How Disobedience Led to My Depression

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Tune into the Beulah Girl Podcast. Co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley explore finding identity in Christ. Episodes cover topics such as spiritual growth, relationships, emotional health, physical healing, ministry, and more.

When you know something, you can’t unknow it. That earthly law is true for our spiritual lives as well. I was raised by my dad and a strict Pentecostal Holiness grandmother. I was taught how to dress, which included, in the South, always wearing a slip. I was not permitted to spend an inordinate time of with boys. I was in church every time the doors were open and for special events.

I would not trade any of that, because my brothers and I all serve the Lord today. However, because I grew up knowing what it meant not just to profess Jesus but also to serve him, the beginning of my sinful choices in the area of sexual behavior caused a tension between what I knew to do and what I was doing. I guess you might compare me to the apostle Paul in that way: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15).

Depression as a Result of Choices

For me, when I began to sin sexually, a tremendous condemnation-induced depression set in and would not leave. In fact, it persisted over a five-year period. When you know what you’re supposed to be doing and you don’t do it, you can’t help but be tense and frustrated and angry. And that tension and anger and frustration turned inward is what my unprofessional psychological mind would call depression.

This depression was there when I got up, when I walked into the grocery store, and when I laid my head on my pillow at night. My brother had the room next door, as I was still living at home, and he was probably most aware of what was going on. However, neither he nor anyone else could give me the solution.

Let me pause right here. Depression is a real disease. Some people might have bouts of it that last for a little while and are induced by circumstances, but probably in my case of such frequent and even constant episodes, I would’ve been diagnosed as clinically depressed had I let anyone diagnose me. Instead, I put the record of self-hatred and worthlessness on the turntable and let the needle spin. And that’s an apt metaphor.

Truly the pathways our brain travels down over and over physically become deeper and easier to travel. The more I dwelled on something either good or bad, the more prone I was to feel that way about myself. In fact, when you’re depressed, you sometimes forget whom the thoughts even come from. You feel like God is condemning you. Or at least you feel like you’re condemning yourself. My depression was a result of choices. I’m not here at this moment to talk about what physical or genetic tendencies can lead to clinical depression. I’m certainly not qualified for that. What I want to talk about are my choices, their direct impact on my feelings of hopelessness, and how I found hope again.

What I’m about to discuss may sound juvenile, but I was a juvenile of the time my depression started after all. After high school, my world was opened up in some ways it probably should not have been. I still lived at home and I still worked a local job, but in college, you can go to school if you feel like it and not go if you don’t. Whereas one of my nicknames in middle and high school was “Goody Squared,” even a good girl’s worldviews as a Christian are constantly challenged as close by as in a small-town college.

Remember those days with me: You’re beginning to spread your wings and feel what it is to finally be an adult and be able to make your own choices. At my house, I no longer had a curfew. All of that “looseness” combined to create some bad situations for me to put myself in with my then-boyfriend-now- husband. Although I don’t believe that I need to air our dirty laundry here in the public arena, I think you will get the picture.

Every time we moved physically closer, my heart was in a cataclysm. My spirit knew to do the right thing, but my body and my soul were sinning against God. Like I said, for me that was my depression trigger. The activities in which we were engaged brought continuous attention, but then the pull of doing right caused guilt. The results? Closeness and thrill for the moment, followed by regret, shame, and self-hatred afterward.

And that cycle lasted for five years. You would think that if sexual sin was the cause of my depression, that when I got married and everything was “permitted,” my depression would’ve left. However, that is not the case. And that note gets me to the point of how I found help and how you can too.

Advice from My Journey

There are no tricks or magic beans in this road to wholeness, and you definitely need to get professional help if you have depression that just won’t go away. I was plain stupid for not doing more to get help with mine, especially since it lasted so long. But if you’re like me, and you know the cause of your depression and you know the source of help, here’s some advice that might assist you in your journey.

1. Get help from friends. Don’t stop talking. I have the same two friends I relied for so much help during this time. They drove me around the car, took me out to eat, and let me spend the night with them as I ranted over and over about how much I hated myself and how no one liked me and how I wasn’t good enough. I honestly can’t even remember everything I said because I have always been happy. This new depressed person was honestly really foreign to me. But regardless of what I said, I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant to listen to.

