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The Wounded Healer

Last week we wrapped up our series on perspective during difficult times.
This week’s article delves into how the wounds, we often sustain during difficult times,
can be used to help others.

We all experience wounds throughout life. No one is immune. Yes, some people have the personal resources, faith and support of family and friends to help to heal those wounds better than others. However, many of the contributing factors for healing are out of our control.

Sadly, some people are born in families that cause even more wounds. In fact, some of the worst wounds people carry with them began within their family of origin and none of us have control over the family we are born into. In many cases, we have to look beyond our family and friends to find healing and we have to look to God, for complete healing and restoration.

As time progresses, we are often further wounded by the poor choices we make, and their consequences, as well as the poor choices of others and simply due to the fact we live in a broken world.

When we acknowledge those wounds and set about the difficult task of addressing them, whether we realize it or not, we are preparing ourselves to someday be healers for others. When, as Christians, we hand over our painful experiences such as: death of loved ones, illness, betrayal, divorce, abuse, loneliness, and let God work within us, we are actually being prepared, by Him, not only for our sake but for the sake of others.

“We are preparing ourselves to someday be healers for others”

Paul writes, in his letter to the Corinthians, He “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor 1:3-4).

When you find a “so that” within a passage, it is always important to take note of what is stated before and after the “so that”.  In this instance, it starts with our comfort from God, that is available to us. “He comforts us”. How many of us don’t even get past the part of letting God comfort us in our pain. Some people turn away, from Him, during times of extraordinary suffering. People often walk away from their faith. They become angry and distant with God, upset He has allowed what has happened.

He is there, but we have to let God be God and hand Him our pain and let Him walk us through our pain, with His wisdom and comfort. Granted, it may be a very long and messy walk, but only when we do that, are we able to become a “wounded healer” to others. It is at that point, that we can work on the second part of that passage, after the “so that” and go on to comfort others and bring healing to their souls.

Henri Nouwen, a distinguished 20th century Christian writer, stated “our service will not be perceived as authentic unless it comes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which we speak.” He also speaks, in his book The Wounded Healer, about the role of ministers, when he writes, “Thus, nothing can be written about ministry without a deeper understanding of the ways in which ministers can make their own wounds available as a source of healing.”

“Make our own wounds available as a source of healing”

Although Nouwen’s focus was on those who are in the profession of ministry as ministers, pastors, vicars, priests etc., the truth is that we are all called, by God, to be ministers to those around us.

So, as we look at difficult times we have experienced in our past, have we done our “work”, with God, to help to bring healing to ourselves? Once we have, scars and all, we are then well placed to help to heal the wounds of those around us.

One of the greatest ways to do so is through, as Nouwen suggests, making our own wounds available to others, to be vulnerable, open and honest about our wounds and “walking the walk” beside our wounded companions, on this journey this side of eternity.

There is a gift within people who have been wounded and then healed. Where licensed counselors may struggle to connect, the simple eyes of someone who has experienced similar wounds, can touch another person’s heart and soul in a way no one else can.

Once we have done our work, in healing ourselves, we can reach others with a powerful credibility and then we can simply minister to them in the most profound way, and one of those ways is simply through the ministry of presence and silence.

People going through difficult times often feel very isolated. People around them don’t know what to say, are afraid to say the wrong thing, they don’t want to upset them further, it hits too close to home to enter someone else’s pain or a variety of other reasons, so they keep their distance. Yet this is where God has given us the simple gift of listening.

To come alongside the person, to hurt with them, to listen to them and to just be by their side as they try to process what they have experienced. To be, what I call, “Jesus with skin on”. We aren’t usually called, by God, to give great theological insights into the pain of others, but to simply be there. Our best answer, in their pain, is often “I don’t know why but I do know this, I will walk alongside you as you walk through this, and on the days you feel you can only crawl, I’ll be there crawling next to you.”

“Jesus with skin on”

The body of Christ has members that serve in formal pastoral roles, as well as counselors, but we all can make our wounds, we have healed from, a gift to those around us. Spiritual friendship is the most basic point of entry into our own personal “ministries” where we provide, to others, a nurturing, healing environment while we model health after woundedness within the simple relationship of friendship.

You may not have all the answers, but you can be part of the answer as to what it will take to help them heal from their wounds….an answer that includes becoming their wounded healer alongside others and, most importantly, alongside God.

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