Since being diagnosed with chronic pain and living in this world, I have realized that people in chronic pain not only live with broken bodies, but they also live with broken hearts, myself included. When I was 37, I was told that I was a victim of child abuse. I was seeing a counselor to help me deal with chronic pain issues and learned that the severe “spankings” I got for 14 years as a child were considered physical abuse and had probably caused my chronic pain. Upon learning this, I felt like a bomb had gone off in my world. Everything I thought I knew and based my life on was shaken to the core. Years of hurt would bubble to the surface when I least expected it. Then, several years later, I was deeply hurt by my husband. Again, my world was shaken to the core. After several more years, the anger I held inside was beginning to affect me in my daily life. I desperately wanted to forgive, heal, and move on, but that process was easier said than done. How do you forgive the hurt of physical abuse? How do you forgive when your spouse hurts you? How do you forgive fully and completely so that you are free from the effects of the hurts we experience in our lives?
After years of trying to forgive those that had hurt me, I finally learned that forgiveness is a daily, continual process. It is not a one-time thing because memories bring the issues to the forefront of your mind all the time. Every memory brings with it the same anger and pain, and you must make a daily decision to forgive with each horrible memory. How do you do that? How do you arrive at the place where you are able to be free from it?
- Start by writing about your hurts in a journal. It helps to write out the hurt and anger you feel. It will be ugly. You will probably never want to read it again or let anyone else read it, but you must get the feelings out. Writing is a good way to do that. It has been suggested to me to repeat that process three times because each time you write, more hurt and anger are released from your soul. It is cathartic, and you may be surprised to find that you feel better emotionally after you do it. You may have to do this several times until you are no longer controlled by the pain and emotions. That’s okay.
- Ask God to help you to forgive. Forgiveness is a supernatural thing. It is not in our nature to forgive, but God can help us reach the place where we can forgive and let go of the hurt. As you ask God for help, surrender the anger and hurt to Him. This is a key step. It is natural to want to hold on to the anger and hurt. It is a right of yours to be angry, and there is nothing wrong with feeling angry. It may be helping you to be strong so you don’t get hurt again, but it must be surrendered to the Savior who understands hurt, betrayal, and physical and emotional pain. Ongoing anger complicates the ability to forgive, and that hinders your ability to heal and be whole. This prayer for help may have to be a continual prayer at first as memories dredge up old hurts, but that is okay. Continually ask for God’s help to surrender the anger and forgive the hurt.
- Understand what forgiveness is and what it is not. Forgiveness does not mean that the person who hurt you does not experience the consequences of his actions. It also does not mean that you forget what happened. The old adage, “Forgive and forget,” is not possible because you have a memory that does not go away just because you have chosen to forgive. It does not necessarily mean that you can restore the relationship, especially if the person was physically hurting you and would still continue to do so if allowed. What forgiveness does mean is that you choose to release your right and desire to punish your offender for what he has done. You choose to accept the hurt without retaliating. Please hear me say, though, that it does not mean you allow the action to continue. It just means that you release the desire to hurt that person back. That is what our Savior did for us when He died on the cross. He prayed to God about the very people responsible for His death: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus is our example of forgiveness.
- Remember that we are not perfect and that we can forgive other imperfect people for their hurts against us because we too have been forgiven. Jesus demonstrated this principle of forgiveness when He told the “religious” leaders of His day who wanted to kill a woman caught in adultery that they should only pick up stones to throw at her if they themselves were completely without sin. (John 8) We may think that our sins are not as “bad” as the ones committed against us, but sin is sin in God’s eyes. Sin sent Jesus to the cross, and no one person is better than another because his sin is not as bad as another’s. If you are struggling with the realization that your own sins or failures might be too big for God to forgive, consider this truth about God’s capacity to forgive from 1 John 1:9:
- Consider whether the goal of forgiveness is restoration. It is important to know that to forgive and actually be free from the hurt (particularly in the case of a hurt from childhood), it is not necessary to talk to the offender or tell them that they are forgiven. Telling the offender may only cause you more hurt, especially if the person is not repentant. If reconciliation is the goal, for example, when the hurt is caused by your spouse, it is important not to make less of the hurt you have felt or belittle the sin. You should acknowledge that you were hurt by the person’s actions (without unnecessarily “rehashing” the events), and then ask God to help you demonstrate His grace as you tell the person who hurt you that you are choosing forgiveness and restoration. Again, I fully realize that this is not easy.
- Let God be the healer of your heart. Every time the memories or hurt come to the forefront of your mind, let God give you what you needed from the person who hurt you. It may have been a parent from whom you needed unconditional love. Take the hurts again to God and let Him soothe the hurt and be the source of unconditional love that you desperately need. It may be a spouse who betrayed you. Let God’s love and acceptance be all that you need. He can be your source of comfort and healing if you will let Him. Please read that last sentence one more time and consider the last four words: “…if you will let Him.” God wants to bring you peace and healing. He wants to restore your joy, but it remains your choice. If you hold on to the anger, it will continue the ongoing effects of the hurt caused by the original offense. If your anger is against God because of the hurts you have experienced, tell Him that, too, and know that He is big enough to handle whatever emotions you need to release to Him. It is understandable to struggle with trusting God or others because of the hurt from your past. This, too, is a continual daily act of the will. I encourage you to read the Bible often where you will find the strength you need to move forward. Read through the Psalms as you process your emotions. The Psalmist was very open and honest with his emotions and hurt, yet He chose to trust in the God who loved Him. If the hurt came in the form of a spouse’s betrayal, read through the book of Hosea and discover forgiveness in a new way. If you are struggling with whether or not God really loves you because of the hurts of your past, consider the fact that God would not have sent Jesus to die for your sins if He did not love you. Remind yourself of that each day as you go through this painful process. Be encouraged to know that you will come out of this process on the other side. It is possible to heal and be free from the hurts of our past.
- Reach out to someone for help and support. Talking to a friend who loves you will help immensely. Talk therapy with a professional counselor can also be very beneficial as you process these emotions. While moving on from your hurts isn’t easy, it is possible. God can be your strength each day if you let Him. He loves you and wants to walk with you each day of your life, giving you the strength and help you need to move forward.
If you are living with chronic illness or pain, I invite you to visit my blog and Facebook page, called God-Living with Chronic Illness, where I try to provide encouragement and support to those living with chronic pain or illness. You can find the links here:
If you are a mom with chronic pain or illness, there is a special Facebook page for you called God-Living Girls. Please join us as we link arms to support each other each day. Being a mom with chronic pain or illness is hard, but it is not impossible. Be encouraged, mom, that there is a place where you can go for strength and support from others who understand.
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Hi! My Name is Laurie, and I am a wife, mom, nurse, and patient living with fibromyalgia. I understand first-hand what life is like with chronic pain and illness. My passion is to help provide others with the spiritual encouragement and resources that I so desperately needed when I was first diagnosed. Please join us on the blog and Facebook page for regular encouragement and hope. Welcome!