Bible Verses about Sadness to Give You Hope

Sometimes it’s hard for believers to allow themselves to feel sad. After all, we say to ourselves, isn’t the joy of the Lord our strength, and shouldn’t we rejoice in all things? This places an enormous amount of pressure on us to grin and bear whatever we may be going through because “it’s what we ought to do.”

Allowing ourselves to feel sad may feel like we’re betraying our faith or are being “bad Christians.” Moreover, we may feel like we’re letting the people around us down. Many of us simply struggle to sit with despair, and we do not have the language to articulate our sadness and lament.

The picture we get from the Scriptures is more complex, and we learn from the Bible that sadness is a valid human response to situations in life. What does the Bible have to say about sadness and despair?

Jesus, the man of sorrows

About 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah spoke about the Servant who would bear our infirmities and sorrows, a ‘man of sorrows…familiar with suffering(Isaiah 53:3). This Servant was Jesus. Apart from his suffering on the cross, we also know that Jesus felt loss at the death of his friend Lazarus, even when he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead.

The famously short verse “Jesus wept(John 11:35) shows us that sadness in the face of circumstances such as death is entirely normal. Jesus felt pain, and he expressed it – it is a human thing to do.

Sometimes, your tears are your food

The book of Psalms, which was the songbook of the ancient Israelites and is a go-to book for many today, conveys the gamut of human emotions. From rage, fear, peace, joy, sorrow and so much more, Psalms is the place to go to see people being human in worship before God.

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? …I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. – Psalm 6:2-3, 6-7

Here, the psalmist cries out to God in the middle of despair because of hardship that he is experiencing, possibly because of his own disobedience. His enemies seize upon this to mock him and vent their animosity.

Sometimes you might end up in a tough spot because of poor choices that you’ve made. And then some people in your life may choose to pile on criticism, making you feel even worse. The anguish and the tears that result from this are only natural. The cry “How long, O Lord, how long?” comes from the depths of our being – we want the pain and the hostility to end.

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” – Psalm 42:3

At other times, through no fault of our own, we end up in dire circumstances. We have been faithful and honest, but the result was getting fired by a corrupt superior. People mock us, “Ha! So much for this God of yours. So much for being honest!” This is heartbreaking. The psalmist paints a portrait familiar to those who have grappled with such deep sadness – tears become your food day and night.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?Psalm 13:1, 2

This deep darkness where it feels as if God himself is hiding his face, and the psalmist continually wrestles with his own thoughts, seems familiar to those wrestling with sadness and depression. It feels never-ending, and one feels forgotten. The psalmist is honest before God about these feelings, asking God to intervene.

Lamentations

There is an entire book of the Bible about sadness and lament in the wake of devastating events. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC by an invading army, the city lies deserted, feels haunted and is full of groaning from those left behind as they search for bread.

This is why I weep,” the writer says, “and my eyes overflow with tears. No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit. My children are destitute because the enemy has prevailed(Lamentations 1:16).

Sometimes we are confronted by scenes of misery and destruction, as in the wake of a natural disaster or a man-made catastrophe. In the face of dispiriting scenes, the writer goes on – “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city(Lamentations 2:11).

We can mourn and be sad . . . but we have hope

Sadness is, unfortunately, a part of human life. The encouragement believers have is that we can mourn and be sad about life circumstances but with the hope that the Lord delivers us from our sorrows. It is not a hopeless, endless sadness.

In trying to encourage Christians in Thessalonica who were concerned about their loved ones who had died, Paul says believers are not, “to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him(1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). Our grief is not tinged with hopelessness, but with the knowledge that there is a life beyond this one.

Additionally, many of the psalms have a note of hope in them – hope that God would intervene to deliver them from their enemies and their circumstances. Psalm 42, where the writer speaks about their tears being their food night and day, has this refrain: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God”.

Psalm 13, as heavy as it is, ends this way: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me(Psalm 13:5, 6).

In Lamentations 3:19-23, Jeremiah penned these well-known verses: “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

In other words, these writers trusted that God cared enough for them to not leave things as they were. That kind of hope is precious because it helps us to keep our sadness in perspective, reminding us that God will set all things right.

There will come a time . . . 

Sadness and all other things that cause us to mourn have an end date. There will come a time when all sadness ends. This gives us hope for today and tomorrow. At the end of all things, this is the scene the Bible paints:

I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with people, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” – Revelation 21:3, 4

Conclusion

We cannot and should not pretend that we aren’t sad when we are. To do so diminishes our experience and that of others. It also denies the reality that we’re living in a broken world where things happen that cause sadness.

Beyond the grave, however, there is resurrection. Beyond this present darkness, there is light. Beyond this current hardship, there is liberation. No situation is beyond hope in God’s power to redeem and restore. We mourn, yes, but with hope.

If you are feeling sad or depressed, consider speaking with a Christian counsellor to help you process these feelings. Not only will they help you to see what the Bible says about this, but they will also give you tools to effectively engage this area of your life.

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15 Verses for Grief: Hope in the Midst of Loss

If you’ve lost a loved one, it’s natural to feel gutted and in shock. You might feel overcome with emotion, lost, unsure of where to turn, and as though a heavy weight has taken up residence on your shoulders.

You’ve probably thought many of the following:

  • I’d give anything for one more hug, kiss, or to hear her voice one more time
  • I feel guilty for not spending more time with him
  • This is like a nightmare I cannot wake up from
  • I don’t know if I’ll ever get over this
  • Why did God have to take him?
  • She was my hero; I talked to her every day—what will I do now?

Grief can be overwhelming and the way you process it will look different than the way another person processes it. Your experience is unique to you and the journey to the other side of it will not be the same. If your relationship with the individual was healthy and close, you might feel an extreme sense of loneliness. If your relationship was strained, you may feel immense guilt or confusion.

Grief is not linear. It can be messy and mixed and some people may experience stages of grief and others may not. It can come in waves and ebb and flow. The wonderful news, however, is that regardless of how grief is taking shape in your life, the Lord is present in the midst of it.

He sees what you are going through, the emotions running through your heart and mind, and that you need comfort. And, He has provided strength for you through the scriptures as you navigate your grief. There are many bible verses about loss, but we have put together a list of the top 21 we feel speak to the depth of what you may be experiencing and how God shows up in the midst of it.

