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When I Can’t Let Go of My Hurt

Written By Hazel Casimier, USA

I was mid-conversation with my mom when she dropped the latest story on me.

I had thought we had passed the phase of accusations. I had thought that it’d been long enough that my grandmother would want to let go of whatever she was harboring against me. I had thought maybe we could one day, preferably soon, be over this phase of hurtful words and further destruction to the relationship.

Now stories were being repeated again to another family friend. I’d “stolen a sweater from her.” Then, as this particular story goes, I felt bad about it and left money on my grandmother’s Bible. A $100 bill to be exact. Here I was once again, hearing accusing words that pierced me to the core.

The latest accusation reopened the wound, yet I laughed out loud. Not because it was hilarious, but because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I laugh because I know that what is being said is the farthest thing from the truth. I laugh in front of those who tell me the stories, but I know it’s only a cover for the pain that I feel—pain that she feels the way she does, that she has those thoughts in her mind, that she’s so convinced of everything in such a distorted way.

I laugh, but in my heart I wish and pray with everything in me that things were different. I laugh, but I know that the words flowing from her mouth stem from some sort of pain she experienced long ago, a pain that has nothing to do with me. I just so happen to be the lucky duck that her emotions and pain are directed towards.

It wasn’t the first time I had heard it, and I know it won’t be the last. Yet each and every time, it affects me all over again. It leads to a period of questioning myself: “What did I do to make her feel this way about me?”, “Is there something wrong with me, that she doesn’t want a relationship with me?”, “Why do I even pray about this when the situation only seems to get worse?”

This has been going on for years. And in the past, I have allowed it to take up a significant part of my heart and mind, and I let it affect my emotions—severely. Many times, I lost my appetite, lost sleep, and cried tears. It was difficult for me to grasp because I simply didn’t understand why our relationship is this way.

The last time I saw my grandmother and tried to have a conversation with her at my brother’s wedding shower, she wouldn’t even look me in the eye, let alone talk with me. She doesn’t acknowledge my birthdays any longer. It’s as if I’m just out of her life completely. The sad thing is, it’s not as if we live hundreds of miles away. She lives right in our front yard.

I’ve contemplated going over, and came close to it so many times. I’ve thought of writing a letter to her. I’ve prayed about it, through it, and still do, about what steps to take, about whether our relationship will ever be okay again.

Each time I’ve almost gone, I knew it wasn’t the right time. So for now, day by day, all I can do is pray and trust that in the right timing, the Lord’s mercy and restoration will break though.

 

Trusting God for Healing and Restoration

The days tick by, and though I see no actual improvements, there are subtle signs from the Lord reassuring me that He has it under control. Last year, everywhere I turned, Romans 8:28 was shining through the darkness. God is working everything together for good, even if it doesn’t seem like it, even if it doesn’t make sense, even if it hurts right now.

Slowly, I began to understand that God didn’t want me to worry, He didn’t want me to get anxious or saddened about it. I was yearning for an earthly relationship, but He was drawing me into a deeper relationship with Him. He didn’t want me to think about or question what He was doing, He simply wanted me to trust Him, and to focus on Him, rather than my struggles.

I went out for a run that Monday evening, and rather than dwelling on the emotions that were creeping in, I turned to the One who knew my heart, my struggles, and everything that has transpired and will transpire.

With one foot in front of the other, I simply continued to say Jesus’ name with each step. I was at a loss for words to pray, but I asked God where He was in all of it. I took a break to walk, and as the sun shone through the tassels on the cornstalks, God reminded me that He was there, He was everywhere. He has never not been in the situation, and He wasn’t going to start missing out now.

Later that evening, I flipped open my Bible, and it happened to be the book of Job. I read about how everything was stripped from Job, yet he continued to praise the Lord. Aren’t we challenged to do the same? Sure, things might be different than I had hoped or prayed for, but the Lord was still in it, and so I will praise Him for the beauty He continues to create in my life.

It is a daily choice to praise God and to not dwell on the hurt. And it does require a strength that I’ve found only the Lord provides. It’s something I must seek diligently, consciously, and fervently.

When the tough days come and I long for that relationship I’ve yearned for since childhood, I have to consciously choose to focus on the Lord’s plan. And sometimes it takes continually saying His name in order to reflect on the very blessings He’s sent my way, and to trust that though it doesn’t make sense, He’s filling the voids and providing in ways that He knows my heart needs.

