Life Apps 3.0 - Chapter 9: Overcoming The Hurts Of Life message by Lead Pastor Terry Brisbane. For more information, visit cornerstonesf.org
Overcoming the hurts of life. There’s a famous Psalm in the Bible that captures one man’s attempt, King David, to move beyond the hurt of his life. In Psalm 51, which is what we’re going to look at, a broken and a battered King David is trying to honestly and humbly work through what has been a devastating, self-inflicted wound. Sometimes, the wounds that we suffer are the hardest things to get past. I’m not sure which one is harder. That’s something we probably each have opinions about. It may not be an exact thing, but sometimes, the hardest wounds to get past are the ones that we have no one to blame. It’s just us.
In David’s case, he had messed up. He had a devastating, self-inflicted wound. Some of us know the story or account. You can read about it in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. What started out as something that seemed to be semi-innocent, in retrospect, became this monstrous cover-up that seemed to have one bad step after another. It started with David committing adultery with a wife of a trusted officer in his army, Uriah, the Hittite, whose wife was Bathsheba. The king had enormous power. She was pregnant, and he didn’t know what to do. He decided the best thing he could do was try to cover it up. Even though he didn’t kill Uriah with his own hands, David was guilty. David secretly set up a plan for Uriah to be killed in the middle of a battle. He planned and ordered for the lines to be withdrawn in battle so Uriah was isolated knowing that he would be killed. After Uriah is killed in battle, David takes Bathsheba as his wife. He thought he got through this whole thing okay. However, God sends a prophet named Nathan who has a great parable he tells David. By the end of it, David is exposed.
If we think about it through our particular lens, we have to remember David was king. That means he had all the power. Even today we’re having a national debate, and moving into the election process. All this is about power acquisition, the role of the law, and all these things. We have checks and balances in our nation. A system of laws that at least attempts to keep things in place. David, as a king, was unchecked. He could do whatever he wanted and get away with it. He needed to be somewhat aware of public opinion, but not much. “Push comes to shove, I do what I want. I’m the king.” David had an issue. He actually loved God. There was a part of him when confronted with the reality of what he had done, knew immediately it was wrong. Clearly, his conscience had been wrestling with it for a while, and he knew immediately he was guilty.
What was he going to do? He couldn’t go back and change what had happened. He couldn’t undo the damage he had done. The only thing he could do was exactly what he did. He didn’t have to do it. He did it because he wanted to be right with God. He threw himself on the mercy of God. This is what Psalm 51 is really flowing out of. It’s very poetic. It’s earnest. It’s real. It’s raw. Let’s read it together. David says, “Have mercy upon me, oh God, according to your loving-kindness, according to the basis of the multitude, your tender mercies.” I love that, tender mercies; the tender mercies of God. We will all need them. “Please blot out my transgressions, Lord. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin.” He’s owning this thing. “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and the truth is, my sin is always before me.”
It often is the case with the Psalms that they start with something about God, work their way through a problem, and by the end, they return to God and His goodness. In this case, it’s an earnest appeal on the basis of who God is. David says, “Lord, I want to ask you to restore to me the joy of your salvation. I ask that you would uphold me by your generous spirit. Then I will teach the transgressor your ways, and sinners shall be converted to you. Deliver me, oh God, deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed. The God of my salvation, my tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness. Oh Lord, open my lips.” He loved to sing to God when he was a younger man. “Open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth your praise. For you do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give that. You do not delight in burnt offering. If it was about making my offering in the temple, I would do it right now. But I know what you want is something far more profound than that, far more honest. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. See, a broken and a contrite heart that I know you will not push away. You will not despise that. Everything I know about you, God, I know that it’s not about me going in and making the religious transaction. What you really want is my heart. I give you it in all of its brokenness.”
