The heart doesn’t like to feel pain. It tries to avoid it at all cost. It denies it, dismisses it, busies itself to not feel it, or stuffs it way down deep inside to hide from it, out of sight out of mind. It’s something we may struggle to find words for. But it’s there, doing damage under the waterline of our visible lives, molding us in ways we are not even aware of.
Stuffed down grievances create a wedge between our heart and the heart of the Father. They can leave us stuck, stifling aspects of our spiritual growth.
Losses shape us. They may cloud our view or distort our thoughts about God, ourselves, or others. They remind us we missed out on something we thought we needed, or time with a loved one we thought we should have had. They can leave in their wake a trail of regret, sorrow, longing, anger, or bitterness. We may feel unseen, unheard, overlooked, left out, or left behind.
Losses weigh on us. We may have compartmentalized the heartache tied to our loss and not let grief do it’s full work in us. With each subsequent “death”, some buried grief might rise to the surface and mingle with fresh grief, intensifying the pain, or making it feel insurmountable and unbearable. Instead of processing it, we stuff it down again and press on, adding weight to our days that might go on for years.
Not all losses are tied to physical death. We may have lost a friendship, relationship, marriage, trust, love, or respect, lost a job, our home, our sense of security, our health, our innocence, felt overlooked, been denied something important, missed out on the care we should have had or the basic necessities in life, been a child of divorce or abuse, and the list goes on. In short, life didn’t turn out the way we hoped and dreamed it would. We have suffered in some way.
Not all losses are recent. Some may be fresh and raw. Others may have taken place a few years ago. Some may have happened a lifetime ago. All are real, and all have a lasting impact on who we are and who we are becoming, whether or not we think about our losses on a conscious level.
Most importantly, ungrieved losses affect our relationship with our Heavenly Father, the God of all comfort. The One who understands our pain, our shame, and weeps with us. In the midst of all that buried emotion, we very well may be harboring thoughts against God. Though we know intellectually He cannot do anything wrong, our unaddressed emotions may be telling our heart to feel otherwise. We may have felt overlooked, rejected, or abandoned by our Father in a time of desperate need. Harboring that kind of unaddressed bitterness builds a wedge between the Father’s heart and ours. And if there’s a wedge between us and God, there is most definitely a wedge between our own soul and spirit, and between us and others.
Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV) says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Wedges in our relationships prevent us from loving wholeheartedly. If we are harboring bitter thoughts toward God, we are not loving Him with our whole heart, and that causes a breakdown in our relationship. Maybe you’ve been feeling it, but couldn’t put your finger on the root of it.
If we are not loving God well, we are not receiving His love well in exchange. And without the ability to receive His love well, we cannot effectively carry out the second greatest commandment, to love others and ourselves. If we are not loving, we are not thriving, and we may be grieving. We may be nurturing wounds that God ultimately wants to heal. Wounds that may have laid barren for days or decades.
It’s one thing to let grief sit in your heart and do damage under the waterline for as long as you choose to leave it there. And it is entirely another to acknowledge your ungrieved griefs by taking an honest account, laying them at the Father’s feet, forgiving whomever needs to be forgiven, and letting grief do a healthy work of healing in your heart.
In order to heal from the inside out, we must offload the pain in our heart to the feet of the Father. We can do that by acknowledging the hurt that remains, putting words to the painful emotions and situations we have been carrying in our heart, and handing them to the Father with our voice in prayer.
There is great value in giving our hurt a literal voice. Putting words to our pain and speaking them out loud makes it real and undeniable. As we express our hurt, we might release the pain through tears, whining or moaning, raising our voice, gritting our teeth, clenching our fists, and the like. It’s good to get it out. God is not afraid of it, nor should we be. He wants our honesty.
RECLAIM YOUR HEART: Lord Jesus, I know You love me, and You want me to love You with my whole heart in return. Do I have any ungrieved grievances buried in my heart creating a wedge between me and You? Between me and myself? Between me and someone else?
Allow the Father to search your soul and reveal what He wants to heal. Once you have a list in hand, draw away to a quiet place, acknowledge your hurt before the Lord out loud in a prayer conversation, then ask Him what your heart needs to know about the places long devastated.
Next, ask Him who you need to forgive, and specifically, for what. Then use the following prayer for everyone on your list:
I choose to forgive [name] for [one thing they did]. That wounding event made me feel [name every emotion that comes to mind]. (Repeat this part of the prayer until you work through all offenses on your list for this person, then continue…)
Lord, I choose not to hold these feelings against [name] any longer. Thank You for setting me free from the bitterness I have harbored against [name]. I now ask You to bless [name], in Jesus’ name. (Finish by praying a short prayer of blessing over them.)
***Repeat this prayer for every person on your list.
Those who allow Jesus to bind up their broken hearts and comfort them in their mourning will receive joy, praise, a right heart, and restoration in exchange for their mourning, despair, and desolation. (Isaiah 61:1-4)
Those who do the hard work of healing may need to show themselves some grace in the days that follow, as they may feel a bit somber. Close your eyes, picture yourself at the foot of the cross with Jesus, and allow the Holy Spirit to comfort and minister to you in your sorrow, and let grief do it’s work in your heart. The sacred moments He paints in your minds eye will be worth their weight in gold, reshaping your perspective and replacing the sorrow that once took up real estate in your heart.
Grieving old losses that are deeply entrenched in our soul, that have shaped who we are, is hard and holy work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a safe and skillful counselor. (And know that I am here for you if need such a soul.)
Regaining life and hope is the reward of working out our ungrieved griefs. The Father promises to rebuild our ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated (Isaiah 61:4). Oh, that we would give Him room to do so!