By Rick Warren

We all have hidden wounds. Pastor, that includes you. Maybe it’s from your childhood, a painful event that you’re still dealing with years later. Maybe it’s someone who has hurt you in ministry through unfair criticism or attacks on your family.

And these memories haunt your ministry. You’ve tried everything to get past them. You hide them so no one can use the pain from your past to hurt your ministry.

But the truth is, you forget physical pain from years back, but you never forget emotional wounds.

What do you do with that pain so it no longer drags you, your family, and your ministry down?

Admit your hurt.

You won’t get well until you face your feelings. Holding on to a hurt is like having a hot coal inside your heart. It’ll burn you up inside.

You begin to find the answer for your hurt when you own up to it. Revealing your feelings is the beginning of healing.

  • Be honest with God. He is big and can handle it.
  • Be honest with yourself. Don’t deny it.
  • Be honest with other people. You don’t have to tell everyone about your pain, but you need to tell someone.

Release your offender.

Don’t do this for your offender’s sake. Do this for your sake. You can’t get well with resentment in your heart. You only have a certain amount of emotional energy. You can either use that emotional energy to get well or get even. You can’t do both.

Often we don’t want to forgive people who’ve hurt us because we’re afraid that means they are getting away with what they’ve done. But to believe that, you mistakenly assume that God didn’t see what was done to you.

God saw what was done, and the Bible says to you: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath” (Romans 12:19 NIV).

Replace old lies with God’s truth.

We put all kinds of garbage into our minds. Your mind often doesn’t know what’s true and what’s not. So you need to constantly replace the old tapes of garbage with new tapes of truth. When you were a child, people in authority told you things that simply weren’t true. Much of your pain is based on these old tapes you keep replaying in your brain.

Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect” (NCV).

Your thinking determines your feelings. Your feelings determine your actions. Change your thinking by filling your mind with God’s Word. The more truth you put into your brain, the more garbage you push out.

Refocus on the future.

You have to get your attention off the past and on God’s purpose for your future. How do you do that? In Job 11:13-18, the Bible gives us a three-part plan to do this.

  • Put your heart right. Even if the other person doesn’t do what’s right, you do what’s right. Forgive him or her.
  • Reach out to God. Ask him to heal your wounds and bring good out of evil. He is good at that.
  • Face the world again. Don’t pull back into a shell. Don’t build up walls. In fact, do the opposite and engage the world around you.

Get support from others.

I know some people want to get rid of pain without involving other people. Many pastors particularly don’t want to take the risk of opening up to others about their pain. You can’t get rid of pain like that. We get well when we demonstrate humility, not pride.

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “An enemy might defeat one person, but two people together can defend themselves; a rope that is woven of three strings is hard to break” (NCV). That’s why it’s not just the people in your church who need a small group. You need one, too. Your small group can help spur you on when you feel like giving up.

Help others. 

Never waste a hurt. Use your experiences to help others. God will give you many opportunities to use what he teaches you to serve other people in your ministry. Paul writes of God in 2 Corinthians 1:4, “He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever other people suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort we have received from God” (GW).

God will redeem your pain if you let him.