“If you want to change the fruits, you will first have to change the roots. If you want to change the visible, you must first change the invisible.”
We live in a world that is increasingly obsessed with quick fixes and instant gratification. We don’t have time to stop and get gas, even though we are running on fumes, because we left late. We don’t have time to stop and sharpen the saw because we are too busy trying—and failing—to cut the tree down. We don’t have the money to save or invest in retirement because we have to have that car/phone/vacation right now, instead of waiting until we can afford it. Examples abound, and I’m sure you can think of some of your own. The bottom line is that we end up being so focused on efficiency that we often end up sacrificing effectiveness as a result. All too often, we judge the potential solutions and strategies on how quickly and how well they are going to address the symptoms that we see right in front of us, while completely ignoring the cause of our discontent. This feeds the perpetual focus on fixing problems rather than creating a discontinuous shift in results, i.e. we ignore the roots of transformation to pursue the fruits of change.
This observation is in no way intended to be an indictment on the appropriate sense of urgency and focus that must be placed on doing what it takes to deliver results. Much of the focus we place on dealing with the urgent is absolutely necessary, especially the closer you are to where the work actually happens. It is sometimes necessary for the person on the front lines to take temporary measures to keep the line running on night shift. It is admirable for the sales person to come up with innovative solutions to a customer’s issue in the field. Where we fall short, as leaders, is that we perpetuate the cycle of rewarding and encouraging short-term fixes at the expense of implementing systemic solutions. Indeed, implementing these transformative systemic solutions would obviate the need for short-term fixes in the first place! We get comfortable with a rate of change and improvement that is well below what is required to keep up with the rate of change in the world we live in today, and we end up essentially running as fast as we can to stay in the same place.
What if we took the time to look beyond the immediate cause of our problems and searched for, found, and addressed the root cause of those problems? What if we asked ourselves “why?” a few times until we got to the root cause of the issue and addressed it at that level? What if, instead of spinning our wheels, we let the rubber hit the road? What if instead of running as fast as we could and getting nowhere, we finally decided to step off the treadmill? I’m sure most of us have practiced this in some shape or form in our personal lives or careers. In fact, I know we have all experienced it in the areas of life that we truly care about and are committed to, because it comes about naturally when we are passionate about a subject. But isn’t it also true that most of us have had experiences with setting the same goals over and over again, only to fail over and over again, without any clue as to why? That’s the result of setting fruit goals rather than root goals.
The power to heal-physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually-is in God’s hands. But the choice to be healed is yours. Everyone, at some level, needs healing.
You may have prayed for healing many times, for many years. Perhaps you have lived with your brokenness so long that you have become accustomed to it. Maybe you wonder just when God is going to take all the hurt away.
He can. But you also must choose to let the hurt go and let the healing begin. Embracing these choices means rejecting the lies we often tell ourselves. These are not hoops God requires you to jump through to earn your miracle; they form, instead, the journey He desires for you. He can—and will—walk with you. But you must put one foot in front of the other and choose to let the hurt go and let the healing begin.
Clips From the Book:
Healing is a Choice by Stephen Arterburn
At one time or another, every human being needs healing. The type of healing needed will differ depending on who the person is, and his or her circumstances. In every instance, healing is a choice in which God and man are involved. Healing is a choice, it is God’s choice. Also, there is a human side to the matter. There are choices we can make to ensure we experience whatever healing God, in his eternal purpose, has for us. Ultimately, however, we must remember the creator of the universe is also the Healer of His Universe. He is the ultimate decision-maker as to how, when, and from where you receive healing. He created us with healing properties within us.
Although God has given us healing abilities, we can impair that process. Sadly, the ability to heal emotionally, spiritually, or physically has been destroyed or weakened for some. A physical wound must be cleaned and medicated rather than ignored. Emotional and spiritual wounds also need attention, they don’t just simply fade away.
Beyond Physical Healing
The properties of healing are not found just within our bodies. They are also present in our minds and souls. God provided us with the ability to heal from emotional trauma and tragedy. When we lose someone we love, we are devastated, we mourn and we grieve while wondering if our days will ever be full of light again. Our souls are sick from the loss of the love and from the pain that at times seems too much to endure.
When Jesus met the man at the pool of Bethesda, he asked if he wanted to be well. Fortunately, the man did want to be well, and when Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk, he did. He was healed after 38 years. How long has it been for you?
I don’t know how long you have struggled, but I know this: it is time to pick up your mat and walk, or pick up your mat and cry, or pick up your mat and drive to a meeting, or pick up your mat and take your medicine, or pick up your mat and help someone else, or pick up your mat and utter a simple prayer of surrender in order to take the path toward healing. It is time to pick up your life and experience all that God has for you. In order to do that, you may have to do something that will take you out of your comfort zone and push you into places you don’t really want to be.
