Thereafter, Hagar referred to the Lord, who had spoken to her, as “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13).
Have you ever been hurt by someone’s words, behavior, or choices? Are you hurting today, not because of something you did, but because of something someone else did that affected you? What happens when someone you thought you could trust lets you down?
This kind of pain happens to all of us. People we thought were our friends tell lies about us. A spouse we thought loved us walks out of the marriage. Someone we trusted betrayed us. Our friendship with someone was broken because that individual spoke cruel words to us, or behaved meanly. A relative abused your young child. Or someone you had shown kindness and generosity, treated you badly.
Recently, in our Bible study group at church, we studied Genesis 16 from the Bible, and the story of a woman named Hagar. You might not be familiar with the Bible, or you might not know much about Hagar, so here’s a brief summary of her story.
Hagar served as an Egyptian slave to a woman named Sarah, who was childless. God had made an astounding promise to Sarah (and her husband, Abraham) several years earlier: she would have a child. Some years had passed since God had given this promise. Sarah grew impatient waiting on God to respond. So, she took matters into her own hands.
A cultural custom of the time allowed a woman who could not give birth to allow her husband to impregnate a servant girl. (This was never God’s plan or purpose.) Hagar had no choice in the matter—she was a slave, and she resented what Sarah made her do. Hagar took out her frustrations on Sarah and treated Sarah with contempt. Eventually Hagar ran away.
An angel of the Lord came to her and said, “Go back to Sarah. Submit to her authority. The Lord understands your misery. You will have a son.” God’s words to Hagar both comforted her and encouraged her. From that point forward, she described God as “the God who sees me.”
Hagar hurt because of the actions of someone else. The biggest challenges Hagar faced were brought on by other people’s choices. Yet, God saw and understood her pain.
Maybe that’s where you are today. Hurting, feeling discouraged, angry, and dealing with a handful of problems because of a choice someone else made. When we suffer because of the actions of others, we are tempted to withdraw, to become bitter and angry, and to seek revenge against those who hurt us. Instead of responding to your pain this way, I want to suggest some better, and more mature, responses.
Face Your Pain
Admit that you feel angry. Be honest about your misery. Write a letter to the person who hurt you, then burn the letter. Write your feelings in a journal. Get it all out. Cry out to God.
Stop Telling Your Story
When you have been hurt by another person your tendency will be to relive the past. You’ll find some delight in telling your story to as many people as possible. You believe this is a way to gain sympathy or pity from others. If you keep behaving this way you will become a victim instead of a victor.
Respond to Your Pain Biblically
By this statement I mean behave like the Bible says we are to behave when others hurt us or mistreat us. This step includes 4 actions. One, love your enemies (Luke 6:27). You might not feel much love in your heart for the person who hurt you. Ask God to love that person through you. Two, do good to those who’ve hurt you (Luke 6:27). Your job is not to change the person who caused your suffering. Your job is to follow Jesus and to do what He directs you to do. Three, bless the people who have hurt you (Luke 6:28). This step prevents you from become bitter, hateful, and bent on revenge. Four, pray for those who have mistreated you (Luke 6:28). Instead of being consumed with the hurt, you focus on God who can heal your hurt, and give you the power to respond in a radically new way.
Make the Decision to Forgive
Forgiveness does not let the other person off the hook. Forgiveness is not whitewashing or pretending that nothing happened. Nor is your forgiveness a way of forgetting what has happened to you. Instead, forgiveness means you release the other person from the indebtedness he or she owes you for what was done to you; and you don’t have to punish that person in order for you to feel better. Your willingness to forgive might even open the door for you and that person to be reconciled.
Refocus on God’s Purposes for You
When you focus on the person who has hurt you, that person controls you. If you don’t release the person who has hurt you, you will eventually resemble that person. God has a better future for you. Remember, He is the one who sees and understands what you are going through. Reach to Him. Face the world. Don’t withdraw. Learn to love and trust again.