The holidays can be a time of joy, celebration and excitement. But for some, the holidays drag out feelings grief, loneliness and the distress of broken relationships.
We may try to bury these difficult feelings in traditions and decorations, but at the end of the day, they come just the same.
One of the hardest things for me is facing the broken relationships in my life during the holiday season. In a time so focused on joy and peace.
How can we face the turmoil of broken relationships with those around us?
It is important to consider what God calls us to as Christians in these relationships. We have a responsibility to respond to hurts and dysfunction in a different way.
When anger and hurt fill your heart, please consider these 3 things to find healing and hope.
We Must Forgive
Before you jump into all of the reasons why it’s crazy to forgive the one who hurt you, let me tell you that I understand. I understand what it is like to be hurt in a way that is unforgiveable. I understand the hesitation and emotional block that comes along with a broken heart.
And yet, God says clearly in the scriptures that we must forgive.
It is essential to understand that forgiveness is not merely a feeling. Feelings come and go and they are subject to our circumstances. But forgiveness is not subject to our circumstances; forgiveness is a position or an attitude of the heart.
We don’t always feel forgiveness. In fact, forgiveness doesn’t even mean that you stop hurting.
For so long, I struggled with the guilt of failing to forgive because I believed that forgiveness meant to never feel the hurt again.
But forgiveness does not mean to absolve of all hurt. Forgiveness is to release the burden of vengeance or justice to God. It was once said to me that forgiveness is releasing the chokehold that you have on someone.
So how do you forgive someone?
1. Pray for God to change and heal your heart. This is a process and eventually the feelings will come. But in the meantime, we must continue to pray (sometimes multiple times a day!) that God will work in our hearts to change them and to heal them.
2. Give your anger to God. Justice is up to God. The ones who have hurt you will face the judgement of God. It is only up to us to hold to God’s promise that He is good no matter what and to commit to loving others at all times.
3. Just do it. Tell God that you forgive the one that hurt you. Tell Him every day. We must commit to an attitude of forgiveness and in time it will feel more natural.
The Question of Reconciliation
The idea of reconciling or restoring a relationship is difficult for many of us. We often strive to mend broken friendships or family relationships and it doesn’t work out. Or we may fear the interaction and the hurt that came with a relationship and we may dread the idea of restoring it.
This can bring on loads of guilt. When you hear the call to reconcile with those who you’ve been hurt by, it results in shrinking back and feeling ashamed for not trying or for failing when you do try.
But it is important to know that full reconciliation is not essential to following God’s call. We are called to try and reconcile with our brothers and sisters in Christ and to seek peace with everyone, but if another is not responsive, we cannot harbor guilt or shame.
Reconciliation is to be done within specific boundaries.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
This command should not be taken lightly, for living at peace includes more than reconciliation. We are called to be peacemakers and to live to serve the Lord and serve others above ourselves. However, when it comes time to seek reconciliation with those who have hurt us, we aren’t always able to complete the process. As much as it depends on you, you are to seek reconciliation.
Oftentimes in a broken relationship, this isn’t possible and that is okay. God calls us to forgive and to not overcome evil with evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Our hearts are what is important to God. Don’t get so overwhelmed with the desire to reconcile a relationship that it becomes an idol before God.
Christ came to reconcile us with Him. We are called to a ministry of reconciliation, to bring our hearts together with God and to seek to bring others into a restored relationship with Him. We are called to seek peace, but we must remember that oftentimes a peaceful relationship doesn’t mean an open and vulnerable relationship.
We must place God above our desire for a restored relationship with another. And we must consider healthy boundaries in any relationship that has been broken as we consider seeking reconciliation.
As you consider reconciling broken relationships in your life, it is essential to consider healthy boundaries. Diving into a relationship with someone who hurt you deeply can be dangerous and it can lead to a toxic and hurtful relationship all over again.
In Proverbs 4:23 we are called to guard our hearts above all else. And in Philippians 4:7 we are told that when we present our requests to God with prayer and thanksgiving, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
We must be careful with the relationships we desire and seek to grow. In praying continually, we can find the healthy steps and boundaries that are necessary for a reconciled relationship.
When both parties are seeking after the Lord, this process is a lot easier. But oftentimes, it becomes difficult to restore a relationship with an unbeliever.
2 Corinthians 6:14 says, Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
In seeking to restore relationships with unbelievers we must remember that we aren’t to be yoked (or bound) in relationship unequally. We can seek peace and seek to love and forgive, but we must be careful when opening doors in a relationship can bind you together with an unbeliever. We must keep God first and foremost as we grow in these relationships.
Take the steps necessary to find healthy boundaries in your relationships, especially as you seek reconciliation.
I've created a worksheet to help you discover what healthy boundaries are necessary in your relationship. I encourage you to prayerfully work through it and it is my hope that you will find healing! (If you're already a subscriber, you can find it in the free resource library!)
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