In this case, when you look at that phrase, “broken and contrite heart” right there, “you will not despise,” that is the cry of a deeply shattered human being who is throwing himself on the mercy of God. The use of the word broken here carries a connotation. What is interesting is when he says, “What you desire is a broken.” He’s implying that “What you want from me, what moves you, what you respond to, is brokenness. It’s a certain kind of brokenness. It’s repentant, owning brokenness that has a certain humility in it.” If you think about it, there’s an openness. It’s almost like brokenness here is being used in a positive light because we know that God “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Jesus talked about how God is drawn to the broken and the needy. There’s an openness or a lack of veneer, that often allows for that openness to take place. When we are open with God in our brokenness, God can begin to work in ways that if we were acting like we didn’t need Him, He wouldn’t work. There’s a power in it because when we throw ourselves on His mercy, we can count on His love to come to us like an undeserved gift, which is what grace is.
Contrast David’s positive perception of how he uses brokenness out of the context of openness and, “Lord, I know this is what you want from me, to own this, to throw myself on your mercy. You want that kind of brokenness. I want to have that inside of me.” Contrast that brokenness with what is being described as we look at Proverbs 18:14. See if you can note the difference between the two. It says, “The spirit of a man,” it could be a man or woman, “will sustain them in their sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?” The first part of that verse underscores the truth, that what is most important is often not what is external, but is internal. If our spirit is strong, we can endure things. We could spend time just with that concept.
It’s the second portion of that verse that I want us to see coming off of what we just looked at with David. The second portion of that verse, “but who can bear a broken spirit,” exposes a different reality by making contrast and emphasizing the weakness of a broken spirit. In a way, it’s saying that this is the kind “Who can bear a broken spirit?” It’s not as in, ‘not working right, something’s wrong; it’s broken.’ We say, “Oh, it’s broken.” That means it can’t function the way it was meant to. Something is broken, it needs to be fixed. “Oh, we broke that.” The proverb is rhetorical. It’s making a statement. It’s not a question that’s searching for an answer. It’s a statement. It’s almost as if the writer of Proverbs is reminding us of how hard it is to live and love with a wounded heart. How hard it is to rejoice with others when we ourselves are in deep pain. Who can bear it? When you’re around that, it takes its toll.
There’s a quote in your handout from a professor, Lewis Smedes, that I had a chance to sit under a little bit when I was at Fuller years back. He’s no longer with us, but he wrote a lot of wonderful books. My personal opinion is he was an expert on forgiveness. He wrote a book called Forgive and Forget. Lewis Smedes said, speaking of how sometimes we are broken on the inside, “Somebody hurt you maybe yesterday, maybe a life ago, you can’t forget it. You did not deserve hurt. It went deep. Deep enough to lodge itself in your memory. It just keeps hurting you. Now, you’re not alone. We all muddle our way through a world where even well-meaning people hurt each other. That’s true. When we invest ourselves in deep, personal relationships, one of the risks we take is that we open up our souls to the wounds of another’s disloyalty or even betrayal.” That is true. Smedes went on to say, “There are some hurts that we can all ignore. Not every slight with us, thank God. But some old pains do not wash out easily. They remain like stubborn stains in the fabric of our memory. Deep hurts we never deserved, flow from a dead past into our living present. A friend betrays us, a parent abuses us. A spouse leaves us in the cold. These hurts do not heal with the coming of the sun.” Now, he shifts it to a slightly different angle that gives us a little bit of the way out of the intensity. He says, “We’ve all wished at one time or the other that we could reach back to a painful moment, and cut it out of our lives.”
He says, “Some people, honestly, they’re just lucky. They seem to have gracious glands.” I love this phrase, “gracious glands that secrete juices of forgetfulness.” How do you come up with that? “They never hold a grudge. They do not remember old hurts. Their painful yesterday has died with the coming of tomorrow.” But he says, “But most of us find that the pains of our past keep rolling through our memories. For those of us who struggle with the pains of our past, or with pain, there are some things that we can do to help heal those wounds. If not heal them completely, then at least begin to have them loosen the grip they have on our lives, or on the people we love.” I want to talk about this, from a biblical perspective. I want to talk about some tools for overcoming. This is not comprehensive, but it has a lot of life in it. I want to just put some of these things up and sit with this. I hope it helps us.