Strange Steps Toward Healing
I don’t know of anyone who would not prefer his or her feelings to be instant and easy. All of us like the Quick Fix and instant solution. We live in a fast-paced world, and we want the pace of transformation to keep up. We would like God to pronounce us healed so we can just get on with our lives. We say to God and ourselves that if this one problem would just go away, we could change the world or change our family or at least change our attitudes. If that is what you are waiting for, you are probably wasting your time. God’s ways are not our ways. His ways transcend human reasoning, and we will not know why God chose certain things to happen the way they happened until we land in heaven. We come to believe that God wants us to be instantly healed, and sometimes we demand it so, but that is usually not the case. God rarely provides an instant fix to our problem because it does little to change our hearts or grow our characters. As a result we either stay stuck in our difficult lives or finally decide to do things God’s way or we at least come to believe that our own way may not be the best way. The story of Naaman, found in 2 Kings, chapter 5 – is an example of how easy it is to doubt that God’s way is the best.
None of these choices are easy, but all of them can be life-changing.
The 1st Choice: The Choice To Connect Your Life
The 1st Big Lie: “All I need to heal is just God and me.”
- Making the choice to connect – share the secret, that is a start.
- Opening the door to professional help
- Releasing the emotional flood
- Connecting through confrontation
Facing The Big Lie
Choose to make a connection through the abuse rather than isolate and hide because of it. “It happened a long time ago.” “You are doing fine, why get help?” There are many more but the most common of all the lies that prevent people from connecting with others or allow them to stay disconnected is the lie, “All I need is God and no one else.”
You can only convince yourself and others that there is no problem for so long, and then reality steps in and people see your situation for what it is. You may be willing to acknowledge that there is something that needs attention or admit there is smoke, but balk at the notion of fire. You admit to something, but deny that it needs attention from others. Rather than just stay isolated inside your own solitary cave, you hole up in there with God, expecting God to meet every need and heal every pain. It doesn’t happen, because that is not God’s plan. God’s plan is for us to connect with each other to facilitate healing in our lives.
You cannot read what God has to say about connecting with each other and be convinced that He wants us to face our pain with just Him alone.
God’s Truth For Each Other
I invite you to pull out a Bible and take a moment to let God’s word sink in. Here are some convincing scriptures that God’s way is for us to work with one another and be there for one another – connected as we seek healing. Look at God’s truth:
- Romans 12:5 tells us to depend on each other as one body in Christ.
- Romans 12:15 tells us to weep with each other when we often just want to weep alone.
- Romans 15:14 tells us to council and teach each other, when we want to just wait and hear from God.
- 1st Corinthians 12:25 tells us to care for each other.
- 1st Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to encourage and build each other up.
- Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to one another, not just to God.
- Ephesians 4:2 tells us to uphold each other when we try to act like we don’t need anyone.
- Hebrews 10:24 tells us to stir up love in each other and share it.
- 1st Peter 4:10 tells us to minister to each other, so God’s generosity is shared.
- James 5:16 tells us to tell each other what we have done wrong- then we can experience healing.
- Galatians 6:2 tells us to bear each other’s burdens when all we want to do is take them to God.
If you are living in isolation because of shame, I want you to know that God wants you out of hiding and into the arms of a healing community. We must connect with people even though they give us many excuses not to. We have to find the cracks in their walls of defense and pry them open with an honest desire for connection.
Jesus Modeled Connection
Jesus showed us the necessity of connection. He spent a lot of time doing nothing but fasting and praying and connecting with God. Jesus moved ahead with connection though he could have separated himself from others. When he sent out his men to reach the world, he did not send them out alone. He sent them out in twos, connected to each other. We would do well to follow the example of Christ’s repeated displays of the need for connection.
Rewards Of Connection
There is a sense of safety and control in isolation and disconnection, but it is a false sense of safety. In fact, living lonely is anything but safe. It is a dangerous way to live, because it allows you to miss real life and real people and all of the benefits and rewards that go with growing relationships. You can begin to experience the many rewards of connection by taking a small, courageous step out of isolation.
When you decide to connect, you decide to live life as God intended it. You also experience God’s love. Connection allows us to feel accepted.
From Connection to Community
When you experience connection with many different types of people you experience collective connection, which is most commonly called community. Living in community means that you are part of something bigger than yourself.
The 2nd Choice: The Choice to Feel Your Life
The 2nd Big Lie: “Real Christians Should Have a Real Peace in all Circumstances.”
There are not many people who would see pain as a gift from God. If we are healthy and smart, we make the best decisions possible that will lead to the least amount of pain in our lives. Others do foolish things that cause great emotional pain and then rather than feel it, they deny it, drown it out with booze, calm it down with food, or whisk it away with a sexual encounter. They mask the pain and try to remove it rather than deal with its source.
