Are you completely healed, body, soul and spirit? If so, praise God! If not, then you're like most of us, somewhere along in the process of becoming whole. Many times we aren’t aware of the work that God still is doing in us. Life will be moving along smoothly, then something from nowhere hits us hard.
I fell yesterday, turning the corner to ascend the steps to the driveway while carrying too much. When I finally stood I realized I wasn’t seriously hurt in any one place, but I was slightly hurt in many. The last 48 hours have been a series of cringes as I’ve gone about trying to use various body parts. Those little, invisible wounds have had a significant impact on how I’ve gone about every little task.
This is how it is with emotional and spiritual wounds. We may not understand where they came from, or even that we have acquired them. But when someone’s comment or action hits a tender, unhealed nerve, we may bristle, or become sad, or get angry. We can become re-injured, or a wound may be irritated or re-opened. We instinctively can respond several ways. Sometimes we fight, defending our position or situation, sending back accusing and hostile verbal blows, which usually doesn’t end productively.
Another thing that some of us do is flee. We can expend a tremendous amount of energy avoiding conflict. We’ve been hurt enough, so without much thought we head the other way. These offenses and hurts pile up, but we don’t deal with them. Then one day one comment or situation is the proverbial “last straw.” It hits us hard and heavy and we say “Enough!” and we flee the situation, the relationship or the responsibility.
It may be because we were hurt by several relationships at once, and that particular one took the hit.
We may flee conflict because it’s very hard for us. Some of us have been very hurt by many people. We feel misunderstood, judged, controlled or in some cases, manipulated. It’s true that some relationships need to be broken off. In 1 Corinthians 15:3, Paul says, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” At other times, God tells us to move on because He has new and healthier things for us.
The problem happens when otherwise beneficial and Christ-centered relationships are ended because we didn’t communicate that we were hurt by something that was said or happened.
Standing firm and facing conflict takes courage and strength. In many cases, we need to be armed and drenched in prayer before we put ourselves in a position of vulnerability. Sometimes we flee because we feel too emotionally and spiritually weak to face the issue. We may postpone attempts to reconcile with a relationship that somehow soured. Or we are sincerely offended and angry and doubt our ability to reason. We know that we are too wounded to have a productive outcome, so we shrink away. The enemy can also lie to us and tell us that a given offense is too hard to deal with and too great to forgive.
Sometimes it’s good to take some time to gain perspective before approaching conflict. Time certainly gives us an opportunity to pray and gain strength. We should be aware, however, that too much time gives the enemy the opportunity to continue whispering “you’ve been offended!” in our ears. Sometimes the wound will fester because it hasn’t been cleaned out. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 18:15-17;
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
The verses above tell us to reason together, not to fight, and not to flee. But if this doesn’t work, the next step is involving another person or two. Sometimes we skip the first step and involve other people prematurely to try to rally support for our situation. We do this by gossiping and trying to gain sympathy. With or without intent, we add more division to Christ’s church by harming people’s reputations. Our former friend becomes an enemy not only in our eyes, but in the eyes of other people, sometimes people he or she doesn’t even know.
When we flee relationships, we tell people that love has conditions, and they’ve violated those conditions.
We shouldn’t continue in close relationships when God has told us that we’re in a new season in our lives and the relationship must change or end. Relationships shift, or ebb and flow. This is natural and healthy. But when this happens, change should be made in peace. When relationships end abruptly and in confusion, God needs to be invited into the situation. I Corinthians 14:33 explains, “ For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
“I care too much about you to see something come between us. I honor you, that’s why I’m here.”
It’s amazing how conflict can be magnified in our minds when we are hurt. It’s more amazing how the Holy Spirit will guide our hearts and conversations when we boldly, yet prayerfully, go before a brother and sister in humility with the goal of resolving a conflict. When we risk more hurt, we are saying, “I care too much about you to see something come between us. I honor you, that’s why I’m here. Let’s ask Jesus to help us work this out.”
Of course, Jesus’ system of reconciliation requires humility on both sides. We all need to be approachable and we all need to consider that we can unknowingly, and knowingly, hurt one another with our actions. We are responsible for our sin.
Humility and repentance and mountain-moving prayers go together.
God doesn’t ask any of us to do anything alone, ever. He is always with us. Romans 8:31 says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” It takes faith to approach someone who has hurt us. We must trust that God has us covered. He does. There is tremendous freedom in doing things in His prescribed ways. Regardless of the outcome, we have then blessed Him by trusting Him. He restores relationships in ways that we may not expect, and will, in His time, use whatever happens for good.
Sometimes we need to let go when mutual reconciliation doesn’t seem possible. But reconciliation should be attempted. When we do things God’s way, He always blesses our faithfulness and our efforts. We grow in grace and maturity instead of stuffing and covering over another hurt.
If the enemy targets a healthy, Christ-centered relationship, then he’s often trying to prevent something big or important from happening. He’s trying to take out those very relationships that , left in tact, will eventually yield much fruit for God.
Always consider that the enemy hates relationships that are marked with Kingdom-building potential.
“Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:8) Sometimes love requires patience, grace and humility. Love can be the hardest thing we every do. But it always succeeds, it never fails. We can see the earthly effects of our actions, but when we act in love, things change in the spiritual realm. Our obedience to Scripture puts us on the right path for healing and blessing.
Don’t flee God’s best. Walk in His ways and see mountains move. God bless you as you seek Him in all of your relationships. In Psalm 133:1, David testifies to the joy found in right relationships in the Lord; “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”