Mending Broken Believers
by Jeff Brawner
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, I've seen my share of bone-breaking injuries. Take it from me - in real life, fractures only hurt, they can't 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 they'll be just fine if they can keep their minds on something else until the pain subsides. They believe it's easier to ignore a history of hurt than to heal it.
This attitude is both na?ve 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.
Forgiveness was a key theme throughout Christ's 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 doesn't 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 wouldn't realize what happened until he tried to sneeze. But a heartbroken, humiliated David spares Shimei's life?for the moment.
Snapshot 2: Absalom's 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 doesn't 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 couldn't kill Shimei himself, but there was nothing to stop Solomon from ordering the execution. The "man after God's 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 won't operate without consent.
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 didn't set Joseph free from Pharaoh's dungeon only to leave him imprisoned by his painful past.
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 father's 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 couldn't whitewash what Joseph went through. Nevertheless, God brought good out of a bad situation by taking out the sting. Even then, Joseph didn't become fruitful overnight.
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.
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 doesn't 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 doesn't make it less toxic. In fact, it gives pollutants a chance to seep into the ground and poison everything they touch.
True healing can begin only when you courageously unearth your hidden hurts and let God remove their sting.
The most common New Testament word for forgiveness connotes releasing someone from a debt. This is not to say that some debts aren't 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.
We can't 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 weren't 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."
Without reconciliation, our acts of mercy are meaningless. Joseph didn't 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 I'll never let you forget my generosity." "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 don't have to forgive others until they ask for forgiveness. In reality, emotional healing isn't about the offender's need to receive forgiveness, it's about your need to give it.
I don't 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.
"Reprinted by permission of the Pentecostal Evangel."