One of the primary ways people avoid dealing with pain is to “stuff it.” So often, when people hurt us, we stuff it down deep in our hearts instead of dealing with it. And when we stuff pain for too long, it finally explodes in one big ugly fit of anger. It took me years to understand why I would explode over some seemingly minor situation that certainly was not sufficient cause for my ridiculous behavior. I now know that the explosions came from many negative emotions I had stuffed deep inside and was refusing to deal with. The incident that seemed to be the problem was just the trigger for the explosion that was hidden and ready to go off at any time.
I was ignoring the real problem and blaming my bad behavior on anything and anyone I could. No matter how spiritual I pretended to be on Sunday at church, my friends and family knew the real me. I managed to ignore the problem for years by making excuses and blaming others, but eventually I had to let God “clean out the refrigerator” so to speak, and get to the root of the problem.
God uses the truth to set us free (see John 8:32), but it is not the truth about someone else that sets us free; it is the truth about ourselves that we need! Facing truth about myself has always been very difficult for me, as well as emotionally painful. But it is also the beginning of my healing. Whatever the truth is, go ahead and admit it. If you’re angry, admit it. If you’re afraid, admit it. If you’re jealous of someone, admit it. Go to God and say, “You know what, God? I know I have a bad attitude. It really stinks and even I can smell it. I want to understand why I have this problem. What is in me? Will you please show me why I have this problem?”
Maybe the Lord will show you immediately what your struggle is. Perhaps you are insecure; maybe you do not know who you are in Christ. You might be comparing yourself to others too often. Perhaps you suffered a major hurt or disappointment years ago and you have not been willing to forgive or allow God to heal you yet. Make a commitment to start being honest and owning our feelings. Refuse to stuff them and immediately stop making excuses and blaming others for your negative emotions. You will probably have to talk to God a lot, and you may even need to seek help from a trustworthy friend or your pastor. But whatever you have to do is worth doing it if it helps you to be free and enjoy life.
Whatever has hurt, angered or offended you, determine today that you are going to go through the pain of facing it and dealing with it. A friend of mine told me recently that when he has a day where he feels depressed, impatient, frustrated, or easily upset, he asks himself what happened the day before that he has not dealt with. He said God almost always shows him something he did not deal with properly, and helps him recognize that as the root of his bad behavior. That is a much better approach than ignoring what you’re feeling, or stuffing your emotions deep inside you.
As believers, we have an enemy. He will oppose us any way he can. He uses our own thoughts and feelings against us. The devil actually sets us up to get upset. He knows we cannot enjoy power if we have no peace. He knows that the love of God cannot flow through us if we are upset. I have heard it said in AA meetings that anger and resentment cut us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit. The devil will always attempt to upset us, but we can learn to stay calm, cool, and collected at all times. Of course, it takes practice and it takes the grace of God. The next time something happens that could easily upset you, ask yourself if it is worth it. Will being upset change anything? Can you afford to waste your energy being upset? Will it distract you from God’s purpose for your life? Every day we are faced with good and evil. We decide which to choose.
Every time we suffer hurts, injustices, or offenses, we need to remember that people are not our enemies. Satan is our enemy. God has given us a secret weapon, one that is sure to defeat the devil and destroy his strategies and plans. You have a secret weapon against the enemy, and he hates it because he knows he cannot stand against it. I call it a secret weapon because most believers completely miss it. Your weapon is your God-given ability to be good to people who offend you. Your flesh may want revenge, but God says press through your pain by repaying evil with good. This is difficult to do when you are in the flesh. When you are emotionally distraught or offended. It is much easier to do if you can train yourself to remain calm no matter what the devil is doing.
We should pray to God for this ability to forgive, to love, and to let go of offenses. We’re instructed in the Scriptures to forgive others no matter what the offense. We need to access God’s blessings and righteousness and forgiveness, remembering that we must also forgive, or we will not be forgiven. Mark 11:25 says, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Remember when Peter asked Jesus how many times we are to forgive someone who sins against us? “Seven times?” Peter asked. Jesus answered him, saying, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” That’s 490 times. Every day. Even if it’s the same offense over and over. In other words, there is to be no limit to our forgiveness of others.
When you do not think you can obey God’s command to forgive others, all you have to do is say, “God, by Your grace and mercy I am going to be good to that person. I am not going to tell others what he has done to me. I will not speak ill of that person, but I will pray for him, as You want me to. If I see the person who hurt me, I am going to walk right up to him and say hello. I am going to be kind and obey Your word and overcome evil with good.” You may not have warm, fuzzy feelings toward a person who has hurt you, but as a Christian you must deal with your anger in a biblical way. Do that, as an act of your will, and the right feelings will eventually follow.
To me, freedom means I am able to make choices about how I will behave and not be a prisoner to negative emotions. I can act according to God’s word instead of reacting to situations. The devil may be alive and well on earth, but he is not going to control me any longer. He has no right to control you either. God is on our side, and that makes us more than conquerors. So rather than harboring resentments against others and stuffing our anger and disappointment, we need to seek God’s grace in dealing with those negative feelings and letting go of the offense. If we don’t do this, things build up like a pressure cooker, and we explode at what others perceive to be the littlest things. The more we practice this, the easier it gets to accomplish it.