Friday, January 11, 2013

Healing and Helping

I was never very good at riding a bicycle.  I didn't learn until I was eight years old and, as uncoordinated as I was (and still am), I ended up riding it up a tree, flipping over, and having it come crashing down on top of me.  Yeah, ouch.  Although my pride was likely bruised more than my body, it still really hurt.  You'd think I would've cut my losses and just walked places until I was of driving age.

At thirteen or fourteen (hard to remember because the impact made my brain a little fuzzy) I was riding my bike down the street when, out of nowhere, gravity took over and I was in the middle of the cement, shoulder bleeding so badly that some other, deeper liquid was oozing out at the same time.  I dragged myself off the road and, partially in shock, limped my bike home.  There's still a scar on my shoulder to this day, over twenty years later, and I can feel the pain of the fall like it was yesterday.

The body has a miraculous ability to heal from so many physical wounds.  Granted, medication and bandages and doctors certainly help a great deal.  But the adage 'That which does not kill you makes you stronger' holds true for a lot of physical damage.  Broken bones heal stronger than they were before.  Being subjected to certain strains of disease can make you immune to them. 

But what happens when the wounds aren't physical?  What if they're emotional, or psychological? What if you're subjected to heartache and betrayal and severe damage to an already-fragile ego? What if your self-esteem has taken blow after blow by someone you've loved?

Joyce Meyer says this: "My mess has become my message; my misery has become my ministry, and I am using the experience I gained from my pain to help multitudes of others who are hurting.  I encourage you not to waste your pain.  God will use it if you give it to Him. He has given me beauty for ashes, just as He promised in Isaiah 61:3, but I had to let go of the ashes. [emphasis mine].  I had to learn to have a good attitude... I had to learn to let go of the bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness I felt toward the people who hurt me.  When we have been hurt, it is important not to let the pain go on and on by having a bitter attitude.  We hurt only ourselves when we hate people... Remember, God is our Vindicator, and He will bring good out of what the enemy intended for evil."

If you refuse to get a cast on a broken leg, it could be crippling to your body for life.  If you refuse to forgive and allow bitterness and resentment to build, it could be crippling to your heart and spirit for life.

I don't post this to oversimplify things because I know for certain that such things as abuse (emotional, sexual, physical) or any sort of emotional trauma caused at the hands or words of another can be devastatingly detrimental.  But there's a choice that lies within us.  We need counseling, we need to work through what happened.  I'm not saying 'suck it up and heal'.  Emotional healing takes time and effort and tools just as physical healing does.  And, just as physical wounds are so deep that they often leave a scar, so do emotional wounds.

Emotional scars can carry the weight of such manifestations as paranoia, trust issues, anxiety, knee-jerk physical responses that didn't used to be there, low self-esteem, depression, and a myriad of others.  These are not easy to overcome, I can guarantee you.  But if we trust God to help us -- if we give the ashes of what happened to Him -- he will give us beauty and healing and a new attitude like we never could have imagined.

I struggle daily with many of these manifestations.  I've seen my share of emotional trauma, and I have also seen quite a bit of healing over the years.  I find that, when I focus on using the negative things that have occurred in my life to help others with their own struggles, my burden becomes lighter and I can breathe a bit better.  If we bottle up our struggles and hide our wounds, we internalize things so much that the pressure builds up inside, screaming to get out.  We become angry, horribly depressed, or a sobbing mass of tears.  (Or a delightful combination of all three.)

When we allow Love to come in and help us to heal, we may still have the scars, but the wounds are no longer fresh.  We can counsel others with the knowledge we gain from our wounds.  We can let people know that they are not alone.  We can guide them around the traps set by others so that they can heal more quickly.  We can help them avoid hatred; in turn, the healing process is not hampered by bitterness and resentment, which can be akin to pouring salt on an open wound.

Thus, the same adage holds true for emotional healing as for physical: that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.

This is why we're here together; to help each other heal, and to help ourselves.  We've all seen our share of problems, and we all have healing to do.  It's so much easier and quicker to do that healing together, isn't it?  If you're all alone and you fall, there's no one there to pick you up, so sometimes you just let yourself stay on the ground for days.

Let's get you up off the ground and keep walking together.

Stephanie Jean

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