15 Comforting Bible Verses for Grief

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3

In this verse, we see God’s nature revealed. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. When you’ve experienced the death of a loved one and feel brokenhearted and wounded, remember that God will bind you up and heal you.

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow week with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. – Psalm 31:19

This is a cry from David’s heart. Many people who have lost a loved one don’t know what to say to God. They go silent and can’t bring themselves to pray. When you don’t know what to say to God or what to pray, let this scripture be the cry of your heart. David felt just like you feel, and if all you can do is recite this scripture every single day, give yourself permission to do so. God in His mercy will hear your cry and be merciful.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18

This scripture gives us another glimpse into the character of God. He is close to you and He will save you.

Weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning. – Psalm 30:5

When the nights seem long, when darkness surrounds you, remind yourself that God’s word promises that “joy comes in the morning.” Things are never as dark as they appear in the night. The joy may not come immediately the very next morning, but each morning as time passes, the joy edges closer.

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her heart. – Hosea 2:14

This verse is another great comfort. It reminds us that God speaks tenderly to our hearts. In this time of grief and mourning, as you’re searching for verses about death, remember that some of the most comforting scriptures might be the ones that don’t even mention death, but speak to how God relates to you. During this time, when your heart is fragile, it’s a great comfort to know that the Lord will speak tenderly to your heart.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. – Psalm 73:26

Use this Scripture as a declaration and reminder of the hope you have in the midst of your grief. Your flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of your heart. Lean on Him in your confusion and pain.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. – Matthew 5:4

This verse is a favorite of many who are looking for Bible verses for death. You can rest in the assurance that comfort will come to you when you mourn and you will be blessed because of that comfort. God will not leave you alone in your grief. His word promises that He’s near and He will often send people to surround you in your time of suffering.

My eyes have grown dim with grief. My whole frame is but a shadow. – Job 17:7

In the midst of his grief, Job was vulnerable and communicated how he felt. Cry out just like Job. Tell God how you feel, tell your friends how you feel, or journal how you feel. You do not have to brush your grief under a rug or bury it in hopes that it will go away. Give expression to your feelings and allow them to pour out.

In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. – 1 Peter 1:6-7

This verse reminds us that, as Christians, our trials are temporary and that they will result in praise, honor, and glory when Jesus Christ is revealed. Your eternal home and perspective shift the permanence of what you’re currently feeling. Although what you’re going through is very difficult, it will also strengthen your faith.

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion. So great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. – Lamentations 3:31-33

God shows compassion and His love is unfailing. This verse also reminds us that God does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone, which is a great truth to remember when you are tempted to blame God.

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. – Psalm 10:14

The Lord is a very present helper. Imagine Him taking your grief in His hand and examining it. Next, imagine him becoming your helper. God’s sees your trouble and His nature is to help you.

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. – Romans 9:2

You are not alone in your feelings and grief. This verse is a reminder that many before you—even those will tremendous faith—experienced great sorrow and anguish of heart.

When you need to put words to your grief, but can’t, turn to this Scripture. Recite this Scripture to God or to a friend. Allow yourself to mourn and take comfort that others have mourned and are mourning just like you.

And many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. – John 11:19

This Bible verse for the passing of a loved one reminds us that God has knit within us a desire to comfort others after a loss. Ask the Lord to send many believers to comfort you in your time of loss, and thank Him as He does. This support and community will be a crucial part of your healing and recovery.

David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father. When David’s envoys came to Hanun in the land of the Ammonites to express sympathy to him. – 1 Chronicles 19:10

This is another reminder of how God impresses upon His people to show kindness and express sympathy. Ask God to surround you with people who will show kindness and sympathy as you navigate your grief, whether it takes you a few months or years.

You may have people in your life who don’t understand what you’re going through or who grow impatient with you as you try to find your way out of grief, so it can be very important to be surrounded by those who show kindness.

Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. – Jeremiah 31:13

Again, this verse points to God’s heart for replacing hurt and pain with comfort and joy.

We hope these verses for grief and the nature of God as comforter and healer assist you on your journey as you navigate the loss of a loved one.

Save this link and return to it again and again when you need to turn to the Lord for strength. If you know someone who has lost a loved one, share it with them as a source of comfort.

Christian Grief Counseling

A Christian counselor can be a great help and support when you’ve lost someone you love and it is not uncommon for many people who have suffered loss to see a counselor on their healing journey. Contact us to learn more about our Christian counseling for the loss of a loved one.

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Feeling Anxious? Bible Verses for Dealing with Anxiety

We have all been there – the night before a big meeting, exam, sport or some other momentous event; the morning of a job interview; the day before the rent is due; a few hours before your date arrives; the first day of school; the moments before getting up to speak to an audience; seeing on your calendar that your next doctor’s appointment is fast approaching, or that a certain family member is coming to visit – all of these and many other situations can induce anxiety.

Most of us have things in our lives that can trigger an anxious reaction. Whether from fear of people or circumstances that seem bigger than our capacities to handle them, anxiety is a common reaction we have to what life throws at us.

What does the Bible have to say about anxiety? Is it possible to joyfully meet life head on without worrying?

A Command and a Promise

Often, the first verse that comes to mind when talking about anxiety is from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Philippi – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

These two verses are a bit of a powder keg, carrying both a command and a promise. The command not to be anxious can sound a little like asking someone to stop doing something as natural as breathing. When you struggle with something like anxiety, whether occasionally or more frequently, being told to simply “stop” seems unhelpful.

However, Paul doesn’t simply instruct the Philippians (and us) to just stop being anxious. It does us no good to stop one behavior without replacing it with something else. Instead of being anxious, we are told that prayer accompanied by thanksgiving should replace our anxiety.

Paul urges us to redirect our attention away from our fears, away from the circumstance that’s inducing anxiety, and toward God who is bigger than our fears and our circumstances. Not only does being thankful make us feel good, but giving thanks also reminds us of the other occasions God has come through for us. We can face this new situation with the confidence that we’ve gone through other circumstances and emerged in one piece.

God Cares for You

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus reminds his followers of twin truths – worrying doesn’t help, and God cares for you. Firstly, Jesus reminds us why we should not worry about our food and clothing:

Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!Luke 12: 24, 27-28

Because God takes care of everything else in nature, like birds and plants, we should also expect him to take care of us. We should not be anxious about our daily needs because God cares for us. As Peter put it, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Jesus also points out the futility of worrying: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-6). Our worrying and anxiety, Jesus says, does us no good, and so we’re better off not giving in to those impulses.

