How to Respond to Hurt: Facing the Hurt

This is part two in a four part series dealing with hurt based out of Matthew 5 43-48. To read part one click here.

Matthew 5:43-48

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

We must not forget that life has its seasons (Ecclesiastes 3) There are good times of plenty and seasons of joy, but there are also bad times of scarcity and seasons of hurt. Matthew 5:45 says, “…for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Job experienced some pretty heavy suffering, yet he still maintained that God should be first in life. “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10) As I mentioned in the first article, during our times of hurt our Heavenly Father desires us to respond a certain way. That is what mature Christians do; they respond differently than the rest of the world. In order to do that, sometimes we must step back and examine the hurt itself and who caused it. This can make a huge difference in our response.  Though we may never understand why our hurt happened, we can learn to understand the who and the what of our hurt. Matthew 5 gives us four categories of people who can hurt us and corresponding examples of how we are to respond.

1. THOSE WHO ARE YOUR ENEMIES

Matthew 5:43-44 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

The first mention of someone who causes hurt in this passage is an enemy. Enemies come in all shapes and sizes and are often not whom you would expect. Avowed enemies seem easier to recognize and handle than someone who first feigned to be friendly only to hurt you later. Sometimes, the relationship with the enemy may be one sided. I am reminded of the relationship between David and King Saul. David never thought of Saul as an enemy, but Saul thought of David as his enemy. In 1 Samuel 18:7, the people declared that David had “slain his ten thousands,” while Saul had only “slain his thousands.” Even though the people’s perception was not the reality of the situation, Saul became so blinded by jealousy that he eventually went so far as to throw javelins at David (his own son-in-law) to try and kill him (1 Samuel 18:11). Saul’s jealousy turned to murderous rage, yet David’s loyalty to Saul was unwavering to the point that he never sought to hurt King Saul. Even when he and his men had clear opportunity to kill Saul, he showed great restraint. He knew that, in spite of Saul’s lack of Spiritual leadership, he was still God’s anointed leader. (1 Samuel 24:1-7)  I believe the “bigger” of the two men was David, even though Saul was king. Eventually, David had to leave (1 Samuel 20), though, ultimately, he was not gone for good. In the end, David returned, and God elevated him to the throne.

The hurt that you have experienced may be because, in some way, you are like David and are a perceived threat (enemy) to your King Saul. You may have even had to walk away without resolving the situation. It would be easy to fall into the trap of vengeance and spite. (It is remarkable that David did not with Saul.)  Remember, David was a man after God’s own heart, which is something worth emulating. If he didn’t succumb to bitterness, you don’t have to either. Take encouragement in knowing that you won’t be cast aside for good. God will reward your proper response and, like David, may even elevate you to a higher position than your detractor!

2. THOSE THAT CURSE YOU

Matthew 5:43-44 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Do you remember the old playground chant, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me.”? That may work for a comeback to a child on a playground; but, in reality, words are powerful things. Another well-known saying about the power of words is, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” As Christian, we place a great emphasis on God’s Word. It is important to us because it is where we obtain the knowledge of God. That is why when words are used against us, it hurts. It always amazes me when adults retreat to using name calling or shaming to attack a person. Usually when this happens, we can look past the words and to the source: the person’s background, situation, or habit of using hurtful words toward others. When they then begin to be deceitful and carefully craft their words to spread lies, those words can cut very deep. The hurt is caused not by what the words are, but by what the words do. When you are attacked by someone who has no good or kind words to say (All they do is dwell in the negative.), what can you do? Someone once recounted to me the story of a time when they were condemned for something they had said years earlier. The problem was that the accused couldn’t remember what had been said and felt quite frustrated at the expectation that he would remember specific and exact details of the conversation. Later, that same person produced a written list of quotes from conversations in which I had taken part, expected me to recount details, and then picked apart my words to find fault when my recounting was not satisfactory for him. It was quite ironic!

Often, we critique people for some of the very things with which we ourselves struggle. It could be that you succeed where your attacker fails, and they attack you to make themselves feel better. Sometimes, their attacks take a more mild, crafty form, such as what they may say (or even not say) when you are gone. Perhaps, it is revealed in how they compliment others but never compliment you. Do their words matter? Absolutely; however, there will always be someone who will curse you. Whether outright or subtle, it will happen. Remember, we can respond in the same way, or we can be careful and choose to be gracious with our words in spite of the cursing.