Number one; first, when it comes to overcoming hurts, wounds of our past, whether those are self-inflicted wounds or wounds from the hands of another, practice surrendering our hurt to God. Place our wounds in the hands of the wounded healer. I realize this can so easily come across as such a Christian cliche. Someone’s hurting around us, and we say to them, “Hey, man. Just surrender your hurt to God. That’ll do it. That’s all you need to do.” If you’ve ever been hurting, have known hurt, you’ve struggled, you’re wounded, and have someone just throw a phrase out like, “Just surrender your hurt to God,” not only does it seem to be somewhat insensitive, it can almost come across, in its worst form, as pharisaical. It’s like, “Is that how really little you understand what I’m walking through?”
Surrendering our hurt to God is a hugely powerful mechanism for overcoming hurt. In 1 Peter 5:7, says, ‘Give all your worries and cares to God because He cares for you.” He cares about you. So, to surrender is at least in part to take our hurt, guilt, shame, and anger, and place it in His care. Essentially, we are placing our cares in His care. “I am placing my cares in Your care. I am committing this to You.” Figuratively, we are placing our hurts into His nail-scarred hands. We are allowing His wounds to bring us healing, for He was wounded for us, wounded for our transgressions. I know that talks about ultimately our sins and speaks of salvation. But it is also a reminder that God cares about our hurts and wounds as well. He was wounded also for us there. I think about that, and I say, “Lord, there are times where I visually need to remember how much I am loved by You.” When Jesus came from the cross, in His resurrection, He said, “You see my hands, you see my wounds for you.”
There is something about surrendering or yielding something, that can help lift a weight off. Maybe it’s something we’re superly anxious about and we can’t shake it. Or it is creating such a drag on us. It might have to do with something that we’ve carried from our past, and it just seems to sit there. It might have to do with a struggle we’re having, and it is so hard. Or something we’re angry about, and we can’t get it out of us. There is all kinds of stuff. Sometimes it’s because of deep shame and regret. I know David had that. What do you do? How do you change it? How do you make good? How do you move forward? There’s stuff like that, when we’re really struggling, where one of the things I often will do is read the Psalms. I know this sounds simple. But the Psalms are like God’s worship manual. There are the psalms of Jesus. They’re filled with physicality, “I lift my hands to you, Lord.” Or, you’ll see things like, “I clap, we clap to the Lord.” Or, “Kneel and bow before the Lord.” All of these postures. Many times, I will find myself, when I’m under extreme duress or I’m carrying something and feeling anxious, reading the Psalms. What I might struggle with might be nothing for someone else. “What’s wrong with you? That’s nothing.” But for me, it’s a big deal. Someone else might say, “Well, I don’t see why that’s such a big problem.” But for us, it’s a big issue because we’re all wired differently. We all have different experiences in our past.
If certain things happen to someone else that might say, “Oh, what’s wrong? Come on. Just get over it.” But for us, it’s like, “But you don’t understand. I’m really hurting here.” Or, “This is hard.” When you feel that weight or pressure, to be able to say, “Lord…” A lot of times, I’ll do something as simple as this. I’ll take my hands, and I’ll say, “Lord, I just want to open my heart, I want to give you this, God. I don’t think I’m supposed to be carrying this. It might be my responsibility, but the pressure and the weight I am feeling.” To me, it’s more than just a technique. I’m actually saying, “Lord, I want to trust you with this. I think I’m holding too tight. I need to let this thing go. Lord, I need to be open to what you want to do in me. I want to be open to receiving.” An open hand receives. A closed one doesn’t. I want to be open to receiving. I think when we do that, we’ll find that God wants to move. The goal of surrender, remember, is to leave things with Him. Entrust our situation, whether it’s despairing, discouraging, or defining, to the one who loves us. This is going to sound controversial, but it means that we are going to have to give God permission to help us. What? He doesn’t need my permission. In a way, He does because He decided He will not force Himself upon us unwelcomed. That’s not really love.
