How to Get Past What You’ll Never Get Over
- Whitney Hopler
Editor’s Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of John F. Westfall’s new book, Getting Past What You’ll Never Get Over: Help for Dealing with Life’s Hurts (Revell Books, 2012).
Life in this fallen world is full of suffering, and Jesus warned us to expect trouble in it. Various kinds of hardship – such as illnesses, injuries, broken relationships, financial crises, and the deaths of people we love – come into everyone’s life.
When suffering hits, people often try to simply “get over it.” But the truth is that you can’t ever get over serious hardship; some painful experiences irrevocably change your life. The good news is that you can get past whatever you can’t get over, by learning how to deal successfully with the new realities in your life. Here’s how you can get past what you’ll never get over:
Recognize the reality of your brokenness. Accept the reality that your life will never be the same as it was before your painful experience happened. Realize that God’s work in your life will never be finished until you meet Him face to face in heaven. Rather than worrying about trying to become finished and perfect in this life, focus on trusting God in your unfinished state, relying on God’s power working through you to help you grow.
Be authentic and transparent. Don’t waste time or energy trying to hide, pretend, or cover up your suffering, in the face of pressure from other people to present a certain type of appearance. Keep in mind that God accepts and loves you just as you are, unconditionally.
Stop trying to change the past. Accept the reality that what’s done is done, so you can’t change the past or undo the damage from it. However, you can decide to live as well as possible despite your losses and pain, and you also can move forward into a new and better reality.
Take baby steps toward a new reality. Start where you are to move forward into a more abundant life – one in which you do your best to live every day that God gives you to the fullest. Enlist the support and encouragement of people who love you and want to help you live a better life from here on.
Live beyond your depression. While you may not be cured of depression, you can learn to live as well as you can while managing it. Do your best to eat a healthy diet, sleep well, and nurture your relationships with friends and family. Pursue counseling and medication too, whenever appropriate.
Overcome your fear. If you wait to start living a fuller life until after your fear is gone, you’ll never take the risks God wants you to take to enjoy that better life. So face your fear, and in the process of doing whatever you’re afraid of, you’ll learn how to get past it. In the future, you may still feel afraid, but the fear you feel will no longer limit your life. You can live an adventurous life filled with exciting growth and change, despite fear.
Invite God to pull you out of the mire of regret. Let the cords of God’s love and kindness pull you out of regrets that have kept you from moving forward to fulfill your highest potential in life so far. Ask God to give you a fresh vision of the hope that He offers you for the future, despite your past regrets. Make the most of the new opportunities God gives you in life, keeping mind that God is not finished with you yet and still has great plans for you.
Respond to guilt in healthy ways. The guilt you feel about your past mistakes may lead you to either healthy or unhealthy outcomes. If you simply wallow in it, the guilt can turn into shame, making you feel that you’ve not only done something wrong, but that you are wrong and worthless as a person. It’s never God’s will for you to feel shame, since in God’s eyes, you are always valuable. However, there is a good purpose to the guilt you feel; it motivates you to confess and repent of your sins so that you can move forward in the freedom and joy of the forgiveness and inclusion that God offers you.
Confess your anger so it doesn’t lead you to sin. The suffering you endure from the injustices in our fallen world can rightly make you feel angry. But you need to be careful how you respond to the anger you feel. If you respond in destructive ways, your anger can break relationships, damage your health, distort your perspective of reality, and hold you back from living in freedom. However, if you respond to your anger by confessing it (honestly acknowledging your situation and the emotion of anger that you feel), you understand what made you feel angry and explore your options for resolving the underlying issues.
Forgive those who have hurt you so bitterness won’t poison your soul. If you refuse to obey God’s command to forgive the people who have hurt you, bitterness will take root in soul and poison it, distorting your thinking and blocking your ability to give and receive love. But if you choose to forgive others and rely on God to help you do so, you can experience the loving relationships that God wants you to enjoy with Him and other people.
Place your trust in God to help you deal with a world that’s not fair. Even though life isn’t fair, you can develop the faith and courage to live well despite that. Even though people can be untrustworthy, you can still trust God to help you relate to them in loving ways. Even though you’ve made mistakes in the past, you can ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind, emotions, and will so you can make a fresh start.
Share healing stories with others. Talk with some people about what God has been doing in your life to help you move beyond struggles to healing, listen to their stories, and encourage each other to keep changing and growing as God leads you all into new adventures.