Seeking God’s healing for our fear of being hurt
Many people of this world live their lives caged in by fear, especially the fear of pain and suffering. The Bible calls this slavery. Believers who are led by the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, will live fearlessly in God’s power, love, and self-control. This freedom, however, can be blocked by a “root of bitterness.” If we want to be healed of a fear of people and being hurt by them, we will first need to confess and relinquish our bitterness.
Note: This is part two of an earlier post called, “I don’t want to be hurt again.”
Romans 8:15 NIV The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Hebrews 12:15 ESV See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
Titus 3 states that we were all once “slaves to various passions” but God saves us from the things that enslave us through the “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”* The freedom and renewal that the Holy Spirit offers is freely available to all believers but we can hinder Him by not putting away our “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander … along with all malice.” This is how we will “fail to obtain the grace of God.”
Titus 3:3-6 ESV For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Ephesians 4:30-31 ESV And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
God wants to help create a clean and healthy heart in us, one that is not just free of fear but importantly, free of bitterness. We recognise a possible bitter root if certain things or topics:
- Bring up sharp unpleasant emotions, such as grief, anguish, anger, or disappointment
- Make us feel resentful, cynical, and bitter
- Are difficult or distasteful for us to accept, admit, or bear
Also, see Recognising and resolving our bitterness
Psalm 51:10 ESV Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
* To receive the Holy Spirit, we need to repent of our sins, turn to God, and be baptised in Jesus’ name. (Acts 2:38 NLT Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”)
Going to God for healing
Our renewal through the Holy Spirit requires our willing cooperation. God does not force change on us. It is also a process that takes time and re-adjustment. Just like any slave who finally walks out of life-long slavery, we will need to pick up new life skills. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit will guide and teach us along the way. God is faithful and He will never forsake us. He will provide us with everything we need to overcome our fear of being hurt.
Isaiah 42:16 ESV And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.
John 14:26 ESV But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Romans 8:32 ESV He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
1. Humble ourselves before God
We often think of humility as putting down our pride. In reality, it also includes relinquishing our fears, pain, and control over our hearts.
Humility before God involves giving up control over all of our hearts to let Him decide what to do next. This is the first step in receiving freedom from our fears; deciding to give up control and submit to God.
James 4:10-11 ESV Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
God is our Strength and our Shield. We can trust Him with our hearts. When we trust in ourselves more than we trust God with our hearts, we remove Him from truly being the Lord in our lives. He does not decide what we do with our hearts, we do. This is a form of idolatry.
Psalm 28:7 ESV The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
2. Open up to a God-fearing believer who will love, and not judge, us
When Jesus proclaimed that “where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them,” He was referring to the way we address and forgive those who sin against us. Then if “two of us agree on earth about anything we ask, it will be done for us by our Father in heaven.” God’s blessing and providence come when we address sin, bitterness, and forgiveness within community.
Matthew 18:15-22 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. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
The fear of being hurt, however, may keep us from confessing our bitter roots to others. But the Bible shows that we receive healing in the company of other believers who will pray for us. Our hearts are deceiving and may try to convince us not to give up control. We will need the encouragement, insight, and love from other believers to lay down our fears and our bitterness completely. Confessing to receive freedom
James 5:16 ESV Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
3. Invite the Holy Spirit to show us our bitter roots
Bitter roots cannot bear good fruit. Bitter roots bear bitter-tasting fruit.
Matthew 7:17-18 ESV So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.
But just like the roots of a plant are buried in soil, our bitter roots are hidden away in our hearts. We will need the Holy Spirit’s help to lead us to the diseased roots. After all, He is “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”
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.
The Holy Spirit has witnessed everything we have experienced, including the injustices inflicted on us. As we seek the Holy Spirit’s counsel together with a God-fearing believer, we will find that He may bring back painful childhood experiences where:
- Our hearts endured the pain, shock, and trauma of a broken home (e.g. adultery, divorce, violence, bankruptcy, betrayal etc.)