“Therefore,” Jesus says, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). In place of worry, what are we to do? “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Again, our focus is being taken from our circumstances to the God who stands behind and is bigger than our circumstances and concerns. Occupying our hearts and minds with the larger, pressing reality of God’s Kingdom is a big enough concern to engage our whole being. It puts our daily concerns into a proper perspective when they threaten to overwhelm us with anxiety.

Don’t Fear the Unknown

One of the biggest generators of anxiety and worry is the future. We don’t know whether we’re going to get the job, or whether we’ll get through this illness, or if we’ll meet our expenses this month, and this can cause us to worry about how all of this will be resolved. In addition to the care that God has for us, Jesus tells us that God knows we need these things that concern us (Matthew 6:32).

God knows all things, from our thoughts to all our comings and goings. The Psalmist puts it like this – “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). There is nothing about our life which is an unknown to God. There are no surprises for him.

As a result, we can step into every day with the confidence that whatever happens, none of it will surprise God, and that his children are in his loving hands. Even when hard times come, we can face them with confidence knowing that God knows the outcome, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). If God, who is love, is working for our good in all things, even the scary stuff, that gives us the courage to face each day without anxiety crowding in.

How is it that many people can display great boldness in the face of perilous situations? How could Daniel go into the lions’ den, or his three friends into the fire without hesitation? How other heroes like Esther take their lives in their hands and face down kings?

Knowing that we are loved by God, who is working out our good in all things, drives out fear (1 John 4:18). Sometimes we are fearful of the power that certain people have over us and become anxious to please them. Armed with God’s promise that he will never leave nor forsake us (such security!), we can say with confidence – “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).

He has Overcome the World

The world we live in is not safe. A variety of hardships come our way all the time. At a time of great testing for his disciples, Jesus gave them this promise – “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The first part of that promise is something most of us would prefer Jesus hadn’t said. However, it’s true. We do have trouble in this world. We do encounter many things that bring us discomfort and anxiety. If Jesus hadn’t said the first part, the second part would have felt naïve and shallow. But because Jesus knows exactly what we’re facing, his encouragement to take heart because he has overcome the world is that much more potent.

After he’d been crucified and raised from the dead, and just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus said this to his disciples – “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus wields this power and exercises it for his people.

We can cast our anxieties and cares upon him, knowing that he can take care of all our todays and tomorrows. He is working all things for our good – even the rough patches we go through – and so we will not be afraid of or anxious about what comes our way. Take heart! Jesus has overcome the world.

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5 Comforting Bible Verses for Mourning: Finding Hope in God’s Word

With every death, comes a sense of loss. While friends and loved ones may comfort you in your time of mourning, they cannot always understand the gaping hole of loss that you feel, particularly if they have not experienced a similar type of grief.

God’s Word will speak to your heart and mind, as the Lord alone knows exactly where you are.

There are many Bible verses about loss that you can turn to, trusting that through meditation on Scripture, God will give you the peace and hope that you need and the strength to get through each day.

5 Bible Verses for Mourning

Here are 5 Bible verses for mourning to comfort you in a time of loss:

You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God in whom I trust.” – Psalm 91:1-2

If you’re experiencing the deep depths of sorrow and it feels impossible to function, remind yourself through this and other Bible verses about loss that, as a Christian, you live under the shelter and protection of the Almighty God, creator of the universe and loving, trustworthy Father, who numbers every hair on your head.

He promises refuge from the raging torrents of emotion that come with grief, and his strength and safety is nothing less than that of a fortress. Psalm 62:1-2 repeats this imagery, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” We may feel shaken, but we never move into a position of vulnerability, outside of the realm of his secure grasp.

What’s more, providing comfort is God’s speciality – “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3). In the midst of grief is God himself. He will meet us, give us Himself, fill the void left by our loved ones, warm our hearts, lift our burdens and swaddle us in His love. Through deepened faith and trust, we can experience deep and true joy, even in our heartache.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. – Isaiah 43:1-3

This verse does not refer to loss specifically, but it follows on from the idea above that God does not leave us alone in our times of difficulty. We don’t have to figure out how to handle grief on our own; he walks every step of the way with us.

Think of Jesus who was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus lived life in this broken world and knew the torment of pain. As our perfect High Priest, he fully understands our anguish, and intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25), as does the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26).

He empathises with us when it feels as though the waters will close in on us or the flames will engulf. God hates death even more than we do, and that is why he sent His son. In our lowest moments, He is Immanuel – God with us.

May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.– Romans 15:13

One might not think that Bible verses about loss would contain words like hope, joy, and peace, but that is the miracle of living a life redeemed by Christ. When it feels like we’ve been stripped of a physical blessing in this life, our soul is laid bare and all we have is our faith in God, the source of hope.

We may not feel like we have faith, and we may not always see God as the source of hope, but our feelings do not change the reality of who God is and what He has done. Despite the reality of our loss, God can give us hope and strength for each day.

“When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me,” says Psalm 138:3. Psalm 112:1, 7-8 offers further encouragement: “Praise the Lord! Happy are those who fear the Lord. They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord. Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid.” When life calls us to carry on with the day-to-day, despite our emotional state, God will grant us peace and a steady heart to do what we need to do without fear.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.Revelation 21:4

The reason why we, as Christians, can have hope, is that our grief, no matter how devastating, is temporary. We grieve genuinely (when in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 Paul says to not “grieve as others do who have no hope,” he assumes that grieving is an important and necessary process) but do not despair. We have full sorrow, but also full hope – the end is coming and it is glorious!

As Paul says in Romans 8:18-3, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” If this life brings nothing but pain, sadness, and disappointment; it’s okay – everything is going to be made right again when Jesus Christ returns. As we meditate on Bible verses for mourning and look at Scripture for loss, we can be assured that our tears will not be there in heaven.

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. – 1 Thessalonians 4:14

If the person whose passing you are mourning was a Christian, that means that they are more alive than ever, and are experiencing life, joy, and glory beyond anything that we can imagine, in God’s presence. It may seem that God did not “heal” or “protect” them, but He has in fact done that in a much deeper, fuller way.