Some people would say that’s a good thing. But no, it’s not. Pain is there for a purpose. It lets your body know something is wrong and it needs to be fixed. Pain is a gift from God to let us know that something is not right, that something in our life needs attention and fixing. When we feel our lives, we are tuned in to pain as it emerges and can resolve it before our lives begin to resolve around it. But if we are not allowed to or choose not to feel the pain, we will add hurt on top of injury and inflict further difficulty and conflict on our lives.
What would Jesus feel?
The prophet Isaiah said that Jesus would be a man who experienced sorrow (Isaiah 53:3). We read of Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his crucifixion. We hear him ask his disciples to watch and wait with him because he was so deeply troubled. He felt emotional pain to such a degree that he sweat drops of blood. Sweating blood only comes from feeling the deepest of pain, suffering and sorrow. He was in the midst of a great despair even in, and especially during,times of intense prayer with his father. This was God as man, who today knows your emotional pain because he experienced it while on Earth. He did not minimize it or superficialize it. He felt it to the core of his soul.
Finding the Need Behind the Feeling
Setting up a community where people feel the need to deny or hide their feelings does not allow those emotions to be used in the way God intended. Paul showed us good can come from experiencing bad feelings. He wrote:
“I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. Just see what this Godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish the wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.” 2 Corinthians 7: 8-11
Paul pointed out that sorrowful feelings lead to making things right. Glossing over them or pushing them down or not expressing them would have limited a great opportunity for change and transformation.
Resolve or Revolve
Often people hang on to emotions they thought they had buried, because they had not fully felt the depths of their despair at some point in their lives.They had tried to bury their emotions because they were often told that to feel them would be wrong. They were probably instructed to develop a sense of peace or to get over it and move on, but they could not do any of that by just wanting to. They needed to feel the depths of their emotions in order to reach some state of resolution.
Many realized that if emotions are not resolved, their lives begin to revolve around those feelings and they live in a constant state of pain, hurt, mistrust, anxiety, fear, and anger. Because these are not considered to be “Christian” emotions, they bury them, but they don’t bury them dead, they bury them alive. Because they are not dead the emotions demand to be fed, and feeding the feelings comes to dominate every area of life. Life revolves around their hurt, and they do everything in relation to their pain. They are controlled by their buried emotions, and when one or more of them surfaces they redouble their efforts to stay in control.
Often food fills the gap. If food is used to feed unresolved emotions, it is in everyone’s best interest that feelings be experienced and resolved so that a life is not wasted with a bodily sacrifice.
Our feelings have a place, but they should not be the entire focus of our lives. That is really what those who suggest- we do not need to feel- are warning against. They are warning against a life in which everything is based on how we feel. By suggesting that people ignore their emotions, deny the depths of them, and attempt to move on, they create the very problem they are trying to prevent. So we must feel our lives and live them authentically, with nothing hidden and nothing buried. Living like that enables us to have feelings without being defined solely by them.
The State of Numbness
Almost everyone has experienced a loss or trauma so bad that they were numb and unfeeling rather than overwhelmed by the intense pain. The shock and numbness is a unique gift from God that allows us to survive the worst emotions. Gradually the emotions return, and we can slowly start to experience them, share them, express them, and resolve them.
Dying to self
We need to die to self, rather than trying to drown out our emotions or kill our feelings. Dying to self is an interesting concept. It is simple, painful, and makes no sense to most of the world, but dying to self means that we are willing to give up our entitlement to be. It means that we are willing to be uncomfortable for the good of others and the purposes of God.
We are not healing our lives if we are protecting ourselves from feeling the emotions very deep inside. We are infecting our lives rather than healing them if we avoid all contact in connection with others so that we don’t develop additional painful feelings. We are infecting them with loneliness, isolation, and alienation. In order to heal we must die to our most immediate desires and experience life as it is. Pay attention to them.
Today might be a good day to do a pain inventory and a feelings check up. Perhaps you could find the time to get away, be still, and quiet your mind. If you do, ask yourself these questions:
- What am I afraid of?
- What is missing?
- Am I empty?
- What am I filling up on?
- Why am I refusing to feel?
- What feelings am I avoiding?
You may find that you can see a pattern of protection from painful feelings you need to address when you take this kind of inventory. You may find yourself hiding from pain and hiding from others. You might see a tremendous amount of defensiveness on your part, and you might find yourself isolated and alone. If so, go further in your inventory and look at how fear plays into the style of living you have adopted.
Discover what you are afraid of:
- Am I afraid of rejection?
- Am I afraid of being inadequate?
- Am I afraid someone might come to control me?
- Do I avoid doing things because I am afraid of failing?
- Am I afraid of doing nothing significant during my life?
When you have explored the fear, look at the anger:
- Do I hold a grudge?
- Am I angry because I feel controlled?
- Is my past in my present because of anger towards someone who hurt me?
- Am I seeking revenge in any form?
- Did my anger lead me to negative statements about anyone?
