“Not now, sweetie, I’m busy.”
“Go ask mom.”
“I can’t. I’m going to the mall with Julia tomorrow.”
“I’d rather go to the movies.”
“What did you say? I wasn’t listening.”
It hurts when those we love are too busy for us. It doesn’t just hurt; it breaks our hearts. It is also a pain Jesus understands more deeply than we can imagine, not just because He knows your pain—and He does, so deeply—but because this is how the ones He loves treat Him all of the time. The number of things that we choose instead of Jesus is nearly endless. It is something we all do far more often than we care to admit.
What are the things that get between us and our loving Savior? Some of them just get a hold of our short attention spans; others we pursue feverishly because we’ve forgotten how to live without them. In the same way that we have adjusted to television as background noise to every room and exploring absolutely anything through the screen of a phone, we have grown so used to sinful activities that we don’t even realize how unnatural they are to the heart of God. In fact, our hearts are full of things that devastate His.
I was sitting in my room, praying hard, in anguish over the Scripture that had stood out to me. I had been hurt by someone close, not just once or twice, but for years. Now the Lord was confronting me in the the words that echoed in my head:
But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. ~Matthew 6:15
I had read these words so many times before, but this time they broke me. In my pain, I was hurting the only One who could heal me, and I was putting of barriers of anger to keep Him away. Still, that pain and bitterness had become so much a part of me, that I knew I couldn’t stop.
For days, it was all I could pray about. I needed to be free. I wanted to be with Jesus again. Finally, He showed me what the true nature of my bitterness. Anger frequently filled me thoughts, but not constantly. The fact is, when I had nothing else to think about, I would go looking for bitterness without even realizing that was what I was doing. My bitterness was a hobby. It was a pastime that let me focus on myself. It didn’t make me feel happy, but it made me feel justified. It was enough to fill my mind to keep me from thinking about how hurt and vulnerable I was.
How many of these sorts of hobbies do we have? Bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, hatred? What about cruel humor, mocking, gossip, and backbiting? Maybe self-harm, substance abuse, or sexual addiction. It can even start small with a taste for violent films, novels, and video games. Maybe we don’t notice because things can still make us smile or laugh, but when we hurt, we so often bury ourselves in hatred to keep from being hurt again. The littlest thoughts and complaints become a part of our daily rhythm; something we can’t live without because it keeps us from thinking about being weak.
The saying goes that “hurt people hurt people.” The truth is, hurt people hurt Jesus. What we use to push others away who might hurt us ends up hurting Him more than it hurts the ones we fear. Knowing that should make us feel awful, but feeling awful about it doesn’t mean we’ll ever be able to stop. What we need to understand is that Jesus hurts more than any of us can imagine, because He is more innocent than any of us can ever know. He hurts more than children who cannot understand what they did that they should be left alone, but in that depth of pain, He forgives. In our pain, our thoughts and our actions break His heart, and He forgives. He knows we cannot ever stop unless we fight to release these hobbies of brokenness to Him. So He forgives, and He gives us His Spirit to restore to bruised and bleeding pieces of our weak and vulnerable hearts.
Whether they mean to or not, people will not stop hurting us, but we can still be vulnerable and be safe in His arms if we are willing. He can hush our aching hearts as easily as He does the stormy seas. He teaches us the beauty of the silence we fear so much, the silence we fill with hours of mindless rhythms and distractions that keep us from thinking. Rest can become not falling apart, but falling into His arms. We can leave all of our hobbies behind for a life, a real, full life. A life of peace and joy eternal.