I feel so empty

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
(Psalm 22:1; NIV).

Lord,

I feel so empty
And despairing.
I cannot pray,
But thirst for you in vain.

How can I live
Without your constant presence?
Let me become
Your dwelling-place again.

How can I face each weary day
Without you?
Nothing but dust,
I long for death’s release.

Show me, once more, your light,
And love, and mercy.
Answer my prayers,
And give me your perfect peace.

My peace I give you
(John 14:27; NIV). 

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you
(Isaiah 26:3; NLT).

________________________________

Seek the Lord

If you seek him, you will find him
(1 Chronicles 28:9; NLT).

Seek the Lord
For he is near;
Take his hand
Each time you fear.

Seek him
When the path is steep;
Let him hold you
When you weep.

Seek him out;
Accept his care;
Stay with him
When you despair.

Seek him
When the way is hard:
He will comfort, love,
And guard.


I will take you by the hand and guard you
(Isaiah 42:6; NLT).


 

Temptation (#1 of 2 linked prayers)

Hear my plea
(Psalm 28:2; NET).

Father God, in weakness,
Jesus, in dismay,
Spirit, in temptation:
Hear my plea.

Father God, in anger,
Jesus, in alarm,
Spirit, in temptation:
Come to me. 

Father God, in sorrow,
Jesus, in distress,
Spirit, in temptation:
You are near.

Father God, in failure,
Jesus, in despair,
Spirit, in temptation:
You are here.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me
(Psalm 23:4; NLT).

Made of dread

Image: Leigh Heasley, Pixabay


🖤

I’m just a worm, less than human
(Psalm 22:6; CEB).

1. I’m made of dread,
Instead of dust,

2. And cling to you in doubt,
Not trust.

3. I plead through pain,
Instead of prayer,

4. And serve you out of pride,
Not care.

5. I offer sin,
Instead of good,

6. And wait for you with fear,
Not love.

7. I seek the dark,
Instead of light –

8. Lord, may I walk by faith,
Not sight.

🖤

We walk by faith, not by sight
(2 Corinthians 5:7; NIV).

Dealing with hurt

This blog is about dealing with hurt feelings. In three short articles, it charts my learning over a period of several months.


 1. My dilemma – written on 19.8.20.

Image: level17-design, Pixabay


The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me
(Job 30:27; NIV).

Introduction
During the summer of 2020, two people hurt me badly, on separate occasions. I decided to be direct with them, and did so as lovingly as I could. However, both reacted to my feedback with anger and blame, and neither was willing to work together towards reconciliation.

My dilemma: Should I speak out, or say nothing?
This breakdown in two significant relationships left me ruminating for many weeks about all that had gone wrong, generating a constant sense of dread. Sadly, this was not a new experience. Dealing with hurt feelings has posed a serious dilemma for me throughout my life: is it better to speak out to those concerned, or to say nothing?

What did Jesus say and do?
As always, when I don’t know what to do for the best, I looked for guidance in the teaching and example of Jesus. However, he taught, and displayed, both outspoken and silent ways of responding to hurt, criticism, and injustice, which I have always found confusing.

For example, on one occasion he stated: If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them, and if they repent, forgive them (Luke 17:3; NIV). 

Yet he also said: If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also (Matthew 5:39; NLT).

So, what happens when I try to follow each of these two apparently very different approaches?

Speaking out
Experience has taught me that when I speak out directly to someone who has hurt me, it almost always backfires. In response to my feedback, they turn on me with anger and blame, or end our relationship. I then react to their hostility with my characteristic endless sense of dread.

Saying nothing
On the other hand, when I say nothing, I allow the other person to hurt me without protesting, absorbing the pain and damage, just as I did with my emotionally abusive mother. This makes me feel powerless, worthless, and depressed.

Thus, whichever approach I try, I generally end up feeling as if life is not worth living.

Forgiveness
Fortunately, Jesus was absolutely clear that whether or not we speak out, we should always forgive those who hurt us. This applies even if they never acknowledge what they have done, and never apologise. Forgiveness gives me something positive to work on during the months of emotional distress which follow each time someone upsets me.

Conclusion
When people hurt me, I see myself as having only two basic choices: to speak out, or to say nothing. Either way, the outcome is equally damaging for my mental health. Not knowing how to resolve this dilemma has plagued me all my life, and remains a serious problem to this day.


After writing the piece above, I began to talk my dilemma over with a few, trusted people for the first time ever. Gradually, my thinking about it began to change, as described in the next article.


2. My action plan – written on 30.8.20.

Image: Jackson David, Pixabay


If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God
(Matthew 5:23-4; NLT).

