I regularly meet people who have been deeply hurt by others. Being hurt, it appears, is part and parcel of living. Perhaps it goes without saying but hurts inflicted by a friend or friends are the most difficult to deal with and, I suspect, take the longest to heal – even if, on the rare occasion, confession and forgiveness is sought by the person who has caused the pain or offence.
The automatic human response to being hurt or offended is to lash out – to return the offence and in so doing justify ourselves and our sense of indignation. Of course we see and hear this daily on television or in our newspapers – and unfortunately from the leaders of our nations both at a national and local level.
And so the cycle continues and degenerates in to generational hopelessness – even in, and perhaps even especially in, religious communities. Is there any hope of redemption from this vicious circle?
I came across a quote recently from A.W. Tozer which I found quite alarming, and it was this –
“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”
That is a very hard statement to take – simply because none of us seek or like to be hurt. Hurt is undesirable, unwanted, painful and sometimes debilitating – but, as we have already indicated, sadly inevitable in one form or another.
I have come to the conclusion that our real problem is not so much the hurt itself – but how we choose to deal with it – our reaction and subsequent actions. It is that which, in the long term, will determine whether a wrong can be turned into something positive, something redemptive, something healing and something that will ultimately bring blessing.
One of the enigmatic statements the biblical writer of the book of Hebrews makes is this –
“Although He was a Son, Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered.”
While theologians struggle to make sense of this mystery – in our context it helps to put things in perspective especially in the light of what the same writer said earlier in his letter –
“God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.”
The leadership qualifications of Jesus – both during his earthly life and now as He reigns as King – were formed in the crucible of suffering. False rumours, slander, lies, misrepresentation, abuse, misunderstanding, rejection and much more were the things that moulded him in to a leader unsurpassed in human history. But how did he react to these things?
“When He was verbally abused, He didn’t return the abuse; when He suffered, He didn’t make threats to cause suffering in return; instead, He trusted that all would be put right by the One who is just when He judges.”
1 Peter 2:23
Jesus had an overwhelming confidence in the love and justice of his Father! And if we are to weather – no not only weather but flourish in the hurts, failures, difficulties and obstacle of life we must have the same confidence. The truth is no matter what people say about you, how many lies are told about you, how often you feel betrayed – you are still a beloved daughter, a beloved son of your Father in heaven. I truly believe if we are secure in the Love who is God – then it is possible to turn any negative situation into a positive one.
But what is it about hurting, suffering unjustly or being abused that is so important in the process of bringing us to the place of blessing and usefulness? Again the writer of Hebrews furnishes the clue –
“This High Priest of ours [Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
Hebrews 4: 15&16
I believe all of the suffering incorporated in the things we have discussed find their zenith and meaning in forming an understanding, non judgmental, sympathetic, empathetic, caring and merciful people. Only such people can be trusted with true leadership – only such people have the ability to share the heart of God with a broken generation.
So if you find yourself struggling today with injustice, hurt, abuse or the unfairness of life, perhaps in and through it all God is looking to make you more like Jesus. And perhaps one day we will be able to look back with gratitude for the trials we are facing today – because these were the things that did just that.