Why is there so much tension in families, particularly during the holidays? One reason may be that Satan is on a mission to destroy families, and he will use any opportunity or gathering he can to do so. Healthy families create strong individuals built up in love and ready to conquer the world for God’s glory. The devil can’t allow that to happen, so he sneaks in whenever he can to sew seeds of discord into families. As discord grows, we respond in our flesh and we wind up hurting each other terribly.
Wounds get ignored, then they fester, and it gets nasty. Every year the holidays become a painful reminder of current hurts and deep wounds from the past. And gathering together is just another way to open these wounds while the enemy watches you suffer.
God would love to use this holiday season to do what He does best: to restore, to heal, and to bring life into our broken relationships. For some of us, this may seem impossible, but it’s important for us to realize this: God is on our side. He wants to restore and wants to heal. He’s working in ways we don’t see. But we have to be willing to give Him full access to our hearts. Here are a few ways we can start.
Ask Jesus to heal the hurt and help us forgive
If we’ve been hurt deeply, the first step is to ask the Lord to bind up our wounds and heal our hurts. It’s easy when we get in our feelings to think that our wounds are too deep, that it is impossible to forgive, and the only way to feel better is for the person who hurt us to make things right. But that’s not true.
Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” That means God can heal emotional wounds. But have we asked Him to? Or are we holding on to our hurt because of unforgiveness?
There are billions of sermons and books on the dangers of unforgiveness in a believer’s life. We might feel like we don’t have the power to get rid of it, but remember: the same power that rose Jesus from the dead lives in us. We can let go of bitterness, but it’s not going to be through our own strength.
Don’t give up on the relationship
Once we’ve made peace with how a person is wrongly treating us, it’s easy to become calloused in our hearts. “I didn’t need them anyway,” we say to ourselves. “They’re never going to change, so why try?” We may have already forgiven them in our hearts but we hold no hope for reconciliation.
Do we want to be like Christ? Do we want to understand His heart? Then we aren’t allowed to give up. God’s heart longs for reconciliation. Love always hopes (1 Corinthians 13:7) This doesn’t mean that we have to trust the person or put ourselves in a position to get hurt again. But we can’t throw in the towel. We have to continue praying for restoration.
Avoid “always” and “never”
It’s easy when someone hurts us to say, “They always do this. They never think about me. They always forget my kid. They never thank me.” Always and never are big words. We have to be careful how we use them.
“Always” and “never” often cause us to forget the good moments. Like there was that one time they thought of you, but always and never cloud them out.
Stop Making Lists
Love always hopes, but it also keeps no record of wrong (1 Corinthians 13:5) If we are mentally reviewing past hurts in our minds, this will not lead to reconciliation. We have to give God our lists. We may even want to write it down and burn it. But we have to give Him our grievances.
Pray for Revelation
Lastly, we have to ask God to help us understand the other person. When people are biting and hurtful, it’s the fruit of a deep spiritual need. There is probably something going on in that person’s life that is deeper than the surface level they show. We have to ask God to reveal their need to us so we can see them the way He does. God can give us specific things to pray for that person that will help restore their relationship with Him first and foremost and then will overflow to restoring their relationships with others.
Not sure how to begin? Here’s a brief prayer to get you started:
I know that you long to heal and restore broken relationships. You hate to see discord between your children. Please help me, this season to not hold onto bitterness or nurse a grudge. Please take away all the pain and hurt in my heart and fill it with love, joy, patience, and understanding.
Help me to see those who hurt me the way you see them. In all my interactions, help me to choose gracious words. Refrain my mouth when my flesh rises up. In my anger, help me not to sin.
Please give me the power to choose forgiveness even when it seems impossible.
I thank you for not giving up on me and for forgiving me of my sin. You have shown me so much grace. Now, please teach me to extend it to others.
And as for those who hurt me, Lord…I ask that you would reach into their lives with the same love and grace you extended to me. Help them to turn their hearts fully to you, to surrender in every area of their life so that they can fully know your love and eventually show it to others. Amen.