Who is she? She is one who has been hurt, just as you have been in the past. This isn't the first time it's happened. But this particular circumstance seemed to cut a little bit deeper than most.
She is me. And that was a sequence of events that took place just this morning.
To be honest, I don't ask the Lord to speak directly to my heart every time I walk into a church service. I know I should. But this morning, my heavy heart reminded me to do so. Somehow, I knew the message would be for me. And after listening, I can't help but share it with you, because I know you've been here too.
A few weeks back I was injured. It wasn't a physical wound; it was the kind that can be even more difficult in which to experience full healing: an emotional one. When something like this happens I know that how I feel is a poor barometer for how I should act. So, in my feeble attempt to take the "high road," I covered up my negative emotions and tried my darndest not to let them get the better of me.
To be honest with you, I didn't look to any cleansing agents. Instead, I slapped a big bandaid on that wound and tried to ignore it, in hopes that it'd go away. Unfortunately, some bacteria crept in when the wound was inflicted. Unattended to, it began to fester and boil. Then the wound began to ooze. And finally, it burst, and spilled out the nastiest colored liquid you've ever seen.
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." [Ephesians 4:31]
Alex suggested the emotions listed in the Ephesians 4:31 function on somewhat of a continuum. Left unattended, an emotional wound can fester into bitterness, from bitterness to rage, from rage to anger, from anger to slander, and from slander to full blown malice.
[bitterness --> rage --> anger --> slander -> malice]
I found his description of each of these emotions especially helpful:
Bitterness is the root, when we allow ourselves to be defined by an emotional wound.
Rage literally translates, "To boil up," from the Greek word.
Anger takes place when you allow what is boiling up inside of you to come out.
Slander is the a further spillage, in which you find yourself targeting the one who has hurt you. You start using words to cut them down. Helpful note: slander doesn't have to be a lie, it can be true too.
Malice is an intent to injure that person in response to what they have done to you.
We were encouraged us to evaluate ourselves in order to detect whether or not we were allowing an emotional wound to define who we are, and if so, to be honest about where we landed on the continuum I described.
If you're like me and you find yourself somewhere on that continuum, it's important to know that these emotions will lead to one of who things: a hard heart or a broken heart. The person with a hard heart is one that builds a wall around themselves in order to prevent injury. They tend to have a lack of care or concern for people, and can often exhibit sarcasm as a result of their hard-heartedness. On the other hand, the person with a broken heart is one who internalizes the pain. They are guilty of taking things the wrong way, being hypersensitive, and allowing themselves to nurse their wound.
To be honest with you, I've fallen into both of these camps in the past, both the hard heart and the broken heart. I've noticed I have a tendency to swing from one extreme to the other. So, what is the solution for both? I'm so thankful Scripture offers the answer in the subsequent verse:
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." [Ephesians 4:32]
Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Simply put, the answer is the Gospel. Before we even had a chance to hurt Him, God extended his forgiveness to us in the person of His Son, Jesus. "God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." [Romans 5:8] God experienced the deepest hurt of all: the death of His innocent Son in exchange for the righteousness of His people: the same people that inflicted the wound that required the remedy of the cross. On top of that, He continues to lavish us with forgiveness every single day. And He promises to take care of us when we are hurt.
"Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you." [1 Peter 5:7]
Life brings hurt. People will hurt us, and we will hurt people, whether intentionally or unintentionally. We have the option of lashing back, thinking that we're defending ourselves, but we are only hurting ourselves, just like slapping a bandaid on a wound that hasn't even been cleansed. This morning I allowed the Lord to remove the proverbial bandaid from my festering wound and asked Him to wash it clean. I handed him my bitterness, rage, anger, slander and malice [yes, I was at the piping hot end of the Spiritual barometer], and asked him to replace my broken heart with a tender heart, a heart like Jesus.
//Recommended: You can find the sermon that spurred me to write this post here//