Then in the quiet moments, take a look at the guilt and shame you bear:
- Am I feeling guilty about a current habit?
- Do I experience shame from something someone did to me?
- Am I knowingly involved in a sin?
- When I feel guilt, am I shutting it down with a food or drink?
- Is there anything I could change to reduce the guilt?
In a quiet place, with a quiet mind, you may find the answers to the questions you didn’t even know you were avoiding. You may find some areas that are sensitive and need resolution. You may discover that feeling your life is not something to avoid. You may find it terrible in the bad times and very enjoyable and the good.
The 3rd choice: The Choice to Investigate Your Life In Search Of Truth
The 3rd big lie: “It does no good to look back or look inside.”
Are there some things you are doing that are causing you to be separated from others and from the life you could be enjoying? Are there areas of your life that are full of conflict and struggle that you wish would just go away? Have you ever walked away from a conversation or a fight wondering why you did what you did or said what you said? Almost everyone has but not everyone goes through the pain and struggle as getting to the “why” behind the choices that are causing problems, conflict, and emotional turmoil. We heal our lives as we begin to search for truth about why we do what we do and why we feel the way we feel.
Mysteries of the Mind
All of us have mysteries inside of us that need to be solved. Insight and awareness lead to informed choices that can heal, but if no one ever stops to consider the why behind the actions or the feelings that lead to the actions, there is little hope for change or healing. It would be helpful for all of us to stop and take a look at life in the past, where we are today, and where it is all leading to and the future. The Bible challenges us to take a look inside: “let us examine our ways” (Lamentations 3:0). our ways are our habits, conflicts, character defects, and the patterns in our relationships. When you are willing to take a look, you may discover some areas that need work and that, when worked on, lead to healing.
Open up your Life
Every person has blind spots. Not foggy spots. Foggy spots are those spots we are not clear about. We know they’re there, but we just can’t quite grasp what they are all about or how to make them go away. Blind spots are different- blind spots are areas we do not see at all. We are not in denial over them, because we don’t even know they’re there.
You may think you are fully aware of all aspects of your being, but you are not. There are some areas that have mysteries to be solved that you cannot solve on your own because you do not see the problem. You are completely blind to the reality of what is there, and the only way you will be able to “see” is with the help of others. They will help you uncover the truth that you would probably feel with if you just knew it was there. But first, before you ask for help with what you don’t see, take a look at what you do see. Open yourself up with your own scalpel and take a look at what you can see.
Taking that look is called many things: “self-examination” by some, and “self confrontation” by others. It is taking your life and holding it up to the light of Truth and seeing what is there. Many 12-step and Recovery groups call it “taking a searching and fearless moral inventory.” It is time spent looking at your faults and defects, writing them down, and seeing what they reveal about you. There are many ways you can do this, but I can simplify it for you. Following are 20 questions that will aid in taking inventory of your life:
- Starting as early as you can remember, who were the people in your life that hurt you?
- Was there anything you did to bring on that hurt, or were they solely responsible?
- What was your reaction to that hurt? Did you forgive them, hold onto a grudge, or try to seek your own revenge?
- Is there any way you could have altered your reaction to the hurt?
- Starting as early as you can remember, who were the people in your life that you hurt?
- Did they do something first that hurt you, or were you acting without provocation?
- Who have you hurt the worst? Arrange your list of those you hurt in the order of the most damage to the least.
- What was your reaction when you first realized you had hurt each person?
- What have you done to rectify the problem caused by your hurtful actions?
- Is there anything you could do to make restitution?
- Are you aware of your five greatest strengths? Write down what you think they are and then ask five other people to tell you what they think they are.
- Are you aware of your five greatest weaknesses? Write down what you think they are, and then ask five other people to tell you what they think they are.
- What have you done to misuse your strengths? Have you been a good steward of them or have you wasted them?
- What have you done to use your strength as well? Ask the same five people as in the previous questions where they have seen you use them well.
- What have you done to correct or work on your weaknesses?
- What could you do to work on them? Make a list.
- What could you do to make restitution to those you have hurt?
- Who could help you walk through a path of forgiveness towards those who have hurt you?
- Write down a plan to contact those you have hurt, begin contacting them if it would not cause greater damage, and take notes on the things they tell you about yourself as you discuss the past.
- Someone to be your partner in truth. Ask that person to help you discover the truth about yourself and motivate you to continue to work on the areas that need help.
Next I encourage you to tear down those protective walls so that at least one other person can tell you what you need to know about yourself.
You also need to be sure that on this planet there is at least one other person who is actively praying for you. Satan is real, and there is Supernatural Warfare going on right now. Prayer is a supernatural means of fighting the enemy, who wants nothing less than to complete the worst for you.
The 4th choice: the choice to heal your future
The 4th big lie: “Time heals all wounds.”