Basically, He waits to be wanted. Such is the humility of God that He is willing to allow Himself to be rejected. Yet, when we ask Him, He longs to help us. Not because we deserved it, but because He delights to do it. He longs to help us. We’ve got to declare our openness to entrust Him with our concern. Sometimes, that’s just a little bit at of time. Sometimes it requires practice. Trusting the Lord sometimes requires practice. We have to keep applying it. It’s like a second and a third coat. There are some situations that are so deeply lodged in us, that we may get that thing straightened out with the Lord, our heart is good, then it starts coming back like bleeding through the paint. When that happens, there are certain things that just have to continually be applied. That’s the power of consistency and positioning ourselves in alignment with the Lord. There is something about practicing trust and that’s why there’s a dailiness to this life with Jesus. This day, give me my bread, this daily bread of mine, Lord. “Give me this day, my daily bread.” There’s a dailiness to it.
So number one, practice surrendering. Two, here’s another piece. I look at this and thought, “Lord, never let me forget that you can bring good out of anything.” God can use our hurt, disappointment, or adversity for good. If the Lord allows, this is where my passion has been going. I’ve been working, praying, and preparing for months now, for the New Year’s series. It is called Growing through Adversity. I want to explore it for weeks. It would be a fantastic series to consider bringing people who you love and care about, who you know are hurting or struggling, or in their faith, having a hard time grasping why this is happening. This would be a fantastic series to have them hook into. Even if they live somewhere else, they can listen to us live, or to the messages replaying them. Bringing somebody. The reason I say this is because we’re going to talk a lot about how God wants to take the adversity of our lives, the difficulty, pain, the shame, the whatever of it, and shift it out into opportunity.
Adversity is opportunity. It’s an opportunity for God to show Himself strong on our behalf. One of the things that we need to be aware of is that God can bring good out of every bad. It’s what He does. In the language of the scriptures, we mean He’s redemptive. The ultimate example of His ability to turn a loss into a gain is the cross. There is no greater example of that. The entire gospel hinges on God’s reclamation project. That’s what He does. He reclaims things that are broken. He reclaims things that are asunder or torn apart. He restores them in such a way that “the bruised reed He will not despise, the smoking flax, He will not quench.” What He does is He has a way of reconfiguring things when He is allowed to. We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to be a little bit willing. “Lord, help thou out my unbelief.” That, in and of itself, is an expression of faith. All He needs is a little bit of room, like the mustard seed. Just a little bit. Turn to you, Lord, and He can turn.
It’s not denial. It’s not saying, “This is good,” when it’s not. But what it is saying is, “I will not be defined by this because I have a God who has a track record of bringing good from the worst. He can take a mess, and make something come out of it that is beautiful.” It’s what He does. That means I don’t ever have to look at my life and think, ‘Now, I may have to wrestle with that.’ We may have a hard time with that, but there is nothing that God cannot bring good from. I was telling my daughter, “Look. Remember, every adversity we face is an opportunity for some type of a breakthrough for God to do something amazing, and to grow us in a way we couldn’t have envisioned.” We can talk about this all day.
Three. This one’s connected to where we were last week, the idea of choosing not to retaliate. Remember how we ended the Overflow series? Alice Estaniso talked about Jesus. Right out of the gate, she brings up Jesus and the high bar He set for us about forgiving our enemies. It’s hard. Sometimes I have a hard enough time forgiving people I love when they hurt me. This is so hard, bless those who persecute us. That’s what Jesus was taught. We were sitting with all of that. The choice not to retaliate, to choose not to return a wound for wound. You hurt me, I hurt you back. The escalation that often occurs in relationships is because the people who know us best can hurt us the most. It’s tight in there. You know my weak spot.
Hurt people, hurt people. Very hurt people, hurt people very much, which is one of the reasons why God wants to heal us. I think the Lord is not just concerned about getting us to Heaven. I agree, the life to come is the greatest gift. Life now, and overflowing in Christ, no question. However, He cares about the quality of our life here, not in terms of our comfort, as much as our effect. Are we going to be like Him, a blesser? How do we bless if we’re not moving into increasing dimensions of wholeness in our own lives? “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” I hope I’m not just creating something out of nowhere. “He whom the Sons set free, is free indeed.” God designed us for dimensions of freedom. The point is, He wants to teach us how to live above the wounds of life. I’ll just piggyback right behind that, and say, “Not only do we need to be careful many times about responding back and escalating things, but God wants to walk in the way of peace. “As much as lies within us, to be a peaceful people.” As much as we can, again, not denial, but not being defined by our wounds.
