Sunday, September 25, 2016

Healing from Past Struggles


Message Audio:

Today we’ll address the topic of healing. In the fallen world in which we live there are many times when we experience things that harm us. We have to go through hard times. Each of I’m sure could list off traumatic experiences that we’ve been through. Whether we’re soldiers in combat, or children who went through abuse, or those who struggle with addictions, or those afflicted with the blackest depression, we all have scars along the journey of life.

I’ve been through a lot in my life. And I’d like to share a bit more of my story, as I have in the past, and then transition into 3 ways of healing. 


From birth on, it's been a struggle. Just after I was born, I would experience terrible stomach pains. When I began to learn to talk I developed a stutter, and had to work through that. In school I got bullied a great deal and spent a lot of time as an outcast. When I was 16 I saw my parents go through an ugly, protracted divorce. When I was 17 I was expelled from my high school and shunned by my former friends. When I was 18 I experienced being locked in a mental hospital. When I was 20 I became a serious drug addict. That same year I experienced serving jail time for the first time, for marijuana charges. I struggled with alcoholism and addiction for years after. I fought severe depression and anxiety on a daily basis. When I was 21 I became addicted to cigarettes. When I was 23 I was sexually assaulted by a close friend. For years I was estranged from my family. I’ve had serious health problems. When I was 25 I was hospitalized in intensive care for a drug overdose.  I almost died in ICU that night. At age 26 I experienced rock bottom, the blackest dark depression. On and on the list goes.

But, this is key: I’m not a victim. I’m not a victim. I’m an overcomer. I’m a redeemed, born again, son of the most high God. Because Jesus came to save sinners, I need never be a victim, and the moment I let myself believe that I’m a victim, I’m no longer able to heal. Life is messy. And sometimes terrible things happen. But I have to keep fighting. We all do.

During those years of my struggles, I had dreams. I would dream of walking along a beautiful green path in the forest, along a trail. I would walk through these gorgeous green forests. Sometimes it would be at night. Sometimes I would be afraid, other times I would be filled with wonder and joy. I dreamt very often of the road.  It was a respite for me, in my dreams. I didn't know it then, but that trail was the road that would eventually lead me to encounter the living Jesus Christ.

I dreamt many times of walking along this path, in search of the truth. I dreamt one night of ascending this beautiful autumn path, light cutting through the trees, leaves falling, silver birch trees along the road that drifted left and right criss-crossing up a hill. In another dream I saw a beautiful golden meadow, in which I sat down, finally discovering peace.

Yet in the real world my life had become a fading darkness. But reflected in my dreams was a future brighter than I could imagine. In the shuttering cold winds of that dark life, under uncertain skies, in the valley of cold winters, searching for something greater, dying in addiction, in sorrow, finally the twilight broke, the clouds parted, and the light of Christ shined down upon me.

Jesus changes everything. The ultimate source of healing is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the doorway, God the Father is the architect & guide of the plan, and the Spirit is the indwelling healing presence.

Jesus Christ does the mighty work within us. But it isn’t finished there. We still need to heal and grow. There is work to be done.

I was at Salvation Army men's camp last weekend.  At men’s camp I recall the speaker pastor Rod Williams sharing about Jesus moving mountains in our lives. After the Saturday morning session the camp staff asked if some of the men would help move some dirt. There was a giant pile of dirt by the kitchen entrance, and about twenty guys grabbed shovels, and started filling wheelbarrows. I recall as I stood shoveling the dirt into the wheelbarrows, that sometimes if you want God to move a mountain, you better grab a shovel.

So let’s look at three ways to gain healing from past struggles and traumas in our lives.

The foundation of these three approaches must be laid in prayer, and Bible study. We should be praying at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Preferably 3 times a day, like Daniel did. We should also be attending a regular Bible study, and be regularly studying the scriptures in our personal time as well. Those two practices are the foundation, but sometimes we must go deeper.

One of the best ways to experience healing is through study and writing things down.  God has given us wisdom through His word and through the natural world, yet we may also find wisdom in areas like science, psychology, and philosophy. (Note: We can also be deceived by false ideology in many areas, so we must always be aware of the presuppositions of the fields we study.)

The first book I really studied on healing through Christ was called “The Bondage Breaker” by Neil T. Anderson. It was an excellent book on how to challenge the lies of Satan with the truth of God’s word. Another powerful workbook I went through was called the "Freedom from Depression workbook" by Frank Minirth. It helped change a lot of my perspectives about the world. I could list off a lot of extremely helpful books, I'm a voracious reader, but the three most powerful were: "Healing for Damaged Emotions" by David Seamands, "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" by Bill Wilson, and "Love is a Choice" by Robert Hemfelt.


When we go through hard times sometimes we don’t really heal afterward and things build up within as anxiety or depression. When we write things down and learn about the inner workings of our mind, those traumas get cleared out, making way for the light of God’s presence.