Did you have great dreams for your life that have never come true? Was there a belief that you would grow up easily, discover who God chose for you, marry that person, make a lot of money, have great kids, and then just continue to live happily ever after? Perhaps your dreams were even bigger and bolder than that.
There are others who do not have dreams, because they have been hurt so badly that they don’t believe dreams come true- at least not for them. You may be one of those who was abused or neglected as a child and it is still influencing who you are today. Someone might have been evil to you and taken advantage of you and then made you feel like an object, a piece of meat- anything but a whole person. You may have been hurt because someone close to you died. The anger from that loss may still be there.
People have lived for decades in the pain of shattered dreams and broken expectations. They are still suffering at 50 or 60 because of something that happened when they were a child or a teenager. Whatever it is, they have never gotten over it and moved beyond it. It is still working on them, eating at them, and robbing them of the life they could have.
Dragging the Past into the Future
anytime we drag our past into the future, we have some grieving to do. When we refuse to grieve, we hang onto the weight of life that slows us down and robs us from finding our lives.
The Ungrieved Loss
When we resist grieving, we drag our pain with us all through our lives. grieving allows you to move on, free of the pain and agony. The deep tears turn to a sniffle, then to a lump in the throat, and then to a passing thought. Grieving takes the vulture that abused, abandoned, or neglected you and turns it into a knot that can be easily put away. The reality of it is always there, but it does not interfere with the way you live your life.
Acquainted with Grief
Jesus was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief Isaiah 53:3. That presents the question, what would he be grieving over? Perhaps it was the loss of a perfect world. Perhaps he grieved the loss of the position he held and gave up to put on an earth suit, come down here and live as we live, and die for us. That was a pretty great loss, a throne in heaven.
Perhaps Jesus grieved the loss of all who did not believe in him and chose their own way. Perhaps he even grieved about the mistakes I would make and longed for a closer relationship in which I would depend solely on him and not on my own instincts and strength. Perhaps he grieved the loss of your allegiance, or the future he had picked out for you that you turned down. I don’t know what he grieved, but I know that he was full of grief and experienced the very thing many of us walk through.
Are you struggling with Ungrieved losses? Are there things in your past that you continue to struggle with to this very day? If so, those losses can be grieved, and you can walk into a new future free of despair and suffering. First you have to do some exploration of what those ungrieved losses are.
Trading your Emotions
“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” John 16:20. On the other side of grief there is joy. Inside of silent grief and unspoken pain, joy is lost. Finally, grieving is a decision to heal your future and replace your pain with joy. You trade the nagging pain that does not go away for deep, sharp, grieving pain that dredges out the emotional waste of your life and leaves you free to find and experience joy. In grieving there is a cleansing through feeling what lies buried beneath, and there is a freeing from letting go of what has been a constant companion. The pain felt now removes the curse of pain in the future. It is resolved and no longer needs to be fed or minded or protected.
The losses and the feeling of living a life of “less than” are traded for the gains and the freedom that come from living through the reality of loss. The disconnected alienation is traded for a feeling of connection, belonging, and community. Dependency on your own resources and survival tactics are traded for a trust in God and a dependency on him and his ways. The feeling of naivete is replaced and traded for wisdom and understanding. That Insight is used to go beyond just connecting with others and reaching out and helping others. Grieving allows you to trade the emptiness of your protected world for the fullness of life with others. Old feelings and old ways are traded for a new life.
The big lie: “Time Heals all wounds.”
The big lie is that time will heal your deep wounds. Bide your time and one day you will awaken and feel better is the false hope of this lie. I have not found it to be true in my own life or in the lives of others. In fact, it is just the opposite. Time seems to infect the wounds that are already there. The longer we live with them, the greater their damage, but we want to believe we just need time. What we need is time well spent resolving our past and healing our wounds.
The 5th Choice: The Choice to Help your Life
The 5th Big Lie: “I can Figure this out by Myself.”
Once you have investigated your life, searched for the truth and grieved the losses, you are ready for the choice to reach outside of yourself and help your life. When the truth leads to the reality that help is needed, choosing to get help is the next right thing to do. It takes courage to seek out, obtain, and utilize whatever resources you need to treat the untreated areas of your life. But not everyone has the courage. Not everyone is willing.
In the midst of our happy talk, we need to accept the glaring reality that we each, to some degree or another, have a sick mind.
“Right in front of every person is a path that is very wide and easy to follow” Proverbs 14:12 paraphrase. As far down that path as you can see, it seems to be a very pleasant and pleasurable way to go. You end up in the midst of death and destruction, however, when you take that path to where you want to go. That path is not the path of truth, it is not the path of wisdom, and it is not the path of God. It is the path of the sick mind which is a defective organ.
People can watch their lives fall into complete disarray and confusion. They can experience confusion and hopelessness for years and yet still believe that they must and will find a way to help themselves. Perhaps they have heard the term self-help and, without exploring what that really means.
