Ministering to folks who’ve been abused, abandoned or exploited requires a special grace. To find healing, people often need someone who can help them push through the defenses and rationalizations they’ve erected in response their hurts. But when they get to the source of the pain, and transparently surrender their self-perceptions and beliefs to Jesus, they find that He tenderly brings healing and wholeness.
We routinely minister to people dealing with issues that exceed anything you might imagine. But God shows up in amazing ways, and men and women find freedom in just one or two sessions from profound emotional and spiritual bondage.
The Lord patiently, lovingly wants us to go to those places in our lives where we need his healing. Those places are at the core of our beings, where all the accumulated “yuk” lies. But it’s hard to go there, because that’s where the pain and hurt feel most intense.
Our task is to help wounded people get to those places. When we do, we simply ask God what He has to say. The Lord then dramatically speaks to them in real, personal ways and brings healing and peace to some of the most unspeakable experiences and issues in their lives — including sexual abuse, child prostitution, occult ritual abuse, abandonment, drug and alcohol addiction, anger and fear.
We’ve done this hundreds of times, and have never needed a “re-do” session where God has spoken His gentle truth. When God speaks (and He always does if there is a willingness to expose to Him what needs to be healed!), the lies at the center of the hurt and the pain – which have cause bondage and been so controlling – immediately die. Simple and complete; wholeness and health. It’s wonderful to see.
Too often we forget that God wants to restore us to health, and have fellowship with us, because He loves us in deeply personal ways. After all, God valued Adam so much that they walked and talked together in the garden during the cool of the evening. God values us just as much, and desires a relationship where we can once again commune with Him on deeply personal levels, and He with us.
Anyone who knows us knows how much we value the historic tenets of our faith, but we can’t major on correct doctrine to the neglect of the personal relationship God wants with us. Doctrine and Biblical truth provide a context for our day-to-day faith, but are not a substitute for intimacy with God and learning to hear His voice. We need both!
Hurt or Health?
It’s sad but true – too many churches have become a refuge for hurt people and are led by hurt people, rather than being places of health that reproduce health. It’s OK to be hurt – there’s no condemnation in that! But we have an obligation before God to seek His healing and restoration.
Too often, as we go through the motions with our day-to-day routines, we forget why God redeemed us. Instead, we slip unawares into a rut of accumulated hurts and emotional pain, and start believing that’s normal.
We have learned, however, that those who are burdened by emotional and spiritual pain need to decide that they want life. They must be willing to seek help. We can’t fix them, but God can. However, they must want health.
Jesus, in his parting instructions to the disciples, told them to go forth and proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:44-48). That “great commission” applies to all believers, even now!
We have distorted repentance and think it simply means saying we’re sorry, or else we confuse it with confession. That’s not repentance. The Greek word for repentance, as used in the New Testament, means to change the way we think so that we then change the way we act. Our work with lots of wounded people confirms that it is rare for people to change the way they act unless they let God change the way they think. Having the will power, dedication and commitment to change how you act, without letting God change how you think, is seldom enough.
Changing the way you think means much, much more than believing correct doctrine or precepts in the cognitive, rational part of your mind. It also involves changing what the experiential and emotional side of your mind believes. You may rationally believe that “all things work together for the good of those who love God,” but when you’re then abused by someone you trusted, or you get a deadly disease, or some other tragedy befalls you, your emotions and reactions demonstrate your true belief. Your emotions and how you react springs from, and points to, your core beliefs.
Life’s Septic Tank
For God to change the way you truly think, you need to be willing to open up and expose those core beliefs, and their source, to Him. To help make this process understandable, think about how our lives can become a like a septic tank, full of crap and stink. Although God forgives us, He still wants – and needs – to replace that crap and stink with health and wholeness. But to do that, He needs us to remove the septic tank’s lid so all that nasty stuff inside is exposed. Unless we take the lid off, He’s unlikely to pump the crap out.
This process of removing the septic tank’s lid and exposing the crap and the stink (i.e., the lies) at the core of your life so God can place it with His empowering and liberating truth, is called repentance. Repentance often does not involve sin that you may have committed (although it can)! Repentance is needed even for lies – about yourself, God, life in general, or any number of other things – that took root in your life because of sins others committed against you.
Emotions Show Beliefs
Your emotions – based on what you really believe despite the cognitive facts and logic that you profess – are like road signs that point the way to the lies that bind you. If you want God to change the way you think so that He can then change the way you act (and react!), then you need to expose those lies to Him. Once we expose those lies to the Lord, we can invite Him to speak His truth to us.
When ministering to hurt people, we want to get them to the place where God (and not us!) has been waiting to bring His truth, His perspective, to them. When we get there, we invite Him to speak His truth to them about whatever He wants to say – maybe about how He sees them, about how He views the abuse they’ve suffered, or about other ugly things that happened in their life that were triggered by the abuse.
For example, if we were abused, abandoned or exploited, you may believe and feel that you are unworthy, or abandoned or dirty. But when we work together to expose those core beliefs to the Lord and prayerfully ask Him if that’s true, He will lovingly speak His truth to you – in intensely personal ways – about who you really are or how He views what happened to you. And when He speaks, His truth sets you free.
You can’t do it, and we can’t do it for you. Instead, only He can pump out the crap and the stink and give you wholeness and health in return! You just need to be willing to expose the lies and then listen to what God has to say when you ask Him for His perspective. Our job is to help you do that.
This, then, is the core approach we’ve developed in ministering to those who are in bondage from abuse, exploitation, shame, abandonment and a host of other crippling circumstance. God shows up and changes how you think by speaking His truth in deeply personal ways. And when He does, His truth – without exception and in miraculous ways – sets you free!
God’s Truth Displaces Lies
When God speaks His truth, lies are displaced. Horrendous experiences that were a source of pain, hurt and bondage become places of freedom, peace and joy. Our job is to simply facilitate the ministry of the Holy Spirit as the you take the lid off the septic tank in your life and let God pump out all of the crap and stink. He then brings health and wholeness by speaking His personal, loving truth.
Sometimes it’s not easy for people to do this, because they don’t want to expose the lies they’ve held onto, or the pain and emotions that surround those lies. But when they do, God always – and we mean always – meets them in tender, loving, personal ways. The lies that previously held them in bondage disappear.
Sometimes, after ministering to someone, we have to sit quietly to let the glory of God’s presence subside enough for us to reconnect with the so-called “real” world. But this should not be a surprise, because we serve a living God who wants to interact with us, communicate with us, and heal us. Unfortunately, few are willing to take a chance on letting Jesus meet them at their place of hurt and then ask Him to speak His truth to them.
Are you willing to repent by exposing up the crap and stink in your life so God can speak His truth and bring His transforming love, mercy and grace?
That’s that the world wants to see – not perfect people, but imperfect people who can traverse life’s issues with God’s grace evident in us. God is not about covering over or burying our hurt and pain, like old wounds under thick callous scabs. Rather, He calls us to repentance for the lies we hold onto – from our own sins and from the sins others committed against us – so that He can heal us. He wants us to go to the place where we hurt, which is where He’s been waiting for us to come, so He can speak His liberating truth to us – about our past, who we really are, how God really sees us, and who He created us and wants to empower us to be.
This is effective ministry. This is liberating – not through our own wisdom or strength but through His wisdom and strength. This is God working among us in real, vibrant ways to bring healing, wholeness and liberty to those in bondage.