Fourth has to do with this idea of not allowing ourselves to get embroiled in self-pity. I mean that some people retaliate almost reactively. “You hurt me, I hurt you back. You hurt me, I escalate you back. We’re going at this.” “Why’d you do that?” “Because you hurt me.” Some of us may not hurt or retaliate so quickly. We might be passive retaliators. “I’ll get you back.” Or, “I’m going to keep it closed, but you hurt me, and I’m not forgiving you. If you think this is passing, it is not passing.” We could spend time just talking about the different ways of retaliating and what Jesus has to say about that. But, when it comes to self-pity, some of us don’t retaliate. We are drawn into pity of our own making. We start feeling sorry for ourselves. Then, that sorrow defines us. We walk around either angry or usually bitter. It shows up out of the abundance of the heart and the mouth speaks.
I remember years back, a man came to our church. People often come with no relationship with Jesus. In his case, he didn’t have a relationship with Jesus, but he was open and seeking. He was at a point in his life where he was ready to move forward and accept Jesus into his life. He wanted to make a change. When he talked, I still remember it to this day because his words were so caustic, and tinged with cynicism, sarcasm, and anger, I came to realize fairly rapidly, that he was going through a divorce. He would say things like, Inevitable. It would come up in every conversation, “My ex.” The way he used it was almost like he was swearing. I’m not joking, that’s how I heard it. I was thinking, “Whoa, bro. That’s intense.” I was listening. I couldn’t recall someone who was so angry. It was like a wound with pus oozing out of him. I thought, “That’s ugly. That is ugly. He’s all infected on the inside.
One of the things that started happening in his life as the Lord began to move in his life as he started getting better. I noticed because he was serving in a ministry, I had more contact with him. I started to notice that his language was shifting. In all fairness, he never became Mr. Joyful. But his words were a lot less hostile and bitter. It reflected a transformation. Many times someone will say, “Man, that person is not much of a… They are an example of Jesus?” It might be another follower, and Jim would say, “They’re a bad example. Look at that person’s life.” And I say, “Okay. I can see your point, but let me point this out. Do you understand where they came from? Do you know how far they have grown from where they were?” Even giving you the fact that we’re making a proper assessment here, I say, “It’s possible that the amount of growth that has occurred in their life with the Lord is larger than what has happened in my life or your life. It started at such a low deficit, that it’s made its way up. Let the Lord decide that. Let’s be thankful for what’s happening. Let’s focus on our own heart with God, and ask Him to keep working with us. We have our own areas where we need some help, too.” I say that because a lot of times, the tendency is to feel sorry for ourselves. I get that. I do. God wants us to grow.
The last thing I’ll say about this hurt thing is it was a joy to watch him grow. I think it’s okay to live in the tension of God’s goodness and unresolved questions. This is part of what we are going to explore in-depth in the coming year if the Lord allows us to. The “why,” Something happened in my family’s life a couple of weeks ago. I shared this at the Lake Merced Campus two weeks ago. I was hosting, and I think Pastor Lewis was here sharing. It had to do with our family dog, Autumn, who was in her prime. I got a text from my wife. I was in a meeting in the evening, saying, “Something’s happened. You got to contact Aubrey.” That’s our oldest daughter, who is now a senior at a university near Sacramento, called William Jessup University. She’s finishing up her last semester. A few years back, our oldest daughter got our family dog, Autumn. She’s in Ghana with her husband on a teaching assignment. Our youngest daughter has been watching her for the last year or so and has grown extraordinarily attached to her. I get a call from Cheryl, “You’ve got to talk to Aubrey.” I call and say “I can’t, I’m talking.” I can’t understand her. She’s saying things, she’s hysterical. The only thing I could hear was, “Autumn is dead.”
