Pursuing healing requires courage and a lot of it. First, the barriers can be hard to overcome. Finding the right counselor, or affording a counselor at all ends the quest for some. And therapy is a significant time commitment in the busy world. At least those are the common excuses that I have made and hear others make on a regular basis. Then too, is the fear that people will find out that you sought professional help. Despite all the public service announcements about mental health and the well-meaning posts about the rising suicide rates, many people are still ashamed.
Because seeking help means admitting you might need it. But those are superficial reasons to avoid counseling. I think the real reasons go much deeper and are much harder to face than giving up an hour a week or test-driving a counselor or two. Pursuing healing requires that you face the three biggest fears of your life. Excising old wounds is often likened to opening a can of worms. But it isn’t like that. Worms can’t really do anything.
Searching for healing means opening up Pandora’s box. You have some idea what is in there but, man, once you open that lid up, things you forgot existed go skyrocketing into the atmosphere. And the box is never empty. It feels like there is always something else to pull out and examine. And there is always the danger that it will bite!
To engage in any kind of healing activity, I think three fears outrank them all. And in truth, the fears are somewhat justified. To speak the truth into any kind of situation, to shine a light on dark areas can be risky. The problem is that not doing what it takes to become better, to live healthier carries far more risks.
Fear #1: The Past
For those with happy childhoods, this is no big deal. But childhood for many is a difficult time filled with bullies and abuse, fears and unspoken emotions. The fear is legitimate. When we revisit the past, especially trauma in our past, our bodies remember the pain. We re-experience the trauma. In fact, we often re-traumatize ourselves by replaying painful episodes over and over. We release the stress hormones and the chemicals of anguish over and over again.
And it isn’t just our childhoods that can hide trauma. We can live in complete denial of even recent events!
Psychology used to practice a method called ‘desensitization’. The idea was that if you relived an episode often enough, then the pain surrounding it would fade. But the results were somewhat poor. Re-traumatizing a wound doesn’t heal it. But a wound must be looked at, cleansed, and exposed to air in order to heal. So too, our memories must be faced in order to access freedom.
Fortunately, therapies do exist that help the healing process. A good prayer minister, Christian counselor, or even someone skilled in EMDR can drain the memory of its painful association. No pain, no gain is not just true for your workout. The healing process does entail a trip down memory lane. The good news is that we have Jesus, the Great Physician, who is able to heal our most terrible moments.
Fear #2: Ourselves
If it was easy to face the person in the mirror or to inhabit our own lives, addiction would be unnecessary.
Our fears regarding who we are can be quite complex. We fear success or we fear failure. Sometimes both simultaneously. Our transgressions can be difficult to confess, though confession is the path to healing. We are ashamed of what we have done and our hearts convict us even after forgiveness has been asked and received.
Why is it so difficult to stare down the one person with whom we should be most familiar? I think in part because we fear our futures and confronting our limitations will hurt. Seeking healing means exposing those fears and mistakes to the view of another. George Orwell in his essay, Shooting an Elephant, says of this façade we often put up, “ He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.” Indeed our faces do grow to fit our masks. I think of the character in CS Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, where a complaining, negative character stops becoming a person and becomes merely a grumble.
Healing means we must take off our masks and search for our true selves. The pursuit of healing is the only way that we can become one as Jesus and the Father are one. Divided against our own precious selves, we fall.
Fear #3: It won’t work for me.
Disbelief is often just fear couched in cynicism or a protection against disappointment. Nearly every time I sit down with someone in an inner healing encounter, the first fear we face together is the idea that they can’t get better. Their reasons are myriad for believing this. It didn’t work the last time. They aren’t a touchy-feely kind of person. God doesn’t always heal people so why would He heal them?
I find, often as not, that disbelief itself is a wound that must be healed, that it is grounded in lies of unworthiness and shame. God does not force healing, generally speaking, though sometimes He surprises people. Just ask the lady at my church who was healed while preparing for her funeral. She had suffered from MS for over a decade and hadn’t left her wheelchair in as long. Nobody saw her complete physical healing coming, except maybe the healing evangelist who pulled her up from her chair.
But here is the difference between her and the one sitting in front of me telling me that this prayer stuff doesn’t work for them. She showed up.
In the end, that is all you can do. Show up, show up, and show up some more. Yes, it will hurt. But doesn’t it already hurt now? Yes, you will have to look at who you really are. But you are that person whether you look or not. And it will work. Some people I have ministered to have taken some real time to recover from a deep wound. Other times I have seen the Lord deliver a person from a nagging injury immediately. It has nothing to do with me. The work of the Holy Spirit in all of us is just between Him and our individual hearts.
The real irony, though, and the point of this post is to suggest that you suffer either way. These things haunt you whether you face them or not. But don’t you wish you were like the guy who bought Microsoft or Apple shares years ago? Invest in yourself now for the dividend later. All you have to do is show up and see where it leads.
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