“I don’t want to be hurt again.”
Our bodies have a natural “fight or flight” defence mechanism against pain. This applies to both physical and emotional pain. To protect our hearts from being hurt again, we can become combative or withdrawn in attitude. Such behaviour is driven by fear, not by God’s love. As believers, we need to mature into people who are rooted in God’s fearless love; love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
(See Chinese versions: 简体中文 > 「我不想再受伤害。」 | 繁體中文 > 「我不想再受傷害。」)
1 Corinthians 13:7-8 ESV Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…
This is not to say that we should seek out relationships with people who repeatedly do cruel things or intentionally abuse others. As Jesus’ followers, we should not be afraid to suffer for the sake of other people if it brings God glory and leads to their salvation. However, we do not run headlong into suffering recklessly or meaninglessly.
1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Jesus has told us, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” By saying this, He set a limit to the type of love that would bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. We should not continue to extend love to those who repeatedly reject God or refuse to repent for their sins. They will simply repeat their folly to our detriment.
Matthew 7:6 ESV “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Hebrews 10:26-27 ESV For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Proverbs 26:11 ESV Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.
Knowing where to draw the line requires spiritual insight and wisdom. Thankfully, we can always ask the Holy Spirit for His “wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” He will show us which painful relationships to persevere in and which ones to cut off. He wil teach us how to persevere in power, love, and self-control with the challenging ones.
James 1:5 ESV If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Isaiah 11:2 ESV And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Facing people who do evil
Wisdom handling abusive relationships
God’s will for marriage, divorce, and remarriage
The battle to give God all of our hearts
Loving God and loving others is fundamental to following Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that “anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:8 ESV Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
God’s great love for us is forever faithful and everlasting. As believers, we are called to love God back with all our hearts and trust Him with all our hearts.
Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.
Proverbs 3:5 ESV Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Our love for God, however, is often influenced by how secure or safe we feel. We find it hard to praise God when we are troubled by fear. The more fear infiltrates our hearts, the more divided our hearts become. Fear is an idol that divides our hearts and keeps us from following God wholeheartedly.
Psalm 86:11-13 NIV Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.
The fear of being hurt can easily grow into a bigger and bigger idol, because it is usually coupled with numerous other fears, such as:
- a fear of people
- a fear of revealing who we really are inside us
- a fear of being honest
- a fear of speaking up for ourselves
- a fear of the unknown
- a fear of loving others
- a fear of being disappointed
The fear of disappointment then leads to:
- a fear of receiving love
- a fear of hoping “too much”
- a fear of being too happy or enthusiastic
A spirit of fear tells us to hold the doors to the inner chambers of our hearts tightly shut to everyone else. We dare not let anyone in, not even God, because it just feels too dangerous – even if we know in our heads that we should not fear. Keeping people and God out just feels right.
Isaiah 41:10 ESV Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Proverbs 21:2 ESV Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.
The challenge for many is that our instinctive fear of pain is so much a part of our psyche that our minds no longer know how to call it out. Our fear reflexes go off in self-defence on auto-pilot each time.
Possible behaviour patterns arising from a fear of being hurt
There are, however, a few behavioural patterns we can link to someone who is possibly governed by a fear of being hurt.
- Shallow connections: Because we keep people at arm’s length, we come across as cold, distant or aloof. Our relationships tend to be shallow and lack honesty.
- Feeling lonely: We convince ourselves it is good to be independent and not to need anyone. In reality, we feel lonely and isolated.
- Fatigue: To protect ourselves, we are on constant alert for signs that someone may harm us in some way. This takes a toll on our bodies. We feel weary and may find ourselves needing to withdraw from people regularly in order to recuperate.
- Suspicious: To prevent ourselves from being hurt, we second-guess people’s intentions and usually assume the worst as a safety measure. Better to be safe and wrong than be hurt again.
- Prone to doubt or reject love: We are afraid to feel loved by or to love others, in case we are disappointed. Because our hearts are ruled by fear, we tend to discount any love that other people offer us.
- Forsake freedom: Our fear of letting our guard down makes it hard for us to try new things or genuinely enjoy ourselves.