I could’ve stopped talking, but by the grace of God, I didn’t. Not even when I felt suicidal. I’ll talk about that in a later post, but I want to say at this point that you can’t get help if no one knows you need it. The word “mask” is so overused in our society, but whatever it is you are wearing to cover up your depression, make sure to keep talking to somebody, and if that person won’t listen, find somebody else.

It really doesn’t matter if they know what to say even. You just need someone who is willing to listen to you and not let you talk yourself into a decision that will have lasting impact.

2. Resist old thinking patterns. When you’re free, there will still always be a temptation to go back into the old ways. You might think it’s weird that I say temptation, but on the other side of this journey of depression, I realize that for me, it can be an occasional temptation not only to have depressive thoughts and wallow in them, but also to try to use them to manipulate others into feeling sorry for me. There you go. I said it out loud. For me, a few years ago, I had an episode that lasted about thirty minutes in a bookstore parking lot.

For those few minutes, I was captive again to thoughts that I had not had for years. This time, though, was different. I knew what it was like to be free, so I began to talk out loud in my car to my thoughts and to Satan, the originator of anything that’s not godly, and I said I would not believe those thoughts again. I was free and I was going to remain free.

Sometimes you have to say out loud like a lunatic or read from a card if you don’t feel like saying it, that you are free. Our words are weapons against the enemy, and we do not need to be afraid to use them.

You may be depressed, or you may know someone who is. If you fit one of those categories, please don’t make this post about blaming yourself for your depression. Jesus absolutely adores you, no matter what choices you do or do not make. Hear my heart, though, when I say that personal choices that violate the Word of God can cause painful mental and physical side effects.

What to Do If You’re Depressed

If you are feeling trapped, get help from His Word, from friends, from a counselor, and from processing out loud. But remember that there’s a woman here who has come out on the other side. There is hope for you. As a matter of fact, there’s some Scripture that sustained me through so many of my days. May I end by sharing it with you? Psalm 27:13, 14 says this:

I remain confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the Lord.

You will see His goodness, friend. I’m living proof. If you want us to pray for you and hold out hope for you, please leave us a comment below. We’re all in this together.

Related Resources:

Want to listen to co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley talk through and explain the points in our latest posts? Check out the brand new Beulah Girl podcast on Soundcloud. Subscribe on Soundcloud and receive all of our latest episodes!

If you’d like to read more about depression, check out A Christian Perspective: Overcoming Depression and the related article links on depression below.

 

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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How to Deal with the Pain of Rejection and Find Healing

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As a middle school student, I remember sitting at a lunch table with my much cooler best friend, hearing a boy ask, “Why is she sitting here?”

He, of course, was talking about me. As his words washed over me, I sat frozen in shame. The boy’s inquiry was especially horrifying to me as he had been in my fifth grade class, but here he sat pretending like he didn’t know me. My best friend stumbled around with a defense. But as a few more incidents like that happened, and she skyrocketed to the top of our junior high social infrastructure, our friendship began to dissolve. By the time we reached high school, the only time I ever went over to her house was when her mom asked me to babysit her younger brother.

Obviously, that was middle school, but the reality is that rejection is not isolated to the middle school setting. And those rejections that happen to us — even from a long time ago — can have real and lasting impacts on our sense of worth.

As Kristin Weir notes in “The Pain of Social Rejection,” acceptance is a deep primal need. She cites the following research finding from C. Nathan DeWall, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky: “Humans have a fundamental need to belong. Just as we have needs for food and water, we also have needs for positive and lasting relationships.”

However, the truth is that at times we will get the boot in a relationship or a pink slip at a job. There will be times that we don’t measure up to the standards of others or fail in our execution of duties. Yet, if we let our hurt and anger turn to bitterness in the course of the rejection, we will find ourselves enslaved to out-of-control emotions that destroy our future relationships and opportunities.

So, knowing that rejection can damage us greatly if we don’t work through it in a healthy manner, here are three things to keep in mind when dealing with a painful rejection:

1. View rejection as protection.

In a recent article, Lysa Terkeurst writes that there is “usually some element of protection wrapped in every rejection.” I never thought about it like that until I read her statement, but her words are true. While most of us do everything we can to be in a certain group, there are times when God may lead us away from a particular relationship or opportunity because He is protecting us.

