When I attended a larger church campus, I sang in the choir, and we would frequently open up the service with the song “Shackles” (Praise You) by Mary Mary.
I always felt like an imposter singing that song. You may be familiar with it, but the lyrics say this: “You broke the chains, now I can lift my hands! And I’m gonna praise you. I’m gonna praise you!” I tried to fake the joy when I sang it because I knew that I was bound up with some shackles inside, and I didn’t know why I couldn’t get to the freedom that other people seemed to be experiencing in Christ.
When I started to find healing in some areas and my chains started flying off, I was most surprised that the healing process wasn’t the beautiful, serene experience I thought it would be. It was excruciating. I felt like I was being ripped apart, my insides tearing and rearranging. Because they were. I felt really fearful and light-headed during some hard conversations. I had days where I didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt like something must be terribly wrong that I felt this torn up in the healing process.
But something was actually terribly right.
If you are broken inside, you be in major denial about the reasons why. You may be blaming others, playing the victim — and not even realize what the problem is until Jesus steps into your circumstance. Healing requires you to face the truth. You not only have to face the truth about you — you may have to face the truth about your situation.
I have jotted down a few observations from my journey that may speak to you in whatever place you find yourself in:
1. You may have to face the reality that not only do you have to change, but some things in your situation may have to change as well.
You may have surrounded yourself with people who are telling you what you want to hear — they may have agreed with you as you have been wearing your mask of denial. And some of those relationships may have to be edited and changed. Some awkward confrontations may have to occur as you verbalize how some things you are doing — or they are doing — can’t happen any longer.
Our senior pastor once told a story of a man who called him up one day. The man was a drug addict, and he wanted help getting right with God and giving up his addiction. Our pastor talked with him and told him that he was going to have to let go of the friends he was hanging around in order to get serious about getting on the right path. The young person was shocked to hear that he would have give up his friends. He didn’t want his addiction, but he did want his addict peers. I am not sure what the young man decided because when he got off the phone, our pastor never heard from him again.
The young man wanted healing, but he didn’t want to change or confront those in his situation that were enabling him to make bad choices. However, he needed to eliminate some toxic relationships in his life so that he could start making better choices.
2. Other people may not understand your journey.
Sometimes as you’re walking through healing, you won’t have all the answers, and the painful truth is that some people won’t support you or believe that what you are doing is really for healing.
In my own journey, I was questioned by many, advised to go a different route, even mocked. Some people told me that I shouldn’t do what I was doing because by digging up the past, I would hurt people. I felt pretty selfish. But sometimes you have to do what looks self-centered to others to get inner healing. I had to apologize to some people from many years ago and admit some things I had never admitted to — and, yes, in some cases, I did hurt people with those conversations. But those scary deeds needed to come out in order for me to be free.
I thought this misunderstanding from others must indicate that I was doing something the wrong way, but I have found that people not grasping what is happening in you is actually pretty normal. Not everyone will get it. And they don’t have to.
In John 5 and 9, there are accounts of Jesus healing a cripple and blind man on the Sabbath. Rather than celebrate the restoration of these individuals, the Pharisees mercilessly questioned and insulted the healed persons, condemning their healing experience because it was done on the Sabbath.
I have had some similar experiences. I have gotten blank stares, eye rolls, avoidance, and harsh advice that has been hard to deal with because not only have I had to walk the painful steps involved in healing, but I have also had to walk alone without the help of friends for much of it. I have wanted others to share in and support my choices, but that hasn’t always been the case.
Jesus has continually reminded me that I don’t have to make other people approve or understand. But Jesus did have these rather sharp words to say to the Pharisees in John 9:41: “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
Jesus called out the Pharisees as the diseased or “blind” ones because they relied on their human understanding in viewing situations rather than allowing Jesus to open up their eyes and give them spiritual insight. Some people in your life will be like the Pharisees — they won’t applaud or celebrate your progress. Instead, they will try to tear you down, and you will have to remain firm in what Jesus wants you to do even if they don’t agree.
3. Healing requires a turning away from broken behavior.
Once you face the truth about a behavior that needs to go, you have to turn away from it. And as much as I would like to tell you that it’s easy to do this, it’s really not. The reality is that if you’re broken, you have probably developed some not-so-good behaviors to cope, perhaps some addictive tendencies. And even when you want to let these go — you’ve relied on them for so long to get through, that it’s tough to know how to be you when the behavior is eliminated.
In my experience, Jesus hasn’t waved his magic wand over me — I’ve had to work on the behaviors as he has revealed them to me. He’s given me the steps, but I have had to participate in the process. Like the crippled man beside the pool of Bethesda, I’ve had to get up at Jesus’ command (John 5:8). As I have attempted to stir myself, it is then that His divine power has met me and enabled me to pick up my mat and walk.
In particular, when Jesus revealed to me that I had a real addiction to approval, I knew that it was true, but turning away from that has been a whole separate thing. I developed that addiction to cope with rejection and gain acceptance. I still battle feelings of rejection, and that is what I naturally want to turn to when I feel insecure or left out.
I used to look at drug addicts and alcoholics and think, “Why can’t they just quit?” And now I get the fact that their addiction is something they developed to fill themselves. Without getting healed and free, they still need that substance to deaden what hurts. We all have addictive behaviors we create to feel complete — some involve substances. I turned to people.
The truth is that healing requires a cleaning out, a scraping away of the broken places with God’s tools — to make way for the clean indwelling of His presence. He has to dig out and prune and cut to make you into what He knows you can be. The transformation doesn’t happen without any pain. Just like a physical wound has to be cleaned and scabbed over to heal — an emotional wound is similar in that the cutting out process feels really awful before it begins to feel good.
But while the physician’s knife slices into uncomfortable places and roots out attitudes and behaviors that are not of God, the end result is a peaceful feeling inside.
No torment. No guilt. No agony.
Because as Hebrews 12:11 suggests, “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.”
Related Bible Verses:
John 5:8: “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 9:11: “He replied, ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’ ”