5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Pregnancy Loss

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Shortly after I had a miscarriage last year, my father-in-law made this comment to me: “What you went through was a big deal, you know.”

His remark struck me as being of one of the kindest things anyone said to me after the incident. I could only nod. The loss of a child at any stage is a big deal, and it felt really good to have him acknowledge that and acknowledge me.

I had support from other people as well. A woman at church gave me a small gift on my first Sunday back. Another woman who had suffered a miscarriage earlier that year came up to me and asked me if I wanted to talk. We both shared our stories. Two friends brought me dinner and pretended not to be horrified by the fact that I hadn’t taken a shower in a few days or vacuumed my floor.

But there were other people who treated me like nothing happened. The people who couldn’t handle hearing any medical details. The people I needed help from that didn’t show up.

However, miscarriage is a big deal, and the worst part about it is that miscarriage sufferers usually suffer in silence. A woman who has had a pregnancy loss may feel ashamed. She may feel that her body is defective. She may feel like no one else understands. Miscarriage sufferers need support.

Even if you have never suffered a miscarriage, you probably know someone who has. And what they are going through or have gone through is monumental for them. Although their reactions may vary, they want to be acknowledged, noticed. Some may not be ready to talk about it, but my guess is that they still need to feel like people notice them and care.

Here are five things every woman should know about pregnancy loss (whether you are going through it or are helping someone who is):

1. Let yourself rest.

My first miscarriage occurred in my first pregnancy. It was an early miscarriage. I was probably around 7 or 8 weeks, but I still had excruciating cramping and pain and several weeks of “getting back to normal” after the miscarriage happened. Needless to say, I spent three solid days in bed. After being in bed for several days, all of the tissue passed, and the cramping stopped. However, the bleeding did not.

The recovery period was very similar to that which I experienced after my full-term pregnancies. I had light bleeding that occurred for several more weeks after the miscarriage, and then the bleeding stopped and normal monthly functions resumed another several weeks later. Even when I was able to resume my old activities and felt somewhat physically better, the grieving process was one that lasted for many more months.

I hadn’t told many people that I was pregnant, so I had the odd experience of returning back to church and work — and telling no one what had happened. While I pretended that everything was normal in my life, I felt very sad and depressed for some time. I eventually did tell some friends at work, and it felt really good to share what had happened. However, the recovery time, emotionally and physically, was more than I expected.

I have found this to be true of many women I have talked to: We as women are so used to being the caretakers of other people, we often don’t allow other people to take care of us. If we have always been in optimal health, we assume that miscarriage won’t take that much out of us.

I had a friend who began miscarrying at work on a Friday and continued throughout her day teaching. She kept popping Advil, left at her normal time to pick up her daughter — had the miscarriage that night — and then returned to work the following Monday. Suffice it to say, she was not able to make it through the day and was given stern orders by our department head to take some time off.

As she recounted this story to me, I was in utter shock! Her body and emotions needed time to heal, but we as women often don’t get the luxury of taking a break. When a miscarriage occurs, however, time is needed to let your body and soul recover.

2. Be your own health advocate.

As I mentioned before, I was extremely naïve about miscarriage. Had it not been for online forums and articles, I would not have known what to expect because no one had ever shared with me about miscarriage. I assumed it was something that would never happen to me.

While I was able to stay at home and pass everything on my own in my first miscarriage, I realize that it could have turned into a situation where I needed medical help. A nurse from my doctor’s office called to let me know that a miscarriage was inevitable based on my low hCG levels but did not really give me advice on what to do.

I never scheduled a follow-up visit or anything to see how I was doing health-wise after that miscarriage. However, in retrospect, I would advise anyone going through a miscarriage to view it as the big deal it is in terms of both your physical and emotional health. I would advise staying in contact with your doctor’s office — really watching and monitoring your symptoms — and throwing aside any qualms about going to the hospital if you are excessively bleeding or feel you need extra assistance.

With my second miscarriage, I was further along (11 1/2 weeks) and had so much bleeding immediately that I had no choice but to check into the hospital. I was a little embarrassed by what a mess I was when I checked in, and quite frankly, I didn’t really speak up for myself like I should have. I had one nurse check me in and then several more rotate through my room to care for me.

I was also scurried off to an ultrasound room and then another room for an examination. No one person was keeping tabs on how much blood loss I was experiencing. Although the doctor mentioned to me that I had an extremely low red blood cell count, I didn’t think to say how many trips I had made to the bathroom or how much tissue and blood I had lost.

At one point, I even had a nurse scold me for passing out, and I was too dumbfounded and weak to even counter.

Shortly after that, I was wheeled into an operating room for surgery, and I thought that my ordeal would be over. However, that was not the case. After the procedure, I was released even though I needed a blood transfusion. I did not realize this until I returned home and began to have problems with dizziness and a racing heartbeat.

Even at this point, I called my doctor’s office because I thought something felt wrong, but they assured me that I was most likely experiencing side effects from drugs they had given me in the operating room. I deferred to their judgment even though something didn’t feel right in my body.

I figured I would get better in a few days. However, when we went to pizza on my birthday, and I nearly collapsed walking across the parking lot, I knew something was up. I went to the follow-up at my doctor’s and laid out my symptoms. It was then that they did a blood test and discovered that my hemoglobin levels were at a 7.1 (a 7.0 is blood transfusion level).

Moral of the story: If something doesn’t feel right, speak up about it! With medical personnel all around us and professional doctors in crisp coats, we assume that they will just know what is going on.

However, I found out that while doctors can tell a lot from certain tests and procedures, you can greatly help them by letting them know about your symptoms, your health history, how much blood you are losing, etc., so that they can truly help you.

3. Ask for and accept help.

My second miscarriage was different than my first because I accepted help. I didn’t try to be the stoic survivor I was after my first miscarriage. I was very open with people that I had a pregnancy loss, and I gratefully accepted the assistance. I know the fear in telling people is that it will be worse to get over or they will act awkwardly around you, but I actually found that not to be the case at all.

Yes, there will be some who say the wrong things that hurt more than help (we will get to that in a minute), but overwhelmingly, there will also be those people who genuinely want to help and can if you let them.

At the start of my most recent miscarriage, I told my husband that morning I needed him not to go to work that day. At first, he just assumed I was experiencing a little spotting, and it was normal. He figured I could just drive myself to the doctor later that day. But I insisted that he stay with me because my mama intuition was telling me that this was bad — I did not want to be left alone with my young children in the state I was in.

Once we ascertained the situation was such that we needed to just go straight to the emergency room rather than the doctor’s office, my father-in-law came to pick up the kids and take care of them. My brother-in-law came to sit with my husband while I was in surgery. We needed help.

