God wants to heal your pain, but is the church equipped to reach the wounds of the broken?
What is inner healing?
Inner healing is needed for those wounds inflicted on the heart and mind—the wounds within us. These internal injuries can stem from tragic events like a bereavement or divorce or even some large-scale conflict such as war. These experiences are typically acknowledged as being worthy of special attention, with the emotional impact being acknowledged and understood by many.
Additionally, we are beginning to understand that wounds stemming from key relationships—such as family, spiritual, or romantic—also merit such attention, but they are harder to identify. In these key relationships, we might suffer wounding from wilful sinful actions towards us, like physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. Or we can suffer internal wounding from inaction in these relationships, like a lack of emotional support from parent to child. For these wounds, a greater level of insight and knowledge is required to understand the potential impact on an individual. This understanding will enable individuals to do the important work of identifying their need for healing as well as the reasons why.
Internal wounds come in different sizes; the type and depth of the wound depends on the circumstances, such as the length of time the injury was inflicted and the severity of the sin. Unlike a flesh wound, inner wounds do not close up and heal automatically. They remain open unless they receive the right treatment. The good news is that no matter the size of the wound, big or small, God wants to heal you. He deeply cares for you and desires to walk you through this necessary work of healing.
Why is inner healing necessary?
When we begin a relationship with Jesus, we are born again and our lives becomes new. However, the effect of past sins by and against us has impacted our inner being, and those wounds must be healed and regenerated. Because God is in the business of healing, He strongly desires to perform this inward work.
Being healed internally is part of the process of sanctification, as the Holy Spirit cleanses us from the effects of sin and the fallen world in which we live, bringing about a positive change from within (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The end result will be not only that we are transformed, but also that we become highly effective for God’s Kingdom. His Spirit will be able to flow and operate more freely through a whole and regenerated vessel.
Maybe this all sounds too good to be true. You might be wondering whether we really have access to a pain-free life. That is not what this form of healing is about. We will need to remain continually dependent on the grace, strength and power of God to see us through our lives. We are also bound to face new challenges and relationships with the potential to cause us pain (John 16:33). What inner healing does achieve is our freedom from the effects of our past that may be hindering our present and future through restoration of these areas and through the breaking of unhealthy connections in our lives. Healing our inner wounds will free us to live our lives the way God intended without any limitations. We will become the recipients of all that God has for us.
My story of inner healing
Like most second-generation Caribbean children, I grew up as a regular churchgoer. As I entered my teenage years, I followed the general pattern of many of my peers and began to lose interest in church attendance. During this time period, I also started exploring relationships, which ended with me falling victim to a dark and all-consuming world for which teenagers like myself are ill-prepared. After a succession of bad relationships, I ended up pregnant by a man several years my senior by the time I was eighteen. In what seemed like moments, my life went from fairly typical to extremely dysfunctional. Faced with the consequences of my actions and decisions, I felt as though my life had been irreconcilably changed. In my view, I would never have a chance to start again. Consequently, I entered a period of great distress, becoming hopeless and desperate for a change that only God could bring.
In His watchful care, God stepped in and drew me out of the deep waters of despair and led me onto a new path (Psalm 18:16), and I answered the call to give my life to Him. With the initiation of this new-found relationship, I became directed by God’s governance over my life and the life of my newborn son. Our situation slowly began to change. My life became more positive. Despite being a young mother, I enrolled into university to pursue my dreams and career aspirations.
With the past behind me, I managed to enter my early twenties ticking off all the textbook milestones that many people my age aspired to achieve. I was in a Christian marriage, had secured my career, was active in ministry and was enjoying the new and latest addition to my family. My life appeared to be very much normal—even blessed, in fact! In many ways, it was. God had moved me from a place of external fragmentation to one of stability. That horrible period when I was eighteen, pregnant and lost with no hope was over and forgotten. I had physically and emotionally moved on. Glory be to God!
In my experience, this is where many testimonies of God’s goodness towards us as His children end. But what if God dealing with our external condition is only the beginnings of His working in our lives? What if God wants to work much deeper than what is seen on the surface?
Little did I know that He was about to reveal to me that He desired to do a deep work within that went far beyond providing me with external stability.
A deep healing work begins
God needed to reveal to me that, despite being a Christian and externally stable, I was internally broken and in need of healing from the effects of my past. This brokenness had left me inwardly fragmented, with a need to be put together again by God. When God shone His light on this area of my life, my understanding of God and His desire to work on our inward parts was extremely limited. My experience in church up until that point hadn’t exposed me to the knowledge that would allow me to understand how much God cared about our past, feelings and emotions. Despite how surprising that might sound to many. I know that I am not alone in how I thought.
