Forgiveness Amid Hurt: How to forgive those who hurt you

July 30th, 2017

If you are human…check, working in ministry…check, dealing with other humans in ministry…check, you will get hurt…check….

Hurt Happens in Ministry

I’ve been in two very different ministry settings in my 12 years in youth ministry and in both places I saw and experienced hurt from people within the ministries. When I went into ministry, I “knew” people were human and would hurt each other. I “knew” ministry was hard. But in truth, I knew nothing.

I was blown away by the fact that Christians could hurt each other that deeply, that badly. I was shocked at how Christians, just like non-Christians, would throw others under the bus just to save their own skins. I was stunned to find a good many non-believers acting more Christian than Christians themselves.

The rose-colored glasses I wore after graduating college came off rather quickly and to be honest, the first time I really experienced this…I was shaken to the core. I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into career-wise and couldn’t get over the fact that people claiming to be followers of Christ could act in such ways.

That fear and pain goes to an entirely different level when we are personally stung and not just on-lookers…the hurt just aches and goes so very deep.

Hurt and Forgiveness

Hurt incurred while in the setting of ministry can be extremely unsettling and forgiveness, ironically, can seem so very, very far away. I have been one to really struggle with forgiveness when hurt, much preferring to stay angry and hold a grudge. However, knowing I needed to forgive, I often felt/feel a bit lost as to where to start.

Something my father once shared has helped me over the years and I hope might guide you in your journey toward forgiveness. He said,

“Sometimes I realized I needed to stop praying that I could forgive someone. Because to be honest – I didn’t WANT to forgive. I realized I needed to start my path of forgiveness further back. I first needed to pray that God would give me the desire to forgive. Once I sensed I wanted to forgive – then I could start praying that I would actually forgive. Often it’s a two-step process. Praying that we would want to forgive and then praying that we would forgive.”

I have had to do that. Because in truth I DON’T WANT to forgive. I want them to hurt as much as I do. I want to nail them for something, anything to cause pain. So first I must get to the place where I want to forgive and once there, only then move onto the path of actually forgiving my offender.

If you are in ministry long enough, you will be hurt. Why? Because we are fallible humans working with other fallible humans. And the road back to healing is fraught with pain and anger as we have to work through our thoughts and feelings again and again. It will take time. It will take tons of energy, tears and prayer.

But having gotten to the point of healing/forgiveness after being personally hurt numerous times (and yes, I have to travel this same path of forgiveness each and every time), I’ve come to realize how utterly freeing it is to let go of that baggage. I won’t promise easy. Forgiveness NEVER is. I can promise peace…a peace that is only found on the highway of forgiveness, salted with a little grace.

Sarah Vanderaa is currently serving as a full-time youth director in a church located in the south suburbs of Chicago. She is currently in her 11th season and is excited to see what the year will bring. On her rest days, she can often be found behind a computer writing and updating her blog, while drinking lots and lots of coffee. In between naps, she still finds time to read novels. You can connect with Sarah through her blog at WWW.UNLOCKANDRELEASE.TUMBLR.COM or her Facebook page @UNLOCKANDRELEASE


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