Editor’s Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jimmy Evans’ new book When Life Hurts: Finding Hope and Healing from the Pain You Carry (Baker Books, 2013).
In this fallen world, everyone experiences some kind of pain. A wide variety of painful experiences – such as rejection, shattered dreams, betrayal, abuse, illness, job loss, and the deaths of loved ones – can cling to your soul, leaving hurt feelings there. If your pain remains unresolved, it will disrupt your mental, emotional, and spiritual health as you carry it around with you every day.
It’s vital to face your pain and resolve it, so you can let go of that burden and enjoy a healthy life. The only effective way to do that is by taking your pain to God and inviting him to heal you. Here’s how you can do so:
Let go of any inner vows you may have made. Inner vows are promises about the future that you make to yourself about pain you’ve suffered in the past. For example, you might vow: “No one will ever break my heart like that again” or “I’ll never let myself be poor.” While it may seem like inner vows will help you, they’ll actually hurt you, because they encourage you to try to control certain areas of your life rather than trusting God with them, they lead you to act in irrational and even absurd ways, and they can start to guide your life when it should be the Holy Spirit who guides you. Surrender your inner vows – and every part of your life – to God, inviting him to change your hard heart to one that’s full of His love as he guides you through the healing process.
Stop trying to deal with your pain in unhealthy ways. You can’t truly heal from pain by medicating (using some type of pleasure, such as food or sex, to make yourself feel better temporarily), motivating (turning to ambition and busyness to try to distract yourself from pain), or meditating (focusing constantly on your pain to try to justify it). Instead, confess your pain in prayer to God and welcome the healing that only he can give you.
Listen to the messages that your pain communicates. The pain you feel always communicates some kind of message – either good or bad. God may be speaking to you through your pain to direct your attention to something in your life that needs to change and to help you learn and grow. But Satan may also use your pain to speak to you, in an attempt to draw you away from God. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom you need to discern the difference. Keep in mind that God’s voice gives you loving comfort and guidance designed to help you heal, while Satan’s voice leads to feelings of fear, doubt, confusion, and shame designed to make you despair. Listen carefully for God’s message in your pain, and reject Satan’s messages.
Embrace the truth that you’re not a burden, but a blessing. Don’t let the pain you’ve gone through cause you to devalue yourself. If you feel as if you’re a burden to God or other people, pray for the Holy Spirit to send you a fresh dose of confidence and remember your core identity as one of God’s beloved children. Know that your wounded soul is never damaged beyond God’s ability to heal. Accept the complete and unconditional love that God offers you and welcome God’s healing work in your life. Whenever thoughts of insecurity or shame enter your mind, remind yourself that, from God’s perspective, you’re a blessing to him and others.
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Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer