Tag Archives: soul wounds

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Have you grieved the pain of your brokenness?

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The Transformational Gospel of Jesus #12: Have you grieved the pain of your brokenness?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. -Matthew 5:4

Surprisingly, the next stage of the transforming gospel that Jesus teaches is to mourn. Yet when you come to the end of yourself, you have to face the hurts you have stuffed down for as long as you have had the strength. Not just hurts done to you. The hurts you caused yourself. The hurts you inflicted on others close to you or on yourself by your own sin choices.

This blessing addresses the impact of the transformational gospel. It exposes us before it heals us. And we mourn our brokenness. However, if humans are deficient in one area, it is in their willingness to grieve properly. This denial of grief points to where we begin to run from pain, seeking comfort in something other than God. When we are drawn towards knowing God, our pain becomes alive and real. Here for perhaps the first time we experience the intensity of our soul’s distress. Grief is a process through which our rational mind comes to understand our emotional loss. We are freed to care that we are wounded, to stop denying that our wound is really significant or that we are really too big to cry. For the first time, we can be safely real about these hurts. We can grieve how we messed up without an, “I told you so!” from God.

Grieving properly is hard because we keep getting stuck in one of the stages. You can bog down at stage one, denying something wounding happened and stuffing the pain. Or you can park at stage two, raging and ready for revenge if you can figure out at whom to toss the lightning bolt—a parent, former friend, ex-spouse, that jerk of a boss, or even God. Maybe you will get stuck in stage three, bargaining for a better ending, or perhaps in stage-four, deep depression over what you cannot accept. You have to surrender your grief to God to experience the outcome of this Beatitude.

—Because mourning is not forever. Sorrow is not your permanent assignment. It leads you towards growth and health. Moreover, Jesus, who understands loss and pain, is the one who will walk through the time of grief with you. You are never alone and without hope.

The promise of this grief process is not reaching acceptance of the pain, but being comforted in a healing way. The blessing gives hope that, although the wounding was unfair and wrong, not only will every tear be dried someday, but also the comfort of healing will be given right now.

I heard the story of one woman who had been regularly molested by her uncle until she was old enough to leave her hometown. She managed to avoid him for years by refusing to come to family gatherings. Depression haunted her until she finally sought help from someone who understood unfinished business. As she grew to know God, she wept many tears over the pain she had received from her uncle. As she healed, she recognized he would never stoop to apologize to her. She asked God for the strength to deal with this man. Surprising everyone, she attended the next family get-together. She waited until she could catch her uncle aside and spoke to him this way: “Uncle, both you and I know what you did to me. But I tell you right now that God has given me the power to forgive you for what you did. So I do forgive you and hope someday you can be changed from the kind of man you are.” The uncle could not understand this mercy. It drove him towards God. For her, it marked the shifting of the focus of her life from her wound to her God.

Being comforted does not mean you will not be scarred by the wound. But it does mean the hurt of the wound no longer directs your life choices. Now you are free to move on differently from when you tried to fix it or deny it. You can move ahead trusting that God will use the wound in your life to conform you to the image of Jesus, even if you cannot see how at the moment.

Steve Smith


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Settling for Nothing Less than True Repentance

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 19Settling for Nothing Less than True Repentance

The second phase of the restoration process is confession and repentance. Some of this may begin to take place during the stability phase, but often the level of repentance before this point of time probably will be based on being caught, and guilt over the damage done. During this phase, the team is guiding the person toward regaining an intimate relationship with God and experiencing godly sorrow that leads to repentance. This is where you will do the most work in exploring healing soul wounds and deliverance from sin choices in light of the work of the Spirit in the person’s life.

Avoid the temptation of rushing through this phase because the person says he or she is sorry. Often people have no idea what they should be sorry for. They make the issue about the actual thing they did—sexual misconduct or embezzlement or public drunkenness or whatever. These are merely symptoms of a deeper issue. One person who we were seeking to restore had committed adultery. During the process he went with his wife to a counselor and quickly apologized to her. The counselor was so impressed with the man’s ‘repentance’ that he released them from meeting with him after several sessions. As far as the person was concerned, he had repented and was now ready to move on. But the restoration team saw it much differently. The adultery was the outcome of a deeper, underlying pride issue that had not been addressed. The team quickly discovered from his push back that he did not want to deal with that deeper level of repentance.