Introduction
After writing the above article, I spent a long time working out how to improve my ways of relating to those who hurt me. From the insights gained, I gradually put together an action plan to follow whenever a crisis arises.

My action plan
Rather than seeing my response as a stark choice between speaking out and saying nothing, I decided to tackle each situation in a series of stages.

Stage 1: Withdraw, pray, reflect
When someone behaves unacceptably towards me, I will not confront the person involved immediately. Instead, I will simply tell them that I need time to reflect on what they have said or done. I will then withdraw to sleep on the matter for at least one night. Taking time out will enable me to pray, discuss the situation with someone I trust, and think carefully, before responding. This should help to prevent me from reacting angrily in the heat of the moment, with a high risk of permanently damaging the other person, our relationship, and myself.

Stage 2: Decide whether or not to be honest
During the time out, if I decide it is pointless, or inappropriate, to speak directly  to the person concerned, I need take the matter no further. Instead, I will work on praying for them, and forgiving them.

On the other hand, if I decide to tell the other person how their behaviour has affected me, I need to remember that they may have had no intention, or awareness, of upsetting me, and might therefore be very taken aback when I raise the subject.

Stage 3: Speak out briefly, and lovingly
When I decide to give direct feedback, I will do so as briefly and lovingly as possible. I will remind the person of what they said or did, and be honest about how it has hurt me. Anything beyond this is superfluous.

Stage 4: Wait to see how the person responds
If the other person reacts badly, there is no need for me to do anything further. We are all responsible for our own behaviour, and I can’t expect everyone to respond exactly as I wish.  Instead, I will try to put the whole matter behind me, though I admit that I have always found this impossible.

On the other hand, if the other person reacts positively, and apologises, I will accept this immediately, forgiving them completely. We can then be reconciled, and the whole matter will be resolved.

Stage 5: Start afresh
Finally, however badly things turn out, I can try to start afresh each day. Every time I find myself ruminating about what happened, I will remind myself that the matter is now closed, and that it’s time for me to move on.

Conclusion
From now on, when someone hurts me, I have an action plan to follow. My overall aim will be to maintain a careful balance between being speaking out, preserving relationships, and protecting my mental health.


After finishing this article, I made further progress in dealing with hurt feelings, as described in the final piece of this series.


3. My further learning – written on 23.1.21.

Image: Manfred Antranias Zimmer, Pixabay


Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves
(Philippians 2:3; NLT).

Introduction
Despite my hopes, putting together my action plan didn’t make me feel any better about my two shattered relationships. I was still living with constant dread, which drained my already very limited energy. My sleep and dreams were disturbed, and I began to slip into depression. Clearly, my approach to dealing with hurt feelings was incomplete.

Then, one day, I suddenly realised that when I’ve been honest with someone about their behaviour towards me, and they have taken it badly, or stopped speaking to me, there is one more step I can take, in the hope of resolving the situation.

One more step
I can write to the person concerned, saying how sorry I am about everything that has gone wrong between us. I can tell them that I’m praying for them, and for our relationship, and let them know that I long for us to be reconciled. Even if they don’t respond, I will then know that I have done all I possibly can to put things right between us.

This insight enabled me to write carefully and lovingly to the two people who had hurt me. To my delight, one responded with great generosity of spirit, though sadly the other did not reply. However, by sending these letters, I finally managed to stop ruminating about all that had gone wrong. In consequence, my abiding sense of dread slowly began to diminish.

The teaching of Mother Theresa
At this point, I believed my action plan was complete. Some weeks later, though, I stumbled on Mother Theresa’s teaching about how to deal with exactly the kind of hurtful situations that had destroyed my peace of mind for so many months.

In  her book, “The Joy in Loving” (Penguin Books, 2000), Mother Theresa offers brief but powerful advice on how to become more humble, and therefore more Christ-like. The wording varies slightly in different editions of the book, so I have amalgamated the most relevant points into a single list which hopefully maintains the spirit of her approach:

  • Do not dwell on the faults of others.
  • Accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
  • Accept criticism, even if it is unmerited.
  • Accept insults and injuries.
  • Accept being slighted and disliked.
  • Accept contempt, being disregarded, and being forgotten.
  • Be courteous, kind, and gentle, even when provoked.

Inspired by the simplicity and clarity of these teachings, I began to absorb and practice them. Not long afterwards a friend unexpectedly censured me for something which was not under my control. Feeling hurt, I began to defend myself, but quickly recalled Mother Theresa’s wise words, “Accept criticism, even if it is unmerited.” I stopped speaking, and turned away. Overwhelmed by despair, I started to weep. To my friend’s credit, she quickly realised how much she had hurt me. She approached me, apologising profusely. We clung together for a long time in great distress, comforting each other. Eventually I was able to explain how afraid I had been of her sudden anger, and how much her words had upset me. I told her that I loved and valued her, and we were fully reconciled.