And when we came home and I realized that I was not doing well at all in the recovery process, I asked my husband to stay home from work for the next few days. The booster club of his team set up a meal train for us. In the weeks following, I arranged care a few mornings a week for my son (with family members and a babysitter). I was in no position to take care of my kids or my household until my health got better, and I gladly accepted the assistance.

I found people were really relieved to be able to do something for us. People generally want to assist you, but you just have to tell them how they can best be of help.

4. Know that anger is part of the grief process.

People expect to be sad after a traumatic event. They expect to cry and be depressed — but another part of the grief cycle is anger. After my second miscarriage, a good friend of mine gave me a pregnancy loss study to go through. The authors devoted an entire section of the study to dealing with anger after a miscarriage.

When I read it, a lightbulb went off in my head because I realized that I was carrying around some anger, and I needed to deal with it because my unresolved anger was making me act in wrong ways to some people. If the truth be told, the person I was angry at was God, and the other people were just getting the brunt of that.

I could not believe that God would let me go through pregnancy loss two times. I felt absolutely humiliated the second time because I had been so confident that my miscarriage tragedy was in the past. Anger in and of itself isn’t sin — but anger that isn’t dealt with can turn into bitterness and resentment.

I was able to get rid of the anger when I poured out my feelings to God. I also had some trusted friends that I talked with. I told them everything I was thinking and feeling. Being open about my anger and grief helped to get the negative emotions out.

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5. Expect that not everyone will understand.

If you choose to share your tragedy (which I recommend because I believe it leads to a speedier recovery), there will be some people who can’t handle it or won’t know how to comfort you. With my most recent miscarriage, some people did not even acknowledge that I had gone through anything when I re-emerged into the public.

The mistaken assumption people have is that they will hurt you by bringing it up, but I found that it was worse to be ignored. Then there were other situations where I thought I would get support from individuals, but I found them to be too busy or too horrified by my tragedy to help.

In those instances, do not dwell on those hurts. Think back to the times that you failed someone or avoided someone because it was awkward and you didn’t know what to say. For as many people who don’t acknowledge you, there will be those who do, so expect both and know that some people don’t know how to help a person in crisis (especially if they haven’t been through that particular crisis themselves).

You can make it easier for others by just bringing up the topic yourself and showing others that you are in a place to talk about it. And, if you are the supporting friend, a simple “How are you?” after a miscarriage will put your friend who has suffered the loss at ease and open up the conversation to go in the direction the person is most comfortable with.

We as women are used to being the nurturers of others. It is hard for us to accept assistance or allow others to take care of us. However, pregnancy loss is a time when you need to give yourself permission to slow down, ask for what you need from the people around you, and allow yourself to heal.

If you yourself have not gone through a pregnancy loss, I believe that you can still serve as a valuable support to a friend or another woman in your community who has. You can serve her best by checking up on her, listening to her, and being there for her when she most needs support.

As a survivor of two miscarriages, I don’t relish what I went through. However, I did survive — and survive well, with God’s help. He is the binder of all wounds, and He knows just how to take care of you, whatever your loss. You need only let Him. His help may come through the many hands of the people around you.

Is there anything else you would add to the list? Leave a comment below.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Part Three: Is There a Healing Formula? (The Cause and the Cure)

plant cure

After I birthed my son, I got sick. Sinus sick.

I rationalized that my hormones were a little off-kilter, my immune system worn down. My son was a fitful sleeper, colicky. I couldn’t get him to take naps during the day, and I woke up fatigued from nights of tending to him every few hours.

My 2-year-old, on the other hand, popped out of bed every morning refreshed from 10 hours of peaceful sleep, wanting to play.

I existed in a never-ending cycle of sleep-deprived exhaustion where days and nights blurred together. But even as I eventually coaxed my son into a sleep schedule, I couldn’t get rid of my cold. Three months slipped by, and the inflammation and stuffiness didn’t budge. Medicine didn’t have any effect.

I re-joined choir, and every practice was a painful reminder that my voice was enveloped in a pillowy cloud of sinus. I forgot what it was like to breathe out of my nose or sing without sounding like a faint whistle stifled beneath an elephant’s bottom.

I called in a mold specialist to look at the possibility that there might be black mold in our house. I had remembered my sister telling me about how sick she got after they had moved into a house that had a hidden mold problem.

It turned out the mold “inspector” was fairly new to the business. Not only did he not give me a decisive answer about whether or not I had a mold problem, he left a 3″ diameter hole in the base of my cabinet trim.

I was starting to feel desperate. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I getting better?

A worship team audition loomed ahead of me. I just had to get well for it. I made a doctor’s appointment. One steroid shot later, I was nowhere closer to finding a solution. A sheepish me showed up at the group audition and warbled through a song, unable to show what I could really do. No amount of apple cider vinegar gargling or cough drop popping moved the build-up in my sinuses. And, probably, because they felt sorry for me more than anything else, I still earned a spot on the worship team rotation.

Determined to get to the bottom of my mysterious ailment, I went down to the altar for prayer one Sunday at church. As a woman began to pray for me, some names floated up — and what started as a faint wisp of an idea turned into a really persistent thought as the day wore on.

The names were names of people in church leadership that I had decided I didn’t really like.

It started with an event that I had attended where the couple appeared very distracted and distant when I tried to strike up conversations with them. From there, I allowed the enemy to worm his way into a series of small offenses and convince me that this couple had it out for me. One day, when the wife showed up to an event where I was also in attendance, I noticed that she looked nervous and out of place. Rather than approach her, I let pride rise in me. I felt a little smug about the fact that she looked so uncomfortable. I found my circle of acquaintances and left her to fend for herself.

After I received prayer, Jesus brought to mind those moments that I hadn’t reached out to that couple. Those moments that I let petty wrongs creep in and sow bitterness in my heart. For the first time, I began to feel bad for the way I acted. I realized that I had been at fault just as much if not more so than they had.

I cried for the rest of the afternoon as I felt God changing my heart. I knew I needed to apologize.

The moment that I uttered the words to Jesus, “I’m so sorry for the way I’ve acted” and determined to make that difficult contact with the couple, a beautiful thing happened: my nose began to get runny. Really runny. I needed a tissue. And all of that sinus blockage that had been stuffing up my head for months came draining out. And kept right on draining the rest of the night.

I could breathe again. I was healed.

I followed up with an apology email to the couple that week. It was awkward and hard for me to admit my wrong. They were gracious, but I felt really ashamed. What I was perceiving as purposeful rejection was really just misunderstanding: they had never intended to overlook or slight me.