Although people on the restoration team are usually not the main counselors for someone they are seeking to restore from sin, they must offer transformational counsel. They have to point out that symptoms reveal a hurt of the heart and the person is comforting that hurt with a sin in me choice. Failing to pursue this line of discipleship will most likely mean the person will never repent deeply enough to be freed from the addiction of sin. Being caught now may lead him or her to stop acting out on that sin, but its addictive nature will draw her or him back into it in time, even manifesting itself in another form. The person then will become more guarded so as not to be caught again. Since this team is committed to seeing the person restored, helping him or her to the point of discovery of what is underneath and allowing Jesus to heal and deliver is the marker that this phase has done its work.

Steve Smith


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Unlearning False Truths

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 12: Unlearning False Truths

Learning to restore those who fall has to start with unlearning what you may think you know now. So much of what I see practiced with people in need of restoration is based on beliefs not necessarily informed by the Spirit. These beliefs are not necessarily wrong as often as they are overinflated. They are often applied to spiritual situations in which they have no bearing. It’s like having only a hammer in your toolbox, so that every issue must be a nail.

But unlearning is much more challenging than admitting you have only one tool. Unlearning requires an acknowledgement that what I think about this tool is wrong, that I have been misled by perhaps powerful voices into believing this tool really is the answer. I remember chatting briefly with a man who had overheard a conversation I was having about how God healed me from being an angry man. He stopped me and asked how that had happened. I quickly sketched out my day before the Lord, how He spoke truth into my life and how I had surrendered the hurt of my heart to Him that day. Apparently I forgot to say the magic words he was waiting for. He immediately launched into telling me how he counseled many people over the internet by teaching them Scripture. His counterpoint was that only with a deeper understanding of the meaning of the Bible are people really helped. I recognized that, in his eyes, my pathway to freedom from anger was suspect until I admitted the real way to healing was his way.

Many sincere people are like that. Ted Haggard wrote a blog sharing his sympathy with several pastors who lost their sons to suicide. He suggested he understood the treachery of inner turmoil because his own broke his life and destroyed his ministry. Yet it was not through the care of the supporting leaders he discovered God’s healing. He spoke of seeking out help that allowed him to discover past trauma from his early life (hurt of the heart). Once identified and addressed, he found God able to heal this wound and deliver him out the powerful grasp of sin. But this was not the pathway his restoration team was advocating. They told him that when he was done with counseling and ready for the demons to be cast out of him, his marriage and life would be restored.

You have to face this. Sometimes our best tools are inadequate to breathe spiritual health back into a broken life. In our pursuit after God, we have created theological dead ends we worship without question. Or we buy into our own inadequacy and believe the psychological professional really has the goods for restoration. I see this by the number of pastors I know and love who are pursuing masters in counseling degrees. This is not a slam on theology or psychology. Those are merely tools which are either given too much credit or applied in ways they were not meant to be used. Recognizing this is true is the first step to unlearning so you can learn to be part of a Galatians 6:1 community.

Steve Smith


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Are Sin and Pain Connected?

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 11: Are Sin and Pain Connected?

I teach believers how to identify and deal with their unfinished business. Unfinished business is all the spiritual, emotional and mental baggage we accumulate and continue to carry even after we have confessed Jesus. We do not have to, but in our own power, we cannot help ourselves. Right now we are on the part of the faith journey called sanctification—being saved from the power of sin—which will last until we are in the glorious Father’s presence.

Part of this training involves helping people understand what is in their hearts. I know from my own journey and study of the Scriptures that we have two things in our hearts relevant to why believers get caught in sin. The first is that we have hurt in the heart, pain from the wounding we have received from living in a world of people affected by the Fall. The other is what Paul calls sin in me in Romans 7. Consciously or unconsciously, all of us have comforted our pain with sin, which leads to outward symptoms that distort who we were created to be—the likeness of Jesus.

Sometimes this question comes up: “Is all sin attached to pain or can people just sin because they are sinful?” This question gets at the heart of what we are about in restoration. Why did a believer make the choices he or she did to get to a place Galatians 6:1 calls ‘caught in sin’? Was it because they are just sinful? Or is there a connection between the sin they chose and pain in their hearts?