Self-help is not really self-help at all. Self-help that really helps is God help, it is group help, it is expert help. It is anything but a person’s sick mind finally finding the path to a great and wonderful life. The sick mind that leads us down the wrong path is not going to somehow find the right path one day. In order to find that path, we must seek out beyond ourselves. We must reach out and find the treatment that we need.
Today, rather than having supernatural strength, “two killed a rhino”, we sit and stew in our own juices, because for us there is no rhino. When the body senses a threat, It gets ready for action. First, the hypothalamus gland secretes a substance called CRH that stimulates the pituitary gland. The pituitary secretes the ACTH molecule, which travels to the adrenal gland. The adrenal gland releases cortisol, a hormone that helps keep blood sugar up and gives the body extra energy and you act. If you were a cave dweller, with rhinos all around, you would be thankful for the boost. If you are an accountant, however, you might become restless and not know how to respond to the chemistry set exploding inside your head.
Additionally, there are other responses that kick into gear. The adrenal glands produce epinephrine, which increases heart and breathing rates for better fighting and defending. Blood pressure rises as well and the legs and arms receive extra blood for more energy. All of this dissipates as the threat is killed or runs away into the bushes.
Today most of us don’t face rhinos. Most of us might have bosses that are on us and never give us a break. If we do, the lingering effects of the stress hormones can be quite damaging. Our memory becomes impaired. The immune system is weakened. High blood pressure and stomach ulcers are common. Skin problems and digestive difficulties also follow. It is in our best interest to deal with the problem as soon as possible, so the adverse side effects have as little opportunity as possible to damage us.
We all have wounds of one sort or another, and the sooner we get help for them the better. When we don’t treat the wound, the wound infects other parts of us and spreads out into other relationships. The abused may become an abuser if the abuse is not treated and resolved. The abused may experience the abuse over and over again until that wound is properly treated. Lives can be wasted because something that hurt us at age 16 is still not resolved at 26 or 40. At some point a person starting to experience pain in the sole, the way I experience pain in my leg right now, must decide that it is no longer acceptable to allow the problem to go untreated. Outside help is required if hope is to replace the gaping wound.
Reaching out to get the help you need does not come only in the form of a recovery group or a counselor’s office. Many times the help can be found at the local church, but for it to be effective, you need to be part of that church and involved in it. If you have gone to work on your connections and have become part of the church community, you are in a place to allow those in charge to influence your life.
“Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their council. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God” Hebrews 13:17. Wise pastors are alert to the condition of your life. They can see and perceive things you may not. But your life has to be open and available to them. They have to know you through your involvement in community with them. Responsive and listen are two extremely important words in this passage and to your future. Are you listening to a pastor? Are you responsive to what the pastor says? Or are you still running on your own recovery and healing show? A pastor might be just what the great physician ordered to treat what ails you, if you seek the help and are responsive to it.
In general, the goal of treatment is to grow in character and to become closer to living as Christ lived. There are things you do that are in that ideal, and godly treatment could help you resolve some of those complexities. Unlike the struggle in Romans 7, you should want to reach a place so that you don’t do the very things you don’t want to do and you do the things you do want to do. It is worth any effort it takes to get the help you need to live consistently in line with your values and to live in private the same way you live in public. It could be the key to finally living free and having the life you’ve always wanted and were called to live.
The goal of treatment is to rise above your problems rather than be controlled and dominated by them. Right now whatever you are dealing with might seem like a huge vulture hovering over your head or perched on your shoulder. Doing anything without being aware of that huge presence dominating your thoughts and treatment is impossible. The goal of treatment would be to shrink that vulture into the size of a net. You would know it was still there, but it would not be in control. it would not be the dominating force in your life.
RISE is an acronym I used to summarize the benefits of treatment and give some direction in what to do while you are in treatment:
Reduce the stress in your life by learning some new management skills.
Reduce complex and/or difficult relationships that cause inner turmoil.
Reduce the negative patterns that have set in over your lifetime.
Reduce the substances you use to help cope with the pain in your life.
Increase your self-awareness and how you affect people who interact with you.
Increase your awareness of your feelings.
Increase your understanding of yourself and why you do the things you do.
Increase your connection with others.
Increase your assertiveness in a way that draws people to you rather than repels them.
Increase the healthy influences in your life.
Increase your time alone with God in the Bible and in prayer.
Substitute positive emotions for negative ones.
Substitute a willingness to risk for fear.
substitute humility for arrogance.
Substitute acceptance for anger.
Substitute peace for anxiety.
Substitute surrender for control.
Eliminate addictive behaviors.
Eliminate a critical and judgmental spirit.
Eliminate certain repetitive sins in your life.
