true for you. Invite God to unpack your anger, your hurts, to show you everything entangled in them. Then ask Him to replace every falsehood He reveals with truth.
This is how, in part, we guard our hearts above all else, so that the well springs of life might first fill them then flow from them.
Is there something you need to grieve? An offense you need to let go? Will you have the courage to release it? Will you guard your candle, your inner spark, knowing all God has for you is good?
I also encourage you to listen to myThriving With Chronic Illness podcast episode on growing closer to Christ. Find it HERE.
Make sure to sign up for Jennifer's free quarterly e-mailing, which releases soon. Each edition contains a short devotional, fictional excerpt, recipe, and more. You can sign up HERE. As an added bonus, all subscribers receive a free 36-lesson Bible study (in ebook form, link to download sent separately) on 1 Timothy. She also invites you to visit WhollyLoved.com where you'll find additional faith-building resources.
Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.