Whatever hurt you’re going through, you’ve been through, or that you’ll eventually walk through, take His hand and trust Him. Don’t let the pain, fear, doubt, or regret take up too much of today. There’s beauty in every moment and every season, and He isn’t going to leave it as dust. He can use the ashes and mold them to form the most beautiful masterpiece your eyes have ever seen.

God Isn’t Done With Your Story Yet

Growing up, I lived in great fear of my abusive father. I was neglected, beaten, and abused. His treatment convinced me that I was unwanted—a burden hardly worth being tolerated.

By age 15, this led me to become very embittered and depressed. I felt rejected, and covered up my incredible loneliness and pain with an angry protective mask.

Void of love and acceptance, I often questioned why I was alive, and whether my life even mattered. Somewhere deep inside, there was a part of me that longed to know that there was more to life than the hard, angry world that surrounded me.

As long as these questions about purpose remained unanswered, the emptiness I experienced persisted in a deep way. But when I found the answer to why I existed, there came a change so radical, things haven’t been the same since.

 

The dead, lonely end the world led me to 

As I grasped for purpose, my natural inclination was to turn towards what the world offered. So I sought my identity through sports and girls. I chased fulfillment through alcohol and drugs, and found temporary escape through music. I looked to bottles of vodka for peace, and another high from drugs to give me relief from my pain.

Of course, the relief never lasted long. I kept trying to convince myself that these worldly pursuits would help me, when in fact, they left me feeling more confused about my purpose in life—endlessly caught in a dangerous cycle of addiction that only left me empty.

 

At the end of myself, I finally looked to God

Through years of building up anger and bitterness against God and everyone, I had ignored the efforts of those who tried to share the Good News with me. But I eventually found myself desperate for something—anything—that could help me make sense of my life. And that desperation led me to reconsider the gospel I had distanced myself from. I had tried nearly everything else, and knew how deeply these things had failed to give me meaning. Perhaps it was time to give Christianity a chance.

From a point of despair, I was drawn to the rich promise Jesus makes, of a life of fulfillment and complete satisfaction in Him. I longed to experience that in my own life—to have a taste of the water that wells up to eternal life (John 4:12-14).

Finally, at age 16, I received Christ into my life and began a life-long process of learning how Jesus is the source of life and the answer to my quest for purpose.

 

A new creation in the same circumstances

However, once I accepted Jesus, my circumstances remained the same. Drugs and alcohol still beckoned me. My father was still abusive, and offered nothing resembling love or acceptance. Yet, while my circumstances remained unchanged, things couldn’t have been more different on the inside.

The difference lay in the reality that I no longer felt imprisoned by the situation I was in. Since Jesus had saved me from the confines of sin, He welcomed me as an adopted child, offering the unconditional love and acceptance that I had been so desperate for (1 John 3:1). Through redemption, He gave me hope for a life outside the traps of fear and cycles of addiction.

Though accepting Christ wasn’t a quick fix for all of my problems, it cut to the core of many of the deep struggles I had about identity and purpose. God taught me how to overcome the lures of the things of the world, and instead, to look to His Word to understand that I was made for Him (Colossians 1:16), and His purposes!

How God is still helping me understand my purpose

As I continue my journey as a Christian, God is constantly exposing ways that I rely on things apart from Him to understand my place in this world. Recently, I’ve had to work through the temptation to look to the applause of men for affirmation of the work I do in church. Instead of looking to others, I remind myself that in trying to make sense of who I am, or what I do, I must look to Christ. Because Christ is the reason I am. He is the one who sacrificed His own life—to offer us a way to come back into relationship with the very One who created us.

When we get caught up in the busyness of life, there are a thousand ways to lose sight of this. In order to carefully re-center my thoughts when I find myself straying, I’ve started a practice of pausing and praying. I ask God to silence the loud noise of my surroundings, which only offers loud, false hope. I ask Him to help me listen to His still, small voice that calls me to Him. In these moments, I’m reminded that God is all I have ever needed or longed for. Even if briefly, I can be still and rest in knowing that He is God (Psalm 16:10).

And this helps me remember one of the freedoms we have in Christ—freedom from the pursuit of seeking satisfaction from the things of this earth, from being failed by jobs and relationships, or whatever else we are tempted to define ourselves by. I have found peace in knowing that true eternal satisfaction is found in praising and worshiping God.

It’s my hope that I can encourage others to find hope in the freedom Christ offers—freedom which allows us to turn from self-indulgent pursuits, and to worship God freely with grateful hearts and satisfied souls.

Do You Need Hope for Your Family?

