Mercy. Hezekiah understood this. In his song that he wrote after God spared him from his deathly sickness, he wrote,

Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love You have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for You have cast all my sins behind our back (Isaiah 38:17).

That’s that place in the middle of your back that you can’t reach except with a long-handled back scratcher.

We humans have trouble with our memories. I think that Satan has a field day pulling out all the files where he’s written down the terrible things that other people have done to us (most likely at his instigation). He runs his finger down the page, and then chooses a particular hurtful moment. Then he sends off one of his demons to catapult a memory stone into our thoughts. We fall right into his web, and allow those memories to rattle around in our mind like sharp stones causing fresh bruises and scrapes that fuel our anger and bitterness. Does this cycle sound familiar?

We think we’ve forgiven and forgotten all about it. Then boom, out pop the uglies. Oh, how tiresome and energy wasting that cycle is. What good does it do? In my experience, not a whit. In fact, it causes great harm.

Mercy and forgiveness is valued by God much greater than our self-sacrifice, and let’s read that as victimization or self-indulgence in martyrdom. If the Jews had learned this after the exile, then they would have been able to recognize Jesus for Who He is.

How can we be different? Mercy is that thing that God gave us while we were still sinners. Forgiveness is what He gave us as He watched His Son go to the cross. According to the world’s view, that is impossible. I look around and see so much hate and so much unforgiveness and bitterness. What is so sad is that most people cannot see unforgiveness for the cancer that it is. They wallow in it then pull the mantle of victimization around their shoulders and wear it like pride.

Nursing the hurt, reveling in the injustice of it all, we are merely playing into Satan’s hands and opening our armor for the fiery dart of bitterness. Make no mistake, we can hide our feelings from friends and loved ones, but we cannot hide them from Satan. He knows our weakness and exploits it to the hilt of that dart.

There is the sting.

Not the hurt from the betrayal, or the hurtful words, or the lack of support that we feel when another professing Christian stabs us. The sting comes from the salt poured in the wounds by Satan himself.

There are several steps to take to better deal with these anger and bitterness feelings.

Realize you really do have a choice

This is the most important thing to understand when recovering from hurt. When anything hurtful happens, we have a choice in how we deal with it. We can wallow in anger, self-pity, and self-importance blaming the persons who sank the sword into our backs, or we can open our heart to God. We can seek His balm, lay our burden at His feet, and trust that He will deal with the problem. Only God can heal that kind of weeping sore.

Once the choice is made to give God the problem – that means complete control over it – we can move on to the next step.

Decide to give mercy and to forgive. It absolutely is a decision. Just like deciding to lose weight or to quit smoking, or deciding on a worship lifestyle instead of a worldly lifestyle.

Understand it will take lots of time. We have the Holy Spirit inside us and we have the mind of Christ, but we are not God. It takes a lot longer for us because we’ve got so much more influencing us such as the world of mass communication, the world of the rich and famous, the world of corporate America, and let’s not forget the influence of our church and pastor.

Set the thoughts of anger aside. Paul said to get angry but do not sin. That kind of anger is over some injustice. We all have a sense of justice which is instilled into us. It is part of the image of God. God’s justice is absolutely perfect; however, our sense of justice is tinged with personal biases as well as our sense of what is right and wrong. With God, justice is not blind because God deals in basic white and black with no gray areas. Only the red blood of His Son is bright in His eyes. Righteousness is singular and specific to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. We have inherited a sense of justice from our Father, but it isn’t perfect. When someone does you or someone you love wrong, or even does wrong to an innocent child, our sense of justice is bruised and we cry out, “That’s not fair!

Nothing that hurts a child of God is a justified hurt. God does not hurt us. He may discipline us and chastise us for our unruly behavior, but He will never harm us. He may allow something to hurt us as a consequence of bad judgment or bad choice, but more often than not it is our pride that gets hurt, and when it is bruised, it is painful.

Therefore, setting aside wrathful thoughts also includes setting aside pride. It only gets in the way of forgiveness and sets a flame to anger. Giving it all over to God releases us from the chains of slavery that Satan locks and grips so tightly. Truly, His vengeance cuts the heart of the perpetrators of betrayal and backstabbing. Much more so than any revenge we could dream up. So, let go and let Him take care of it. Do that by asking forgiveness for not only ourselves, but for those who did us wrong, not to sing some mournful song, for pity’s sake.

Hezekiah recognized what caused his great bitterness, and he was thankful that God was merciful to him. How can we do differently?

(Excerpt from When Christians Hurt Christians. If you or someone you know has been deeply hurt by someone this book will help work through that hurt, anger, and bitterness.)