3. THOSE THAT HATE YOU

Matthew 5:43-44 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Hate is an emotion that moves far beyond just words. If you hate something, you will avoid it like a disease. If you truly hate it, you won’t want to see it or be around it. In 1 John 3:15, hate is equated with murder. In the most basic application, this is very true: no one ever viciously took the life of another person without first hating that person. Hate is a very powerful emotion that is revealed by our actions. Years ago at a church I attended, there was an individual who  would slip out another door to avoid me whenever I came into a room. I had done nothing wrong, but he had an issue with someone in my family. I was, therefore, guilty by association, and he hated me for it.

When you experience people hating you, remember that it may not be for what you have done. It may be simply because of who you remind them of. The devil hates Christians because we are made in the image of God. Every time he looks at us, we remind him of God. A disgruntled church member might hate you because you remind them of “that church” where they used to attend. Someone at work may turn against you because you are a “Bible thumper.” It may be that the person who hates you does it because your strength is their weakness or what you believe challenges their own beliefs. They hate you because you are challenging the fundamental core of their beliefs. You are upsetting where they feel and see themselves in this world. In Daniel 6, Daniel posed no threat to the princes and presidents of the realm; he was simply prefered above them because an excellent spirit was found within him. This made all the princes and presidents hate him so much that they concocted a foolish law, knowing that Daniel would refuse to compromise, and set him up to be cast into the den of lions. The Lord knew he was there, and shut the mouths of the lions. In the end, the thing that they hoped to use to destroy Daniel was the very thing that destroyed them: the lions! You may have to go through the lion’s den, but don’t give up hope.  People may do terrible things to you when they hate you, but you are in good company! Take heart: it happened to Daniel; it has happened to numerous saints down through the ages; and it happened to our Lord. Realize that, many times, the words and actions that others use to hurt you will end up coming back to them.

4. THOSE WHO DESPITEFULLY USE YOU AND PERSECUTE YOU

Matthew 5:43-44 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Christians are supposed to be defined by one all encompassing idea: grace. We received salvation not by what we have done but by what Christ has done for us. God is graciously offering eternal life to all of mankind. All we have to do is accept it. We too, as the children of God, must be gracious. This was demonstrated by Jesus’ teaching found in Matthew 5:41-42, “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” We are supposed to be different because we will go farther.

One of the worst feelings is the realization that someone used you for their own purposes and goals by manipulation. This type of persecution may not be recognizable until it is nearly over, and then it may be too late to do anything about it. This hurt produces a lot of anger, either directed at yourself for being manipulated and not realizing that it was happening or directed at those who manipulated you. Even more damaging is the hurt that comes when the manipulator makes you feel as though the hurt of the situation is your fault. Someone once said to me that leadership can be summed up in one statement, “Using others to get things done for you.” That statement was a direct reflection of the person who made it, but it is not the proper Biblical model of leadership. The problem is in the first and last words. Leaders are not supposed to use people; they are supposed to lead people. Leaders are not in charge so that the people will do things for them; they are there to serve the people they lead so that the people can accomplish great things. There is a fundamental difference between using and leading. Many who despitefully use and oppress people see things backwards: it is all about them and their flawed viewpoint. You won’t be able to change those types of people; only God can do that. The apostle Paul went about persecuting the church of God because he saw them as a direct threat to his Jewish way of life. It wasn’t until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus that he was fundamentally changed and joined with the church. When embarking on journeys during his ministry, Paul forsook John Mark and ruined a friendship with Barnabas over that decision. In his later years, perhaps because of the benefit of hindsight, Paul embraced John Mark as someone who was profitable to him in the ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11) Man will oppress you and cause physical, emotional, or financial damage; but do not be disheartened. Your reward is in heaven! (Matthew 5:10-12)

In conclusion, there will always be those who cause you hurt. It may be an enemy who openly opposes you, or someone who spreads lies about you behind the scenes. It could be a person who hates you and avoids you, or someone who is manipulative and oppressive in their relationship with you. The old maxim still rings true, “Life is not about your actions; it is about your reactions.” How you react to the stress and pressures of life says a great deal about you. In order to respond properly, you must take the hurt, no matter how bad it is, and decide that you are going to respond the way God wants you to respond. How about you? Are you going to let your hurt be the thing that defines your life, or are you going to turn the hurt on its head and let your response be the thing that defines you?   

In the next article, we will look at the first of four directives found in Matthew 5 regarding how we are to respond to hurt. It is the most important of the four and fundamental to our ability to respond as we should. Check back often!

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