Monday, August 5, 2013

Absorbing the Hurt

As I get older, I realize I am less worried about what others think about me, I'm a bit more assertive, and I am more likely than ever to bite back. Having been a kid that took bullying from kids half my size, often too scared to speak up about things, I have changed over time. Some of this might be OK. Honesty is almost always good, but mainly when it is motivated by love, silence is better than honesty intended to humiliate.
 When I reflect back on the times I've protested the loudest, I sometimes sense that I am behaving in a way that ignores God's presence and his perpetual action of working good in all things that come my way, no matter how big or small. In other words, I go into automatic mode, which is a mode that thinks and acts only on the horizontal plane, ie a Godless world where only the strongest/smartest/most-theologically-correct survive. In other words, my faith is out of action. Without faith it is impossible to please God. From the horizontal perspective, if someone insults you, and you do nothing about it, that opens the door for the next 5 insults. If someone hurts you, and you do nothing about it, anger simmers and brews internally. Eventually (after many nano-seconds have passed) you end up exploding with rage and hurting the nearest person to you, whether or not they deserve it.
 Depression is inward anger that has not exploded in other ways.
Pain is usually our body's awareness of injury. Without nerve endings, we would not feel pain, no matter what injury we suffered. Our emotional body is wired to respond to love, and I wonder if, likewise, emotional pain/hurt comes when we are injured by hatred/indifference/envy/etc.

Recently I was insulted, indirectly, unintentionally. It hurt. I thought about how I should respond. I decided it would be best to absorb it. It was hard, and in some ways, it still showed. The way I played my guitar during the service probably altered subtly, my joy in being in the midst of God's people, was lessened for a while. But, with God's help, the hurt faded and I forgot about it, until something was brought up in conversation later that day, then all the feelings seemed to well up again, and I then shared my hurt with my wife. That seemed to be the end of the matter. But it could have been far worse. I could have thrown a tantrum, and stomped out of the service. I really did feel like it for a short time. Satan likes to sharpen any hurts we suffer, he reminds us to be angry.

As a rule, I think if I feel hurt by somebody, and I need to say something, it should be to that person, in confidence, and after prayerful preparation.

But it is also worth trying to simply absorb the hurt.

That is what Jesus did for us.

 Even though he didn't deserve to be arrested, accused, sentenced to death, mocked, tortured and crucified, he accepted it. He took it all, with hardly a word of retalliation. He accepted it.

Far above our ability to love, he knew that without his actions, we were lost, forever. Though he was innocent, he absorbed the guilty charge. And even while he was being crucified, he asked God, our Father, to forgive those crucifying him.

God sees everything that is done, especially that done in secret. Not a single sparrow falls, that he is not fully aware of.

If that is the case, we can be sure that he sees our suffering, especially our unjust suffering, and will intervene when the time is right. And that may be after we have died.

But God may not rush to defend someone who has well and truly defended themselves twice over, even if we are theologically correct.

If we trust God, that he is watching over us and cares for us, like a shepherd over his flock, then we don't have to retaliate when our enemies attack. Sheep are really no match for wolves. But the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus said more than once, that he would not lose a single sheep, and that he would leave the 99 to seek and find the one lost sheep.

Every insult, every hurt is an opportunity to learn true humility, and to practice love. The Holy Spirit can take the pain out of our wounds, and give us eyes to see each other through his eyes.

Especially in our congregations, and even more-so in our marriages and families, let us practice reconciliation, let us love one another, let us absorb the hurts, let us consider each others needs above our own, and let us honor our Lord in the way we love one another.