In looking back, a few things stand out to me about my healing:

1. Jesus often does things before we understand.

My healing happened before I had gone through Hope ministry training, heard the term “spiritually rooted disease” or been introduced to the connection in some cases between illness and sin. However, I did sense inside of me that something was wrong that couldn’t be fixed by doctors because the illness had persisted through a doctor’s visit, a mold inspection and prayer at the altar.

In John 5, we encounter a lame man who also didn’t understand. He didn’t know how Jesus was going to heal him (he made a suggestion about the healing pools to Jesus). Even when Jesus gave him the command to stir himself and walk, he had no idea that Jesus was the Savior with the power to heal. But what must be noted is that the lame man obeyed when Christ said to “get up” (v. 8). He didn’t demand to know all the whys and hows before rising. He just did what Jesus asked and got the use of his limbs back. The cripple’s willingness to have a child-like faith and do as Christ said enabled him to receive healing.

2. Many times Jesus will give us more understanding after our obedience.

It was not until after Jesus healed the man that He found him again at the temple and said, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). In saying what he did, Jesus not only cautioned the man against falling into the same trap again, He essentially gave the man an explanation for the paralysis of his limbs. As I expressed in a previous post, not all disease is caused by sin (we can get illness as a result of the fallen world we live in or we can be born with a disfigurement or disability). However, as commentator Charles J. Ellicott states: The lame man was freed from the effects, but to be truly remedial he had to be freed from the cause too.

Ellicot makes the important point that Jesus didn’t just want to free the man from the effects of his sin, he wanted to enrich the man’s knowledge so he would not end up confined to his mat again. The reality is that even after we’re healed, we have to guard ourselves carefully so that which entangled us in the first place does not slip us up again.

Jesus’ words about not sinning sounded harsh, but He was saying what He was so that the man could maintain his healing. As Luke 11:24-26 reminds us:

When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of the man is worse than the first.

3. Healing of spiritually rooted disease comes when you target the cause.

Pastor and author Henry W. Wright relates in A More Excellent Way: Be in Health that when he started out in ministry, he prayed for people but was dismayed to find that only about 5 percent of the people he prayed for got well. As he started to investigate the Bible and ask the Lord for insight, he began to find that in the case of spiritually rooted disease (disease caused by a problem in our relationship with God, self or others) he saw people getting healed when he addressed the cause (the root or block of the problem). People got healed when he discerned the cause and gave them an action to participate in their healing.

This is not to say that Jesus can’t heal people through prayer. In fact, He instructs us in His Word to get prayer from our elders at the church (James 5:14) and pray one for the other (James 5:16). These are avenues we should definitely pursue. However, from my own experience, sometimes we don’t get well from those avenues alone.

Jesus many times will give us a step we have to take (like repentance of a sin or forgiveness of an individual). Prayer may give us knowledge of what step to take, but it is in taking that step that we will receive the healing we need. Jesus gave me the cause of my sinus issue before I really understood that my repentance of unforgiveness and bitterness towards the leadership he had put in place would open the door to healing. More comprehension came flooding in after the fact.

God is not a formula God — and I must stress that not all illness is caused by sin. However, sin that is unconfessed or not dealt with can indeed open the door to illness. A verse Wright frequently refers to in A More Excellent Way is Proverbs 26:2 (KJV):

As a bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.

As this passage suggests, spiritually rooted disease does not come in our lives without there being a cause for it. Therefore, as Wright emphasizes – targeting the cause unlocks the cure.

Related Resources:

In A More Excellent Way: Be in Health, Wright stresses that sometimes people don’t get healed even when he discerns the root of the illness — in that case, he also has them address possible blocks to healing such as unforgiveness, lack of transparency, or problems with leadership (he lists many others).

I have used Wright as a reference in many of my posts because the information in his book confirms and correlates with that which I have experienced personally both in my own healing experiences and those that I have witnessed in others. I encourage you to investigate the book yourself and read more on spiritually rooted illness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Part Two: Is There a Healing Formula? (Wellness in Story)

Part 2 Arthur Dimmesdale, a minister in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic The Scarlet Letter, hides a secret: he has engaged in a secret love affair and fathered an illegitimate child.

While he continues to present a spotless appearance to the town, he allows the mother of his child to bear the shame for the incident and wear a scarlet “A” on her breast. The weight of his past sin causes him to suffer from a mysterious illness so much so that a mark forms on his own chest — the mark an outward sign of his inward turmoil.

Eventually, when the weight of his deed becomes too heavy for him to bear, Dimmesdale comes clean in front of the village. Yet, when he does, he collapses and dies — as the difficulty of telling the truth takes a toll on his weak heart.

Although his actions contribute to a thrilling tale, I have to submit the idea that most likely Dimmesdale would not die from telling the truth in real life. He most likely would live from it. Truth-telling is an essential part of the healing process, and while we may feel like we’re dying from the excruciating act of professing an unsavory action — the toll it takes will be momentary and afterwards will be a wonderful freedom for us.

We need only look at John 5:1-13 to see how Jesus directs us to share our stories. In the passage, He heals a lame man and then instructs him to walk into town:

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. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’ … So they asked him, ‘Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?’ The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.”

Several things stand out to me about this passage.

1. Sharing our story helps to break the power of the sin in our life.

Essentially, what Jesus was doing in asking the lame man to “carry his mat” was share his story. As I stated in a previous discussion, the lame man was most likely in the condition he was in because of sin. Everyone would see the mat that he had lain on for thirty-eight years and remember his previous life. We may feel that carrying our mat makes a “public momento” of our sin, as one commentator put it. However, I believe one reason Jesus asked the lame man to carry his mat was not to humiliate him but to show that he was no longer bound to his past.

For me, carrying my mat has been both the making of the cure public and the cure itself. Jesus revealed to me in the healing process I have been walking in that I had an addiction to approval and had made many wrong choices to gain acceptance. I had experimented with some same-sex relationships as a teenager — and looked for that acceptance in other ways as an adult, particularly from the males around me. Even as a former high school teacher, I had cultivated the worship of my classes and looked for a connection with my male students. Although this never ended up in a relationship of any kind, I certainly encouraged attention because of my own low self-worth.

He wanted me to go back to people in my past and apologize for my part in wrong relationships and tell them how I was changing. This also included going back to some women where I had been flirtatious around their husbands, my teaching community and the families of my students — and some pastors at my church to talk about what God was doing in me..

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

While I have always sought out prayer for healing, the verse makes it clear that confession is equally as important. Not just individual confession, but at times a more public confession, whether this be to a close friend or people in your realm. Let me stress that a public confession doesn’t always have to happen, and we need to be wise about the words we use. A private confession to God is what He asks for, and if the sin involved others in a public way, then He may nudge us to go and make a more corporate admission. Other times, we may find a burden lift when we share our struggle with a friend or small group. (See more on guidelines for this in my note after the post.)

