Mending the Broken Heart
Recovery from Abuse and Trauma
This teaching on recovery from abuse and pain is just one lesson of our free eCourse for personal transformation, 'Matters of the Heart.' All 24 lessons will be helpful to the person seeking restoration and freedom.
All scripture citations are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.
A Resurrection into New Life
Almost everyone knows what it is like to carry the wounds of unhealed traumas of the past. Like the physical cuts and bruises that we try to shield from further damage, these are memories that we don't want to touch on in conversation or can only talk about very carefully because so much pain still remains.
Some things have happened, large or small, that hurt us and broke our trust with God, self or others. As long as there is pain in the memory, our heart is still broken by those incidents and the distrust and fears that assail us have reason to remain. Unhealed trauma will always make our world seem unsafe to our emotions.
Ironically, the safest life to have is not one that can't be broken by painful events but one which is quickly restored by releasing full forgiveness to others and steadfastly trusting in God despite the pain God allows. Don't believe me? Then ask Jesus. It is the way that He lived; it is the Way He invites us to follow. Every harrowing passage through the cross of unwanted pain will carry us into a resurrection of New Creation life - if we do not lose hope (see The Disciple's Cross in Life Applications).
God never afflicts us with trauma - He doesn't author evil - but He will use it to grow a heart in us like that of Jesus. Isn't that what we really want? To become more like Him. In the end we will all be thanking God for the suffering that prepared us for a greater 'weight of glory.' Why not embrace heaven's perspective now?
How Do Traumas Affect Us?
For the purpose of this series, trauma is considered to be any event of the past from which we are still carrying pain, broken trust, and/or unresolved negative emotions. Consider these definitions of trauma taken from Webster's College Dictionary :
1) A body wound or shock produced by physical injury.
2) Psychological shock or severe distress from experiencing a disas-trous event outside the range of usual experience, as rape, military combat, or an airplane crash.
3)Any wrenching or distressing experience.
Traumas often become doors through which the enemy enters to plant distortions of the truth and to bind the heart with bitterness, fear and soul-killing messages. These wounded areas can grow into strongholds - areas of our flesh that are well-fortified against the life of the Spirit and are hard for us to overcome.
Traumatic events such as illness, accidents and abuse may also have been points of entry for evil spirits. Traumas engender a legacy of fears that follow us into adulthood: phobias, dreads, our characteristic set of semi-irrational dislikes and anxieties, as well as bitter feelings of regret, resentment and shame.
Lies the enemy has planted hound us throughout life, such as: 'You're not wanted; you're no good; you'll never make it.' Additionally, we tend to define ourselves by what has happened to us in the past, rather than by the new identity and the bright future that God says is ours forever. Recovery from abuse and trauma seems nearly impossible, but that too is a lie. Don't be tricked into believing it!
We always have a choice how we will respond to each moment or event in life. The enemy takes unfair advantage of our innocence and ignorance to subvert the choices we make, but they are still our choices.
Without sufficient knowledge of God and His ways we may have reacted in a wrong manner to what was done to us. This is 'only natural' (allowing fallen nature to guide us) and all too common. Yet, such ungodly reactions to trauma are what bring the curse upon us. We may have reacted in ignorance of God's ways, but we are still responsible for decisions we made, attitudes we formed, any acting out we did, or any inner vows we may have made.
Thankfully, there is real hope! We have a God who knows how to deliver us out of all our afflictions. His ways really work - as we learn to cooperate.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19
Beginning Steps towards Healing
Jesus is a mansion builder in our soul, yet many live in the dungeon of what should be their mansion - locked in a dark room with terrible memories, devastated by trauma, bound by bitterness. It's rightly said by A.A. that we are as sick as our secrets - for darkness is the enemy's domain.
Tragically, the very things we hide from God and others are the things He wants to heal. If we truly want to be free, we will have to honestly and openly deal with past trauma so that the root of fear, hurt or bitterness can be removed, and make ourselves trusting and vulnerable to those God would use as instruments of His healing.
We will have to risk exposing our wounds to the Light of Christ in the presence of the people He appoints (discerning who to trust). But not all at once! Think of issues like tissues in a box and let the Lord pull them out one at a time. God wants to mend your broken heart as time goes on, but you have to give Him all of the pieces. Hold nothing back.
It was prophesied of the Messiah that He would mend broken hearts. At the start of His ministry Jesus read from this text of Isaiah in which that promise had been given. This ministry of Jesus has never ended. He still comes to heal the brokenhearted.
'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' Isaiah 61:1-2
To pursue our recovery from abuse and trauma we will have to learn to recognize the ways it is influencing our thoughts. Usually we are aware of the traumatic events of our past, but sometimes we can live in unconscious denial, having lost touch with the reality of how much we were hurt in the past.
Because we have been given free will, if we do not freely choose to bring our wounded places to the Lord, He will not be in a position to mend them. Hence, it is important that we keep ourselves sensitive to what the Holy Spirit may want to show us. Traumas may be carried by us in three main ways:
1) Painfully Obvious:
Often we are aware of the traumatic events of our past and still carry them with us like raw wounds that throb with pain whenever we think back upon them. We have carried them so long that it seems like we have been permanently damaged by them - but that is a lie of the enemy. God can and does heal even the deepest traumas.
2) Partially Buried:
Some traumas are so painful that we shove them down and spend a lot of mental energy keeping them submerged. Some of the worst traumas are forcefully forgotten until present events bring memories to the surface or trigger the powerful negative emotions they contain.
3) Hidden in Plain Sight:
There are other events that we have glossed over so thoroughly that they no longer seem to bother us, but it spills out of us in conversation through stories we keep repeating. Or we may feel fine until someone begins to pry and poke into these memories. The emotions that come out of us are the best indicators of what is still hidden in our hearts.
5 Ways God Mends Trauma
There are five main ways that God heals trauma. Note that these are not automatic. They all require a good deal of cooperation on our part, including knowledge (recognition of the trauma) and motivation (a persevering desire to see it mended). If it were otherwise, everyone would be free. We need to become determined to aggressively seek the freedom from the past and entry into His Kingdom that God wants to give us. Carry your traumatic experiences into these five proven ways of mending...
Jesus heals the brokenhearted - especially as we forgive.
Father, You have given me this promise of total redemption so it must be true; You have commanded me to forgive everyone so that must be what needs to happen for my life to be healed and restored. I choose by an act of my will to forgive the people in my past who have hurt me or wronged me, including myself. I release them from all my bitter judgments and give them to You for You to redeem. I also repent of my unbelief in Your Word and now choose by an act of my will to believe that the promise of Romans 8:28 is true for me - that greater good will come out of my past than all of the pain and loss the enemy sowed into it. I choose to believe in You!
Next Healing Lesson
Overcoming the stronghold of rejection
Interested in Going Deeper?
Don't just give these truths a 'head bob' - take our free eCourse for Healing. For further study and for help working these truths into your heart and life, see Mending the Broken Heart Part 2 (Head to Heart Guide 1). In all there are 24 Main Healing Lessons and 24 Head to Heart Guides to help you bring your heart to God and receive His Great Heart for you in return!