- Basic care, emotional reassurance, and forgiveness were withheld from us
- We suffered mental, verbal, emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse
- We were shamed, humiliated, or ridiculed
- We were told we were not good enough (i.e. looks, gender, performance at school, sociability, and so on), and so forth…
Psalm 139:15-16 ESV My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Also, see The Holy Spirit as our perfect Counsellor.
4. Confess our bitterness
Releasing our bitter feelings is a crucial part of our healing. We are told to “remove vexation from our hearts, and put away pain from our bodies.” Also, see Uprooting trapped toxic emotions and their bad fruit.
Ecclesiastes 11:10 ESV Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
For those who try to consciously forget or ignore about our painful past, this type of confession may feel difficult or intimidating. Thankfully, God in His grace and mercy, will help us here as well. We simply need to ask, “Holy Spirit, please take over and help me acknowledge and confess my bitter feelings in Jesus’ name.” Wait on Him as He inspires our answers. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit will give us the answers through the God-fearing believer who is praying with us.
Hebrews 4:16 ESV Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
If there still continues to be some blockage, we can ask God’s Spirit, “Do I harbour any unbelief towards You; that You will not or cannot help me? Why is my mind being blinded? Please show me if there is any resentment in my heart towards You so that I can repent.”
2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
5. Ask God to comfort our hearts
Like little children who need their parents’ reassurance, we can invite God to comfort us; “Holy Spirit, will You please comfort me?”
Matthew 18:2-4 ESV And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
6. Repent of our own sins
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV … let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
This is the time we ask God for forgiveness for our own sinful responses – where we repaid evil for evil and contaminated our spirits. Sin defiles us, even the ones we don’t act out. God will also judge us for the things we have done in secret. For example, we may have:
- Judged, hated, or cursed someone in our hearts
- Wished ill on them
- Imagined ways they would suffer or die
- Vowed silently to get even
- Plotted to turn people against them
Ecclesiastes 12:14 ESV For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Matthew 15:18-20 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
In our pain, we may also have turned inward and even sinned against ourselves. For example, we may have:
- Condemned or hated ourselves
- Cursed our own lives
- Wished to die or never be born
- Threatened to commit or attempted suicide
For all the sinful ways that we have behaved out of pain, rather than love, let us repent and ask God for His forgiveness. It doesn’t matter that it all happened many years ago or when we were little. Sin that is not confessed and cleansed by God will continue to “reign in our mortal bodies, to make us obey its passions.” We will not prosper emotionally or spiritually.
James 4:5 NLT Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.
Romans 6:12 ESV Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.
Proverbs 28:13 ESV Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
7. Forgive and bless
If we want to obey Jesus, we will choose to “love our enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return,” God’s Word promises that then “our reward will be great, and we will be sons of the Most High.” What an amazing reward!
Luke 6:32-36 ESV “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Therefore, if we want to become children of our Heavenly Father, we should:
- Confess the sins of those who have hurt, disappointed, neglected, abandoned, betrayed, or persecuted us
- Forgive them for their sins towards us
- Bless them, asking God to give them the things they desire and need
- Pray for their well-being and salvation
- Do good to them
Romans 12:14 NLT Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.
Matthew 5:43-45 ESV “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…
8. Invite the Holy Spirit to cleanse us and fill us with His love
As we choose to get rid of our “bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior” and “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” we will begin to experience the good fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 4:30-32 NLT And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. 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.
Galatians 5:22-24 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Such confession, repentance, forgiveness, and renewal is ongoing for all believers as we seek to bear more and more good fruit and forsake our old bad fruit. The Bible shows us that “all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.” Therefore, we should not hesitate to ask God to continue to cleanse us and fill us with His love because His perfect love will expel all fears.
1 John 4:16–18 NLT We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
9. Consciously set our minds on the Holy Spirit
Even as we are cleansed and renewed by the Holy Spirit, we need to beware that we will still be tempted to go to back to live in fear.
Jesus has told us to “watch and pray that we may not enter into temptation.” The key thing is to be mentally alert and spot the temptations as they happen, and pray for the Holy Spirit’s help; “How do I respond? What should I say?” This is the practice of setting the mind on the Holy Spirit. Our circumstances may not change, but our reaction to the things that used to make us fearful slaves will change.
