LEARNING TO HEAL
If it’s possible to have a favourite chapter of the Bible then Romans chapter 8 is mine. I often think of it as the ‘Treasure Chest’ of Scripture because it is almost of the culmination of God’s revelation of redemption. But it is also confronts the believer with the reality of living in a world where God at times seems distant and life seems unfair. While Romans 8:28, which is perhaps (if I’m allowed to have one) my favourite Bible verse, sounds inspirational, in the context of Romans 8 it is meant as a consolation (or comfort) for the suffering and confused believer who is dealing with disappointment, pain, hurt, mistreatment, and loneliness. If we learn anything at all from Romans 8:20, it is that we live in a world where people hurt, and long for healing. And if we look a little closer at Romans 8 we can see that there is a type of healing that requires learning.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope
All creation is subject to futility. ‘Futility’ is anything which seems “useless or pointless”. This would include: pain, disease, breakage, loss, decay, injury, malpractice, and the effects of failure (of either procedures or equipment). Futility can result from inclement weather, natural disasters, or inherited genetics. But the worst kind of futility is the kind that is completely avoidable and utterly unnecessary and which is caused by a person needlessly hurting or harming another person. While this kind of hurt may result in physical pain, it nearly always results in an invisible pain called trauma. Trauma causes someone to continually live in the moment of their emotional/soul pain. Pastor Andrew Brunson knows what trauma feels like. He was a missionary in Turkey, one of the world’s least evangelised countries, and had been serving there for over 20 years. Then the Turkish government arrested him on charges of espionage and imprisoned for two years but not before the threat of being imprisoned for life. He suffered greatly during his time in a crowded prison cell which he shared with over 20 ISIS members being held on terrorism charges. One year after his release, he still has trouble eating and sleeping. He was tested for Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder after struggling for months after his release, but was eventually diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress instead.
Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief.
This invisible pain impacts how a person thinks and ends up distorting their soul – which cripples them emotionally. Someone with a distorted soul can look ‘happy’ on the outside but be aching on the inside. Because of the trauma they are suffering, their soul may have become distorted with misplaced guilt — where, despite being the victim, they are made to guilty for the abuse they have suffered by their abuser(!); or, unreasonable regret cripples them psychologically (“If only I’d…”) – which causes them to live disconnected from others and often leads them to always be disappointed in people generally. Such hurting people often become depressed and bitter and engage in unreasonable blame-shifting. These unchecked symptoms of trauma then become a downward spiral.
A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
The good news for anyone suffering from the pain of trauma is that there is a road to recovery and that many of the road markers toward their healing are to be found in Romans 8. Just ask Kay Warren, the wife of mega-church pastor, Rick Warren. Thirty-four years after her sexual abuse as a 6-year old girl, the effects of the trauma she had suffered for so long could no longer be denied or ignored. It crippled her and nearly ruined her marriage to Rick. She, and Rick, underwent three double therapist sessions per week for a number of years before her healing began. It was then that the statement, “It’s not your fault!” finally sunk in. It was then that the Scriptures in Romans 8 describing Christ bearing our guilt and shame finally sunk in.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Romans 8:32, 34
HOW JESUS HEALED
It seems that most of the people Jesus healed were miraculously healed (that is, it could not have happened naturally) and that their healing was also instantaneous.
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Sometimes Jesus would heal people by touching them.
Then Jesus laid his hands on His eyes again; and He opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Sometimes Jesus would heal people by speaking to them.
Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.
Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. ¶ Now that day was the Sabbath.
Sometimes Jesus would heal people by looking at them as they looked at Him.
When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”
But not all of Christ’s miracles of healing were instantaneous. In the odd account of one blind man, Jesus progressively healed this man from his blindness (Mark 8:22-25). There are several possible things we learn from this account which at least includes the possibility that God sometimes deems it necessary not to heal instantaneously, but to outwork His healing grace over time.
HEALING OF A WOUNDED SOUL SOMETIMES TAKES TIME
Kay Warren describes the wound she experienced as a 6-year old being sexually molested as always being there. This is one of the traits of trauma. Unlike breaking an arm or leg, she said, where the cast comes off and the bone has been reset and healed, the wounds that inflict a person’s soul, such as the abuse she suffered, do not have a ‘cast’ that can come off to mark the time of its healing. This is a common and frustrating experience for those whose souls have been wounded. Just when they think they have “moved on”, something triggers the trauma and they spiral down again. For Kay Warren, this was very confusing and after Christian counselling and therapy she now describes her ‘healing’ as incomplete until the Resurrection. Some wounds leave painful scars.
An understanding of the insights gained from Romans 8 about the kind of pain people suffer over a lifetime reveals several important truths that can help anyone who would welcome even the kind of ‘partial’ healing that Kay Warren has now experienced.
HEALING FROM LEARNING
Misplaced and unrealistic expectations about healing can actually add to a sufferer’s pain. But from Romans 8 we can see that by learning its truths we can learn to be ‘healed’:
- This world itself is wounded by sin and those afflicted by the hurt of sin will perpetuate this hurt in others (Rom. 8:20).
- Christ by the Holy Spirit empathises and intercedes for those who hurt (Rom. 8:26-27).
- God is able to redeem pain, hurt, and injury (Rom. 8:28).
- In this life we can only ever experience partial and temporal healing—or ultimate healing will come in the Resurrection (Rom. 8:23).
- We worship, serve, follow and emulate a Saviour who suffered (Rom. 8:29).
- God’s love is outpoured on us even when we don’t receive the healing we long for in this life (Rom. 8:35-39).
As we continue to reach out to those in our world, we will increasingly be ministering to hurting, lost, lonely, wounded people. May God grant us the grace to minister His healing love to them.
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