Henry W. Wright, author of A More Excellent Way: Be in Health, asserts that not being forthright can actually hinder healing. A woman at one of his seminars felt convicted during the course of his teaching and stood up and confessed her sin. Wright notes that she was healed of five incurable diseases on the spot. He felt God saying to him, “Because she has humbled herself before Me and before you and this congregation, I am going to deliver her and heal her.” She came back to the next year’s seminar and gave her testimony.

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

Even though my own process has been very embarrassing for me in many ways, I have experienced this same freedom in making public what I felt was so shameful about my past. Many of us are afraid to do this because of what it will cost us, but the Bible gives a clear link between confession and healing.

2. Sharing our story will sometimes go against societal norms.

One thing that we cannot overlook in this passage is that Jesus purposely healed the lame man on the Sabbath knowing that the Jewish leaders would view both the healing and the man’s mat-carrying (burden-bearing) as Sabbath-rest violations. The reaction by the community was certainly not favorable. As soon as the man stepped away from Jesus, he was immediately pounced on by Jewish leaders and questioned.

In reaching out to people from my past as well as my former students and their families, I have been walking a path that has very much defied tradition. However, Jesus has been teaching me through this process that it is more important to follow Him and obey Him even if His ways are unconventional.

Far too often, we judge the rightness of a thing based on whether or not we are comfortable with it or we’ve seen other people do it. But this passage shows us that Jesus’ commands should always have dominion over our man-made rules and preferences.

Despite the discomfort the lame man must have felt in being questioned, Jesus used the man’s healing and mat-bearing as an instructional point for the Jews. In a later passage, Jesus explained with perfect articulation why He cured the man and asked him to bear a load on the Sabbath (5:17). The hard-to-wrap ourselves around truth is that there are painful and uncomfortable moments to our healing — but Jesus always has a purpose for those uncomfortable places. Jesus often has us walk through momentary discomfort because He knows there is healing for us on the other side. 

3. We have authority to share our story because of our personal encounters with Jesus. 

The lame man had very little understanding of who Jesus was when He was healed, but he had authority to speak because of his experience with Jesus and Jesus’ directive to him. Many of us shrink back and don’t speak because we don’t have a title or feel that we are adequate enough in God’s eyes.

However, despite the lame man’s speckled history, Jesus chose the man as a public display of His miraculous power.

‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.’ (Isaiah 43:10)

Not only have I had to complete some really hard assignments in repenting of past sins, Jesus has wanted me to further carry my mat by sharing my experiences with others in my blog. I’ve had many a night sweating over the posts I will have to release the next day. I know that telling the truth is going to get other people healed. But I have had this conversation with God before publishing my posts: Maybe someone else should do this. Someone with more knowledge. Someone more spiritual.

In reaching back into my past, I’ve had a lot of questions from the people I’ve contacted, and my answers haven’t always been eloquent. I have been piecing together the truth as I’ve been going along. But we see from John 5 that we are God’s witnesses not because we know everything but because of our personal encounters with Him.

The lame man had “no idea who it was” who healed him (5:13), but even that witness of him carrying his mat was enough to pave the way for Jesus to come in and explain some important truths about the Sabbath at a later time (5:17). Jesus can accomplish much from what author and blogger Bonnie Gray refers to as our “unfinished” places.

Picking up your mat when Jesus requests you to share your story may feel hard and wrong, but that may be a key part of your healing or the healing of others. For when you share your story, rather than have it buried inside, crippling you, the mat you once used to lie on becomes the one you can carry openly as you walk upright through the streets.

Stay tuned next week as I dive into Part Three of the healing series.

Carol’s Note:

Last week I noted the importance of repentance and seeking prayer for healing, and this week I stressed the importance of confession. Commentator Matthew Henry makes the observation that confession does not mean we run around sharing our every wrong thought or misdeed. Sometimes we have thoughts that pop in our mind that aren’t even sin because we haven’t acted on those thoughts. And sometimes individual confession in our own prayer time is enough.

However, when does God want us to share with a small group or a larger audience about a struggle? Henry suggests some great guidelines in his analysis of James 5:16:

Where persons have injured one another, acts of injustice must be confessed to those against whom they have been committed. Where persons have tempted one another to sin or have consented to the same evil actions, there they ought mutually to blame themselves and excite each other to repentance. Where crimes are of a public nature, and have done any public mischief, there they ought to be more publicly confessed, so as they may best reach all who are concerned. And sometimes it may be well to confess our faults to some prudent minister or praying friend … But then we are not to think that James puts us upon telling every thing that we are conscious is amiss in ourselves or in one another; but so far as confession is necessary to our reconciliation with such as are at variance with us, or for gaining information in any point of conscience and making our own spirits quiet and easy, so far as we should be ready to confess our faults.

Quite honestly, God has told me in what instances I should share in a more public setting. I have just felt a knowing inside. His Holy Spirit has counseled me about the choices I’ve made. He will do that for you to if you are seeking the best way to approach a particular situation. I encourage you to go to Him and pray before rushing off to make public a misdeed.

Related Resources:

Are you interested in the spiritual roots of many diseases? Henry W. Wright’s A More Excellent Way: Be in Health talks about spiritual causes for many illnesses such as depression and his advice about how to look at disease from a spiritual standpoint.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Part One: Is There a Healing Formula?

 

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I started a series on healing last week, and I want to continue it this week by looking at a passage in John 5 where a crippled man is healed.

I never noticed this passage until recently. About a month ago, I felt drawn to read the accounts of healing in John, and I was astounded to see similarities in the John 5 and John 9 passages — similarities that closely correspond with my own healing experience.

I want to share a few of my observations on both passages in the next few weeks, and perhaps some of what I am saying can illuminate some things for you in your own situation.

The Lame Man by the Pool

In John 5, Jesus approaches a man lying by a healing pool. Apparently, the pool was one where the sick (including the blind, lame, and paralyzed) would come for healing. As legend had it, in a particular season, an angel would descend and stir the waters. Once the angel had stirred the waters, the angel would leave, and it was up to the diseased to get in. The first one in the pool would get the benefit of the medicinal qualities in the water. The man whom Jesus approaches has had no such luck; his friends have all had the benefit of getting in the water, but he has been left behind.

When Jesus comes up to him, Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed. The man complains that no one has helped him in the waters, but Jesus doesn’t need the water to heal him. He tells the man to “get up” and carry his mat. The man does so and is able to walk after thirty-eight years of being paralyzed. He then goes out into the streets and is questioned by Jews as to the man who healed him.

