Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Cynthia Ruchti's new book, Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People's Choices (Abingdon Press, 2013).
Your spouse betrays you through an affair, leaving you to go through heartache and a divorce. Someone steals your personal information on the Internet, forcing you to spend lots of time and energy handling the aftermath of identity theft. One of your children abandons your grandchildren, leaving you to raise them. A drunk driver crashes into your car, forcing you to deal with a permanent disability for the rest of your life.
The consequences of other people’s choices affect you every day, and when those choices are major mistakes, they can affect your life in devastating ways. But no matter how other people have hurt you, God offers you hope that can empower you to overcome any circumstances.
Here’s how to find hope after other people have hurt you:
Turn to God as a refuge. Look to God to comfort you, rather than turning to lesser sources of comfort (such as food, alcohol, excessive television viewing, etc.) that will only numb your pain rather than relieve it. Express even your most difficult thoughts and feelings about your suffering to God in prayer, with the confidence that He cares and will respond.
Pursue peace rather than answers. God may not choose to explain why others have hurt you, or help you figure out all the reasons why you’re hurting. Instead of tormenting yourself trying to answer questions in vain, focus your energy on pursuing what God promises you can always have: peace. When you pray for peace, you can count on God giving you the true and lasting peace that comes only from Him.
Give yourself some emotional breaks. Whenever you can, make time to do simple activities that you enjoy, from watching a movie to taking a walk. These breaks from dealing with troubling emotions will refresh you and enable you to cope more effectively.
Let go of your first draft for your life. Don’t hold on too tightly to the expectations you had about how your life was going to be before someone else’s actions forced you to rewrite your plans. Ask God to show you how you can pursue His purposes for you within your new set of circumstances. Be flexible, and look forward to good things God has in store for you that you couldn’t anticipate before.
Rearrange your priorities. Use your time of healing to reflect on your priorities and consider whether or not they align with your true values and God’s purposes for you. Think and pray about what’s most important to you, and why. Then rearrange your priorities so you’re spending your time, energy, and money in the best ways.
Use your creativity to solve problems. Tap into your God-given creativity as you deal with the problems other people have created in your life. Pray for the ideas you need to successfully solve the problems you’re facing.
Embrace mercy for your mistakes, and be merciful toward people who have mistakenly hurt you. If you regret bad choices you made in the past that contributed to other people hurting you, confess those mistakes to God and ask Him to forgive you and help you learn from those mistakes. Then move forward with confidence in God’s mercy, which is stronger than any sin. If other people have regretfully made mistakes that affected you, ask God to help you treat them with kindness despite their flaws.
Forgive the people who have hurt you. Ask God to help you follow His command to forgive everyone who has hurt you. Rather than stewing in bitterness, holding grudges, repeatedly blaming others, or trying to take revenge, choose to forgive each person for each hurtful incident as an act of your will to obey God – and in the process, God will gradually heal your feelings, setting you emotionally free.
Seek support from friends. Get together with some close friends whom you trust and talk about your healing process with them. Ask them to support you in prayer as you heal, and be willing to do the same for them whenever they’re hurting.
Replace disillusionment with trust. If other people have hurt you by lying to you, separate their sin from the reality that God is completely trustworthy. Take refuge in your trustworthy God and ask Him to give you the wisdom to discern how best to handle future situations in which people may be dishonest with you. Surround yourself with people who live with integrity as much as possible.
Derive strength from God’s constant presence after people have abandoned you. Even though people may abandon you in this fallen world, you can count on God to keep His promise to always be with you in the form of the Holy Spirit. Whenever you need comfort, meditate on God’s promise that He will never leave or forsake you, and ask Him to make you aware of His presence with you.
Let go of shame. If the people who have hurt you in the past blame you for how they treated you, realize that they’re responsible for their own actions. Let go of any shame that has crept into your life due to their dysfunctional behavior by asking God to help you see yourself the way He sees you – as a person who is worthy to be treated with love and respect at all times.
Trust God to bring justice to unjust situations. When you’re angry about injustices that people have committed against you, take your anger to God and ask Him to intervene. At the right times and in the right ways, God will redeem the pain you’ve gone through by bringing justice to unjust circumstances.
Use your pain to bless others who are hurting. Apply the lessons you’ve learned from going through your own hurtful experiences to help other people who are currently going through similar experiences. Trust God to redeem your pain as you serve other hurting people.
Adapted from Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices, copyright 2013 by Cynthia Ruchti. Published by Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tn., www.abingdonpress.com.
Cynthia Ruchti has more than three decades of radio broadcast experience with The Heartbeat of the Home radio ministry and is a frequent speaker for women’s events and retreats. Visit her website at: www.cynthiaruchti.com.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: August 16, 2013