How to Remove Lingering Pain After Forgiving

As we come to the close of another year and enter the full-swing of the holidays, there’s increased pressure on our emotions. Any area that’s painful often becomes magnified. We want Christmas to be a time of Peace and Good Will toward all men. So, what do we do with the pain that doesn’t go away, and how can we have that peace in our hearts?

Alissa Parker is the mother of one of the first graders that was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Her daughter Emilie was a delightful child, described as “precociously empathetic.” The sadness and emptiness that descended on each family–over the entire community–was overwhelming. Twenty children and six adult staff were murdered by a troubled young man.

For months Alissa prayed for God to take her grief and fill her emptiness. She called it a void in her heart. She said, “Churning around the edges of that void, that abyss, was pure loathing, and I hated that void. I felt helpless about both.”

As she racked her brain about what to do, she realized she needed to pray intensely and transparently, with childlike directness. She and her husband went together to a special place for prayer, where she prayed harder than she had ever prayed. The very clear answer to her prayer startled her. It was, “You need to talk to the shooter’s father.”

They worked through intermediaries, and Peter Lanza responded immediately. When she met him, “He was as much of a wreck as I was.” He had been reviled and “a horrified world recoiled from him at the moment of his greatest loss and confusion.” Listening to him describe his son, how he was a troubled youth, and watching the intense pain the father was going through, she said, “I began to realize that the effects of his son’s evil actions spread far beyond my family and the families of other victims.”

Because of her compassion for him, Peter said, “Meeting you is like a glimmer of light through a dark agony.”

It took a while for Alissa to be able to say, “I did not have to hate the shooter for taking Emilie away…. I could give even the shooter to God. I could give all of it to God. Then I could begin healing…. I stopped hating the shooter and later forgave him in my heart. More important, I understood that ultimately it was God’s job to judge and forgive.”

Once we have forgiven, we must finish the grieving process of releasing what was lost. That’s where lingering pain rests. It could be reputation, something that was stolen, being cheated—the list is long. But wherever we have been offended, we have suffered loss. Maybe not the loss of a precious child, but the healing process is the same.

One of the most amazing gifts the Lord Jesus gives us is when He takes our grief, heals our broken hearts, and literally takes the emotional weight we have been carrying. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me…. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted….” (Luke 4:18b NKJV).

This process took time. Alissa misses her little girl intensely but missing and grieving are different. Eventually Alissa could say, “My grief was not the end. When I looked beyond myself, reached out to others, trusted God to make something good from the horror of Emilie’s death—that was my healing. How could I believe this? Because God had lost a child too.”

Quotes and story taken from Guideposts, December 2017, “Emilie’s Light,” pp 28-33, by Alissa Parker