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?
If this post resonated, I encourage you to read my latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode with Leigh Mackenzie on finding the courage to heal. You can listen to our discussion HERE.
Share your thoughts, stories, and comments below and connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.
I also encourage you to listen to my latest Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast episode on growing closer to Christ. Find it HERE.
I have struggled with this my whole life. My childhood was anything but perfect, filled with physical abuse, mental abuse and sexual abuse. I carried anger and rage into my adult life thinking all was well. This lead me to become an alcoholic and not a very nice person. I have worked hard with a councilor for many years trying to work this anger out, AA and I just didn’t connect but it set me on the path to God. I struggle with forgiveness but no longer let this rage consume me. I am 17 years sober and facing the pain, hurt and betrayal of people who should have loved and protected me. I have placed my trust in the Lord and in His time healing will be completed.
I am so sorry you experienced such pain! I know those are deep, deep wounds that can take a long time to heal. How awesome that you have sought help from a counselor and are following Christ’s leading as He moves you steadily toward increased healing.
“The hurt often comes when we assign motive…” I have never scoped this concept out, Jennifer! It’s an astounding truth. I can apply it to a broken relationship in my family immediately…one for which I’ve been praying for years. I can see that this is exactly what happened. Thank you! And thank you, God. I pray You will illuminate Your Truth into this relationship and glorify Yourself. Amen.
Deb, I love how God is speaking to your heart and your hurt and steadily moving you to increased freedom. He is such a loving, faithful Father! I’m praying with you regarding this this morning!
Jennifer, I needed to read this. When we briefly spoke Sunday, you saw that I might still be processing my hurt 10 years ago. This described 10 years ago, but I definitely did not process it through this. I’m so glad we have met through Christ. 💕💞
I love how God is meeting you in your deep, wounded places and bringing you to a place of healing and increased freedom! What a loving Father we have! I’m so glad we connected also and that we had a chance to talk on Sunday. I’m going to pray for you right now, friend.