- Not knowing what we like or want: In order to seal our hearts off from being hurt, we can end up “shutting down” our emotions altogether. We find we have “no” emotions and don’t really know how we feel about things.
- Emotional extremes: To keep our fears in check, we learn to bottle up our anxious feelings – until we lose control. So, we tend to either deadly calm or explosively angry.
- First to short-circuit relationships: Because our reflexes centre on protecting ourselves first, we may preemptively end friendships or relationships that feel too close for comfort. We rather sacrifice someone else’s feelings in place of ours.
- Self-destructive romantic relationships: For some, the fear of being hurt means we prefer short-term, non-committal, or incompatible relationships. In that way, things are more “predictable” and easier to control because we can see an end in sight.
- Stress related diseases: Chronic fear leads to stress-related ailments. We find that we don’t have quality sleep, we complain regularly of back, neck and shoulder pain, we suffer from ulcers and other stomach problems, and our skin is prone to inflammation or other skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, skin rash. We also become more prone to heart diseases.
We can even experience our fears physically. For example, our hearts can feel:
- Heavy and weighed down by our fears | Proverbs 12:25 ESV Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.
- Cut or pierced by someone’s rash unkind remarks | Proverbs 12:18 ESV There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
- Crushed by sorrow | Proverbs 15:13 ESV A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
- Sickened by hope that is deferred | Proverbs 13:12 ESV Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
- Hardened against confession and repenting | Proverbs 28:13-14 ESV Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
The impact on our relationship with God
Our fear of being hurt is coloured by our experiences with imperfect people, not with our perfect God. Unfortunately, our relationship with God can suffer nonetheless.
1. Afraid to love God with all our hearts
Because of our instinctive reflex to hold a part to ourselves back in self-protection, we will find it hard to love God with all our hearts, because we subconsciously fear that:
- God may disappoint us.
- God won’t protect us from the people that will hurt us.
- He may make us suffer.
- God’s love may not last.
- God doesn’t love us if He allows us to experience pain.
2. Judge God
We may even judge God. We do not like it when God allows suffering. We judge Him for not being good (in our eyes).
1 Peter 4:1-2 NLT So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.
3, Afraid to love and edify God’s people
We may also avoid edifying God’s people. We allow other believers to continue in sin, rather than loving speak the truth to them, because it is better to stay safe in our silence than to risk being hurt or disappointed. We don’t follow God’s commandment to encourage and build one another up. Rather, we choose to obey the anxieties of our unhealed emotional pain.
Matthew 18:15-17 ESV “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
A heart healed by God becomes stronger
Physical pain normally drives us to seek medical help for our body injuries, but we seldom get help for our emotional wounds. When we ignore the signals from our emotional injuries, we don’t give our hearts a chance to heal and become healthy again.
Thankfully, the Creator who made our bodies can also heal and transform our hearts – if we follow His instructions and forsake our old ways of self-protection. No human emotional “band-aid” can ever compare with God’s deep healing.
Psalm 147:3 ESV He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Unlike a broken physical body that may never recover back to 100% after an accident, a broken heart that is restored by God’s Spirit comes back even stronger. This is because God doesn’t just heal our wounds, He will fill us with His love – the type of love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.”
Romans 5:3-5 ESV Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
1 Corinthians 13:7-8 ESV Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…
Such love is not dependent on our feelings. Feelings come and go. They are influenced by our circumstances and even by the chemicals in our bodies. They are not constant, nor are they reliable. Such love is based on character – and how God is transforming us to become more and more like His Son, Jesus.
1 John 2:6 NLT Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
We see that God’s love is not based on His feelings. When He looks at all the evil in this world today, He is both grieved and angry. Yet His love is constant because of His character. God is full of mercy, grace, steadfastness, and faithfulness. As we seek to follow God, we will reflect His type of love more and more.
Genesis 6:5-6 ESV The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
Psalm 7:11 God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day.
Exodus 34:6 ESV The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
In our next post, we will discuss how we can repent of our fears and learn to love fearlessly again through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
Unhealed trauma affects our spiritual growth
The importance of emotional healing
Uprooting trapped toxic emotions and their bad fruit
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