The simple answer to this complex question is no and yes. When we look at the story of the Fall, we cannot find any indication that Adam and Eve rebelled against God because there pain existed in their lives. This is the ‘no’ aspect of the answer. The origin of sin in humans was out and out rejection of God’s reign over us—we believed we can be our own god over our life decisions. Sin is the outcome of this belief. All sin decisions start here. We choose sin because we prefer sin.

But what does this mean? The Fall signifies that the relationship between the Creator and ourselves is broken. Bereft of God, we lack a clear understanding of why we exist, leading us to pursue emotional relief in whatever form it takes. Yet ultimately, nothing fills the hole in our soul that is reserved for our Creator. This creates spiritual and psychological pain for us, whether we understand it or not. We are like children without an adult to set secure boundaries. We fear. We act out. We turn on each other. All of creation is also under this curse, so it wars on us as well. You can trace the reality of this pain from Genesis to the Revelation.

This is the ‘yes’ aspect of the answer. We will never live in this twisted version of the creation without pain until God makes all things new. Until all sorrows cease, until every tear is dries, even believers have—and will—experience the pain from living in a world of people affected by the Fall. Death, sorrow, misunderstandings, loss, intentional hurts, alienation, brokenness, sickness—on and on go the ways we were and are wounded in this world.

Restorative work recognizes that there is personal pain involved in the believer’s choosing sin over wholeness. It may be buried deep. It may be in plain sight. It could be an ancient wounding. It could be as fresh as their morning coffee. Knowing this truth guides you in seeking to restore someone caught in sin from approaching the person’s sin as the only issue to be addressed.

Steve Smith


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Spiritual Transformation Part 6 – Stuck by the pool of Bethesda

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I started writing this series because some people I love and work with had spiritually crashed and burned. And as bad as things seem for them, there is much hope in the fact that they no longer are able to hide their choices to use deadly sin as a means to comfort their wounds. It is out there for all to see. More importantly, some of them are in a restoration process with mature believers helping them, although some are not. It is those that are not that concern me. As bad as their lives have become, they are headed for worse the longer they try. to tough it out with lateral moves or by playing the blame game.

A few weeks ago I counseled with someone who is separated from her husband. What I noticed is that our conversation paralleled one we had many months before – the same accusations, the same anger, the same tears. She is stuck in the saddest possible way. I have watched redeemed people slipping into dark places with their eyes opened, nailing their flag to the proposition that they have tried everything they can to heal from their wounds, to act better, to be more spiritual, to forgive, but without success. One recounted all the spiritual exercises he had practiced in the hope of being granted freedom by God, but still found himself captured by his inner disquiet and was bitter because God was not holding up His end. The bitterness was affecting all areas of his life.

In John 5, Jesus spies a man by the pool of Bethesda who was 38-years stuck because he had no one to help him into the pool for healing purposes. Jesus’ question was, ‘Do you want to get well?’ Is wellness really your goal and desire, or after 38 years, are you so attached to your identity as ‘the old guy at the pool who’s been here since Herod the Great’ that you are settled on finishing out the rest of your life being sick? His response is interesting. Winnowed down to its essence, he said that he had tried over and over again to get well – get into the pool when the angel stirred it – but failed. It’s just the reality he lived with – year in and year out – as long as he could remember.

His response is the refrain we all sing at some time when confronted with this most significant question that Jesus asks. Do you want to get well? Well, do you? “Yes, but….” And we fill in the rest of that sentence with our failed solutions – spiritual retreats, continual confession, repression of desires, accountability to others, weeping and crying before the Lord. What’s wrong? We were so sure that this time, we would get well. What is so different in this hinted-at offer in Jesus’ question that we have not tried already – and received nothing for our pain? Especially since we now know we are further down the spiritual road towards inward despair and outward disaster. Do I want to get well – what kind of question is that?

It is a question of risk. For the man at the pool, it was about leaving the security of a way of life, of people feeding, clothing, and carrying him daily to his appointed place by the pool. But the risk was more than that. Jesus invited him to risk all to take up his mat and go home. On a Sabbath day. On the day when work was forbidden and carrying a mat in a public place courted stoning by the populous. It was about trusting that Jesus really knew what the man needed to do. And instead of negotiating, he just did it.

