We have all seen movies and TV shows in which action heroes sustain
incredible injuries only to casually shrug them off as they go on to
save the day. Well, as a sports enthusiast, Ive seen my share
of bone-breaking injuries. Take it from me in real life, fractures
not only hurt, they cant be shrugged off.
The quality of care you give a broken bone determines the level of
recovery you achieve. One of my best friends cannot make a fist because,
years ago, his finger was improperly splinted after he snapped it. Professional
golfer Calvin Peete had a remarkable career despite a crooked left arm
resulting from a fracture that failed to heal properly.
Just like an invincible action hero, many believers who have been broken
by betrayal, abuse and neglect mistakenly think theyll be just
fine if they can keep their minds on something else until the pain subsides.
They believe its easier to ignore a history of hurt than to heal
This attitude is both naïve and dangerous. Many of the relationship
problems polluting our families and friendships are caused or complicated
by untreated wounds from our past.
The good news is this: Our brokenness can be healed. Where we have
been shattered, we can be made better than new. What we need is proper
treatment. Just like a broken bone, emotional fractures must be set
correctly in order to heal correctly.
We need a splint
A mended bone will only be as straight as the splint that binds
it. Broken hearts and broken spirits must be set with the splint of
Forgiveness was a key theme throughout Christs life on earth.
For example, in Matthew 6:14 Jesus says, "If you forgive men when
they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you"
(NIV). Of course, understanding the importance of forgiveness doesnt
make it easier. Even beloved biblical characters struggled with this
one. Consider these snapshots from the life of King David.
Snapshot 1: David has fled Jerusalem in the wake of a rebellion staged
by Absalom. Imagine how it hurt David to know that his beloved son not
only wanted to take his throne but his life. Add to this the "un-kingly"
humiliation of being on the run. While David is mired in all this misery,
2 Samuel 16 describes how a bitter relative of Saul named Shimei throws
rocks and shouts at David as the king walks down the road with his soldiers.
"The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household
of Saul, in whose place you have reigned," Shimei yells. "The
Lord has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom" (verse 8).
Generally, cursing a king in the presence of armed soldiers is a bad
idea. One word from David and Shimei would lose his head so fast that
he wouldnt realize what happened until he tried to sneeze. But
a heartbroken, humiliated David spares Shimeis life
Snapshot 2: Absaloms rebellion ends with his death. David is
awash in grief as he heads back to Jerusalem. Shimei meets the entourage
in Gilgal with a profuse apology. "Do not remember how your servant
did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. May the king put
it out of his mind" (2 Samuel 19:19). Though one of the soldiers
offered to dispatch the little weasel, David forgives Shimei, promising
not to kill him. Too bad the story doesnt end here.
Snapshot 3: On his deathbed, David gives some final instructions to
his son and successor, Solomon. His very last words concerned Shimei.
"I swore to him by the Lord: I will not put you to death
by the sword. But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a
man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head
down to the grave in blood" (1 Kings 2:8,9).
David took advantage of a loophole. He couldnt kill Shimei himself,
but there was nothing to stop Solomon from ordering the execution. The
"man after Gods heart" (1 Samuel 13:14) could not set
the splint of forgiveness by himself. Neither can we. The only qualified
surgeon is God and, like most doctors, He wont operate without
We need a surgeon
Imagine the anguish of being thrown into a pit by your jealous brothers
who sit around callously while you plead for your life. After they sell
you into slavery, you are taken far from home where you are falsely
accused of rape, unjustly imprisoned and forgotten by one of the few
people who promised to help you. That, in a nutshell, was the life of
Joseph. Read the story for yourself starting in Genesis 37. In the end,
God honored him in amazing ways. But the Lord didnt set Joseph
free from Pharaohs dungeon only to leave him imprisoned by his
In Genesis 41:51,52, we are told, "Joseph named his firstborn
Manasseh and said, It is because God has made me forget all my
trouble and all my fathers household. The second son he
named Ephraim and said, It is because God has made me fruitful
in the land of my suffering. " The name Manasseh is built
on the Hebrew root nasseh, which literally means "a sting."
All the spin doctors in Washington couldnt whitewash what Joseph
went through. Nevertheless, God brought good out of a bad situation
by taking out the sting. Even then, Joseph didnt become fruitful
We need to complete the process
If you break a bone, plan on wearing a cast for weeks, not days.
Knitting bones together takes time. Knitting together the pieces of
a broken spirit is also time-consuming and involves four critical steps.
Remember. It may sound confusing, but the first step toward forgetting
is remembering. Biblical "forgetting" does not involve selective
amnesia. When God forgets our sins, it doesnt mean He no longer
knows what we did.
Our problem is that we confuse forgetting with burying, as though covering
up our painful past will keep us safe from its effects. Unfortunately,
burying toxic waste doesnt make it less toxic. In fact, it gives
pollutants a chance to seep into the ground and poison everything they
True healing can begin only when you courageously unearth your hidden
hurts and let God remove their sting.
Release. The most common New Testament word for forgiveness connotes
releasing someone from a debt. This is not to say that some debts arent
legitimate. The father who abused you, the mother who abandoned you,
the spouse who betrayed you
they deserve to pay for what they
have done. Of course, since "all have sinned and fall short of
the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), so do we.
Believe me, no one gets away with anything. Our deeds have a price,
but that price was paid when Jesus died and rose again. Unless we want
to wind up like David, tangled up in torment until our dying breath,
our only option is release.
Reframe. We cant change our history. However, in the same way
that a different frame can make an old painting look brand new, we can
let God give us a fresh perspective on our past. It is this shift in
perception that enabled Joseph to say to his brothers, "You intended
to harm me, but God intended it for good" (Genesis 50:20).
Reframing our history is more than pretending that past hurts werent
painful. Instead, it is a matter of letting God help us view events
from His point of view. Remember, Romans 8:28 does not teach that all
things are good, but that "in all things God works for the good
of those who love Him."
Reconcile. Without reconciliation, our acts of mercy are meaningless.
Joseph didnt brush off his brothers by simply saying, "Forget
about it." Several chapters in Genesis are devoted to describing
the process that reunited and reconciled the family.
Christians hand out phony forgiveness all the time. "I forgive
you, but Ill never let you forget my generosity." "I
forgive you, but Ill never trust you again." "I forgive
you as long as you spend the rest of your life making it up to me."
When we forgive biblically, we both release and embrace the offender.
This explains Jesus response when the thief hanging next to Him
asked for mercy. "I tell you the truth," He said, "today
you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
We need to take the initiative
There is a rumor floating around that we dont have to forgive
others until they ask for forgiveness. In reality, emotional healing
isnt about the offenders need to receive forgiveness, its
about your need to give it.
I dont claim to understand the tragedies that have occurred in
your life or the depth of the pain they have caused. But I do know about
the greatness of our God who promised, "Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy" (Psalm 126:5).
Let the Great Physician begin to mend your brokenness properly so you
can stand before Him straight, strong and whole.