I’m convinced many of us don’t experience the fullness of God’s presence because we have too much wreckage from our pasts built up within. But when we clear out those past struggles, we make room for the Spirit of God to fully consume us.

One of the most tried and true methods of experiencing healing from past struggles is by writing down an inventory. This approach was first pioneered in the 12 step program of action founded in recovery groups in the 1930s, but has since become a prominent healing technique. All one need do is write out a timeline of their lives, emphasizing important events, from birth to present. Then working from the timeline, write down in journal format with the deepest honesty exactly what happened. Once having this inventory completed, the writer takes it to a trusted friend, colleague or pastor and “confesses” it to them. And through this, healing is found.

Or as it says in James 5:16 “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Pray about it, maybe God is leading you to write out some of your past traumas to gain healing. If you'd like a more detailed inventory guide Google search "fourth step inventory guide."  You'll find quite a few documents that you can print out to guide your inventory process.
 

Secondly, make sure you have a good network of support. That is always key. And its usually one of the hardest things for those with past traumas to do. When you’ve been through hard times it tends to make you feel different from others. It makes reaching out and connecting with people a very hard thing to do. In fact for me it seemed near impossible. But I managed to reconnect with my family over time. And I began to develop friendships. I found older people in the church and in my recover community who I could look up to as mentors. That is a powerful thing, to have friends and mentors who speak into our lives. We have to have people we can share anything with. Otherwise it stays locked inside of us. A lost art is that of young men finding older, wiser men, who can they learn and grow from.  Trust me on this, seek out a good mentor.  Learn from him, or her.

Thirdly, if we want healing we have to look to groups where we can heal with others. One of the best options for this sort of healing is found at a program called Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is a place to come with your hurts, habits, and hangups. It’s a great program. Other programs are also available for those with alcohol, drug, or gambling problems like AA, NA, and GA.  The healing is found in these programs through blunt, honest, real discussions. 

When I work with the teens at my church, I always try to engage them in deep, real conversations. I try to get them to express their deepest thoughts, and share the struggles they go through. You’d be amazed how these blunt, real conversations can help shine the light of healing.

For those with more minor problems, a good Christian counselor can be very helpful too. 

So those are the three best ways I've found to address the issue of healing from past struggles. And we all have those struggles.

In closing, there is something very important to remember about healing. I learned it in the past when I worked at a homeless shelter in Wausau. I remember one night I went to sleep, upset, because I couldn’t seem to reach those I felt needed my help. I fell asleep and dreamt that I was chasing this boy. I was trying to stop him, to help him. And every time I would run fast enough to reach this boy, he would jump through a portal, a wormhole into a different dimension. So I’d jump through the wormhole, and follow him, then when I was just about to reach him again, he’d jump through another wormhole and escape.

When I woke up that next day and shared my dream with a coworker it helped me realize something: A person caught up in the sorrow of trauma, addiction, and depression can’t be helped unless they want to be helped. The human mind has nearly an infinite capacity for self deception. See, every time I tried to explain to an alcoholic about what the issue was and how to deal with it, he would flee my reasoning, he would escape from my facts, into a new thought that protected him from the truth. I saw this again and again. I couldn't corner them with the truth, they'd always sneak out a back door. 

The point is this: We aren’t going to really heal unless we get totally honest with ourselves. We have to share what is really going on. We have to stop lying to ourselves, and tell the truth. The truth will set us free. If we let it. 


"Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked."
-John 5:1-9 NIV


What was the first thing Jesus asked the crippled man? The first question Jesus asked him was: “Do you want to get to well?” And that is the first question Jesus asked me when I cried out to him, and he became my savior. "Do you want to be free from drugs and alcohol?" And I said yes, I’m willing to finally get real about this problem.

I need that today too. With every issue and sin that crops up in my life. Because there are always more things to work on. So I have to say to Jesus time and again, yes Lord, now I’m ready and willing that you should have all of me. I want to get well.

The cool thing about our savior Jesus Christ is that he takes people like you and me, and heals us over time, and then compels us to go out and help those with the struggles we have gone through. As someone who has recovered from addiction issues, I can relate to and reach those with the same problems in a way others simply can not. So let me challenge you, if you’d been through some stuff, think about how God can use that to bless others who are hurting. 





Resources for Healing:
The Freedom from Depression Workbook by Frank Minirth
Free to Be God’s Child Workbook by Patricia Johnson-Laster
The Anger Workbook by Les Carter
The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson
Beating Burnout by Minirth and Meier
Everyman’s Battle: The Path to Sexual Integrity by Stephen Arterburn
CelebrateRecovery.com
Aa.org / NA.org
www.aacc.net/resources/find-a-counselor/
Healing the Child Within by Charles Whitfield
The Lies We Believe by Chris Thurman
Boundaries by Henry Cloud
Victory over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson
Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
The Worry Workbook by Les Carter
Self-Esteem, Gift from God by Ruth Ward

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