(Photo by Lindsay O’Neil)
How to Survive an Assault on the Heart
By Michelle Ochen
The heart is one of the most unique creations of all. Nothing else can attach so intimately, wound so deeply, forgive, forget, hold on and let go. The key to the secret of the hearts’ success is that it keeps beating steadily on. Hand in hand, with opening your heart brings risk of getting hurt. The deeper one knows you, the deeper the assault can hurt.
Another word to consider is the word assault. Certainly, there are times that someone might spitefully do something to assault and wound someone. In the commonality of everyday life, assaults come without the intention of injury. Our hearts are fragile and can be easily wounded and scared by such mis-targeted bullets. It may be in the form of a friendship, a co-worker, perhaps a family member, or even your spouse. There is no way to know what shape the bullet may take, but knowing that will be a hit at some point allows you to be prepared. How you respond defines the extent of damage.
When the assault is in the form of gossip, betrayal, or unfulfilled commitments come your way, the first thing to do is retreat. I am not saying to run away and give up. I am suggesting to make wise space for yourself to analyze a response to the bullet.
When an army retreats in battle, a gesture is made to ensure that everyone is aware of their decision. The symbol is typically a white flag. This allows the opposing army to see that there is a need for the army that is retreating to back away from the battle. In the same way when you are wrongfully treated, it is important to back away from the situation to gather your thoughts, and emotions so that you don’t reload the bullet back at the person. You are not responsible for what happens to you when you are wronged. You are responsible for how you choose to respond. Retreating allows you to bring your hurting heart before the Lord, and allowing Him to give you His heart in response.
The next step for a wounded heart is to remember. Does this mean you should sit and reflect on how you were wronged? No. That is a sign of holding on, and allowing bitterness to take root. Instead, I recommend that you pause, and remember the good things about the person who assaulted you. Remember your relation to this person and the laughs you had together, the memories, and the advantages they have brought to your life. Choose to remember that assaulting is not the nature of their relation to you, so that you can better prepare yourself in how you will respond to their wrong. This idea is especially helpful in marital hurt. Take time to remember that this person did not stand at the alter and vow to spend their life with you to hurt you, but with good intentions. Remember the good, and choose to forgive the times of assault. Taking time to remember will prepare your heart for forgiveness. It is said that when you pray for your enemies, it is your heart that changes. When you take time to remember the good in the person who wronged you, your perspective on them will change.
By following the first two steps, you will find your heart in a place that is ready to forgive the assault that came your way. Once forgiveness has taken place, there is a need for the final step, restoration. Many people claim to forgive, but they never forget and allow God to restore their relationship. To restore something means to bring it back to the state that it was in before the destruction took place. Imagine if a father forgave his son, yet would no longer allow him to eat meals at the dinner table. Forgiveness without a restoration of the intimacy and nearness of hearts once shared is saddening! Yet this is what many people do in relationships after they survive an assault on their heart. They close up, and build walls between themselves and the assaulter to keep from being hurt. This behavior is not right or healthy. It is partial forgiveness, and it only leaves a heart hurting more.
Restoration is in the heart of God, and if you allow Him, He will restore your relationship with another to where it was before. The pain may be deep, the healing may take time, but our God will make beautiful stories out of those who choose to not only survive, but be made stronger through an assault on the heart. The choice is yours to make, bullets come, but healing lies in your response.