What If She's Dead?

“What if she’s dead?” This was the question I was asked as I was greeting people in the lobby following one of our services a few weeks ago.  The topic of the morning was “Can people really change in the area of relationships?”  I knew when I was writing the message I would be dealing with a great deal of hurt places in people’s lives.  I said as much in the message when I shared:

Probably the greatest pain you have experienced and the greatest pain you have caused was in the context of a relationship.

I would say this is true for me.  I don’t stress much over money or what the future might hold.  My stresses always center on relationships.  I have a restless night if my children are upset or if there is tension in some relationship at church.  Resolving this relational tension isn’t something I can do on my own. I need help outside of me.  In these times, I often turn to Scripture.


Forgiveness and canceling a debt are often the same word in Scripture.  This is a massive truth. Overcoming relational hurt is learning to cancel the debt we feel owed by others and accepting we cannot repay the debts we feel we owe to others.


The futility in this is there is no way to repay a debt or have a debt repaid in the context of relational pain.  It is impossible.  How do you repay breaking someone’s heart or trust?  How do you get paid back by someone who betrayed you?  It can’t be done.

People spend their entire lives holding the grudge, being bitter, waiting for the debt to be repaid.

People lug around shame or regret for entire lives wishing they could pay a debt that would be impossible to make right.

So when Scripture teaches debt can be canceled, through forgiveness, that is like sweet tea on a hot summer day!  How refreshing!


“But what if they’re dead?” In other words, what if the debt I feel owed or the debt I feel I owe is related to a person who has passed away?  That’s a fair question.  Although many have tried, nobody has figured out a way to successfully communicate with dead people, something I am kind of glad about!


The first step to overcoming relational hurt with someone you cannot communicate with is acknowledging this is a process.  There is no instant fix on this one.  Like most of life’s valuable lessons, this one is learned with a good dose of time.  The process we are engaging in is what Paul described.


Romans 12:2 (NIV84) 2. . .  be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

A Christian has a different world view than one who does not believe.  We believe debt can be canceled because scripture says so.  We believe we can be transformed by the renewing of the mind.  But how do we renew our mind when it comes to relational hurt with someone who has already has their funeral?  Here are two steps that will help us:


1) Identify one or two things God has redeemed from that relationship.

A counselor was helping me deal with some relational hurt about 25 years ago and he asked, “What is one nugget of gold that is part of you today, that was a direct result of that relational pain?”  That was a difficult question but as I put my mind to it, I actually discovered there were a lot of nuggets that were a direct result of that pain.


Boundaries are part of my life today that were not part of my life then.

My relational intelligence is greater today than it was when the hurt happened.

I gained insight into who I am that would have never come my way without that hurt.


And there were more, but I don’t want to give too much of myself away here.  The result of identifying these nuggets is now when I think of the relational pain, my first response isn’t shame or regret or anger or bitterness.  Are you ready?  My first response is actually gratitude!  Can you believe it?  Because debt has been cancelled on a debt that can never be made right, I now have gratitude for the impact this pain had on my life.


Here is a second pathway for dealing with relational hurt caused by someone who has already had their funeral.


2) Redecorate your mind with what God says is right and true.

Part of having our minds transformed, of forming a Christian Worldview is to learn what God says is right and true.  Romans teaches the wages of sin is death.  So if God forgives me, does that mean I get a pass on my sin?  Because if that is the deal, I am okay with it!  But what about if someone has sinned against me, caused me relational pain?  Do they get away with it too?  If so, I am not as much okay with that!


Jesus paid the debt for sin with his own blood, so all debt can be canceled.  The debt I caused and the debt done to me.  If my debt is canceled, then the debt done to me is canceled as well.  God has that kind of redemptive power!


I like closure.  I like to wrap complex things up with a bow when possible.  But sometimes, a bow isn’t possible, like when the person we have relational debt with has already passed on. We cannot talk to dead people (for which I am thankful) but we can take active steps to healing.

1) Identify how God is redeeming that hurt.

2) Redecorate your mind with what God says is right and true.

I hope this helps you on your journey.

Pastor Tom Harding