When we know for certain that our loved one is free and alive, it can lessen our sadness as we reflect on the reality of heaven. When we meditate on Bible verses about loss, we can remind ourselves that our loss is not eternal – we will be reunited with our loved one again.

Christian Grief Counseling in Huntington Beach

Dealing with loss is never easy, and sometimes God’s Word seems distant. In these instances, reach out to a Christian friend who can pray for you, and even read these Bible verses for mourning to you. A big way in which God provides great comfort to us is through the body of believers, supporting each other in times of crisis.

If you’re looking for additional support in the form of Christian counseling, please don’t hesitate to contact one of the grief counselors in Huntington Beach listed in our counselor directory.

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What Does the Bible Say About Anger?

Have you ever wondered, “What does the Bible say about anger?” If so, this article is for you.

Anger is an emotion that everyone experiences, but it’s also an emotion that is viewed quite negatively. There seems to be a consensus in society that anger is straight up wrong but this is a misguided perception. To classify anger as inherently wrong is like saying that everyone who struggles with anger issues is “bad” or even “evil.”

That’s just not the case. Most people don’t get out of bed and “decide” to get angry for no reason. Anger is an emotion, and like all emotions, it’s usually provoked by something.

So, what does the Bible say about anger? The Bible talks about two kinds of anger: righteous anger and unrighteous anger. It’s important to remember that God expresses anger in the Bible and if anger is an emotion that God expresses, then it’s impossible for it to be evil.

God’s anger is in response to injustice, which makes it righteous anger. Christians can also become righteously angry about injustices. God’s anger is justified because it’s a demonstration of His love and the pain that He experiences when His children are hurting themselves and others.

It is unrighteous anger that is sinful. Flying into a rage over something that is not injustice is when anger issues become more serious. This kind of anger can lead to a lot of problems in relationships, employment, and school and can also lead to legal action.

What Does the Bible Say about Anger?

If you’re struggling with anger issues, then the Bible is a great place to turn for help and advice. We’re going to look at five verses about anger the Bible, to get God’s perspective on how anger should be handled.

Don’t Let Anger Control You

And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil . . . Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32 (NLT)

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul is really direct about the consequences of being controlled by your anger. When your anger issues are in control of you, you’re opening yourself up to attacks from the enemy, Satan, who is always looking out for weak spots that he can exploit.

What does it mean to not “let the sun go down while you are still angry”? Well, this part of the verse is talking about how you can settle into a state of constant, bubbling anger that rapidly becomes feelings of bitterness and resentment. As we discussed earlier, anger in itself isn’t a sin, but holding onto it and allowing your anger to fester is not healthy.

Paul goes on to give some practical advice (although in practice it’s not quite as simple as it sounds) about getting rid of “bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander.” I don’t think there’s an expectation that as a Christian you will never get angry, but this verse exhorts you to take control of your anger by practicing kindness and forgiveness just as God practices kindness and forgiveness towards us.

Don’t Be Quick to Respond in Anger

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.James 1:19-20 (NLT)

In the heat of the moment, getting excessively angry can cause a whole heap of trouble. If you’re naturally quick-tempered, you’ll know how easy it is to say something in anger and immediately regret it. The trouble is, once you’ve said it, you can’t take it back, and hurtful things said as an angry outburst can tear relationships apart.

If you’re prone to flashes of temper, then heeding the advice in this Scripture on anger can help you to manage your anger issues. When we respond in anger, we’re often foregoing the “quick to listen” part of these verses. Taking the time to listen to the other person’s perspective instead of immediately flying into a rage can allow you space to consider a more godly reaction.

You don’t have to agree with someone else’s views, but nor do you have to become angry. When you’re slow to speak, you have a better chance to choose the right words that can convey your views without causing a massive argument. Unrighteous anger is almost always a knee-jerk reaction. Practice righteousness by carefully considering your response, instead.

Follow Jesus’ Example

It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area, he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” – John 2:13-17 (NLT)

Jesus’ anger in the Temple is a great insight into what righteous anger looks like. It’s easy to justify your own anger issues as being righteous, but this passage of Scriptures about anger might cause you to reconsider whether your anger really is righteous.

Getting angry about injustice and wrongdoing in the way that Jesus did is okay. Jesus was consumed by anger because of the disrespectful way that the people were behaving in the Temple court. It was God’s house and they were using it as a marketplace. By doing that, they were insulting God and Jesus had every right to fly into a rage, given that He was preparing to die for them.

If you find yourself trying to justify your anger as being righteous, you need to search your heart to see whether this is really the case or if you are looking for an excuse to be angry. Jesus was angry on behalf of His Father, and his response was to berate the people for turning the Temple into a den of thieves.

Getting angry on behalf of someone else can be righteous but it’s not an excuse to behave inappropriately. Notice that Jesus wasn’t angry about something that was done to Him. You may feel that it’s justified to be angry if you’ve experienced an injustice, but the Bible really talks about righteous anger being about injustices that happen to others. It’s hard to have a righteous perspective when you’re the victim.

God’s Approach to Anger

The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations.Numbers 14:18 (NLT)

As Christians, our ultimate goal is to be more like God (or Christlike), so it makes sense that we should follow God’s example when it comes to anger. This passage in Numbers reminds us that although God does get angry, it takes a lot to make Him angry.

If you have anger issues and find yourself becoming very easily angry, you might want to spend some time thinking about how God would react in your situation. Or, even more poignantly, what the world would be like if God was more hot-tempered.

This passage also takes into account that although God doesn’t get angry easily and He is filled to overflowing with love for his children, and He forgives our transgressions, He is just in dealing with those who are unrepentant. This leads to the next verse.

Revenge is for God to Take

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19 (NLT)

When you hold onto anger, it quickly becomes resentment and bitterness and can lead to a desire for revenge. If someone has hurt you deliberately, then it’s natural to feel that you deserve some kind of recompense, in the form of revenge. However, the Bible is firm in reminding us that it is not for us to take revenge.

It can be tough to surrender your desire for revenge and trust that God will ensure that ultimately justice is served. No matter how difficult it is to let go of your anger and resentment, not doing so will only hurt you more. Holding onto anger can cause depression and anxiety not to mention giving the devil a hold over you.