Several important things should be noted about this passage.

1. The man was most likely crippled because of sin.

This may be a highly unpopular way to start this discussion, but one thing that we can learn and observe by reading the account of the cripple’s healing is that it shows us that there can be a connection between sin and illness. This idea is implied because after the healing, Jesus finds the man at the temple and says, “See you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).

Sin is not always the reason for infirmity, and we must be cautious to assume that our every illness is caused by sin — but, in some cases, our malady can be invited in by unconfessed sin or sin we are not willing to part with. (Please note that illness can just be a result of the state of our fallen world or an affliction we are born with that has nothing to do with sin.)

In my own experience, my unforgiveness and unresolved anger in the past has brought on problems of severe depression and other physical issues. The sentiment in most Christian communities is that our sin has no affect us because of Jesus’ work on the cross; however, while it is true that we are under no condemnation as Christians (Romans 8:1), this passage suggests the correlation in certain instances between sin and sickness.

2. The healing begins with a stirring of the waters.

The healing in the passage started with a “stirring of the waters.” It’s not clear whether the angel that came down to stir the waters was legend or truth; however, what is understood is that the angel descended only at a particular season and it was the job of the diseased to “get in” (John 5:7).

What this has felt like for me has been a “stirring” or churning in my heart during a church service, and I have felt the need to get out of my seat and go down to the altar for prayer. As I have received prayer, I have felt a directive about an apology I need to make or a resentment I need to let go of. For whatever reason, the stirring initiated the process.

On a larger scope, I have recently very much been on a journey these past few years to allow God to reach some of the broken places in me that haven’t been touched in previous experiences. And the stirring has been more of an outside force — a violent storm taking place in my life with me at the bottom of it. I’ve been confused and scared. But in the midst of the chaos, God has stepped in and chosen to use the undoing — the spinning of elements out of control — to be the starting place for an emotional healing.

3. Jesus may use means that do not make any sense to us in our healing.

For our crippled man in the passage, Jesus came directly to him. The cripple voiced the fact that many of his friends had been healed, and he had never been able to get in the waters. I searched long and hard for an interpretation of this, and I couldn’t find much. But a few things came to mind: Jesus sought him out when he thought his opportunity had passed him by. Jesus did not leave him behind.

And what also very much stands out to me is that the man had a very narrow idea of the method in which he would be healed. He fixated on the one way he thought that it would happen for him: He believed that he had to be the first to get in the healing pools (John 5:7).

You and I are very much the same way. We have an idea in mind about how a healing or promise will come to pass for us. We may think that it has to come through a doctor, or a certain series of steps to get to our goal — but Jesus shows us in this particular passage that He can heal us by means that are beyond our understanding of how it should happen. He will ask us to do things or a series of things that don’t seem to have any correlation to what’s wrong with us. Our way to healing is to follow His directive and trust that it may happen differently for us than we originally envisioned. As commentator Matthew Henry notes:

We are all by nature impotent folks in spiritual things, blind, halt and withered — but effectual provision is made for our cure if we will but observe orders.

All we have to do is “observe orders” by reading the Word and putting ourselves in a position to hear from God to do what He says. However, even if we have completely screwed things up, He still comes for us.

Quite frankly, in my journey of inner healing these past few years, I feared that my chances for God using me had passed me by. I knew I had made bad choices earlier in my life, and I didn’t know that God would open any more for me. But even as I had squandered some of my earlier opportunities, God has found me in a similar way that He found the lame man and given me some steps to get free.

4. You may have to participate in the process.

When Jesus approached the man by the pool, he posed the question: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). Obviously, the man wanted healing. He had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. However, Jesus asked the question because he wanted to know the man’s commitment level to the process: Did the man really want to participate in his own healing? According to Henry:

In spiritual cases, people are not willing to be cured of their sins, are loth to part with them. If this point therefore were but gained, if people were willing to be made whole, the work were half done, for Christ is willing to heal, if we be but willing to be healed.”

As Henry notes, “Christ is willing to heal, if we be but willing to be healed.” And again, we see the implied connection between the man’s sin and his infirmity. Jesus is God. He can do anything He wants to. He can heal people in multiple ways through multiple means — with just a snap of his fingers. And often He does.

However, what I have found to be true in my experience is that God has asked something of me. When my infirmity or brokenness is spiritually rooted, I have to repent of the sin to be healed. The way it has happened for me in my most recent journey is that He has presented me with some things to do in digging back in my past — make some contacts. That has been the “getting up” in my process.

As I finish with one, another pops up. I haven’t wanted to do them, and I haven’t even really understood all the reasons why God has given me the directives that He has. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that I didn’t have to do anything because of God’s grace. But what I think can be said about that is that my journey has not been about earning forgiveness or earning God’s favor — it has been about obedience. As I have been obeying God, He has begun to work in me supernaturally to bring about change.

5. He didn’t get up in his own power — He got up in Christ’s power.

A strange thing happens when we obey God. We stir ourselves to act, but it is actually Christ who strengthens and straightens our limbs as we get up. Note what Henry says about this section of the passage:

But if he had not attempted to help himself, he had not been cured, and he must have borne the blame; yet it does not therefore follow that, when he rise and walk, it was by his own strength; no it was by the power of Christ, and he must have all the glory.”

Even in our action, it is still Christ’s power which enables us to walk.

Jesus will not take the steps for you. He will point you the way, show you the step, meet you in the act of faith. But there is a movement on our part that has to happen. We see that just as there is a “getting in” component of the sick into the healing waters, there is a “getting up” component to Jesus’ command.

Jesus can heal people any way He wants to and there is not necessarily a formula that Jesus uses every time He heals in Scripture; however, we can observe some of the steps that occur in His approach to the lame man and recognize how we can allow those to be implemented in our own lives.

Next week I will continue with Part Two of the Healing Formula series and discuss the rest of the John 5 story.

Carol’s note:

It can be really scary to read a post like this because the enemy wants to get into your thoughts and condemn and accuse, but we should notice how compassionate Jesus was in this story. He wasn’t concerned with accusing the man; he was concerned with healing the man. One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:1 because it reminds us that we are forgiven no matter what we’ve done.

If you feel like you have a disease that is spiritually rooted but aren’t sure, ask God and see what He tells you. He promises to give you the wisdom you need (James 1:5). I would also recommend getting prayer at church by your elders or prayer team (James 5:14). In addition, Henry W. Wright’s A More Excellent Way is an excellent resource that gives further insight into spiritually rooted disease.