In the case of the middle school scenario I described, the rejection felt unbearable at the time because I wanted to be liked by his group of kids. They were popular — and my best friend from my neighborhood, the one whom I had invited to attend public school with me (she was a former private school attendee), was someone I desperately wanted to impress. I can’t tell you how humiliating it was for me to be shamed in front of her by kids I had grown up with. However, rejection from that particular group was actually a good thing for me. They were a fast group of kids who ended up doing a fair share of partying, bent on wordly pursuits.

Because I was blindly pursuing inclusion in this particular group, I could not see that God had given me friends that were more my pace. While I wasn’t as thrilled about the bookish girls at the table I usually sat at, I had much more in common with them. They liked to read books and involved themselves in activities like student government and yearbook. Instead of looking for a grander friend base (when it clearly wasn’t working out), I needed to recognize God’s protection steering me away from influences that weren’t good for me.

2. Everyone experiences rejection: what matters is how we deal with it.

For those of us who have experienced a lot of rejection, we may think we are the only ones. Perhaps we have developed an unhealthy dialogue in our head that goes something like this: This always happens to me. I am always the one who gets left out.

However, the truth is that everyone, at some point, experiences rejection. Whether that be by a spouse, a friend, a parent, a boss, a co-worker, or a sibling. What matters is how we react — what thoughts we allow in our heads as a result of our rejections.

In his article “How to Cope With Rejection,” Dr. Frederic Neuman notes as a psychiatrist he had one self-confident patient who didn’t have much going for him in the looks department, yet he managed to never have a shortage of girlfriends. Conversely, he had a fellow psychiatrist who by all appearances had everything going for him, yet had terrible anxiety (after the breakup of his marriage) about dating women.

What was the difference? When meeting women in a social setting, the patient usually was rejected by several prospective women in a night before he would meet one who would talk to him. He just shrugged off the rejections and kept moving. The psychiatrist, on the other hand, was paralyzed and defeated after his divorce to the point that he was afraid to put himself out there.

If we have numerous rejections or a traumatic experience that rocks our sense of worth, we may be more susceptible to rejection. While our more stable peers may brush off the slights and jeers they receive — we may internalize them and believe everything negative we hear about ourselves. The key is to know what God says about us and, as the pastor at the new church I have been attending says, preach the truth to ourselves every day.

What does God say? We are loved. We are treasured. He delights in us. He formed us in our mother’s womb. He knew us before we were born. His version of us needs to be the filter we use to accept or not accept the words and actions that come our way.

3. Past rejection shouldn’t define our relationships in the present.

Beth Moore makes an adept observation in a recent Proverbs 31 Ministries devotional that the biggest obstacle we have to our next relationship may well be a previous one.

Recently, I had a situation where I dreaded a certain conversation I needed to have with an individual. I had offered some candid comments, and because my honesty had at times in the past caused people to cut off relationships with me, I was sweating this person’s response to me.

However, the person surprised me by not reacting in anger but rather thanking me for my honesty. We were able to have a good conversation after that, and I appreciated the person’s ability not to take offense at my words. My fear over the reaction I anticipated was unfounded. I assumed that the reaction would be one that others had to me, but I found that not to be the case.

As Moore stresses, just because we have been rejected in a past instance does not mean that we will be rejected in a future one. In fact, according to Moore, the very next person we meet may be the most key person to us on our journey. Therefore, we can’t let what has happened in a few relationships ruin or define the new relationships God wants to send our way.

We Need to Work Through Rejection

Rejection is not easy. No one wants to have a middle school type moment and be the one no one talks to or invites to the party. But we should know that rejection is something that we will all experience.

Rather than avoid new relationships or people altogether, we need to work through our rejection, forgive those who have hurt us, ask God to forgive us where we have held any grudges — and keep walking with open hearts knowing that rejection in one’s past doesn’t have to ruin the good God has for us in our future.

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 love music 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 in the Bible?

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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.

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 love music 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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Why It Hurts to Heal

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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.

Freedom.

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.’ ”

 

 

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 love music 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

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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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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 love music 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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