Christian Counseling for Anger Issues

When you’re struggling with anger issues, it’s helpful to explore what the Bible says about anger, but you may also benefit from getting in touch with a Christian counselor. Christian counseling gives you the opportunity to discuss your problems with anger with a trained professional who will bring a Biblical perspective (not only a psychological one) to each session.

Working with a Christian counselor, you can explore more Scriptures about anger and discuss your feelings about the Biblical understanding of good and bad types of anger. You’ll learn tools to help manage your anger in a more godly way and have a safe space to discuss the underlying issues that may be affecting your anger issues.

Featured photo:
“Wandering,” courtesy of Priscilla du Preez, unsplash.com, CC0 License

Helpful and Instructive Bible Verses about Relationships

God has designed relationships to be a safe, healing, and fun place for which we can fully express ourselves, fully serve and love one another, and fully glorify God. Because we live in a dysfunctional and fallen world, our relationships don’t always match the picture God has in mind.

  • Fathers abuse children.
  • Mothers abandon.
  • Brothers take.
  • Sisters scream.
  • Spouses dishonor.
  • Children rebel.
  • Friends disappoint.
  • Co-workers lie.
  • Bosses mistreat.

Yet in the midst of the pain and dysfunction, relationships are also a birthplace of beauty and can be an example of God’s love for us. They can be the very places we experience the depths of God’s joy, compassion, companionship, and more.

  • Fathers play.
  • Mothers stay.
  • Brothers give.
  • Sisters comfort.
  • Spouses respect.
  • Children obey.
  • Friends showup.
  • Co-workers uplift.
  • Bosses promote.

There is nothing more precious and rewarding than to have a friend or family member who knows you and loves you in all of your glory and faults. There is nothing more fulfilling than having a bond with someone so deep that he or she can finish your sentences, anticipate your responses, belly laugh with you in the middle of a store, and share in the joys and sorrows of life.

Some relationships can be easier than others. You might not speak for months and then pick back up exactly where you left off without a hurt feeling or missed beat. Others require effort, intentional knitting, and building.

From our family relationships to our marriages to our friendships, there are many Scriptures on relationships that can guide us to building a wonderful and enriching community of support and love.

Bible Verses about Relationships

Below you will find some helpful Bible verses about relationships, including verses about friendship, Bible verses for couples, and more.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. – Ephesians 4:2

In our relationships, God instructs us to be patient and to bear with one another in love. When you’ve been disappointed, when a spouse or child or mother or father sins, we’re asked to be humble, gentle, and bear with that person.

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. – Proverbs 10:12

When you’ve been wronged or severely hurt, it can be easy to hate that person. Hatred stirs up conflict and paves a pretty path for further hurts and wrongs to continue. Love covers all wrongs, even the worst, most unforgivable ones.

When God’s love flows through you, He allows you to love and forgive the people who hurt you. That doesn’t mean you’ll go on to have a really strong relationship with them or that a relationship will continue, but it does mean it can dissolve without leaving remnants of wreckage in your own life.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. – Proverbs 17:17

“A brother is born for adversity speaks” to the role a brother can play in helping you persevere and overcome. A true friend will love at all times and that love may take the form of support or it may take the form of compassionate rebuke when he or she sees you’re doing something harmful.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:3

In relationships, the Bible tells us to do our very best to maintain unity and peace. We may disagree on a topic of topics, have different opinions, or interpret something in a different manner, but we’re to maintain unity as we navigate (or try to sort out) those differences.

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” – Ruth 1:16-17

This Bible verse speaks to the beauty of commitment in relationships. Ruth would not leave her mother-in-law. She pledged to follow her and even went so far as to ask God to punish her should anything but death separate her from her mother. That level of commitment is inspiring and it’s also rare in this world. How often do we allow instances to separate us from the people we love?

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Genesis 2:24 addresses the bond that marriages are to be built on. A husband should hold fast to his wife and become one flesh with her. It’s a wonderful vision of the intimacy and closeness available to and promised for husbands and wives.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. – Romans 13:8

Imagine if all we owed one another was love? What a world that would be! This Scripture for relationships is a goal to strive for. Owe your friends and family members love. What it joy it will be for you to repay and for them to receive.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3

This verse is a great example of how we’re to act in our relationships. Every thought, decision, and action should be one of humility and one that values the other person above yourself. It can be hard not to make a selfish decision, especially if you feel like you deserve to be selfish.

You might have a list of “evidence’ supporting all the reasons why you deserve X, Y, and Z. You might also have a long list of “brownie points” that supports how great of a friend, spouse, child, etc. you have been. But, God calls us not to be conceited or vain and to value others even if we don’t feel valued.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

You don’t have to look far to see people bogged down with burdens. Society at large is stressed, anxious, and depressed. People have lost their jobs, spouses, parents, and children to death and division. In our relationships, we’re called to come alongside others and help carry their burdens.

There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24

In every relationship, we have a choice to destroy or stick close. Will our words, actions, and thoughts destroy or draw us closer? The Bible tells us that a real friend will not destroy, but will stick closer than a brother.

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. – James 4:11

Friends and family members are not meant to speak badly about one another or gossip about each other. In our relationships, we can be honest and express our feelings, but we can do so in a way that it does not slander the other person.

Christian Counseling for Relationship Issues

Relationships are meant to add to our lives on this earth. They’re also the very place we’re called to bring glory to God on this earth. We’re to glorify God in them and return praises that arise because of them back to Him.

Not all relationships in your life may be good or functioning as God designed. If you’d like greater support for an unhealthy relationship or want to improve your marriage or relationship with your parents, we’d love to help. Contact us or browse our counselor directory to learn more about our Christian counseling for relationships.

How the Enneagram Personality Test Can Encourage Personal Development

Personality tests can mesmerize you with the possibility of understanding yourself – or someone else – better than you do now.

The Enneagram has been used for hundreds of years and remains one of the most popular personality typing systems. In ancient times this system was shrouded in secrecy, but today anyone can have access to it.

One version of the Enneagram is often used in spiritual formation programs. It consists of an exploration of personality types through the grid of Christian growth. It is sometimes implemented in the Christian counseling setting and has proved to be a valuable tool for self-understanding in the clinical context.

The word personality relates to the word for mask in Latin. As children, our personality develops as we learn to interact with our world, as we connect with others, and as we try to avoid pain.

As we get older, our behavior becomes so habitual that we think it defines us. We might think the personality is who we really are, but our identity actually resides under the mask. Unlike the way we present ourselves to the world, our true identity is revealed when we let our guard down.

