Last week I mentioned the inevitability of sadness in each of our lives. Even sad seasons which can tend to linger.
Sometimes life includes for us specific experiences which impact us profoundly, and which remain with us. Often these experiences stay with us because they have deeply imprinted important messages upon our hearts and minds. Some of these experiences are positive and wonderful, like the birth of a child. Who can forget the utter joy of that indescribable moment? Some of these experiences are nothing short of traumatic. Consider my earlier example … except this time the newborn baby dies. Profound sadness striking at the very core of Mom and Dad.
God has wired the human soul in such a way that we have a need to talk about the feelings which are “left over” from such life-altering events. But sometimes – especially when it comes to unresolved grief – we get shut down by others when we try to express what’s going on inside us. Normally the other person means no harm, but our pain is simply more than he or she can handle … and the resulting response toward us is something like: “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Have you ever been told that when you were trying to express yourself?
As Christ followers, we are called to care about the feelings of others. The Bible instructs us plainly (Romans 12:15): “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Many of the people whom we’re called to love are carrying around tremendous wounds of the heart. A heart wound is a like a physical wound in many ways. It is just as real. It may be invisible, but it shows up quite clearly in a person’s behavior – sooner or later. A heart wound is painful, and it must be treated with care or – like a physical wound – it will get worse. You’ve probably experienced a skin wound. You had to clean away any foreign objects or dirt so that the wound could start to heal. With a heart wound, the same principle applies. Maybe my own sin has contributed to my wound. If so, I will want to confess my sin to God so that real healing can begin.
Just like a physical wound often requires help from another person, so a wound of the heart – more often than not – requires that we let other people help us. James 5:16 connects our willingness to confess our sins to others with our experience of genuine healing in regard to those sins. That’s where James promises that the prayer of a righteous person has great power!
How might a heart wound manifest itself? Here are some possibilities I’ve observed over years of pastoral ministry …
- persistent anger or rage
- sadness that won’t go away
- lack of enjoyment of life
- persistent tension and no ability to relax, or insomnia
- unexplained stomach issues
- unexplained rapid heartbeat, trouble breathing, dizziness, or mental “fogginess”
Some people with wounded hearts don’t want to be around anything or anyone who reminds them of their trauma. Fear is often a big part of the “fallout” left over from a wounded heart. It’s often a fear that I’ll have to experience that same trauma again. Some people develop a difficulty remembering things – either the specific events of their traumatic experience, or in general. Some people obsess about their traumatic event, and find themselves plagued by the same nightmare over and over again. Sleep gets harder and concentration is dulled. Some people are simply exhausted. Some cry a lot … some never cry. Some turn to drugs or alcohol. If the trauma is particularly intimate – like rape or incest, or some injury that is inflicted over a long period of time, or something that results in severe devastation, or some intentional injury – the wound of the heart can be especially deep. Sometimes a person’s temperament makes a wound deeper – like in the case of a person who is simply sensitive by nature.
Our Lord Jesus experienced profound sadness in every way that you and I can imagine feeling abandoned or threatened, and Christ knows our struggles intimately. Here’s one Scripture I’d like you to take a look at if you’re struggling with sadness: Matthew 26:36-46. We see in this passage that Jesus called on His disciples to stand with Him in prayer, which they obviously failed to do. Christ experienced heart wounds, and He uniquely understands the brokenness of our souls! God wants us to be honest with Him about the wounds of our hearts. If you’re not quite sure about how to begin, please stay tuned. I’ll pick up right there next week.