A Heavenly Perspective on Pain Caused by Believers
By LESLIE LUDY
Corrie ten Boom once shared an amazing testimony about forgiving one of the cruelest guards in the concentration camp where her sister died. Because of God’s amazing grace, she was able to do what was impossible in her own strength. She began to travel the world and testify to the power of His victorious love. Because of her incredible story of suffering and forgiveness, doors opened for her to share the Gospel wherever she went.
But many years into her journey as a world evangelist, she faced another hurtful situation that also required extreme forgiveness. And this time it was far more difficult. She was betrayed by Christian friends. She wrote, “I recall the time — and I was almost seventy — when some Christian friends whom I loved and trusted did something which hurt me. You would have thought that, having been able to forgive the guards in Ravensbrück, forgiving Christian friends would be child’s play. It wasn’t. For weeks I seethed inside.”
Corrie then described the intense emotional and spiritual battle she fought in order to come to the place of truly being able to forgive her hurtful Christian friends. It was even more difficult than forgiving the cruel prison guard who had tortured her sister, or the man who had betrayed her family and caused their deaths. But in spite of this incredible struggle, God was victorious. And He will be victorious through us as well — no matter how deeply we’ve been hurt — when we rely entirely on Him and not on ourselves.
I’d like to offer some key biblical principles that have been critical in my own journey to respond to the pain inflicted upon me from other Christians. As I mentioned in Part One of this article, being hurt by fellow believers has been the most difficult struggle I’ve ever faced. But, like Corrie ten Boom, I have found God’s grace to be sufficient and victorious in this area of my life.
If you have been hurt by believers, I pray that these truths will equip you to discover the freedom, hope, and victory that is available to each one of us through the power of Jesus Christ.
One: Choose His Forgiveness
When it comes to forgiveness, we so often look to our own ability rather than to the power of Almighty God working in and through us to do what we could never do on our own.
I have learned that when I’m struggling to forgive a fellow Christian who has hurt me, I shouldn’t wait until I feel a rush of emotional warmth. Rather, I must simply choose to obey. Forgiveness doesn’t usually start with feelings, but with a decision of my will to say, “Lord, You have forgiven me, so I choose to forgive this person who has wronged me, by Your grace.” Once I take the first step of obedience and choose to forgive as a decision of my will, He supplies the feelings that I need in order to think and act toward that person in a Christlike way. He gives me the love, grace, mercy, and care that I could never drum up on my own.
When my heart feels cold or indifferent toward the person who hurt me, I ask God to give me His heart for them. He forgives through me. He loves through me. It is a supernatural work of grace within my soul that can only come from Him. His forgiveness is the only kind of forgiveness that is truly real and lasting. So don’t look to your own ability to forgive — let Him forgive through you!
Two: Ask Him to Renew
Even after we have chosen to forgive, the enemy often tempts us to drudge the hurt up again by reliving the situation over and over in our minds. Corrie ten Boom explained her struggle with this even after she had forgiven her Christian friends — and how God led her to a place of victory in her thought life:
I had forgiven my friends; I was restored to my Father. Then, why was I suddenly awake in the middle of the night, rehashing the whole affair again? My friends! I thought. People I loved. If it had been strangers, I wouldn’t have minded so. I sat up and switched on the light. “Father … Help me!” Then it was that another secret of forgiveness became evident. It is not enough to simply say, “I forgive you.” I must also begin to live it out. And in my case, that meant acting as though their sins, like mine, were buried in the depths of the deepest sea. If God could remember them no more … then neither should I … We can trust God not only for our emotions but also for our thoughts … the reason the thoughts kept coming back to me was that I kept turning their sin over in my mind … As I asked Him to renew my mind He also took away my thoughts.
I have found that when the enemy tries to flood my mind with painful thoughts and memories of the hurtful actions of others, the best thing I can do is to immediately respond with truth. Instead of turning the offense over in my mind, I have learned to immediately meditate on key Scriptures that I have memorized. It is also extremely helpful to pray for others, especially for the unsaved. By turning outward and filling my mind with truth, the enemy has no ability to pull me into obsessing over the sins of others that I have already laid at the feet of Jesus. Sometimes this takes a lot of practice and consistency, but when we are diligent to let God renew our minds, we can be set free from the mental torment of rehashing others’ offenses.
Three: Know Where to Place Your Trust
When we have been hurt by those who are close to us, it can significantly impair our ability to trust others. If fellow believers have let us down, we can be tempted to become guarded and suspicious toward all our brothers and sisters in Christ — to always think the worst instead of the best about them. And yet this is not how God intends us to live as Christians.