When we work through the Enneagram personality test, we can start to figure out the patterns to our personality type and the perspective we have on life. This way, we can connect with our inner self.

If you’re familiar with the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, you’ll know that system specifies 16 types of personalities. By contrast, the Enneagram describes 9 types, each of which can be compared to a characteristic of God himself, since we are created in His image.

The book, The Road Back to You, was written by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile to be a Christian primer on the Enneagram. The authors share how this system can help us get to know ourselves better:

“What we don’t know about ourselves can and will hurt us, not to mention others. As long as we stay in the dark about how we see the world and the wounds and beliefs that have shaped who we are, we’re prisoners of our history.

We’ll continue going through life on autopilot doing things that hurt and confuse ourselves and everyone around us. Eventually, we become so accustomed to making the same mistakes over and over in our lives that they lull us to sleep. We need to wake up.”

Waking Up to Who You Really Are

How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?Proverbs 6:9

The famous theologian John Calvin said, “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”

To really get to know ourselves in the context of the world around us, we have to understand:

  • The perspective we have on the world,
  • What experiences and influences have shaped our perspective,
  • And how our worldview is different from others’.

When a child is born, their identity remains brand-new and untarnished. As that child grows and develops, her experience in her family of origin will strongly influence her perspective on life and the world around her.

As that child grows older, the first step in understanding herself happens when she realizes other people have different perspectives than hers, mostly based on their own family environment.

Since we are all sinners, all family relationships involve some level of brokenness and pain. Some people experience this brokenness much earlier or more intensely than others do, but it is there at some level for everyone.

So how do we cope with the inevitable pain of living in a fallen world? Each of us develops our own ways of responding. Eventually, our responses become habitual and so deeply ingrained we think they define us.

However, our response to a broken world doesn’t fully describe our core self, but our provisional self. We might manage just fine with these patterns of relating, but eventually, we start to uncover the ways in which our coping mechanisms are failing us, usually in our late twenties or even later. At that point, we can start the journey of discovering our true self underneath our ingrained patterns of relating to the world.

“Your True Self is who you objectively are from the beginning, in the mind and heart of God, “the face you had before you were born,” as the Zen masters say. It is your substantial self, your absolute identity, which can never be gained nor lost by any technique, group affiliation, morality, or formula whatsoever.

The surrendering of our false self, which we have usually taken for our absolute identity, yet is merely a relative identity, is the necessary suffering needed to find “the pearl of great price” that is always hidden inside this lovely but passing shell” (Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr).

Discovering Your Enneagram Type

So what are these nine types we’ve spoken about? The types are grouped into three triads, also known as “instinctual centers.”

The first triad is called the gut/instinctual triad, containing types 1, 8, and 9. The core emotion is anger.

The second triad is called the heart/feelings triad, containing types 2, 3, and 4. The core emotion is shame.

The third triad is the head/thinking triad, containing types 5, 6, and 7. The core emotion is fear.

How do you figure out where you fit into these types? There are several methods you can use, and you can find them online, although not all are of equal quality.

No matter what your test results are, they can’t offer a definitive analysis. They’re just a starting point for discovering and exploring your type.

Figuring out your type can actually be somewhat difficult because it can involve getting to know yourself at a deeper level and unveiling personal truths that may cause discomfort. Have you heard the quote, “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations” (author unknown)? The same can be true for figuring out your Enneagram type.

Talking to a therapist who uses the Enneagram in a clinical setting can help you uncover your type and use this tool for self-understanding to make improvements in your emotional health.

The Nine Types: What Are They?

The following list describes each one of the types and how that particular characteristic can be a reflection of the image of God in us. No type is inferior to another, and none of them are inherently bad.

  • Type 1, the Perfectionist, reflects God’s goodness and rightness.
  • Type 2, the Helper, reflects God’s love and nurture.
  • Type 3, the Achiever, reflects God’s hope and radiance.
  • Type 4, the Romantic, reflects God’s creativity and depth.
  • Type 5, the Observer, reflects God’s wisdom and truth.
  • Type 6, the Loyalist, reflects God’s faithfulness and courage.
  • Type 7, the Enthusiast, reflects God’s joy and abundance.
  • Type 8, the Challenger, reflects God’s power and protection.
  • Type 9, the Peacemaker, reflects God’s peace and oneness.

What Happens After I Know My Type?

When you’ve nailed down which type you fit into, that’s just the beginning. Knowledge alone can fascinate, but it won’t necessarily lead to change. The more you learn about your type, the more you can observe yourself and how you act in accordance with it.

Thomas Merton wrote: “Sooner or later we must distinguish between what we are not and what we are. We must accept the fact that we are not what we would like to be. We must cast off our false, exterior self like the cheap and showy garment that it is. We must find our real self, in all its elemental poverty, but also in its great and very simple dignity: created to be the child of God, and capable of loving with something of God’s own sincerity and his unselfishness.”

We’ve identified a core emotion for each type, and along the same lines, each type has a different focus of attention:

  • Type 1: What’s wrong? What needs to be improved?
  • Type 2: How can I meet other people’s needs in order to get their approval?
  • Type 3: Which tasks can I accomplish to receive praise and recognition?
  • Type 4: What’s missing?
  • Type 5: How can I detach and remain an observer so I can protect my personal boundaries and privacy?
  • Type 6: What can go wrong? What is the worst-case scenario?
  • Type 7: What is fun and stimulating?
  • Type 8: How can I take control to protect myself and those around me from vulnerability?
  • Type 9: How I can meet the wants and needs of others in order to keep the piece?

Knowing Yourself

How can we apply the Enneagram personality test into our lives as we live out our Christian faith? As we abide in Christ, we grow to be more like him. We can’t change on our own. The Enneagram provides a lens through which to view the process of transformation.

Quiet becomes a key component of this process – a quiet heart, a quiet spirit, a quiet path toward God. Each one of the three triads provides one version of quiet that can help on the path of transformation:

Stillness: For the gut/instinctual triad

In The Sacred Enneagram, Christopher Heuertz writes, “Stillness interrupts the addictions of gut people and prompts a reevaluation of their drive.” Stillness requires intention; it’s the opposite of frenetic busyness.

