When you have faced a grievous wrong, it can feel like your enemies have pushed you face-down on the ground pushing your face into the mud. This is a picture of things that are still having effects in the present: searing pain, unhealed wounds, feeling wronged by people in powerful places.
How do we heal from sufferings that remain fresh over a lifetime, (Psalm 129:1-2)? The psalm describes a lifetime of continued and cumulative anguish. How can we come to terms with deep afflictions? We can carry unspeakable things inside, fearful to talk to anyone, making it hard to move forward. It can feel like an anxiety that is always lurking around the corner ready to hit with a panic attack at any time. It can feel so destructive, permanent, and insoluble. We don’t think we will ever recover.
We will never recover. If we know that there is no magic formula to leave us unmarked, than, just maybe, we can get down to facing the pain of the wrong. God does tell us He never leaves us to walk the road of pain alone, (Isaiah 43:2).
We may never get over it, but we don’t have to let the poison of the whole thing continue to make us feel hopeless and sick. We may not get over it, but it does not have to define who we are and who we become.
Deep pain and hurt can so easily become infested with mistrust, fear, rage, avoidance, or addiction. When you try to bury it with business and distraction it just turns inward on ourselves into self-destruction.
A significant life experience will mark us, but it does not have to remain an open wound oozing bitterness and despair. We don’t get over being abused, raped, bereaved, or bullied. We don’t just get over something important, our suffering counts; the goal is to find a way to go through it that ends up in a good place.
It would be the easy thing to return evil for evil. Jesus faces, engages, and walks through great evils. He did it first, He leads the way. He did it for us; He promises to do it with us and in us. Jesus always follows through on His promises.
When we are crushed we must remember the one hope that can never be destroyed: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). When this truth takes hold of us and takes root deep in our hearts, then we learn how to live well. “Beloved, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
We can be thankful, we can consider others, and we can do small things for another with glad hearts. It is why we were born, it is how we make some difference. We can be helpful. We be cautious not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. We learn not to think our efforts will right all wrongs. We learn not to hate, fear, or despair. We do not avoid and numb ourselves; we learn how to care.
Jesus, “a man of sorrows, intimately acquainted with grief, enters into the hard places and comes under the afflictions. Jesus himself has never gotten over his experience of evil. He never got over it. It gives shape to his love, his courage, and his purposefulness. Jesus’ friends recognized him when he invited them to “See my hands and my feet” (Luke 24:39-41). They saw the marks of the nails. But Jesus was not deformed by what he suffered… he did not explode with darkness when he was trapped by darkness, Jesus was not defined by pain, but he does not forget what it is like. He did not return evil for evil, but he is merciful to those who do. He gets us.” (David Powlison, I’ll Never Get Over It, The Journal of Biblical Counseling 2014).
He teaches us to cry out to Him.
He brings good out of the evil and mess.
He reminds us that we will be marked for life by the suffering; thus He teaches us to value the future.
We must first and foremost ask for help. Shared suffering is endured suffering.
We must face what happened and name it as a matter of fact; it was evil.
We must do the hard reckoning with our hearts where we have wanted to return evil for evil.
We must ask ourselves why we wanted to return evil for evil. This starts to get at the heart of our fears and core desires that reveal where we are being evasive. Whatever the hard truth that we learn about ourselves God already knows and is waiting with mercy.
What are the negative consequences of our actions?
The God of all comfort is waiting to comfort us (2 Corinthians 1:2-3).
We must learn to surrender to God’s love and truly accept our acceptance in Christ.
Lastly, we must forgive. Gratitude will slowly, but surely replace despair. God wants us to have peace; He calls us to worship our way there. It is as Psalm 23 comforts, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Can you have courage to face the fears and works you way to peace?