Healing should not be a solitary process.
Can you think of a time when you were healing from a difficult experience and managed to go through that process alone with no outside help? Whether it’s the prayers of others, financial or emotional support, or having a group of friends to find comfort in, we need each other to help us through the healing process.
Last week, I attended the Help Me Heal Conference in Springfield, Missouri, in which there were many lessons and sermons on the various aspects of healing, taking care of your physical and mental health, and dealing with different kinds of trauma. It’s an important annual conference that you should certainly attend if you’re in the greater Springfield area! We all have trauma in our lives and difficult circumstances that we’ve had to face. No one has experienced life without having to go through some kind of grief, loss, trauma, or physical or emotional issue, and we are all in need of healing.
Reverend Carlton Coon, who has authored many books one of which is titled Encountering Depression (which you should definitely check out!), spoke about healing and its connection to the members of the church on the first night of the conference. He explained that helping each other heal “is the ministry of the saints.” Indeed, as the body of Christ, we are to help each other along the healing process. None of us are scar-free, sadly, and we all have some healing to do.
So, why not help each other during this process? The church is meant to be a place where the hurting can go and find healing in the presence of God and comfort among the people of God. Often, we let our flesh and personalities get in the way of what the church is meant to be. Rather than help each other heal, we tend to tear each other down, criticize, or dismiss each other’s backgrounds and experiences altogether. Something I’ve become more aware of as I’ve gotten older and experienced more difficulties in life is that you simply may never know what someone else is dealing with or has gone through. Kindness and a smile can go a long way in helping comfort someone who is in need of healing.
How can we truly help each other heal?
1. Be mindful of the things you say to each other.
We’ve all been on both the receiving and the giving end of helpful “advice.” Sometimes, though the words may be well-intentioned, one’s “advice” to someone going through a difficult time can do more harm than good.
The following sayings are often used as advice to the hurting:
“Just move on.”
“Get over it.”
“It could be worse.”
The first two statements imply that healing is easily achieved by making a single decision, as though that decision is also easily made. There are things in my life that have caused my family and I to experience a great deal of emotional trauma, and to this day, we are in many ways not “over” it. How can one simply move on from loss? How can one simply get over a traumatic experience?
Healing is not simple, and we must rely on a close relationship with God to give us strength to navigate each day and each part of the process.
The third statement dismisses a person’s feelings and belittles his or her experiences as though they are not as bad as they seem, and this may be true. However, if someone is going through depression because they lost a loved one or a job, for example, telling them their situation could be worse may indicate to them that you are judging their reaction to their situation.
There is a right time to remind a person of the things they still have to be grateful for and a wrong time. If a woman suffers a miscarriage, it would not be wise to say, “Well, at least you’ve got another child. It could be worse.” But there may be a moment when this woman is ready and able to find comfort in her other children during the healing process.
This is why it is essential that we give careful thought to the impact our words may have on someone who is trying to heal.
2. Don’t underestimate the importance of your prayers for the hurting.
It is a great comfort to know people are praying for you and truly care for your emotional well being. When my grandmother passed away last year, although I was of course saddened from knowing that I would not see her again in this life, I remember feeling a sense of peace and comfort that I couldn’t explain. Somehow knowing that there were people out there praying for my family and I helped us heal.
It’s easy to say that you’re going to pray for someone and then never do it. You get busy, you forget, and maybe you later mention them in passing in your prayer time. But how much more impactful would your prayers be if you really spent time lifting up the name of someone in need of healing to God in prayer?
You may never know the comfort these words can bring to someone in pain: “I just want you to know that I am praying for you.”
When someone has ever said this to me, it reminds me that someone out there does care and that just maybe I’m not alone after all.
3. Don’t judge someone stuck in the healing process.
Everyone handles difficulties and different emotions, well, differently. Two people may go through the same experience and be in different stages of the healing process. Person A may have been able to accept the situation while Person B may still be angry about it. It wouldn’t be helpful or very understanding for Person A to say, “Why hasn’t Person B moved on yet? What’s wrong with her? I’ve moved on. Yesterday she was fine, and now she’s upset about it again. She needs to let it go.”
And then out come the unhelpful bits of “advice” that people tend to give.
Healing is not linear. It’s not a ladder but rather a circle, and you may go back and forth between anger to sadness to acceptance to denial to sadness to acceptance to anger over and over and over again. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to healing, and there is no easy solution.
It is true that you may never truly get over or move on from a loss or from trauma, as though all that is required to “move on” is the passage of time. We often expect that after a few years or so, a person should just magically be able to move on now.
“All right, Bob, it’s been four years since your wife died. You should be over it by now.”
Not exactly the right mindset when it comes to helping others heal or understanding how someone may struggle with healing. You’ve heard the saying, “Time helps heal all wounds,” and that is partially true. But I’ve found that time sometimes only gives a person distance between them and the moment of trauma, and all it takes for their scabbed over wound to bleed again is a memory or seeing someone tied to that situation again.
The passage of time does not guarantee healing.
We have the responsibility to help each other heal.
We can pray for one another, point others to The Healer, spend quality time with someone who is hurting, or give them needed space. And we must let them have time to heal.
We are all in need of healing, and it is God’s plan for His church to be the place where the hurting can find the healing that they need.
Will you stand in the gap for the hurting and be the person who helps others heal?