If you are in the gut/instinctual triad, and you stop all your activity and get still, you can reflect on the ways you connect your identity and worth to everything you’re busy doing. You might find that you tend to be overly controlling of your circumstances. Stillness can open your eyes to self-discovery and lead to transformation.

Solitude: For the heart/feeling triad

Heuertz writes, “Solitude teaches us how to be present – present to God, to ourselves, and to others with no strings attached.”

If you are in the heart/feeling triad, you may struggle with over-dependence on other people, whether connecting to them or comparing yourself to them. You need solitude because, with your emphasis on relationships, you may struggle to break free of unhealthy patterns when you are around other people. Solitude can unlock the door that keeps you trapped.

Silence: For the head/thinking triad

What are your true desires? What do you fear? What do you sense God is saying to you? If you are in the head/thinking triad, you probably have a busy mind full of active thought, and quieting your inner voice can help you connect with God’s voice and understand your true self.

Again from Heuertz: “The Enneagram shines a light on what obstructs our essence from emerging and opens our path to God. The quiet practices discussed above allow God to begin moving us back towards our true identity.”

The Enneagram helps with self-discovery, but it also helps us understand each other. We can develop compassion as we realize how differently others perceive the world. We can learn to be better listeners as we hear others’ perspectives without judgment.

The simple act of listening improves relationships immensely. How do other people think and respond? How do they live in their minds differently than we do in ours? The beauty of the Enneagram is that it allows us to walk in someone else’s shoes and realize the inherent value in other perspectives.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

The Enneagram in Daily Life

At the end of the day, you can choose from a variety of personality tests, but hopefully, you can see the unique approach and worth of the Enneagram. It doesn’t just help you put a label on yourself or other people; it offers a way forward to finding your true, authentic self as you were created to be in the image of God.

When you have support on this journey, you’ll probably make even more progress towards positive change. Growth takes time and self-awareness, but as you continue learning more about yourself and others, you can deliberately change unhealthy patterns and realize your own internal biases and your unique perspective on life.

Most importantly, you can grow in compassion for yourself and other people. For example, the Enneagram personality test can be used in couples therapy to help spouses understand each other better and grow in mutual sympathy and love.

You might feel unsettled the first time you observe yourself acting out some of your type’s negative patterns. If you’re committed to growth, you’ll have to work on those patterns and face the truth about yourself.

But the freedom of self-discovery lies in the potential for transformation. We can get to know the root of our thoughts, emotions, and behavior, and we can start to let go of unhealthy habits so our true identity can flourish.

Now What?

As you demonstrate humility and willingness to change, God can transform you far beyond what you could imagine. Please reach out to one of our Christian counselors if you would like help taking the first steps of self-understanding through the Enneagram.

Recommended resources:

  • The Road Back to You, Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile – A good primer for beginners.
  • The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heuertz – A spiritual perspective on discovering your true identity as a Christian.
  • The Typology podcast with Ian Cron – A series devoted to exploring the nine Enneagram types.
  • Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr – Rohr is one of the most well-known voices in Enneagram circles, and in this book, he writes about the path of transformation for believers.
Photos:
“Reflecting Enneagram”, Courtesy of Rob Fitzel, www.fitzel.ca, Used by Permission; “On the Lion”, Courtesy of Jeremy Renke, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “The Road Ahead”, Courtesy of Vlad Bagacian, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Passage”, Courtesy of Hasan Almasi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

How Forgiving Others Can Set You Free

Forgiveness. It’s such a loaded topic. There’s so much pain and doubt associated with that word — maybe bitterness, resentment, anguish, or grief.

Something shook you to your core, caused you deep sadness, and now you wonder: how can I move on from this? What does God expect me today? How can I forgive someone when I’m still dealing with the emotional fallout of how they’ve hurt me?

Does forgiving others mean pretending you weren’t hurt? Does it minimize the pain that person has caused or the harm they’ve done?

The Meaning of Forgiveness

We all tend to have a personal definition of forgiveness. Depending on how we grew up, we might think forgiving others means accepting an apology, sweeping things under the rug, or talking it out. People have many different approaches to resolving a conflict. How does forgiveness apply in every situation?

What about the person who hurt you? They apologize. You forgive them. You assume this means they won’t commit the offense again. But then the person hurts you more.

Now you feel betrayed and confused. Was the person ever really sorry? Are you supposed to keep forgiving and acting as if nothing happened?

Extending mercy can seem impossible when someone has grievously sinned against you, when they continue to hurt you in the same way, or when you feel you must pretend that everything is okay when it’s not.

We have to cut through the confusion surrounding how we define forgiveness. What’s the motive behind it? What does the process of forgiveness entail? What should we do with patterns of harmful behavior that are forgiven and then repeated over and over again? How can we address the pain without living in bitterness?

The Complication of Emotions

We struggle because of the grief and anger we experience after being hurt. We may have thoughts like, “Why should I have to forgive them? Why don’t they treat me better?”

You might feel like you have to dismiss these thoughts to forgive someone, but acknowledging your emotions is crucial to the healing process. That way, you can work through them instead of stuffing them down, only to have them pop up again later and make things even more complicated.

Making the Decision to Forgive

Questions about forgiving others abound. Here are some you may struggle with:

  • Should you immediately “forgive and forget” the sin of the person who hurt you?
  • What does forgiveness look like on a practical level?
  • Do you have to communicate your forgiveness to the person who hurt you? If so, how?
  • Does God give us a time limit for how long we can take to forgive someone?
  • Is there a biblical process?
  • Are there examples in Scripture for us to follow?

As Christians, we know we are obligated to forgive. So, if there’s a time we’re struggling with the hurt someone has caused us, we often feel guilty and ashamed that we can’t “snap out of it” and immediately go on with life.

Scripture does have answers to these difficulties. We need to study the biblical principle of forgiveness, from God to us and from us to each other. Then, seeking God in prayer for wisdom, we can apply these principles to our lives and relationships.

One of the most definite statements we’ve heard on forgiveness came from a teenager who said, “You don’t need an apology to forgive. The Bible has taught me how to forgive others and is a constant reminder that I’ve received forgiveness as well.”

When They’re Not Sorry

There are some critical aspects of forgiveness we need to explore:

  • What is forgiveness?
  • What is not forgiveness?
  • Is there a timeline for it?