The Apostle Paul was forsaken by those who should have stood faithfully by him. He recounts: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them” (2 Tim. 4:16).
This must have been hurtful — or even heartbreaking. But Paul did not allow this offense to harden his heart or cause him to become cynical toward the Body of Christ. Throughout the rest of his life, he demonstrated deep care, love, and concern for all the churches. What was his secret? He knew where to put his trust. Not in people … but in the God who never fails.
In fact, after stating that his fellow workers had forsaken him, he confidently proclaimed, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me … And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!” (2 Tim. 4:17–18).
It was clear to Paul that even though others may let us down, our God never will.
I have learned it’s not really a question of whether I can trust others or not, but whether I can trust my God. Do I trust Him to protect and care for me as I pour myself out for the Body of Christ? Will I trust Him to heal my heart when others hurt me? Do I trust Him to meet all my needs when others let me down?
The Bible makes some amazing promises about His trustworthiness in comparison to the trustworthiness of others:
He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (See Proverbs 18:24.)
And even if our mother and father forsake us, He will care for us. (See Psalm 27:10.)
When our own close friend in whom we trusted lifts up his heel against us, the Lord will be merciful to us. (See Psalm 41:9–10.)
So, if you are struggling to trust others, redirect your trust to the God who will never fail you. When we put our trust in Him, we will be able to cultivate strong relationships with the Body of Christ, even if we have been hurt in the past. Why? Because our confidence is not in the perfection of others, but in the perfection of the One we serve.
Four: Be Guarded With Your Words
It can feel nearly impossible to keep silent when we feel the sting of personal offense from other Christians. We often want to vent and process our hurts to another person or pour out our frustrations on social media. But this is exactly why we are told in Scripture to “cast all our care upon Him because He cares for us” (1 Pet. 5:7, paraphrased). He is waiting for us to take our hurts and sorrows to Him so that He can restore us, comfort us, and give us grace to love and forgive in return. When we push Him away and run to others instead, we might find temporary human comfort, but we will miss out on the supernatural peace He wants to give us when we turn to Him first.
Additionally, when we rush to share the offense with others, we are in danger of stirring up strife and discord within the Body of Christ, as well as causing others to take up offenses on our behalf.
Scripture is clear that “…love covers over a multitude of sins,” (1 Pet. 4:8 ESV) and that, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Prov. 17:9).
When others hurt and offend us, one of the best ways that we can demonstrate the love and forgiveness of Christ is to be guarded with our words instead of casually broadcasting the weaknesses of others. This doesn’t mean it’s always wrong to gain perspective on the situation from trusted, godly Christians in our lives. But even then, we must be guarded in what we share and allow God to purify our motives. (e.g., Are we seeking to get to a place of personal victory or merely trying to make the other person look bad?)
Amy Carmichael wrestled with the question: When should I speak, and when should I be silent regarding personal grievance and sin in others’ lives? As she prayed about it, the answer God gave her was, “…when the wrong done is personal, he must be silent. And he must see to it that in the hidden man of the heart there is always the gentleness of Christ. But when the good of others requires it, then he must speak, even as Paul did when he wrote of … some whose influence hindered.”
When we adopt the code of entrusting offenses to God alone — unless we must speak for the sake of another soul (or for our own safety, or the safety of another, such as in a case of abuse) — we will find that there is a comfort and joy far deeper than the temporary satisfaction of venting our feelings with others. As it says in Proverbs 29:11, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.”
Amy Carmichael wrote, “If I am perturbed by the reproach and misunderstanding … if I cannot commit the matter and go on in peace and in silence, remembering Gethsemane and the cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
Trusting God with personal offenses and going on in peace and silence requires supernatural grace. But it is grace that He is more than willing to give, if we simply ask Him.
Being hurt by Christians can be devastating. But let’s not forget that we serve a God of healing, redemption, and supernatural, victorious love. Amy Carmichael closed one of her books with the following words which beautifully express Christ’s heart toward us, whatever we might be struggling with.
“Trust me, my child, He says. Trust me with a humbler heart and a fuller abandon to my will than ever thou didst before. Trust me to pour my love through thee, as minute succeeds minute. And if thou should become conscious of anything hindering the flow, do not hurt my love by going away from me in discouragement, for nothing can hurt love so much as that. Draw all the closer to me; come, flee unto me to hide thee, even from thyself. Tell me about the trouble. Trust me to turn my hand upon thee and thoroughly to remove the boulder that has choked thy riverbed, and take away all the sand that has silted up the channel. I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. I will perfect that which concerns thee.”
No matter what hurt or pain we face, may His amazing, astounding, extraordinary love always be the anchor of our soul.