Quite honestly I was still licking my own wounds when I heard about hers. And my wounds had been inflicted by her words, her careless treatment of my family and her unfounded attack on my husband’s character.
But when my husband received the phone call telling him about the distress she was in, he did what he always does. He asked me to join him in praying for her and her hurting family. And he didn’t pray for God to teach her lessons through her pain. He didn’t pray for her to have a wake-up call through her unfortunate circumstances. He didn’t thank God for flipping the table on her.
I might have prayed those things. But he did not.
James prayed for this hurting woman to experience God’s peace and comfort. He prayed kind and loving things for this woman who had been unkind and unloving to him.
And then he went to visit with this woman and her family. He took grace and love and compassion with him to pour out lavishly, freely.
My husband told me years ago that “hurt people hurt people.” Over time I’ve seen the wisdom in his words. People who have allowed their heart wounds to fester instead of heal often inflict others with similar wounds. It’s a shame, but it’s true. Honestly, most of us are guilty of this behavior to some degree. Right?
But what amazed me that day was that my husband was able, by the grace of God, to stop the cycle. In fact, he did just what Matthew 5:44 says to do: love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.
James did what Moses did in a similar situation in Numbers 12. Moses’ sister Miriam spoke out defiantly against her brother from jealousy and contempt. Sick with self-righteousness and envy, she wounded Moses and injured his reputation. But God noticed and, in defense of His “friend”, God struck Miriam with leprosy.
And that’s when things got really wonky. Instead of thanking God for rallying to his defense, Moses appealed to God’s merciful nature. He asked Him to remove Miriam’s leprosy.
And Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!” (Numbers 12:13)
When my husband returned from visiting the hurting woman who had hurt him just days before, I noticed a subtle but significant difference in him. He didn’t appear to be one who had just ministered; he seemed to be a man who had been ministered unto. He seemed to be…healed…of his own hurts.
You see, when we resist the temptation to retaliate and hate and sulk, and instead we genuinely pour out love and grace to those who have hurt us, we open ourselves wide to a healing touch from God.
James told me all about his visit. And I could tell from his account that God’s grace had splashed all over the place that evening. God had graciously softened James’ heart toward this woman. Then James had graciously spoken gentle and kind words to one who had spoken strong and hurtful words to him. Then the woman had softened and spoken words of godly sorrow. Together they had prayed and trusted God to get the woman and her family through a difficult ordeal. Grace had flowed where once hurt feelings festered.
Hurt feelings are powerful aren’t they? They pull at us to settle the score. They draw us into ourselves and beg us to focus on our own wounds more than those of others. And they compel us to lick our wounds in an effort to soothe.
But God calls us to offer grace, to love and to reach out. He calls us to leave the healing of our own wounds to Him and seek healing for others as well. Why does He do this? You might argue He’s hard on us and holds us to an unreasonably high standard.
In fact, God doesn’t insist we give grace to others because He’s a difficult taskmaster, but because He knows that’s where our own healing begins…in a shared pool of His grace.
A Prayer Suggestion
Consider your own hurts, the ones that still sting. Were they inflicted by someone who is hurting? Maybe their wounds don’t seem tied to yours and you don’t see how they legitimize the way they treated you. Still, ask God to soften your heart for them. Ask Him to help you see them as He does. Then begin to pray, not for justice and vindication, but for healing for their wounds. You just may be amazed at what happens next.
If your heart has been wounded and you are struggling to find healing, I’d like to suggest you try my Bible study, Joseph – Keeping a Soft Heart in a Hard Place. You’ll find more information here.