These are just some of the areas you can work on in treatment, and some of the outcomes you can expect. If you look at the list of outcomes above, you can see that it would be a pleasant way to live. You have to ask yourself what is standing in your way of getting the help you need? Do you really want to be healed, or have you grown too accustomed to the brokenness? Are you dependent on living in bondage, or are you ready to live in freedom? When you reach a point of no longer justifying the sickness in your soul, you are ready to seek the help that can heal it.
Millions of people choose to stay in the despair and anguish that have their constant daily companions. You don’t have to be like them because healing is a choice. It is a choice to find the treatment you need and help you relax.
The 6th Choice: the choice to embrace your life.
The 6th Big Lie: “If I just act as if there is no problem, it will finally go away.”
Your situation might be just as humiliating as Martha Stewart’s going to jail or as a Christian radio talk show host getting a divorce, but God will use it. He will make the best come out of the worst if you will trust him to do so.
Embracing your life means embracing all of it, including the people that make it difficult. I call these people “ Grace Growers” or “ character builders.” they are used to help mold us into what God wants us to be. We hate the fact that they are even in our lives, but without them we would never come close to what God wants for us. These people that are so tough are actually a gift from God. Like me, you can probably look at the character you have developed and see that it did not get there from people being nice to you. It is there because of some very tough treatment by people who did not have your best interest at mind.
God allows these struggles, and in permitting them he uses them to advance his purposes and his kingdom. David, a man after God’s own heart, would have never been the man he was if he had not been the victim of Saul’s jealousy. It is the difficult things and the difficult people that make up the stories of our lives in a way that can honor God.
The 7th Choice: The Choice to Forgive
The 7th Big Lie: “Forgiveness is only for those who deserve it or earn it.”
I am aware that you might be one of the people who picked up this book and started to read it in spite of the fact that you saw in the table of contents that one of those choices to heal is to forgive. That you are even reading these words is a miracle, because you have read a lot of stuff on forgiveness and understand everyone’s angle on it, and none of it does one bit of good for you and your situation. You have been abused, mistreated, or neglected in such a severe way that you believe that forgiveness of that person or persons is impossible for you to experience. You are a good and kind and loving person, but there is one person that you harbor a grudge against, and you plan on keeping it. The person does not deserve to be forgiven by you or by God. Anyone looking at what happened would say that you are totally entitled to your feelings.
If what I have described above is the way you feel, or you feel that way to a lesser degree, I am hoping and praying right now as I write that this could be the time when everything changes for you. I am praying that as you read on I can help you walk through some steps and help you make some choices that lead you to the choice to forgive the unforgivable. And if you are someone who has not been hurt deeply, I pray that you will use these words to minister to someone else who is struggling because he or she is unable or unwilling to forgive. I pray that in the future if you are ever hurt deeply, you might come back to this chapter and use it to walk out of the anger, bitterness, and resentment.
The most dangerous thing on earth
We live in a world where danger and terror are all around us. But there is something worse, much worse than that. It is worse because it can exist within us and affect everything we do and the very person we become. That internal terrorist is called a “ justifiable resentment.”
A justifiable resentment is the type of resentment that will kill you. It is not about anything petty. It is about real and horrible abuse or mistreatment. It is about a real life event that anyone would say was terribly wrong, and most anyone would tell you that you are totally justified in feeling the way you do. Tender-hearted people will cry with you over it, and many probably have. All the evidence supports your feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, and unwillingness to forget. The other person does not deserve it, and no one wants him or her to have it. That is what I call a justifiable reason.
Although it might be very difficult to imagine, you really can be free from that justifiable resentment. You can let it go and experience the healing power of forgiveness. You can choose to heal a very troubled area of your soul by choosing to walk through a path of forgiveness. And if you take this path, something very amazing is going to happen to you one day.
One day you are going to awaken and realize that everything in your life has changed. You will sense that you are no longer rooted in your past. You will realize that what once defined your life and your inner thoughts is no longer relevant to how you live your life. You won’t forget what happened, but you will be aware of something with the magnitude of a fly you just swoosh away. That little fly is nothing compared to the vulture that now sits atop your head, Talons deeply implanted in your heart. one day you will awaken and that vulture will no longer be there, and you will be free.
The Physiology of Forgiveness
The psalmist wisely stated that in the guilt of his sin and in the silence of covering it up, his “bones wasted away” Psalm 32:3. He knew then when science is just now coming to accept. Guilt, resentment, sin, and silence have a physiological impact on a person. They all combine to create an emotionally and physically sick person, who misses the best of life because he or she is stuck in the past that cannot be changed.
Nothing will ever be enough to make up for what happened. Nothing will take the place of the years or decades that were eaten away because there was a wrong done, whether it was done by you or to you. If you have held onto the guilt and refused to follow forgiveness to work its supernatural healing effect, your body has felt the effects of a lack of forgiveness right along with your mind.