Are you willing to risk that you may be wrong about your preferred approach to spiritual health, that it may be part of your problem? That instead of being ruthless, you are choosing a risk-free bridge to nowhere? And as a result, your anger at God has grown? Perhaps you feel hopeless. Certainly you are stuck. What would it take for you to come to the place where you could really experience the healing grace of God?

Let me present two ideas for you to consider. First, if we choose ask Jesus to do two things in us – deliver us from the sin of our heart and heal us from the hurts of our heart – then we must start by coming to end of ourselves. We have messed up. Ourselves, not the people who hurt us, but we personally have made the choices that have bound up our lives spiritually. We must own our sinful choices to comfort our pain. We must admit to the Father we have no wisdom deep enough, no spiritual strategies sweeping enough, no personal resources thorough enough to free us from the lies of the enemy. The first Beatitude is our benchmark – we are poor in spirit because we have nothing in our arsenal that works. Our best strategies and deepest thought have not led us to the life Jesus is giving us. We are stuck because we have thought otherwise. To give up any pretense of knowing how to fix ourselves, even by using the stratagems that we have dressed up in spiritual finery, is freedom, not failure. To say to God, “I have failed in all I tried,” is the kind of humility that God responds to – “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) It’s the stuff that spiritual rest is made of for the believer.

The second point builds on the first. We need to be aware that the final line of attack by Satan to keep us from getting well is to focus our attention on fighting to get well. As we see what the problem is, his lie is to encourage us to go after it in a misguided belief that resisting the sin of our heart or even healing the hurts of our heart is something in which we must participate. This is misdirection on a scale greater than that of the magician David Copperfield. We cannot fight our way to spiritual health – never could, never will. Paul points to his realizing his own weakness in being unable to change himself as the point when God’s promised grace became effective in him (2 Corinthians 12:9).This is why he boasted in his weaknesses, so that he could see God do in him what he could not do for himself. Actually, when we focus on the problem, we find that we have no attention left for the One who delivers and heals. Healing is only found in intimacy with God.

This is not Devotions 101. It is not a call to more Bible study and prayer. If you are teetering on the brink of spiritual meltdown, you certainly would not find that counsel helpful or hopeful. Why? Because it is about doing more stuff for God and you are already tired out from trying anyway. What I am counseling is spiritual rest in its place. It is about being with God in the way Adam and Eve strolled with Him every evening in the Garden. It is about receiving love and power from Him instead of begging for Him to give you stuff that you have already been granted by belonging. I will pick up on this issue next post.

In the meantime, think about the end of the man at the pool’s story. After the healing, Jesus finds him in the temple, probably giving a thanks-for-the-healing sacrifice required by the Law, and tells him, “Stop sinning! Or something worse will happen to you.” Strong words. What Jesus is saying is that just because you thought you were doing all you could to be healed does not mean you addressed the real issues in your life. So it is for all of us. We may minimize our choice of the sin of our heart to comfort our hurts and even rationalize our choices. Or celebrate freedom in one area so as to ignore the real lies we have hooked our wagon to. Stop rationalizing, for the life that we have been given in Jesus is far more fulfilling than any identity that we have built by comforting ourselves with the sin of our heart.

 


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Spiritual Transformation Part 4 – An Inward Look at What Must Change

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  • The workaholic who can afford all the goodies of life but his wife and children feel like he is a stranger.
  • A depressed woman who spends her day wishing for a better life – or death.
  • The person with five maxed-out credit cards.
  • The guy who secretly watches pornographic materials on his computer.
  • A person who is always thinking about and reaching for food.
  • Someone who left her marriage for a married man.
  • The father who beats his children when he is angry.
  • A secret gambler deep in debt.
  • A bitter person who is unable to look her family in the face.
  • A man who floats from job to job, always complaining about the boss.
  • The child who habitually lies to his parents and teachers.

What do all these people have in common? Two things. The first is that they are all wounded people. The second is that each has decided to comfort the wound they carry with equally destructive choices. People are not made by God to be able to handle pain in their souls. So they seek to comfort themselves instead of asking God for healing. This is true of everyone you meet, including the face in the mirror. The symptoms of what you choose for comfort may not look like any of the ones mentioned in the list, but they are just as damaging and, worse still, are robbing you of becoming the person you were created to be by God. Even church leaders. And pastors and their wives. None of us are immune from the consequences of choosing comforting over healing. So where do we start the healing process?