Related Bible Verses:

John 5:1: “Some time later, 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.’ ”

Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Related Resources:

The website biblegateway.com is a free online Bible resource. It offers different translations of Scripture as well as notes and commentary (such as Matthew Henry commentary) to better understand the meaning and context of Scripture passages.

Are you interested in the spiritual roots of many diseases? Henry W. Wright’s A More Excellent Way: Be in Health talks about spiritual causes for many illnesses such as depression and his advice about how to look at disease from a spiritual standpoint.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How Helping Others Helped Me Get Over the Tragedy of Miscarriage

An ultrasound when you’re not pregnant has to be just about the saddest thing ever.

That was my thought as I walked into my doctor’s office a week after a devastating miscarriage. I was scheduled for a follow-up ultrasound to check to see if my surgery at the hospital the week before had successfully removed the remaining tissue.

I could visualize it now: my empty uterus blown up on the screen, its rounded walls encircling life no longer. No comforting blinking blip of a baby’s heartbeat — just a yawning expanse of gray fuzz where a fetus had been just a few weeks earlier.

To make matters worse, I was not feeling great. I had a racing heartbeat and low iron levels — walking from the car up to the office was an effort for me. I was feeling sorry for myself, and I was prepared for others to feel sorry for me too. I figured God had arranged a motherly ultrasound tech to do the ultrasound, perhaps a kind nurse to minister to me in my time of brokenness.

But God had other plans.

The ultrasound tech who found me in the waiting room was not the maternal tech I was hoping for — she was younger than me, thin. There was a vulnerability about her. Although she gave me instructions in a most professional way about what clothes to remove and where to position myself on the table, I felt a sensitivity immediately in my spirit, a prick.

We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes. As pleasant as a conversation about a lost baby can be. Yes, I did just lose my baby in the hospital one week ago. Yes, I was supposed to have my 12 week ultrasound today, but instead they changed it to my post-miscarriage ultrasound. No, this was not my first pregnancy. The conversation then took a rather innocent turn. I had mistakenly thought that my ultrasound was going to be after my doctor exam and had filled up on water. So, I commented on how excruciating it can be to have an ultrasound with a full bladder. She began to relate a story to me of an ultrasound she had had recently where she was in intense discomfort.

I assumed she had children and asked how many she had. She quickly explained that she had no children but had actually had an ultrasound to look at a cyst on her uterus that she had been having problems with for the past few years. The moment that she said “cyst” a word dropped into my brain, and I tried to shake it off, but it came again. Unforgiveness. She continued to talk and the word came again. Unforgiveness. It drowned out all other sounds and kept interrupting my thoughts like an incoming message chime in an email.

As much as I would like to say that I am a wonderful Christian and that I wanted to speak to this woman and tell her about my own past struggles with unforgiveness and the physical problems it caused me, I really didn’t. However, I also know that God gives me very specific words for people at extremely inconvenient times, and when I ignore his assignments I always regret it. Feeling a thin film of sweat develop on my brow, I made my way off the table and into the bathroom to get the rest of my clothes on. God, do you want me to tell her that her condition may be caused by unforgiveness in a relationship? I only heard silence and the efficient hum of the ultrasound tech’s movements on the other side of the door.

I already knew the answer.

In the least awkward way possible, I opened the door, smiled at the woman and said to her, “I am not a medical professional, and this may not even be for you, but when you were talking about cysts a moment ago, I got a word in my mind for you.” I then proceeded to tell her I was a Christian and how my decision to hold onto hatred for a friend after she had hurt me had caused a problem with bleeding.

The issue continued for over a month until I felt convicted about it and apologized to my friend. The very day I forgave her and sent her an apology the problem went away. I told the ultrasound tech that sometimes we just get physical problems (we live in a fallen world and experience illness as a result), but at times we get physical problems as a result of emotional or spiritual problems. I offered her my story and told her I did not want her to suffer, so she could weigh out if what I said applied to her.

The awkward thing for me in that moment was I could very well have been wrong. I could have imagined the words in my head and imagined that it had anything to do with her. I could have greatly offended her and made a stressful situation worse. Yet, Jesus was bold with people. He gave them actions to complete and didn’t mince words. He was compassionate, but he didn’t just stand around and lament the condition people were in. He healed them.

Truthfully, I wasn’t feeling very much like Jesus, but if He was indeed giving me these words for this woman — He was offering her a step to healing. And a step to Himself.

I was just a flawed woman in a doctor’s office after the loss of a pregnancy. A woman who could be wrong. A woman feeling dizzy and lightheaded and sad for my baby. But when I began talking, I felt such strength and power — as only Christ can provide, and I didn’t feel sad at all. My problems were so far removed from me at that moment. And I really felt that there was something sadder than an ultrasound when you aren’t pregnant: a person without the hope of Jesus Christ.

Even in my condition, I had a hope to lean the weight of my sadness on.

She didn’t say much in response, but I could tell by the look in her eyes that something had moved her. And because nothing else came to mind and she looked like she needed a moment to process everything, I gave her a hug and stepped away. I didn’t know what was going on her life or what was going on with her body — but God did. And all I could do was offer Him.

The lesson I learned in the ultrasound room is this: God wants to use me even when I feel that I am at my lowest and weakest point. He always has others on His mind, and while I mainly have myself on my mind — reaching out and ministering to others in my own broken state can heal not only the other person but can help to heal my own heart. As Shelene Bryan notes in Love, Skip, Jump, “It is in sacrificially loving others that God can use us and fulfill us in a way that nothing else can. By surrendering our plans and desires to Him we can be part of something He wants to do.”

Is there something right now that the Lord might be asking of you? Something that makes you a little scared, a little uncomfortable? You may have to push aside your own desires or even reach out in the midst of your own suffering; but I promise if you do, you may be able for a moment to forget your own sadness and feel the goodness of God in the midst of your pain.

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Does Good Come Out of Suffering?

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If you’ve followed the news as of late, you’ve most likely heard of Brittany Maynard — a 29-year-old newly married woman who has made the choice to die. Diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Maynard has opted not to put her family through the stress of watching her slowly deteriorate and has chosen death with dignity — a program that allows for terminally ill patients an end-of-life option. Surrounded by her family and friends, she will consume the contents of a prescription pill bottle and depart from this earth.

Maynard originally made the decision to take the prescription November 1, but according to a recent video released by CNN, she is now waiting for the “right time” to take the fatal dosage.

While I certainly sympathize with Maynard’s situation and have compassion for her in her difficulty, I am saddened by her decision and the voices in our culture that support the idea that we have the right to elect out of life when things get hard.

