A year and half ago, I wrote two letters.
One was to a former friend of mine.
The other was to a family member.
Both were written at two different times for two very different circumstances, but essentially had the same gist:
"I want you to know that you really hurt me with your words/actions, and I don't understand what I did for you to ignore/shame/disrespect me in that way."
I prayed sincerely as I wrote those letters. I knew it was something I needed to do. And while I am fairly conflict avoidant, I also carry this deep need to be honest. And hurt is an excellent motivator for this kind of stuff.
But during both instances, after all that writing and rewriting and heart-pouring, I felt the Holy Spirit very clear say:
"You don't need to give them this letter."
In one instance, I was holding the letter in my hand. She was about the walk out the door, and she asked if I had anything else to say.
But a gentle and loving "no" entered my mind, as if Jesus was there holding my hand. Keeping those words of accusation and hurt in their proper place, folded up in my pocket.
And I really didn't understand it at first. Not for months, honestly. But I knew that it was the right thing to do at that time, and it filled me with a peace I can't quite explain.
That same summer I wrote those letters, we moved to a new city and experienced a lot of change all at once.
It left a lot of time for contemplation, healing, and solitude that gave me the space to clear out the clutter of my soul.
During one of those soulful cleaning sessions, I asked God about those letters. What was the point of writing them? Would the conflicts ever be resolved? Was I the one who was in the wrong? Why aren't You defending me?
And like a Good Papa, He answered lovingly and sternly:
"You weren't seeking peace, you were seeking to control.
You wrote those letters with the intention of making them believe that you were right.
But even if they believed that they'd wronged you, that wouldn't heal the real issue:
your fear of being rejected and misunderstood by those you love and respect."
Cue the tears. And the healing Spirit of God that has always met me in those hard moments of truth.
I believe in the deepest parts of my heart that we were all made to live in a world where we would be understood and wholly loved. To give it all without fear of our love returning void. It's a legitimate longing to be at peace with those we love.
But that's not the world we live in. Until we see heaven, we're all just human. Faults and all.
So, if we want to live light-hearted instead of anchored by hurt, we have to let it go.
If we want to love others without reserve, we have to let it go.
If we want God to take us on a journey of healing and wholeness, we've got to trust Him when He says it's time to move on.
There are absolutely some circumstances that call for letters of truth and love to be written and given at the right time. And there are some letters that need to be written only for the writer's heart to gain perspective on the situation.
But in every circumstance, we need to remember that the Holy Spirit is working in the unseen things, in the hearts of those who hurt us and love us, and in our own hearts when we have wronged others.
On my own journey with Jesus, I've learned that when He calls for me to let something go, it's because He has something better in mind.
It's worded well in The Message version of Colossians 3:
"You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it....
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it."
I've started walking through this type of hurt again —this time it came out of the blue and hit about as close to home as you can get. And I've found myself asking those same questions during prayer again:
God, why aren't you setting this right? Why am I being rejected? Why can't they see that they are wrong?
But then He reminded me of those two letters. And as I'm writing this post, I'm being reminded me that often it's not necessarily the person in conflict who's causing the pain —it's how I handle the problem that ends up hurting me the most.
And so I'm trying to change the way I pray:
God, what are you doing right now? What do I need to let go of in order to move on? What hurt is weighing on my heart that is causing me to react this way?
Being a highly sensitive person, it's difficult not to take conflict personally.
But as a friend of Jesus, I can choose to ask for His perspective on these situations.
A perspective that reminds me that no matter who misunderstands us, we are always accepted and understood by Him.
A perspective that acknowledges that we've been hurt and we've hurt others, and we all just need a ton of grace anyway.
A perspective that teaches me to let go of bitter words and thoughts, and replace them with words of honor and love because that's the only way to grow the Kingdom of God.
I know I'm not there yet. Maybe you aren't either, and that's okay. Because we at least have an option each day to choose how to live in a world full of people who will never be able to love one another perfectly. We can choose to love each other back anyway, to clothe ourselves in Heaven's perspective —the one we were made for all along.
How to Pray for Clarity in Conflict.
I went to a retreat this past spring, and one talk in particular really resonated with me.
The speaker talked about an ongoing conflict she was dealing with, and a journaling exercise someone showed her to prayerfully handle the situation.
"After all," she said, "Fear and hurtful words can become self-fulfilling prophesies. Love does not speak negatively over someone and then pray with authority over them."
Ouch. And amen.
This type of journaling prayer is a meditative one, with 5 questions that are meant to guide your thoughts as you make space for the Holy Spirit to speak.
Journaling through conflict:
1. How do I feel?
(Just let it all out.)
2. What am I afraid of?
(Let the Holy Spirit walk you to the end of the road of your fear.)
3. What do I know about this person?
(Why do you think they react the way they do?)
4. What is this person afraid of?
(Ask for God's perspective on this, maybe something you haven't seen before.)
5. How do I respond?
(We can't control the other person, but the Holy Spirit can empower us to respond with love and healthy boundaries)
My plan is to go through this prayer in the next couple days to pray through this difficult relationship I'm dealing with. For me personally, that looks like working through the question one at a time, not moving on until I feel like the Holy Spirit has brought an answer to the surface.
It can be a heart-wrenching thing to pray through conflict. But thankfully, there's power in surrendering our deepest hurts to God, knowing that He really can work all these things out for good.
I so appreciate you being here! I wrote these words for you, and I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments below.
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