Ugh. Do you feel this?!
I was recently asked to field this question as part of a larger project we’re putting together over at the More To Be Coach Network. I’ll be talking about that opportunity soon, but I couldn’t wait to give you all the first chance to hear my answer to this deeply painful question.
I want to answer this question in two parts. Today, I’ll begin with the first step:
You Must First Heal The Heart Wound.
To begin to start your way on the path towards healing, I want to offer a helpful acronym using the word “HEAL.”
H ~ Honor the Pain
When there has been a deep wound, the first step towards healing is to identify and name what you are feeling. Neuroscience has proven that for our brains to come out from their places of emotion to be able to think clearly again, we must allow ourselves space and time to feel. When we can identify the emotions within us, and begin to consider what we are experiencing in our hearts, we’ll begin to start the process of healing. David is an amazing example of expression his emotions instead of hiding from them. In doing so, he was able to not only survive the pressures and losses in his life, but he was able to thrive as a leader and grow to know God in a deep way.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to get started:
- What emotions have you felt surrounding this person/event?
- Are you okay with feeling this way? If not, why not? How would you like to feel instead?
- What do you feel you need from this person/event to move forward?
- Identify what expectation(s) you had toward that person/event. (I expected that … They should have…)
- How can you take a tangible step to express and honor this pain – write a letter, light a candle, have a dinner, purchase an object…? The possibilities of ways to express your pain are as unique as people are. Think on it a bit and see what the Lord might have you to do.
E ~ Experience God’s Presence
I know this may sound like a crazy idea right now. Most likely, you’re as angry with God as you are with whoever has hurt you. After all, you reason, He allowed this pain and surely this must mean He hates you. But, in your heart, you know this isn’t true. God did have the power to stop whatever wounded you, but if He stopped everything that caused pain, then there would no longer be free will in the world and He might as well have created robots. (The stories we have of Job, Joseph, Lazarus, and many more tell us that pain can, and will, happen to everyone- even the “best” of Christ-followers.) When others choose to sin against us and against God, we have two main responses: to get bitter and shake our fists at God or to rest in His loving, Abba Father’s arms and receive His comfort.
My dear friend, you have not sinned to receive the hurt you’ve received. You are not too bad, too unloving, too unworthy, too anything to cause our Heavenly Father to have turned His back on you. Instead of running from Him in anger, what if you chose to run to Him and allow Him to sit with you in your anger.
To sit with you in your pain.
To sit with you while you grieve and mourn the loss you are experiencing.
You do not need to clean up your messy, emotional self to get it ready for God to be around you again. Jesus wept while He walked on this earth and God the Father promises that He is storing up your tears. (Psalm 56:8)
Here are some questions to consider to invite God into your pain and experience His presence:
- Given my current realities, when can I make a date with the Lord?
- What potential obstacles will I need to overcome to make this date happen? (Child care? Pet sitting? Taking off work?
- What types of ways do I enjoy spending time with God? (Music? Writing? Being out in nature?) Utilize ways you already are natural and bent towards and be ready to encounter God.
- Consider what internal obstacles you may need to attend to and try to hold them losely; fear of vulnerability with the Lord? Shame or guilt? Can you let go of these feelings for a time and curiously experience God’s presence.
A ~ Acknowledge Your Next Step
Healing is both active and passive. We receive God’s love by sitting in stillness and silence and then we have a choice to be active and take a next step.
Consider these possibilities:
- Do you need to see a counselor or a coach?
- Do you need some time with a trusted friend?
- Do you need to go to the person who hurt you?
- What action step do you think the Holy Spirit may be calling you to at this point? Be courageous, Friend; reach out and take the next step- when you are ready. (And don’t worry if you are not ready today. Hang out in “E” for some time! There is no rush and no timetable. Healing is a process.)
L ~ Lay It Down
This is another tangible step that requires reaching out on your part. This “reach” may feel too difficult right now. If that’s the case for you, I encourage you to spend more time in the other steps of the process. When you are ready, plan a moment where you can definitively lay down the hurt you’ve experienced.
Here are a few ideas of what this might look like:
- Journal – write down a list of all the words you are hearing swirl in your mind, all the actions taken against you, and regrets you may have.
- Set aside a time to wrestle with the Lord – maybe this is a night away from the family, a night to throw bricks or bottles, or punch your fists into pillows in a hotel room. The wound must come out – or the infection will continue.
- Ask God to come into this place of pain and reveal Himself to you in it. Don’t be afraid to ask God, “Where were you?!” and then wait for Him to answer.
I’ll be honest; this is a slow process. This journey took me 18 months of regular life happening while I went step by step. I stayed in these places on the journey for months at a time. I rested and experienced his love by reading only Psalms for an entire year! For you it may require only a few weeks or months, or, maybe it will take you a few years, too.
There is no timetable for healing.
It’s a process that is not linear and often feels as if you’ve taken steps backwards. One moment you’ll think, “Oh, I’m doing great!” and then minutes later something will happen that will remind you of the pain again and immediately you’ll feel the wave of pain grip your body, mind, and soul.
Take heart, my dear Friend, you are not alone. The God of this world has not abandoned you.
He is near.
He is with you.
He is for you!