In first reading about Maynard’s unorthodox choice, I joined the discussion by posting an article on Facebook railing against death with dignity and Maynard’s views. Then I felt a quiet conviction that perhaps my path as a Christian should not so much be to condemn her actions, but rather, as Ellen Painter Dollar argues in her article “A Christian Response to Brittany Maynard’s Decision to Die,” offer an alternative approach to the complicated issue of suffering.

Maynard’s story certainly raises some questions: Why should we allow ourselves to experience suffering? What good can possibly come out of it? How should we as Christians approach it? And while it’s convincing to believe that we shouldn’t have to go through pain if we choose not to, the Bible offers a few other ideas on the subject.

We are Promised Trouble

Understandably, we are made in God’s image and have this idea of perfection for this life in our mind because God is perfect. When we get diagnosed with a devastating disease and our idea of happily ever after shatters, we feel we should have an immediate rescue from our tribulations, but God never promised us that we would have it easy. We are simply encouraged to “take heart” and know that He has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). God doesn’t tell us we won’t experience trouble, He tells us that as Christians we can expect it.

And while we may not understand all the reasons we have to go through the trials that we do, we have the assurance that our longing for perfection will be fulfilled in heaven.

Suffering Has Purpose

One thing that we can find comfort in is that the only perfect human being to live on this earth, Jesus Christ, suffered. His suffering had a purpose — to provide salvation for all of humanity. Even in His perfection, He still struggled with His own emotions before having to endure the cross. He didn’t want to go through what He did; if He had chosen to avoid the Father’s will, however, we would not have the opportunity for the life we enjoy in Christ. According to Isaiah 53:5, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Clearly, Jesus’ pain was for something — a purpose bigger than himself.

Similarly, our trials are for something — our “light and momentary trials are achieving for us eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Our suffering has a distinct purpose that God uses for His kingdom.

Pain Enlarges Us

If we go through life and never experience hardship and struggle, we would all act pretty superficial. Suffering is what produces in us some of our most enduring qualities and gives us the ability to “comfort others” as we ourselves have been comforted (2 Corinthians 1:4). It is in the fires of affliction that we develop the qualities that make us “iron” believers. In Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman offers the following excerpt from George Matheson — where Matheson observes that suffering “enlarges” us:

Someone once said of Joseph that when he was in the dungeon, ‘iron entered his soul.’ And the strength of iron is exactly what he needed, for earlier he had only experienced the glitter of gold. He had been rejoicing in youthful dreams, and dreaming actually hardens the heart. Someone who sheds great tears over a simple romance will not be much help in a real crisis, for true sorrow will be too deep for him. We all need the iron in life to enlarge our character. The gold is simply a passing vision, whereas the iron is the true experience of life. The chain that is the common bond uniting us to others must be one of iron. The common touch of humanity that gives the world true kinship is not joy but sorrow — gold is only partial to a few, but iron is universal.

While our culture may argue that suffering only takes away, Matheson asserts the idea that suffering can actually add to us. We are built up by the very trials we wish to escape from. It is from our very prisons that our character is perfected, and our own difficulties help us connect to others in similar trials.

The Other Side of Suffering

We have, in the midst of our suffering, the promise of “the other side.” As Joyce Meyer notes in her New Day, New You devotional, “Learn to endure whatever you need to, knowing that there is joy on the other side!” Like Psalm 30:5 promises, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” We will get victory in the struggle if we have the right mindset, even if we don’t get the resolution or result we want in this life.

My grandmother, a devout Christian, nonetheless struggled with dark bouts of depression and then dementia and Alzheimer’s in her later years. She was an accomplished pianist and the director of music at her church before she retired. I still have memories of her sitting at her large black Steinway grand piano playing and singing in her clear voice at family gatherings.

The woman who very much struggled with her own mental health was still a light to those around her, and even though she lost her battle to Alzheimer’s some time ago, she now has these words on her headstone: “In His presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). Although she didn’t experience complete healing on this earth, I now have the reassurance that her ills have been healed. She endured to gain what was hers: fullness of joy in the presence of God.

Our world tells us that happiness is based on circumstances — and when those go bad, we should find an immediate out — a deliverance from. However, the Bible tells us that there is a peace that can transcend all circumstances — and a beauty that comes out of some of our most harrowing situations.

Matheson reminds us that God “enlarges” us when we are in “distress” (Psalm 4:1 — KJV), and sometimes we must accept that God’s will isn’t for us to get out — but to go through.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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3 Keys to Emotional Healing

Three years ago, when I began a path to healing, I did not get a neon sign from heaven or a magic wand waved over me. In fact, I didn’t even know what God was doing or what plans He had for helping me to address my guilt, shame, addictive tendencies, and problems with relationships. He didn’t tell me where He was leading me at all.

It really began with a crisis in my life: a crisis that unfolded when I stopped teaching, birthed another baby, and attempted to float seamlessly into a role as a full-time volunteer on the worship team and other ministry teams in the church.

Absolutely nothing was working for me in that very dark summer after I left teaching — my son was colicky and never slept. My daughter developed insecurities and issues when my attention had to be shared with an infant. Our money ran dry.

And nothing was clicking with music — the new direction I felt I should be going. I was exhausted, depleted, frustrated — and completely worn out. I kept coming up against a wall that I couldn’t get around; and I didn’t even know what I was fighting against, but it was making me crazy.

In the midst of my crisis, I attended a couples’ retreat. Sitting there listening to our senior pastor and his wife talk about the need for honesty in relationships and life, I was so in denial about where I was really at that I sat through the entire presentation feeling pretty good about myself. My internal dialogue went something like this: This must be for someone else. I am pretty honest with people. I don’t have a problem with this.

However, on the way home I started to feel guilty — and all of these things from the past that I hadn’t even thought about in a long time began surfacing. Even though I wanted to repress them and send these memories back to where they had been hiding, they stuck around in a really annoyingly persistent way — so much so that I was having problems concentrating on anything else.

Suddenly I found it really difficult to get through the day — difficult to sing on a Sunday — and difficult to feel relaxed in my Christian walk. I was having an internal crisis of guilt, anxiety, and fear. My past had reared its ugly head, and it wasn’t going away this time.

And then, as if I didn’t feel stressed enough already, I felt the undeniable nudge to do something about these memories from the past. Not just ask Jesus to forgive me for my past sins — but to actually contact some people, write some letters, and initiate some tough conversations.

Some of the first contacts I made were to a school I had taught at apologizing for some ways I could have been more professional in my demeanor and in the handling of student fees; to a manager and a store I had shoplifted from as a teenager; and to a family of a girl I had been way too involved with in high school. (Yep, you got that right. I did just say that — more on codependent relationships in later posts.)

I was paralyzed with irrational fear. What in the heck did any of these things have to do with my desire to go into ministry? Why was I getting an urge to do this so many years later?