If you are honestly looking for God to bring about deep change in you, the starting point is to ask Him to do a ruthless search in your life. (Psalm 139:23) Ruthless searching is saying to God that you are ready to hear truth about yourself, to open up yourself to having closed areas of your soul, on which you hung a “Keep Out!” sign, penetrated. ‘Closed’ as in not wanting to revisit the pain because you did not know what to do about it. ‘Closed’ because you thought time would heal or had healed the wounds. ‘Closed’ because you decided it was a waste of time. ‘Close’d because you wanted so badly to forget and get on with your life.

Some of you reading this are already shaking your heads and saying, “What’s there to find?” It’s time for you to face an inconvenient truth. You, too, are just as wounded as everyone you meet. I am not speaking about occasional hurt feelings that dissipate with time. Nor is this about the kind of wounds that discipline inflicts, the ‘this-will-hurt-for-a-time’ sort given by a parent or mentor that ultimately helps you grow more mature. These are the soul touching kinds of pain that not only do not fade, but continue to ache years after the wounding. Whether you are public or private about your pain, this kind of pain resides in all of us. You may no longer feel the immediacy of it, but the pain does more to shape you than you ever perceived. This woundedness is the root of your unfinished business. This may be the hardest issue for you to ever face. Why? Because it is here that you will have to look intentionally into areas of your soul with God, areas which you would rather leave alone.

If you want to know how to enter into this search with God, consider the promise of the first affirmation. God is in the process of conforming you to the image of His Son, Jesus (Romans 8:29). Here is the entry point for joining God in the search – where is your life not conforming to the image of Jesus? How do your life actions and attitudes line up with Jesus? This should not lead to an ‘I’m-not-perfect-like-Jesus’ moment; this is for a ruthlessly honest “Ah-Ha! I see that this area of my life is out of line with who I am created to be,” realization. You will know when you have gained real insight from God’s search because ruthless honesty also sparks humiliation and true guilt – a “Woe is me!” response similar to Isaiah’s in the temple when he saw the Lord.

All real journeys towards deep change sparked by God’s searching take place in the heart. The heart is the place where we make all our life choices, where our rational thoughts and emotions are weighed to determine what we will do or become. Our unfinished business directly affects the function of our heart. The wounds we have received by living in a world affected by the Fall have damaged our emotions. As a result, our damaged emotions will weigh more heavily in guiding our lives than our rational thinking. We will say, think, and do things that we would hate in others, but the pressure of damaged emotions drives our choices at a level we don’t even notice, or understand if we do.

What is more, sin lives in us, according to Paul (Romans 7:17, 20). He is not referring to sin as actions, but as an inner motivation that affects and controls how we live out life. Because sin resides in all of us, and because we are being guided by damaged emotions rather than truth, we choose sin to comfort our wounds instead of asking the Great Physician to heal us.

William Backus, founder of the Center for Christian Psychological Service, spoke in detail about this kind of choosing in his book, What Your Counselor Never Told You. He explained that most counseling invokes no long lasting change, nor promotes healing, simply because people are unaware that they are rejecting God’s remedy. Instead, most of people’s distresses can be traced back to one of seven traits, known as the Seven Deadly Sins – lust, anger, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth or pride – or more likely, a combination of these. All are attractive because all offer a temporary emotional release to our wounds. While we should know better as redeemed people, essentially we have been convinced by our emotions that we ‘need’ this sin, which produces different sin actions (i.e. symptoms) in us. However, we buy into the deception that the product is a comfort activity, which makes us ‘feel’ better. But it is a false hope, because in time, we become captive to the action the sin within us produces, and, ironically, suffer further wounding by this activity. This brings true addiction, needing the comfort activity more and more and hating the consequences of the activity, whether it be using alcohol, money, relationships, power, work, leisure, lies, laziness, violence, or what have you. In the end, we find that we are comforted to death.

There is hope. God offers a true healing, no matter how addicted you are. But it is a hard path for many of us to embrace. It takes us through the pain of our wounds, not away from it. Review the questions asked in  the last post. Do I feel safe enough to ask God to do a ruthless search in my life? (Psalm 139:23) Am I at a place where I trust Him enough to allow His mercy and grace to address my unfinished business?

 


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