In my ignorance, I felt that the negative experiences of my past and the mistakes I had made had been erased the moment I gave my life to God and rose from those baptismal waters. And in part, that was true; I was born again. However, God wanted me to learn and understand how I reached the point of being that lost eighteen-year-old woman who found herself in difficult and challenging circumstances.
Many who find themselves in hard places usually arrive there because they are on a journey of their own—often fuelled by their mental or emotional state, which can be connected to the wounds they carry. Without adequate support and Godly intervention, many who are on a destructive path are unable or even unaware of the need to make a change.
But what did this mean for me? As God was slowly shaping my understanding of my life, His light illuminated the broken ‘daughter identity’ I had held and carried in childhood and showed me how this identity had shaped my thinking, outlook and decision-making during my teenage years. One of the major wounds from this identity that needed healing was my deep-rooted insecurity and lack of understanding of who I was due to the way key relationships had formed in my life.
God took me on a seven-year journey of inner healing during which He delicately stripped, repaired and restored this aspect of my life. In His love, He identified each wound and the consequential layers and ‘infections’ to allow me to understand the impact of my past and events within it. He corrected my wrong thoughts about myself and restored all that had been damaged. Through His love, He miraculously healed the wounds of my heart so that I would become secure in my identity as a daughter of God.
I must add, this process was not undertaken alone. That would have been impossible, as healing is incredibly difficult and painful. When God operates on your wounds, pain is inevitable. I needed to lean on the loving and caring faith community that surrounded me. I was able to share and receive counsel and prayer from them whilst journeying through. By this process, I was irreversibly changed. A God-sized internal makeover changed the core of who I was and removed all of the insecurities I held so tightly. I was becoming the woman God intended me to be, and my past no longer had a hold on me; I was freed. Having been a recipient of God’s work in my life in this way, I am a living witness to the power He has to heal us from the inside out.
What part does the church need to play in inner healing?
People from every background and walk of life have internal problems, and many people are seeking answers and solutions in many different places. The church can offer something both special and unique that can be offered by no other—access to our truly life-changing and healing God.
God wants His church awake and alert in this area, as He desires to magnify to us as His children this attribute of His loving nature. We have a duty to bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted. In part, the church should operate as a hospital for the hurting. This should be a dedicated as well as integrated area of ministry. God has given the church spiritual resources that He wants us to utilise that include prayer, insight, healing, counsel and encouragement, to name but a few. However, we must understand and begin tapping into the power apportioned to us to minister God to the broken areas of people’s lives. We must attain a deep understanding that God changes lives from the inside out. These are changes that go beyond dropping sinful or even just harmful habits. These changes speak to God’s power to minister to the core and root of who we are and how we may have been wrongly shaped, hurt and affected throughout the course of our lives. This is a change that we all need. No matter our life experience.
The importance of an open environment
Inner wounds can be hard to spot if a church is in a routine or has a set order and system that leaves little room or time for true and authentic relationships to be built and flourish. Such environments usually have walls and barriers that inhibit openness and transparency. These barriers could be judgemental and religious attitudes, old mindsets resistant to Spirit-initiated change or a lack of care and concern for the sheep. Because of this, individuals may begin to believe that the deeper issues from their past or present are unimportant or unworthy of being shared or explored. Sadly, this can also cause individuals to wrongly label their internal issues and problems as equally unimportant to God, thereby suppressing them and putting them on the back burner. But in fact, the opposite is true. God deeply cares about our thoughts, feelings and emotions (Psalms 139:4).
In contrast, an environment where openness and transparency are cultivated will be the perfect environment for the Holy Spirit to move and work. Individuals will feel safe, rather than judged, when sharing their issues. The Holy Spirit will be free, rather than hindered, to powerfully work and minister to the exact area of need. Churches must teach and promote transparency and vulnerability with God and others (James 5:16).
Amplifying God’s heart
If churches want to become established in this area of ministry, the Father heart of God must be amplified. God must be known as a Father that embraces His children despite their mistakes or experiences (Luke 15:11-32). Through this amplification, those both outside and within the church will see and experience God with an elevated level of clarity, drawing them to His transformative and restorative love. This will result in them coming to understand their value and worth in His eyes and the patience He has when working in our lives internally.
Inner Healing is a cause we must now champion. It is our duty to serve our world and those within our churches with God’s healing touch.
About the author
Marilyn Johnson attends the ARC church in Thurrock, Essex where she serves with her husband as an eldership couple. She has recently completed her debut book which documents her inner healing journey. You can find out more about Marilyn and receive updates about her upcoming book project by visiting www.marilynjauthor.com