When people aren’t repentant, we can still forgive them. We see this in Jesus in one of his last moments on this earth. He prayed for the people who were crucifying Him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34

Jesus demonstrates for us that if someone hurts us and doesn’t even realize it, we still have the freedom to forgive them.

This kind of forgiveness is a powerful act. How can we “let someone off the hook” who doesn’t acknowledge the offense? The world around us won’t understand. But we know that grace is a gift from God. When we extend grace unasked, we bless the person who hurt us, and we also benefit our spirit.

When Jesus forgave those who put him to death, the criminal hanging next to Him heard it. He asked Jesus to remember Him. Jesus responded with compassion and love, setting the most excellent example for us. He said to the criminal, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:34

When You’re Hurt Again

So you go through the process of forgiveness and feel that now, all will be well!

But then the person who hurt you does it again. How many times should we forgive a person who keeps hurting us? If we get angry the next time, does that mean we never truly forgave them in the first place?

These situations can make us very confused. Should we give this person space in our lives to continue hurting us? Can we stay away from them so they won’t cause more damage? How do we forgive, yet keep ourselves emotionally safe?

Scripture addresses these situations as well, teaching us how many times we should forgive someone. The Bible also discusses the concepts of restoration and reconciliation (which are distinct from forgiveness itself).

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18:21-22

So we see that Jesus wants us to extend grace over and over again, just like He does for us. No matter how many times the person hurts us, we should be willing to show them mercy, as we have received mercy.

Forgiveness is a matter of the heart. We humbly acknowledge that we are sinners in need of grace. If we are a believer, God has forgiven us of our enormous sin debt against Him. So we turn to another and extend grace to them, knowing we have no right to demand payment from them for their debt against us.

How does this apply to physically or emotionally dangerous situations? Forgiveness means letting go of the desire for revenge or retribution. It means not seeking repayment for someone’s sin debt against us.

But forgiveness doesn’t preclude the wisdom of stewarding our bodies, minds, and hearts, and taking action to keep ourselves safe. With a humble, forgiving spirit, we may remove ourselves from a dangerous situation, or distance ourselves from a person who is emotionally damaging.

Forgiveness doesn’t equate to the restoration of a relationship, or reconciliation with the person who’s hurt us. Forgiveness is a one-way street. Reconciliation is a two-way street that requires both people to acknowledge their sin and be willing to change sinful behavior by God’s grace.

As you can see, forgiveness isn’t simplistic at all! It’s between you and God. He alone knows your thoughts and motives. He can give you the grace and wisdom you need to discern what’s required for any situation, whether that be forgiveness, emotional distance, or the restoration of a relationship. Take time to seek Him, and if others misunderstand you in the process, trust that He understands you.

The Hurt That Lasts Years

Some people will never be in our lives again because of the significant damage they’ve caused us. Sometimes we may have removed ourselves emotionally from something that happened a long time ago.

We might be okay with lingering subconscious resentment and think that the process of forgiveness isn’t even worth it. If we no longer think about it, we’ve forgiven that person, right?

Consider whether any past hurts still give a foothold to bitterness in your soul. There is intentional work to be done if this is the case. You don’t need to uproot your grief or undo the damage they caused. It means you can find freedom from any unforgiveness that holds you hostage while still acknowledging that what the other person did was sinful and wrong.

Read this beautiful Scripture that ties together God’s forgiveness for us, our forgiveness for others, and our prayer life:

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25

This Scripture demonstrates that forgiveness happens in our hearts and it’s between God and us. It takes time to process our pain, as tempting as it may sometimes be to sweep it under the rug. God wants us to open our hearts and lay our hurt before Him, so we can forgive without making excuses for the other person’s sin.

What about when you are the person in need of forgiveness? Think of the guilt or shame you feel when you know you’ve sinned against someone. Consider the relief of being fully and freely forgiven. God can grant you the grace to offer that gift to someone who has hurt you. As you do so, you will remember His loving forgiveness for your sin and His care for you that does not diminish when other people sin against you.

When the Relationship is Ongoing

As we’ve seen, forgiveness has many implications for our lives, and it can take many forms as we forgive:

  • Someone who never apologized
  • Someone who continues to sin against us
  • Someone who we are still in a relationship with, whether that be a spouse, family member, friend, coworker, etc.

How do we manage our relationships when we are committed to forgiving others when they hurt us?

Sometimes we don’t feel confident enough to confront someone about how they’ve hurt us, so there’s never an opportunity to resolve the issue. And often if we do face someone about the pain they’ve caused, they don’t take responsibility for what they’ve done. They may not apologize, or they may offer a surface-level apology and expect us to move on quickly.

When someone is uncaring and harsh, can we still love them? Can the power of our love motivate someone to change when nothing else would? With God, all things are possible.

In the New Testament, we read of a practical example of forgiveness among Christians, including the grief caused by the person who sinned:

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent – not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient.

Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven – If there was anything to forgive – I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake. – 2 Corinthians 2: 5-8, 10

Loving someone when they don’t deserve it can unlock the door to renewal for both you and the person who hurt you. If the person is repentant, we have the freedom in Christ to comfort them and help them cultivate the motivation to change their damaging behavior.

Again, biblical love doesn’t mean setting yourself up for physical or emotional abuse. It doesn’t mean ignoring your right to be safe. If you are struggling with a situation like this, please reach out for help so you can apply biblical principles in a way that is wise for your circumstances.

The Next Step

The pain caused by others can have a varying degree of impact on our lives, depending on the severity of the offense. We may experience hurt, sadness, grief, anger, betrayal, and trauma as a result of someone’s actions towards us. The counselors at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling can help you process these emotions and work towards finding freedom through forgiveness.

Taking the next step is a courageous act, and it’s one you don’t have to carry alone. If you are struggling with someone who is still in your life, you may be able to bring them to counseling too. Our family counselors are available to help you work through the process of forgiveness together.

If you are the one who has caused the hurt and you’re struggling with guilt and shame, we want to help you find freedom in God’s grace and the restoration of your relationships.

Forgiveness and freedom are available to you today. Let us help you take the next step in your journey.

Photos:
“Hands and Flower”, Courtesy of Lina Trochez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Crying Woman”, Courtesy of Thought Catalog, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hand Across the Water”, Courtesy of Lukas, Pexels.com; CC0 License; “Woman Waiting”, Courtesy of Caleb George, Unsplash.com; CC0 License