In a recent article in Newsweek, the authors began by making a statement of truth that the psalmist knew long ago: “persistent unforgiveness is a part of human nature, but it appears to work to the detriment not just of our spiritual well-being but our physical health as well.” There was a time when the medical profession would have steered clear of a study about forgiveness. Forgiveness was a topic to be handled by the religious community. Even the field of Psychiatry was uncomfortable with looking too closely at forgiveness because it was such an issue of Faith, but today it is a widely studied topic in the clinical field.
The study showed that there are at least a couple of ways that forgiveness produces an instant result for you. Instantly, you reduce the stress in your life. It is not easy maintaining bitterness, hostility, hatred, fear of being hurt, and anger all in the same body while trying to present yourself on the outside as a normal and healthy human being. These emotional states come with increased blood pressure, hormonal changes that lead to cardiac disease, and impaired immune function. There is evidence that neurological function and impaired memory may also result. The lack of forgiveness is a potent internal cocktail that you administer to yourself to your own detriment every day.
The Choice to be Free
The choices to grieve and forgive and let go are powerful forces for developing a life that is completely free from the past. They are Stepping Stones out of your old ways and into a future full of all sorts of possibilities and potentials. Often people never experience those possibilities and potentials because they get hung up on certain aspects of the forgiveness process.
One of those is the WHY of forgiveness. The reason for forgiveness is not to let the other person off the hook, it is to get you unhooked.
You forgive so you can move on. Every moment spent in holding a grudge keeps you trapped in the event that took place too long ago for you to be holding on to. When you choose to forgive, you are not freeing the other person, you are freeing yourself.
You must also not get hung up on whether or not the person wants to be forgiven or deserves it. If you wait for that individual to want it, you may waste your life waiting for something that will never happen. The hardness of another’s heart is not an excuse for you to harden yours. Forgive freely even though the person is unaware that they hurt you. Forgive even though the person denies that it is his problem. Forgive even though the person is continuing to hurt others and has an uncaring way. Give him or her forgiveness from your heart so your heart can be free.
The 8th Choice: The Choice to Risk Your Life
The 8th Big Lie: “I must protect myself from any more pain.”
I am convinced that life without risk is not much of a life. I know young men who inherited a lot of money and had all the comforts and securities you could possibly ask for. They had it all and lived with no fire in the belly, because there was nothing to burn. Their lives were risk-free, and they had missed becoming the men they could have been because it was all so predictable and comfortable.
Predictability really can chain us to old things and prevent us from moving toward the new. Comfort can encase us in a room we should have outgrown but still retreat into. We must give up the chains of predictability and the womb of comfort and jump out there and take a risk if we are to truly live.
Risk is a choice to heal, because it stretches some of the scar tissue and prevents us from being restrained by the energy. Just like a burn patient, who must painfully move the scarred limbs to stretch the skin, we must do the same with our souls. We must stretch into what is not comfortable so that way we do not confine ourselves to what is comfortable. That stretching comes from risk.
We risk connecting, because if we don’t, a part of us will die in isolation. We must risk loving again, because if we don’t, we will become bitter and isolated. We risk succeeding, knowing that it might prove to be a failure and we might look inadequate. If we do not risk, however, we will live horrible lives of boredom and loneliness, convincing ourselves we are okay as we mark time toward a miserable end. It does not have to be that way if we will choose to take a risk.
What are you missing?
Have you stopped to think of what you might be missing because you are unwilling to risk? Perhaps it is a relationship with an amazing person. Perhaps it is being on a mission trip where lives are changed forever. Maybe it is being in a group where you share your life and find hope and encouragement. There are so many things you might miss if you are unwilling to take a risk. I understand the security that comes from everything remaining the same, but predictability can become a god. You may be living your life more toward making it predictable than toward finding what God would have you to do. There may be a new life out there waiting for you if you are willing to take a risk.
Reasons to Risk
You can’t serve without risking. But when you serve, you serve Christ. You do to Christ what you do for another. That is worth risking even if all you do is get rejected and have it thrown back in your face. When you serve and are not loved for it, but instead are rejected, you end up sharing in the sufferings of Jesus. You fellowship with Christ through your rejection, since almost all of his life was filled with rejection. That fellowship with Christ is a powerful healer that cannot be experienced unless you are willing to take some risks. You cannot make your world small enough to be risk-free.
The Healing Power of Risk
Risk is a healer. It demands faith and trust. It eliminates a lifestyle of self-preservation. Self-preservation and protection ignoring the power of God, because you cannot be healed and still be living under your own power. Those who are healed live by the grace of God and in God’s power. Each time you step out under God’s power, you heal a little of the fear that developed from your troubled past. You have to fully trust God and walk in his power before that last ounce of soul sickness is healed.
You can’t allow yourself to be healed if you are holding back and trying to protect yourself from what cannot be prevented, trials and sorrows. You are going to have them, and when you take a risk and move into them under God’s power rather than defend against them under your own power, you are choosing to heal.