Article written by Carolyn Bramhall, Director of Heart for Truth.
If it is true that our God, the Great Physician, forgives all our sins, heals all our diseases and sets our feet upon a rock; if lonely people are placed into families, broken hearts healed and grieving people dance, then why don’t we see large numbers of hurting people rushing to our churches to find solace and healing? Can Christians really help them to overcome their emotional baggage? Or should we refer them to specialists if we are to see them helped?
The local church often sees its job as simply providing love and kindness while “trained professionals” do the real work – but is that how God planned it?
Many hurting people in our congregations are looking for time and attention, and the number of “messed up” young people emerging into the adult population seems never ending. Are we bracing ourselves for the vast onslaught of needy people who will enter our congregations? I believe it will happen; we must learn to manage it without being overwhelmed.
I believe local churches can become equipped to embrace the deeply wounded, and lead them swiftly, effectively and joyfully into freedom. It is vital that we allow the testimony of the wounded-made-whole to be heard loud and clear if we are to truly speak to our hurting world.
Here is my challenge: that the local church, your church, confidently walks with really damaged people from one end of their recovery journey to the other; not just to a place of “coping”, but right into complete healing.
Jesus said that He came to give us life in all its fullness; that the truth will set us free; that we would do even greater works than even He did … None of the New Testament writers said anything about really damaged people needing something other than what Jesus has given us in order to be whole. Peter writes that we have everything we need for life and godliness, and James tells us that it really is possible to live in joy in spite of all the horrific things that happen to us. Paul states boldly that we have every spiritual blessing in Christ, and we can know real peace which transcends understanding. (John 10:10; 8:32; 14:12; 2 Peter 1:3; James 1:2; Eph 1:3; Phil 4:7).
How do we get there?
People who have been abused or traumatised have a longing for release from the past, for a sense of belonging and security, of having a role. The Bible teaches that God can give us all that and more.
We know that everything we experience, from birth onwards, is stored somewhere in our brains. Everything we see, feel, hear, smell, touch and taste is logged; nothing is really forgotten – and that data makes up much of the bank of wisdom that determines what we think and say; how we act and react.
The real damage from early trauma is not so much the bad event or events, as the message it left behind. Abuse and neglect gives a child the clear message that she is bad and deserves punishment, or useless and of no value. These are painful pieces of information to carry 24/7 and those beliefs can drive a person to desperate measures as they look for something that will fill the void, or crowd out the intolerably dark feelings.
Although churches and fellowships may not be able to offer in-depth psychotherapy, we very definitely can help the survivor to replace these painful, damaging beliefs with hope-giving, world-expanding, life-transforming truth.
Church can provide the environment within which they can feel safe enough to remember, feel, take risks and start the process of “renewing the mind”.
Church can offer teaching which will encourage that process of replacing harmful, negative thoughts with the knowledge that they are forever a forgiven, chosen child of God.
Although this takes time, it is best done, not just once a week in a therapist’s room, but as they live out their daily lives, in the small and big decisions, amongst those with whom they share their days.
It is therefore much more effective if hurting people are surrounded on a daily basis with support and friendship. I am not talking about counselling, nor am I talking about home-groups. I mean good, old-fashioned, guileless friendship, with no hidden agendas. If a journey of recovery is about to begin they will need companions of all kinds to accompany them on the way.
In Heart for Truth we are seeing incredible healing taking place as Christians around the country dare to believe that God is big enough to use even them. Miracles of courage, unity, and faith occur daily as they learn how to walk with the wounded.
What do we need for this task? Lots of information and encouragement of course, (which is where Heart for Truth come in), but most of all we must nurture amongst ourselves a vital faith in a miracle-working God for whom nothing is too difficult.