HEALING A WOUNDED HEART
"For everything there is a season," even for times of loss and of sorrow. The pain of losing someone dear to us, or watching a relationship come to an end, can be immense and overwhelming. We feel bereft and alone, confused and lost, certain that our suffering will go on forever.
This is our darkest hour, when we feel we cannot go any lower... yet something inside begins to whisper to us, "For everything there is a season..." and we notice the faint glimmer of hope at the end of this long, dark tunnel of despair. The more we focus on the voice, the louder it gets. The more we seek the light, the brighter it becomes. This is God's love and compassion for us making itself known, and in the growing Presence we become stronger and our faith is renewed.
For just as the harshest winter always gives way to the warm blush of spring, the season of our suffering will give way to a brighter tomorrow, where change becomes a catalyst for new growth and spiritual maturity and we are able to move on with the joyfulness of being alive. "For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1
Emotional wounds may leave no visible physical scars, but deep within a heart is suffering, a spirit is withering in pain. A love gone bad, a relationship that is filled with conflict, shattered friendships, a grudge that will not be settled; all bring just as much agony and suffering as do physical illnesses and disasters.
A special kind of healing is called for when dealing with the wounds of the heart. This must be a healing based on forgiveness, acceptance, fairness and release. To be able to forgive someone who has caused us pain, or to let go of a resentment that is slowly making us sick, requires a type of maturity and charity that few of us are capable of finding within ourselves. That is when we need to call upon God to remind us of the divine spirit that moves within us. To remind us that beyond surface appearances, we are capable of great things.
When we make the choice to be in a relationship with another human being, whether it be a lover, friend, or associate, we must accept them as they are, the good along with the bad, mistakes and all. There will be pain, there will be sadness and anger, and sometimes even rage. But as Paul proclaimed in his letter to the Corinthian churches, "Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not provoke, does not boast, is not jealous. It believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
" We All Have Wounded Hearts"
Whenever two people are in contact, they will end up wounding each other. That's the inevitable result of imperfect people living in an imperfect world. Doesn't matter how much they love each other or how careful, kind, & considerate they are; the time will come when pain will be inflicted.
Sometimes the wound is trivial; sometimes it is devastating. The wound can be a one-time injury or it may be repeated daily, growing deeper & more painful over months & years. It can come from the hand of a casual acquaintance or from the person who means the world to them.
Regardless of the source or the severity, what we all end up with are wounded hearts. Whether it's a little wound easily ignored, or one that feels like our whole chest has been ripped open, we know that it needs to be healed.
The question is, how? How do you heal a wounded heart?
What We Usually Try Doesn't Work:
We all try to do our best to answer that question for ourselves, but we usually don't do such a hot job of healing our hearts. Often, we end up just trying to stop the pain for a while and think that we are healing the wound. So we use addictions, whether of food or drink or drugs or sex. Or maybe we will try to plug up the hole with success or shopping or other "stuff". Others will turn to anger or revenge to try and seal over the wound. None of these patches last, and all of them end up wounding the heart in even deeper ways.
But what does work? What will bring true & lasting healing to a wounded heart? I have found there needs to be three steps to fully close the wound and fully heal the heart. They all need to be done, and they need to be done in order. With these three steps, I can guarantee that any heart can be healed of even the deepest wound.
Simple, But Not Easy:
The three steps are simple, but they are not easy. If they were, then doubtless we wouldn't be struggling so often with a wounded heart, would we? Because it is not easy to heal a wounded heart, there are two prerequisites, two things that you must have before you can walk the path of healing:
The first thing we need is humility. Without humility, you cannot take even the first step to healing a wounded heart. But as anyone whose heart has been wounded knows, humility is very hard to come by when you've been wronged and you're hurting. It's the exact opposite of what our heart naturally seeks when wounded.
"Why should I be humble? I'm the one who was wronged, I'm the one who is hurting, I'm the one whose life is a mess! Look at me!" All of those reasons sound, well, reasonable, but unfortunately they're all wrong. No spiritual problem can be solved when the heart is gripped by pride. That's why Jesus started the Sermon on the Mount by saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3) We must allow our heart to be humble, even in its woundedness, before healing can begin.
The second prerequisite for healing a wounded heart is Jesus. Honestly, you can read all the books, go to all the seminars, and meet with all the counselors you can find, but until you fall down at the feet of the Healer from Nazareth, your heart can never be whole. Jesus Himself told us that his mission on earth was to heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18). Only the Spirit of Christ can give you the strength to follow the three steps. You must be willing to go to Him & trust Him with your wounded heart.
First Step - Forgive:
The first step to heal a wounded heart is to forgive. Yes, it doesn't sound fair. But it is true. Until your heart is filled with true, pure forgiveness, it will never heal. Never.
I won't pretend this is an easy step. If the hurt is deep, it's not easy at all. But it's necessary. You cannot make any progress at all in healing your heart until you forgive the hurt that has been done to you. That';s why Jesus taught his disciples over & over the importance of forgiveness. Whether He was in prayer (Matthew 6:12) or in parables (Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus focused on forgiveness.
If you think, "I just can't forgive this". Then know that if you are a child of God you can forgive, for you can have the mind of Christ. He can help you forgive even the worst of sins against you. He is our strength & our example, for He forgave those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). Pray for the Lord to grant you a heart of forgiveness.
Second Step - Accept:
There are three barriers we face in truly accepting one another:
1. Lack of Intimacy
2. Failed Expectations
3. Hurt From Wrongs
We need forgiveness to get past all these barriers, but our hearts need to grow beyond forgiveness to heartfelt acceptance. We can look to Jesus as our guide, for He was known for His acceptance of the rich and the poor, the saint & the sinner, the priest and the prostitute. He accepted all who came to Him (John 6:37).
With the help of humility & the Spirit of Christ, accept the one who wounded you. When your heart can reach out to another's heart, understand that they are human and flawed just as you are, and forgive their wrongs, then the healing balm of acceptance can further restore your heart.
Final Step - Love:
Once we have forgiven and once we accept, then our hearts are free to love. I know, part of you is saying, "Wait, I just want my wound healed, I just want to feel better, and now you're telling me to love the person who caused this?" Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.
Our hearts were made to love, and they will never be whole until they wholly love. Instinctively, we know this to be true. Jesus taught that it was the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-34), and He gave us the specific commandment to love one another (John 15:12).
How can we love someone who has wounded us & hurt us, who may even hate us? Here again, Jesus is our example, for while we were still in rebellion against Him, He loved us enough to die for us (Romans 5:8). And the Bible promises in Romans 5:5 that we are able to love because "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Truly, we are able to love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
A Final Thought
Forgive. Accept. Love. The three steps of the path of healing, a path that can only be taken girded with humility, walking with Jesus.
Jesus can heal our hearts & free our hearts to forgive, to accept, & to love. As God heals your heart's wounds may you grow to embrace and rejoice in the following words from 1 John 4:
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another ... if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us ... We love because He first loved us".