I didn’t realize those contacts were just the first few baby steps Jesus used to point me in the direction I would need to go to find some relief from the weight of my inner chains. Those contacts were the first steps in helping me realize that I had an addiction to others’ approval.

And the pathway out would include a whole lot more conversations and letter writing.

3 Keys to Emotional Healing

The journey for everyone might look a little different, but the first place to start in a quest for inner healing is Jesus Christ. Just like the place of denial I was in at the couples’ event, most people are really out of touch with their real problems and are self-diagnosing and looking in the wrong places for help.

Their physical problems may be the result of emotional issues. While I understand the need to take care of our bodies and look after ourselves, some women focus on their health to extent that they have little time for anything else. They may be going to chiropractors several times a week, specialists for specific maladies, and naturopathic doctors for diagnoses.

While I certainly have faith in the medical community and the wisdom of doctors, I believe that the reason that we sometimes don’t get any better is because we consult doctors without really including God in the conversation. And prioritizing emotional or medical ills above God is a big mistake.

Another mistake is pretending there aren’t any problems and existing in total denial — like I did for the longest time.

Start with God

The Bible is clear that we must “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) before we can expect other things to be added to us. What that basically means is that we should start with Jesus and not the problem. I will be the first to admit that my natural inclination is to do things the other way around.

One of the most beneficial things I did when I quit working was join a weekly women’s Bible study. When I began to get serious about digging into the truth of God, many things in my life started to get some painful but good magnification.

In this process of seeking God, honesty is essential — honesty with God and honesty with ourselves. The Bible says that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword — and it pierces, convicts, and helps us get rid of the junk that weighs us down (Hebrews 4:12). We have all sorts of defense mechanisms — pride, excuses, denial, blaming of others — we use to convince ourselves that we are fine and do not need to change. I am the worst offender in this area! Truly!

Once we pursue Jesus, however, He will bring all of our deeds and actions into the light (John 3:20). Once He does this, we will have the choice whether to allow Him to extract some habits weighing us down or continue to walk in darkness.

The truth is that looking at ourselves as we truly are is painful, but we can be encouraged by the fact that we are forgiven and blameless in His sight. However, our sins have consequences and may affect us emotionally or spiritually if unaddressed. Some important keys to freedom that I have been walking through (touched on in Henry W. Wright’s A More Excellent Way: Be in Health) address our relationship with God, others and self.

keys

Key 1: Our Relationship with God.

The first key to freedom is to understand who we are and what Jesus did for us on the cross. We are fully loved and forgiven — however, His grace does not give us a license to sin, and He must have priority in our life. We must surrender to Him as we learn the truth about what it means to follow Him. If we have had hard things happen to us, we may be angry at God, blaming Him for the bad in our lives.

For me, my greatest revelation in experiencing a release of a major burden was understanding that anger against God is a sin — I needed to forgive Him for the areas I felt He let me down. And say it out loud: God, I was angry when such and such occurred. I felt that you had abandoned me. I forgive you. Help me not hold that against you anymore.

I needed to accept and thank Him for the person He created me to be.

Key 2: Our Relationship with Others.

Once we understand who we are in Christ, this changes how we interact with others. People who are wounded go on to hurt others, however unintentionally.

Becoming free from my chains has meant doing what the Bible says in terms of relationships: forgiving those who have hurt me, seeking peace in relationships, apologizing for past wrongs, and continuing to do this in my relationships now with the full knowledge that I can end up in bondage again if I am not careful.

One surprise I found in this area is that many Christians aren’t following what the Bible says — in fact, they will try to persuade you that it is not really necessary to act in your relationships in these ways because God’s grace covers over all sins.

What they are forgetting is that grace doesn’t exempt us from doing what the Bible says. We are commanded to seek forgiveness and make amends when we do wrong, go to our brother when he has wronged us, and seek harmony if at all possible in our relationships.

Even if I am rejected or my apology is rejected, I am accepted by Christ, and I have the peace of knowing I did the right thing even if the other person did not respond in the way I think he or she should have.

Key 3: Our Relationship with Self.

Another important key to wholeness is our relationship with ourselves. I spent the majority of my life beating up on myself — not realizing that self-rejection can have extremely damaging emotional and physical effects on the body.

A factor for me in my healing has been to understand that I make mistakes, I am not perfect, and I can forgive myself. I had unresolved anger at myself for not being as perfect as I wanted to be. I blamed myself for my relationship failures, for my past mistakes — and I had the misguided idea that I was being humble.

However, I came to realize that a healthy person must have a healthy view of self. Humility is believing that apart from Christ we are nothing — but rejoicing in what He has made us to be and what He has done for us. When I let go of my anger and decided to see myself as Christ does — forgiven, under no condemnation — I could let the guilt and shame go.

Summary:

Giving up bad habits, addictive tendencies, and unhealthy relationships is tough. I wanted an escape hatch out of my crisis when I left teaching, an easy fix; I didn’t want a journey — especially not a journey that I had to go through without first having all the answers.

Writing letters wasn’t an act I had to do to receive forgiveness from God or earn grace — because that had already been given to me. That process was one that helped to illuminate something about myself to me — something I didn’t know. I felt shame for the bad things I had done in my past, but I didn’t know the reasons for my behavior. But God did.

He revealed to me a truth that was very profound somewhere in that process: I was so dependent on others’ approval that many of my bad choices were made to please others.

In the case of the school, I was extremely reliant on the approval of my classes and wanted to be a well-liked even if it meant laughing when I shouldn’t have laughed or cultivating the worship of my students.

In the case of student fees, I got really overwhelmed with paperwork and didn’t want to admit I couldn’t keep up with all the book money and field trip money kids were throwing at me.

In the case of the shoplifting, I got pressured into it by some friends and couldn’t say no even though I knew it was wrong.

In the case of the unhealthy relationship, I wanted acceptance when I couldn’t find it in normal relationships — and compromised myself to get that.

lock

God knew that — and while the process of admitting my flaws to others was excruciating and is still ongoing in some areas — He had to extract out of me that tendency toward wanting others’ approval more than His approval. While it felt like God really hated me for wanting me to go back to my past, it was because of His kindness that He wanted to help straighten my paths (Hebrews 12:11).

I don’t know where you are in life or what your situation looks like — but start with God. Christ is the answer to all our problems and will lead us to freedom if we will follow Him — no matter how hard or unusual the way.

Getting to that place of freedom means letting Him have access to the dark places we are hiding and trusting Him when the road out is bumpier than we originally anticipated.

Related Bible Verses:

Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

John 3:20: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”

Hebrews 12:11: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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