Written By Judah Koh, Singapore

I have been a Christian for 11 years, and was the first in my family to come to Christ. By God’s grace, my mom and sister came to know the Lord a year after me. About a year ago, my brother also came to the Lord thanks to the efforts and prayers of his colleagues. Christ’s redemption of my family has been miraculous.

However, there was still my dad. I grew up fearing my dad because my mom would tell me ugly and nasty things about him. Shouting, yelling, and swearing were common in our home, and at one point, my dad even handed me a butcher knife and challenged me to a fight during one particularly heated argument. To me, he was a bad-tempered man who was distant and possibly violent. Though I eventually outgrew my fear of him, the fear had already wiped out any love that ought to have existed between father and son.

But then, around five years ago, on a day just like any other, I noticed that my father had become old. Not just old, he had become frail. He had become silent (he no longer swore the way he did when I was little). He had become mild. And he had become isolated.

Though we all lived in the same house, no one really bothered connecting with him. He cut a forlorn figure, and I felt like God deposited within me an ache—an ache that began with sympathy, then grew into love and forgiveness, and eventually became a desire for the salvation of his soul.

In our culture, many things are often unspoken. But somehow, my relationship with my father began to take a turn for the better. We almost never quarreled again, but became more cordial in our interactions. As our relationship healed, more and more I wanted to share my faith in God with him.

It proved to be a long journey. At one point, an overseas friend joined us for a visit, and we started talking about our faith. The conversation quickly turned on its heat, and I suddenly realized that we were being too forceful in trying to convince my dad. I had to halt the conversation before it escalated into a full-blown fight. While I desired my father’s salvation, I realized that I could not push things by my own strength (Ephesians 2:8-9).

2018 was my last year receiving red packets as a single at Chinese New Year. My dad and I, together with my fiancée, went for our regular New Year’s visits. My dad, being a proud traditional Chinese man, was eager to share about his son’s wedding—a church wedding, that is.

It was interesting witnessing a non-believer’s explanation and understanding of a church wedding. As the conversation continued, I heard my dad utter words like “Jehovah” and the “10 Commandments.” Turns out, he had been to church in his youth, albeit only during Christmas for the goodies and food. He was never challenged to make a decision, but somehow, God deposited that knowledge in him such that more than half a century later, my dad could remember details from the sharing.

As the first believer in the family, I had felt responsible for bringing the good news to my family. But it was humbling to be reminded that God loved my dad more than I could, and He had plans to reach my dad long before I was even born. God was in charge of my dad’s salvation. My role was to trust and pray and remain faithful (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Not that it was smooth sailing thereafter. Shortly after I was married, my wife and I discussed bringing my dad to her home church. It was a bilingual service, and there were quite a few people close to him in age there. My dad came with less resistance than usual, and things in general were uneventful and calm. This was the first time we had managed to bring him to church, and I was hoping that my dad would show more interest or maybe even become a believer. I was left disappointed that day, but my wife told me to take heart, for God was softening my dad’s heart.

Earlier this year, a large multi-church, cross-denominational evangelistic meeting was held in our city, and my wife and I decided to invite my dad for it. My dad was 71 years old, and the urgency for the gospel to be preached and understood was clear. We asked, and after some to-and-fro, he agreed to come. We heard testimonies aplenty, and a timely message about truth and principles; my dad sat through the entire event, occasionally commenting on the wrong use or mispronunciation of words. But, he listened to what he needed to hear. When the time came for a decision to be made, my wife and I took the opportunity to sandwich him.

He claimed to have understood, and claimed that sooner or later he would believe because his entire family already had. Yet, he expressed some concerns which I felt could be better worked through in his eventual discipleship journey. After all, we all have personal issues that God continues to help us overcome. My dad agreed to take a step forward, and we accompanied him to answer the altar call.

I was so moved and excited, thinking that he had finally believed, only to later find out that in his conversation with the minister he had yet to believe. It felt like a defeat at first, but I came to see it as a victory, in that he was prayed for and was willing to consider finding out more about this “western faith.” The minister passed him a copy of the New Testament, and we knew that salvation was near.

In the following weeks, my dad went to my wife’s home church on his own accord to meet up with my father-in-law, which was another breakthrough. My dad has probably only been to church six or seven times (apart from those Christmas events in his youth), and five times in the past month alone.

I was eager to hear from my father-in-law what had transpired. My father-in-law shared that my dad teared up a few times during the visit, and was moved by what my wife and I had shared about our heart for him to come to faith.