A van hit her. Autumn ran out, and a van hit her. The bumper fell off. Autumn barely can make her way back to the grass and she dies. My daughter’s crying. The car gets scared and drives off. So we are up at night, driving to be there. It was devastating at so many levels for us. I know, not everyone has a dog. I get that, and they don’t understand. I’ll just say this about dogs. Okay. I know cats are okay, too. I get that. I get it. The praise of a dog does not diminish the cat, just to be clear. Dogs have an amazing way of making you feel loved. When they’re part of a family, they represent not only protection because there is a security component to them, but also, there’s this love, loyalty, and unconditional kind of happiness that they bring into a life. That means a lot. When you lose that, it’s devastating. The way it happened was devastating. We got to the emergency pet place, go into the room, and it’s awful. Autumn is there. It was not good. We’re all sitting there and one of the things my daughter says to me is, “Why? Why has this happened? Why did God allow it to happen?” First, we collect ourselves. Then we get a hold of our other kids in Ghana. This is how we moved. This is for a reason.
I said, “This is what we’re going to pray at the end of this. We’re going to pray. We’re going to grieve this moment. We’re going to mark it. We’re going to let the Lord know our hurt in our hearts, and how hard this is for us.” After we did that, I said, “Now I want to also pray gratitude. I want to say, ‘thank you, Lord, for the time that we had with this animal that we came to love, and brought us together in special ways. I want to thank you for the time we had to enjoy her and the love we were able to share together.” Okay. Grief, at least acknowledge it. Gratitude, thank you for what we’ve had. Grace, for where we need to go. “Lord, we welcome you into this situation.”
That principle can work as a way of confronting loss in our lives. I know it was a very small, simple way, but it started the questions. I said, “Honey, now, listen.” I know the answers and other things were going on, too. It was more complex than that. I said, “look. Let me tell you something about the Lord. I’ve learned never to push God away and make Him my enemy, ever, ever. Because He is so for us. Why would I, at our lowest, hurting moment, when something happens, something which we couldn’t control, ‘Well, if God was God, why…'” I said, “Don’t get stuck in the ‘why.’ Bad stuff happens. Broken world.” We’re going to talk about all that stuff. Some things happen, and sometimes we do it, sometimes other things happen. I do know God loves us so much that He was willing to be broken for us. He loves us. Not only does He give Himself away for us, so that we might have life, but He also makes Himself completely available in this life, for us, exactly in those moments. Why would I ever push Him away? No, I’m going to bring you right in Lord, into all the questions, all the hurt, all the pain, right there. Walk with me. God, I also believe something else. You can bring, I’ve been praying into this one, You can bring good out of every adversity. Everything that looks bad is an opportunity for you to show yourself in an amazing and present way. Who can say, all the good you want to be able to bring from what is a very painful, awful thing. I want to honor your goodness. There’s no denying it. You’ve given everything. You give yourself to me now. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Let’s pray. Lord, I do right now want to ask you to just be among us. There are things that we face sometimes that are not easy, but you are able to bring good from them. We know that “All things work together for good to those that love God, and are called according to your purposes.” As we align ourselves with you, we create possibilities that would not be present otherwise. Thank you for that. If there are areas of woundedness that we are having a hard time healing, Lord, I ask that you would get into that infected place by your Holy Spirit. Even now, Lord, perhaps some of us say it with our hands open before you. Lord let your grace flow through me. I want to relinquish these things that are holding onto me, or I’m holding onto, and allow for your healing presence to come into my life in deep ways, small ways, little ways, but ways that bring great movement.
I thank you, Lord. You’re the one that ultimately we can rely upon. We welcome you in. We don’t push you away. In the question places, some questions are never answered to our satisfaction on this side. That’s okay, Lord. We know this. You’ve given yourself. You are the ultimate answer to “why.” It’s your love, your unconquerable, unquenchable love, and the promise of your presence, that is more true than the day that follows night. I ask that you would let your words settle into our hearts. Even now, as we prepare to close this service, God, bless our time of giving and honoring you and bless this song. May it be the closing prayer of affirmation about who you are. We ask this together, in Jesus’ name. Amen.