A question I’ve been pondering this week is: how do we find healing for those places that hurt? I’m not talking about physical healing, but healing for places where we hurt emotionally or spiritually because of circumstances or because of sin (our own or others’).
I know, in one sense it’s obvious- the answer is Jesus. (The answer is always Jesus!) As we head towards Good Friday we remember his death on the cross, his declaration that “It is finished,” and the fact that it is through his death that we can draw close to God to experience healing.
“He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
But how do we take the truth of what Jesus has done and apply it to those broken places in our lives?
Unfortunately I don’t think there’s a formula. It would be nice if there was and I could give you (and myself) a list of “How to be healed in 5 easy steps”. The reality is that God works in each person and in each situation in different ways, which are never going to be entirely predictable, but as I look over my experiences of healing in the past, I do see a few common features and some steps I can identify that have aided the healing process.
1. Being honest with God
The first step is to admit we have a problem. It can be easy to ignore our wounds and scars and try to sweep them under the carpet and avoid dealing with them because it’s scary and painful. Denial can feel like the safe and easy option, and it may seem to work for a while, but all it really does is to trap the pain inside us. Sooner or later, we will see its impact on our lives.
Honesty with God is not always easy. When you’ve been in darkness, coming into the light can be painful and overwhelming, but it can also let God in to the situation and allow him to deal with it. The irony is that we hesitate to be honest with God when he knows it all anyway. Our questions and doubts and fear and sin are not a surprise to him, and he can take our honesty.
2. Speaking to others
This is something I’ve always found more difficult. It’s one thing to be honest with God, who I could just about believe would accept me with my faults and brokenness, but it’s another to be open with other people, who I feared would judge or reject me.
Scary as it is, I have found it to be an important step in the healing process. On one occasion I was weighed down with guilt over something, and no matter how many times I confessed it to God and no matter how many times I read Bible verses about his forgiveness and tried to claim them, something was sticking. I still felt guilty and I wondered if I would ever be free of the burden.
Finally God led me to confess to someone else. It was terrifying, but the person was able to speak forgiveness and somehow that broke the hold it had on me and brought freedom.
Even when we are not to blame, it can be difficult to speak out about our pain and brokenness, but shame thrives on secrecy. It is important to find the right person and bring it into the light. Opening up to someone about some of the pain I had experienced was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but one of the best decisions I have ever made.
3. Space to process
Sometimes God steps in miraculously and heals a wound in an instant, but in other cases it takes time and effort to work through. That may mean time alone with God to pray or to journal, it may mean working it through with a family member or a friend, it may mean counselling. It may mean all of these.
Depending on how serious the wound is it may take days, weeks, months or even years. Sometimes it can be frustrating, especially when our progress is slower than we might like.
However it happens, time and space to process is key in dealing with our pain, changing our perspective and preparing us to move on.
It’s important not to force this prematurely, and also to remember that forgiveness is a process and may not be instant. (More on forgiveness here.)
It is crucial though, after having shared and processed, that we do reach the point of letting it go and choosing to move on. That may involve forgiving others, or it may involve forgiving ourselves.
It is not saying that what happened was okay or that it doesn’t matter, but it is handing the situation over to God and trusting him to deal with it.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” (Lewis Smedes)
In any situation where we have been hurt by circumstances or by sin, the devil will try to plant lies in our minds:
- What you did was too bad. God can never forgive you for that.
- You’ll never be accepted if anyone finds out.
- You’ll never be free of this.
- If God really loved you, he wouldn’t have let that happen.
It is so important that we reject these lies and hold to the truth.
- No matter what we have done, no sin is too big for God to forgive. “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9)
- No matter what has been done to us, God’s power to heal is greater. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18)
- God’s love is constant and unfailing, no matter what. “Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)
Ephesians 1 is another of my favourite passages to hold to, reminding us of our identity in Christ and the blessings we receive through our union with him.
It’s helpful to identify specific verses that address our circumstances, but also to be reading God’s truth on a daily basis so that it fills our hearts and minds.
Ultimately we have to trust God to show us the way forward and to bring healing in his time and in his way, but as we seek that, we can rejoice and celebrate this Easter, knowing that it is possible because Jesus’ death has made a way.
linking with #FridayFive