Finally, on June 30, when my wife and I were at a leaders’ retreat at church, we received a video clip from my father-in-law of my dad praying and professing his faith in Jesus Christ.

God works. God loves. God completes.

 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

No Longer A Slave to Bitterness

Written By Deborah Lee, Singapore

“Don’t you ever dare think of taking Jack away! You need to prove yourself as a mother first.” Those were the harsh words of my mother-in-law, trying to stop me from taking my son home for the weekend.

My husband and I had just bought a new home. Friday after work, I arrived at my in-laws’ to bring my 6-year-old son home to stay for the first weekend after unpacking. My mother-in-law has a strong emotional bond with Jack since she has played a vital role in taking care of him since he was born. She was the voice of the home, and everyone in the family was afraid to defy her. My attempts to reason with her eventually led me to raise my voice, and she slammed the door at me.

I left her home in tears, and without Jack. I had spoken to my husband the day before about fetching our son back to stay for the weekends, but he did not want to do the work of talking to his mom. He left me to speak to her about it, despite knowing her unwillingness and the possibility of a disagreement.

This again led to our quarrel when we were home. Why wouldn’t my husband be responsible and talk to his mom about reasonable expectations? How could he leave me alone to deal with his own mom? Because I lost my cool and raised my voice, I was labeled as the bad daughter-in-law and bad wife, but could anyone understand my feelings?

I went to bed feeling bitter that night, and cried myself to sleep. I felt like I had married someone who refused to shield me, and that I was a daughter-in-law who had the support of no one.

When I woke up to read the Bible the next day, I still felt bitter and angry and could hardly concentrate. Determined not to let my emotions overcome me, I continued reading, and Psalm 73 caught my attention. It is the Psalm of Asaph, and it describes a time when Asaph’s spirit was grieved and embittered—he saw that people who did not follow God had no struggles, while he himself was afflicted.

Like Asaph, I was grieved and embittered at how I was treated in this whole affair. Why could I not bring my son home after such a long wait? Why would my husband not support me?

Asaph’s turning point came in verse 17. He entered the sanctuary of God, and came to understand that the wicked people’s earthly comfort would not last for long unless they repented. In the final verses, Asaph affirms that God is righteous, and that his own suffering would not be in vain. Though his flesh and his heart may fail, God will be his strength and his portion forever.

In reading Psalm 73, I was reminded not to see things only from an earthly perspective. Instead, like Asaph, I should see things from a kingdom perspective—the things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18). When I applied that to my own experiences, I was lifted up.

Earlier, I had felt bitter, upset, and burdened. I had found it hard to communicate with my husband without feeling angry. But as I fixed my eyes on Jesus, I knew I had to respond in faith. God is all-knowing, and He has allowed all these to happen so that I may find a solid anchor in Him and marvel at His light. With God’s truth in mind, I reconciled with my husband by apologizing to him.

However, it was not easy facing my mother-in-law. Her unreasonable words tempted me to be bitter again. I realized that while I cannot control her response towards me, I can control my own response towards her. I can choose to surrender my bitterness and follow Christ. I saw the need to guard my heart with the Word of God—which leads me out of darkness and sets me free from bitterness.

When I was bitter, I felt like a prisoner chained in the darkness of anger. By following Christ and choosing to surrender my bitterness, I felt like a prisoner set free. I was able to walk with Christ unhindered. Though my flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26). The Bible reminds me that as a servant of God, I must be compassionate, kind, humble, meek and patient to others. I can choose to respond in kindness to my mother-in-law even though her heart might still be hardened, and my efforts to show kindness may not yield any remorse. As I fix my eyes on the unseen, God reminds me not to waver—because He sees our deeds and rewards us (1 Corinthians 15:58).

When I turn my thoughts to God’s truth, bitterness can no longer destroy my faith in Christ. Had I remained bitter, I would have gotten into more quarrels and missed out on the power of God. As I surrendered my bitterness, God took my bitterness and turned it into forgiveness, power and courage to love again. Through it all, God has shown me that His love surpasses all bitterness, and forgiveness is made possible by His strength, especially when the hurt is deep.

The Bible tells us to love our enemies and to pray for them (Matthew 5:44), which I found hard to do until I remembered that my struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). Knowing that God is sovereign over all events and that He wills all things for our good (Romans 8:28), I prayed to surrender my situation to Him in repentance and committed my thoughts to obey Him. Just like Asaph, I saw the goodness of God only when I turned my eyes to Him. And now I can say as he did that it is good to be near God, I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge (Psalm 73:28).