Healing Life's Hurts
When I first saw Jennifer at a seminar on recovery that I was leading, I noticed a lady who appeared to be very withdrawn and whose face, apart from very sad eyes, was expressionless.
She never said much all day but her body language spoke volumes. It didn't take a great deal of insight to realize that Jennifer was in pain. I moved on to our next seminar and didn't give any more thought to Jennifer; that is, until a few weeks later when she turned up a thousand miles away at a more intensive week-long counseling workshop.
Here her story unfolded. Little did I know how great her pain was. She was at breaking point. She had sought help but nothing brought her relief. She had a young son and was about to give him up for adoption so somebody else could take care of him. Furthermore, she said she was so afraid to be touched she couldn't stand her own child hugging her.
It was no surprise that Jennifer was a rape victim-repeated rape. (Her son was a child of rape). It started when she was very young and left her paralyzed with fear. Like a lion in the forest preys on wounded animals, perpetrating men saw Jennifer as an easy prey and had been violating her for much of her 40 years.
She felt that suicide was the only way out.
She came to our counseling week as a last hope. As nothing else had worked she had determined that if she didn't find help here, she was going to take her life. She felt that suicide was the only way out. Fortunately, Jennifer found a place where she felt safe to share her story and express the incredibly painful emotions that had been bottled up inside of her since she was first raped as a small child. Time and again she had been shamed. She felt ugly, dirty, unlovable, despised and used of men.
To be healed she needed to confess not only what had happened to her (where she had been sinned against) but confess or express all the hurt, shame, anger (rage), and the terror that was justifiable but, having been internalized, was destroying her. This type of confession or catharsis (emptying out) was essential to open the way for her to be able to forgive her violators so she could be freed from the past and to open the door for her healing. It was incredibly painful for her, but she did it.
Then we prayed for Jennifer. She went back to her room and returned a totally different person. She put on a pretty blouse, makeup, fixed her hair, and came in wearing a million-dollar smile. Her healing and freedom from the past had begun.
Jennifer is going to need ongoing support because most healing is a process, not just a single event. She will need to continue in a twelve-step or other type of recovery group with supportive fellow strugglers, and may need further counseling. She will also need contact with healthy men friends so she can see that not all men are abusive and learn to trust them. This will take time.
Jennifer's story is by no means an isolated case as there are millions of others who have been sexually, physically and/or emotionally abused. However, for those of us who have not suffered such extreme abuse, we may feel we have nothing to resolve.
The fact is, however, that there are few, if any, who haven't been hurt in some way, as everyone came from a dysfunctional family background to some degree or another. This is because we are all sinners. True, some families are more dysfunctional than others, but every family has been affected. Everybody has some damaged emotions and dysfunctions. Many of us are either codependent, overdependent, or over-independent. Each of us needs to be in recovery to become truly whole and truly interdependent.
One of the facts of life is that we are destined to repeat in one form or another those dysfunctions we fail to resolve, or take out our hurt and anger on the ones we love - and then pass on our dysfunctions to our kids! This is why it is imperative that, with God's help, we resolve them. The following steps will help.
First, we need to admit that we have been hurt, that we have a problem, and that we need healing.
Second, we need to want healing bad enough to be willing to face our pain rather than bury it. As Jesus, the Master physician, said to a man who had been an invalid for 38 years: "Do you want to get well?"1 Only those who want to be healed will be. The half-hearted never make it.
Third, It is not enough to talk about our painful feelings. We need to find a safe place with a trusted friend, counselor, a therapy group, or a recovery group to experience and express all our feelings of hurt, guilt, shame, anger, fear, plus our sins and faults. These are the secrets that comprise our dark side which, unconfessed, keep us bound. As it has been said, "We are as sick as our secrets."
We don't overcome our faults, addictions and sins by being good but by confession, by being connected to trusted others, and by being loved. That is, by bringing our dark side to the light and being accepted by a few who know us fully and love us still. Most, if not all of our addictions and destructive behaviors are an acting out of our not feeling loved.
Fourth, when necessary, where we have hurt somebody else, we need to seek their forgiveness.
She came in wearing a million dollar smile. Her healing had begun.
Fifth, we then need to forgive all who have hurt us. This frees us from the past. Remember, however, we cannot put forgiveness over the top of unresolved hurt, grief or anger. These must be dealt with and resolved first.
Sixth, we also need to confess our sins and faults to God and ask for and receive his forgiveness. His Word says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."2
Seventh, we need to forgive ourselves, let go of the past, and move ahead to become the persons God planned for us to be.
Finally, we need prayer and God's help. I don't believe in the magic of quick fixes, but I do believe in the miracle of God's healing. In fact, one of the names for God in Hebrew, "Yahweh-rophe," literally means "The Lord who heals."
God wants to heal us and has shown us the way. It's in the Bible which says, "Confess your sins and faults to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed."3 Do you want to be healed? Do it God's way and you will be.
1. John 5:6. 2. 1 John 1:9 (NIV). 3. James 5:16.
Copyright © 1999 by Dick Innes