Matthew 26:41 ESV Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Romans 8:5-6 ESV For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
10. Embrace the training and change will become permanent
The Bible talks about how the transformation of our hearts comes over time as our minds are renewed, as we make a practice of discerning God’s will with the help of the Holy Spirit. The keyword here is “practice”.
Romans 12:2 ESV Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Our brains need time and training to learn new skills. We may not do all things perfectly at first but the important thing is that we keep on practising and persevere. Change will come as our brains are literally changed in physical ways too. This is what neuroscientists call neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to continue growing and evolving at any age, in response to life experiences.
Our brains need “practice drills” and life experiences that reinforce and strengthen our new patterns of behaviour. This is why God will not remove the situations that used to make us fearful or the people who made us bitter. Our good Father God will ensure we receive adequate opportunities to practice our freedom with the help of the Holy Spirit and grow stronger over time. Then our renewal and transformation will become permanent and complete.
“My father’s bankruptcy caused a great deal of damage in my family. It changed my father’s role in the family and caused great fear in my mother which also affected the rest of us. Because I was so young, I didn’t understand how my father felt or what he might have wished for as a man and the head of a family. In the past year, after I lost my job, I began to understand a little of how he felt and regretted how much I had judged him in the past. For the first time, I started to see how desperate, afraid, and angry my father must have felt to have been so helpless as a man with a wife and young children.
There were always physical fights and harsh words in my family. Me and my sister were hit, slapped, and strangled for small things like leaving a book or toy on the floor. But even then, my mother did not allow us to cry, get angry, or look unhappy.
Because of the fear that the bankruptcy brought into our family, I was forced to do things I didn’t like to do and turn away from the things I do like. Little by little, I learned to harden my heart. Because of how unpredictable things were at home, I had to keep quiet because I didn’t know what would set off a bomb.
Outside the home, I was cheerful most of the time and I never talked about what happened. To this day, only one of my childhood friends knows what I have been through.
My answer to life’s problems was to work harder. But I came to a point where I could not and did not want to work hard anymore. I was physically tired, but I was also sick in my heart.
When I prepared for my renewal prayer, I was asked, “What did you lose because of the bankruptcy?” I thought I had lost security and safety. To my surprise, the prayer counsellors started the prayer session by saying that I had lost myself.
I thought I was being strong by learning how to cope. But I learned to be strong by building a brick wall around my heart and it was so thick I had no idea who I was supposed to be anymore. I did not realise that because of what happened at home, I became a shell. (“Don’t cry, don’t get angry, don’t make that face. Don’t tell anyone.”)
In recent years, I had seen myself as broken shards on the ground. Sometimes, it hurt so much I felt as if acid had been poured even on those shards and they melted so that I could not put myself back together.
One of the prayer counsellors received a vision of a vase that was being painted and decorated. A year ago, I hated the word “submit” and I struggled to submit to God. But now, because I have learned to submit to God, the vase is now whole and it is even more beautiful than God’s original design. The vase is not complete because it is still being decorated, but all the pieces are there. The ceramic is thin and fine, and because of that, God’s light can shine through.
I could see the vase immediately in my mind’s eye. I knew exactly how thin the vase is and I could see that red peonies were being painted at the bottom of the vase. Because I was afraid that people would throw rocks at me and that I would get broken again, I had built up that brick wall to protect myself. I wasn’t very aware that I was motivated by not wanting to be hurt again. I think the fear was so overwhelming and came in so early that I couldn’t even see it. But now, I need to trust God to protect me.
This is still a challenge to me. To think of myself as a fine vase that God is making thinner and thinner because that is how He wants to use me in His kingdom frightens me because of all the hurt I have gone through in the past.
But the first step of laying down my fear of being hurt was to start to speak up again, especially when others are unfair to me. I can also start telling people about how I feel instead of keeping everything to myself. This is part of how I let people into my life and allow myself to be open to others.”
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