Humility, acceptance and courtesy
This was a deeply healing experience, unlike anything  I had previously experienced. Moreover, it was not followed by dread, or depression, which seemed little short of a miracle. I therefore resolved to adopt Mother Theresa’s approach of responding with humility, acceptance, courtesy, kindness and forgiveness whenever someone hurts me.

Conclusion
These three linked articles have described how I resolved my lifelong dilemma about the best way to respond when someone hurts me. I no longer see myself as having a straight, binary choice between speaking out and saying nothing. Nor do I need a complex action plan that relies on how the other person reacts at each stage. Instead, from now on, whenever I am criticised or attacked, I will use the simple, humble approach encapsulated in Mother Theresa’s teaching.

To my delight, this completely resolves my original dilemma, as it is entirely in accordance with the spirit of Christ’s own words: Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also […] Then your reward in heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High (Luke 6:27-9, 35; NLT). 

There can be no finer action plan than this.


Acknowledgements

My warmest thanks to all those who engaged in discussing this issue with me, especially Alan, Dianne, Rosemary, and John. Their contributions have been invaluable. Many thanks also to Ber, whose technical help and personal encouragement enabled me to write and organise this document.

Teach me

Image: Rondell Melling, Pixabay


Lord,

1. Teach me, when I’m foolish;
Forgive, when I’m unkind.

2. Save me, when in danger;
Soothe, when I’m maligned.

3. Brace me, when I’m tempted;
Console, when I’m afraid.

4. Warn me, when I’m angry;
Calm, when I’m betrayed.

5. Hold me, when I suffer;
Support, when I despair,

6. And guide my soul in death, Lord,
T0 meet you in the air.

 


References

1. Teach me how to live, O Lord (Psalm 27:11; NLT).

Forgive us our sins (Luke 11:4; NLT).

2. Save me and rescue me (Psalm 71:2; NLT).

Let your unfailing love comfort me (Psalm 119:76; NLT).

3. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure (1 Corinthians 10:13; NLT).

With his love he will calm all your fears (Zephaniah 3:17; NLT).

4. Don’t sin by letting anger control you (Ephesians 4:26; NLT).

I begged my allies for help, but they betrayed me (Lamentations 1:19; NLT).

5. Your right hand upholds me (Psalm 63:8; NLT).

From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help (Psalm 130:1; NLT).

6. Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me (Psalm 23:4; KJV).

The Lord will guide you continually (Isaiah 58:11; NKJV).

We […] will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17; NLT).

The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

May all discover you

Image: Valerio Romane, Pixabay

1. Lord,
May all discover you today,
Turning to you,
And trusting in your care.

2. Lord,
May all rejoice in you today,
Embracing you,
And casting off despair.

3. Lord,
May all remain in you today,
Walking with you,
And facing every test.

4. Lord,
May all unite with you today,
Living in you,
And finding perfect rest.


References

1. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me (Jeremiah 29:13; NLT).

Repent of your sins and turn to God (Matthew 3:2; NLT).

He cares for those who trust in him (Nahum 1:7; NIV).

2. His name is the Lord – rejoice in his presence! (Psalm 68:4; NLT).

Israel will embrace her God (Jeremiah 31:22; NLT).

He lifted me out of the pit of despair (Psalm 40:2; NLT).

3. Remain in me, and I will remain in you (John 15:4; NLT).

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).

In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

4. Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; NIV).

Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV).

Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28; NLT).

I pray for all

Pray continually 
(1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

1. Lord,
I pray for all the sick,
For those who tend and care;
For all the dying, all the dead,
And those left 
In despair.

2. Lord,
I pray for all who search
For your beloved Son;
And those who don’t believe in you,
Though you love everyone.


References

1. Pray for one another (James 5:16; NLT).

My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken (Jeremiah 8:18; NLT).

2. Keep on seeking, and you will find (Matthew 7:7; NLT).

He loves us with unfailing love (Psalm 117:2; NLT).

God is within


My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
(Psalm 22:1; NIV).

1. When you sigh
That God has left you,
Don’t lose faith:
He is within.

2. When you think
You’ve been forsaken,
Don’t give up:
He is within.

3. When you fear
You’ve been deserted,
Don’t lose heart:
He is within.

4. When you feel
You’ve been abandoned,
Don’t despair:
He is within.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me
(Psalm 23:4; KJV).


References

1. You are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16; NLT).

2. There is a spirit within people, the breath of the Almighty within them (Job 32:8; NLT).

3. There is […] one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT).

4. Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38; NLT).

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:8; NIV).