I had trouble writing this message. The trouble wasn't due to the content of the lesson, but the cut on the finger. A few days ago, I was fishing around in my gym bag for a razor and guess what? I found it. But I found the wrong end. A circle of skin the size of a pencil head was cut off the middle finger of my right hand and offered as a sacrifice to the god of stupidity.

It's really no big deal, (that is, unless you feel sorry for me and then it really hurts very much). The cut would be long forgotten except for one thing; I need the tip of my finger. Just ask the far right edge of my computer keyboard. If the letters "p," "o," "i," or "l" gets tapped, that finger does the tapping — yes, I know that's not standard typing protocol. It's also responsible for commas, periods, semicolons, and question marks. This is one busy finger. But this is also one tender finger. Each time I touch a key, I'm reminded to use my index finger for the next sentence and more caution the next time I search for a razor.

You've had your share of cuts as well. Not cuts on the finger but cuts on the heart. Not run-ins with a razor but run-ins with people. Harsh words. Stinging rebukes. Thoughtless remarks. Broken promises. We aren't long in the world until we meet the razor sharp edge of someone else's behavior. These cuts on the soul don't take our flesh, but they do take our sleep, our joy, our trust.

And these wounds can make us touchy, hyper-sensitive, over-cautious, and quick on the trigger. Just let someone brush against the sore spot and we react. A topic is raised or a voice is heard or a face is seen and we feel provoked.

We act rashly or say something we'll later regret. All because we carry an unhealed hurt.

How do these wounds heal? It's one thing to put ointment on a finger, quite another to put salve on the soul. Where do you buy the medicine for rejection? What store carries the Band-Aid for bitterness? How do you treat the hurts of the heart?

I have found a couple of answers in Paul's love chapter to the Corinthians:

[Love] is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs... (1 Corinthians 13:5).

What do you do with a hurt of the heart?

Treat it immediately.

Probably the clearest translation of this verse is one of the oldest. The King James Version translates it this way:

[Love] is not easily provoked...

The root word for "provoked" is interesting: it means, "to sharpen." A picture comes to mind of a man circling the blade of his pocketknife on the flat piece of flint. The steady contact between the hard stone and the softer metal sharpens the knife.

This must be what the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote:

And let us consider how we may stir one another on toward love and good deeds... (Hebrews 10:24 ESV).
When one person "rubs up against" another the result can be a sharpening effect. Intellect is sharpened. Resolve is sharpened. Conviction is sharpened:

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).

There are times, however, when the result is not sharpening, but cutting — as the NIV translates, "spur one another." Two people rub together and one or both gets rubbed the wrong way. With real "spurring," pokes, sticks, and cuts are inevitable.

Run barefoot long enough and you'll get scratches on your soles. Run long enough with people and you'll get a "pain in the neck" or "a knife in the back" or be "cut to the heart."

In life and relationships, pain is inevitable. Infections, however, are optional. The untreated flesh wound is prone to infection. The pain level sky-rockets.

The untreated heart-wound is susceptible to infection as well. It recoils at the slightest pressure.

Unless you treat your hurts, you'll become touchy, irritable, quick tempered, quick to take offense, easily angered, and you'll fly off the handle. Those aren't my words; those are Paul's. Collect the different translations of verse five and you'll read that love isn't...

"Touchy." (LB)

"Quick tempered." (CEV)

"Irritable." (NLT)

"Quick to take offense." (NEB)

"Easily angered." (NCV)

As Eugene Peterson puts it in "The Message," love "doesn't fly off the handle."

These emotions are symptoms of an untreated wound. "The wise," writes the wise man, "turn away from anger" (Proverbs 29:8). When it comes to a hurt of the heart, treat it immediately.

How do you treat it?

Remove it entirely.

Here's how William Barclay handled the remainder of the passage: "Love does not store up the memory of any wrong he has received." [NOTE]

I know what it takes to store something up. My grandmother used to store up canned vegetables and preserves. She had an underground cellar in her back yard. After harvesting her garden, she would go to work in the kitchen. Hours and hours would be spent in front of a huge pot, cooking and stirring, cooking and stirring. At just the right time, she would fill the Mason jars and seal them with a rubberized lid. Down into the cellar they would go.

Don't we have a tendency to do the same with hurts? A pain comes into our world, but rather than deal with it quickly, we keep it around. We slice it and dice it and let it stew. We stir it and cook it and stir it and cook it. And just when we get up a good mad, we take the emotion and bottle it up and store it away down deep in the cellar of our hearts.

Ever wonder why some people are so negative?

You would be too, if you stored away every hurt you've ever received.

Ever wonder why some people are so prejudiced?

You would be, too, if you catalogued your pain according to gender or accent or skin color.

Ever wonder why some people are so sour of disposition?

You would be, better stated, you will be too, if you spend your time harvesting your hurts and storing them away.

Jesus said, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34).

Do you want to know why some mouths are so mean?

It is often because their hearts are so full of hurt.

Doesn't have to be that way. We can choose what enters our hearts. Rather than store up, we can "fill up". Jesus' apostle Paul said it this way:

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse (Philippians 4:8 MSG).

Rather than store up the sour, store up the sweet.

In life and relationships, pain is inevitable. Infections, however, are optional.
You cannot avoid getting hurt. But you can avoid letting your hurts hurt you.

Are you harboring some hurts?

Are you letting some wounds fester?

Do you find yourself touchy and irritable?

Is the cellar of your heart full of stored up anger?

If so, let me ask a few questions.

Is your storehouse of anger doing you any good? Are you happier? Better? More fun to be with?

Does God want you to be angry?

Of course not. Didn't he tell us, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice"? (Ephesians 4:31). He knows the damage your anger can do. He does not want you to be angry.

Can God help you get rid of your anger?

He made galaxies man has never seen and dug canyons we have yet to find. Don't you think he could heal your bitter heart?

"The Lord heals all your diseases" (Psalms 103:3). Do you think among those diseases might be the affliction of anger? Do you think God could heal your anger?

Do you want him to?

This is not a trick question. He asks you the same question that he asked of the invalid, "Do you want to be well?" (John 5: 6). Not everyone does. You may be addicted to anger. You may be a bitterness-junky. Your anger may be part of your identity. But if you want him to, he can change your identity. He wants to clean out your cellar and replace it with the fruits of his love. Do you want him to do so? Then, one final question: Why don't you ask him?

Pray something like this:

Father, I am angry. My heart was hurt by ____. Would you take away this pain? I can't do it without you. Please help me.

Next time those hurts surface in your memory, go quickly into God's presence. Think of Him until the anger passes. In time, and it may take time, the infection will heal and the wound will close.

Isn't that what God wants?

(c) Max Lucado, July 2016


The Letters to the Corinthians, translated with an Introduction and Interpretation. © 1975, William Barclay, Philadelphia: Westminster Press.