Their words exposed my weakest places. You know, the way an earthquake sneaks up on you and forms cracks in the places you least expected to be weak.
Only when it first happens, you’re not mad at the cracked foundation, you’re mad at the earthquake for the devastation it causes on the surface. Not until later do you realize that perhaps the earthquake was a blessing…an unexpected unveiling of what needed to be repaired all along.
It wasn’t the cause of the weakness, but rather part of the solution.
I’ve heard that the trees with the deepest, strongest roots are the ones that endured the fiercest storms as they grew. It seems this is also true of people. As much as we’d like to sail through life without suffering and loss, that’s not what happens and as one friend reminds me frequently when there are storms in my life: “There’s gold in this for you.”
There have been four seasons in my life of really deep pain and rejection and betrayal and grief and loss. In each of these seasons, there was a person (or people) whose words and actions brought about a significant amount of the pain. It’s this kind of pain that I’m talking about today – the kind inflicted by people we love. When I’m hurting, I tend to blame either God or someone else and I’m writing today to tell you He doesn’t wound us himself. There’s enough sin and pain and relationship breakdown in the world to wound us. All Jesus has to do is step in and whisper, “Will you let me use this to bring you closer to me? Will you let this storm remind you to dig your roots deep into me, your Rock?”.
Graciously, in his incomprehensible mercy, Jesus uses our wounds to bring us closer to him. And sometimes, people are the instruments of that wounding (often unintentionally). Oh how this hurts, friends, because we know people are made in God’s image. Therefore, it’s hard to be hurt by people and not internalize the hurt as if it came from God. We were created to trust, to bond, to attach, to crave community and security. We want to believe people will not fail us. But they do. And we fail them, too.
In situations where someone wounds me – either intentionally or by accident, my biggest temptation is bitterness and forgiveness seems like an impossible goal. Fortunately, I’ve been given many opportunities to forgive and be forgiven. I’m not sure which is more difficult.
Regardless of whether I’m the one forgiving or the one being forgiven, my heart’s posture before God determines whether the event will send me spiraling out into deeper hurt and bitterness or spiraling into His heart to discover new truths about us both. I am in a constant state of needing to be renewed, changed, grown, trimmed, dusted, pruned. Sometimes God does it through the gentle presence of a “save the day” kind of day. Sometimes he can whisper to me through a story, a conversation, a verse – something beautiful. And sometimes, in his tender mercy and infinite wisdom, he sees fit to redeem even my pain and use it to draw me to himself.
Not all wounding occurs because of needed change in our lives, but no wounding should leave us unchanged.
I have a choice in how I carry my heart through these kinds of situations and if I choose to focus on the truth that God is faithful, the people who cause me pain are simply tools in his hands to bring me closer to him. And how can I stay angry at someone for doing that?
Each season of wounding in my life has provided a unique opportunity for me to hide in my community more intentionally for a while. Being wounded by people we trust leaves us in deep need of the gracious arms of friends, but often that feels like the least safe place to run.
Run. There. Anyway.
There are people in my life who know me well – so well that they could tell you most of my ugly faults AND still come running to give me a hug afterwards. They love from a well that never runs dry and their grace comes from a place of having received grace upon grace in their own lives.
Friends who are anchored in Jesus themselves will only lead us to anchor there, too. Evil wants nothing more than to use a truth (“your deepest trust and security should rest in Jesus”) and spin it into an extreme (“you should never be fully vulnerable with a human being”). We were created for community. In the weeks and months following my most recent tree-shaking experience, God has provided the sweetest moments of resting in the presence of safe friends. I’ve shared the details of this experience with the ones who I know can encourage me to carry my heart well and they have not failed me. They have been Jesus to me in a way that makes him nearer and dearer than ever before. They have honored me by speaking firm words of constructive truth when I needed it. They have graced me with encouragement and sitting in silence and in crying their own tears for my pain. They are the gift of Jesus to me. He knows us and he knows how to love us through the people in our lives. Each one of us is created in the image of God – an image so intricate and deep that none of us can know or express him fully. We need each other to know God and to experience his grace.
Some of my most treasured friendships were birthed during seasons of deep pain, lending even more weight to my conviction that – if we allow Him – God desires to give us good gifts even in the darkest of circumstances.
So herein lies the irony: that the cruelty of God would be to allow life to be so perfect – so comfortable – that I would miss knowing him at a depth only accessible through pain and through his healing of that pain. Think about a friend with whom you’ve walked through significant loss or conflict. Don’t you share a bond that anchors you more deeply to each other than would be possible had you only shared each other’s joy? So it is with our God.
What if God’s mercy is to use our deepest pain and confusion to give us the richest treasures of himself? If that is the case, friends, the people or circumstances who are instruments of such pain and confusion are just that – instruments. We can only be grateful for their deposit of unexpected pain into our lives as it leads us higher up and deeper in to our truest Friend and those who love him with us.
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
Deut 32:4** I need to clarify that I do not believe that God directs people to hurt each other. I believe that God is good enough and gracious enough to redeem even the wounds and failures of others and allow it to produce fruit in our lives. If this true, I have to forgive. And when I fail, he is big enough to redeem it and use it to produce fruit in others, too. This is not license to do bad things to other people, nor does it let us or others off the hook for the consequences of our poor choices, external or internal. It simply means that no one has permission to carry bitterness towards the messiness of others or shame towards their own. Whew.