Wounded people are all around. It’s almost universal. Living long enough means experiencing physical pain, injury, and disease. But sometimes worse are the emotional and spiritual pains associated with deferred hope, failure, loss, abuse, affliction, desertion, betrayal, etc. The things that happen can be pretty awful. Broken hearts, broken spirits, shattered lives: they are all around us. And sometimes, that’s who we are.
The shear amount of pain and suffering in the world has led some to abandon belief in God – which is not irrational, especially if you believe one of God’s jobs is to blot out suffering. I have heard such notions preached, but you won’t find that in scripture.
I’ve been around wounded people this week. What can a missional community or small Christian community offer?
First, the fellowship of fellow sufferers. We can, as Romans 12 teaches, “mourn with those who mourn.” I’ve noticed that as God brings people together, you can often find a thread of connection. It was uncanny how many people in the first church I pastored had tragically lost children. The families in my next congregation had experienced a remarkable amount of suicide and divorce. I spend time these days with people who know what it’s like to be hurt by church factions. Pretty much every large church offers groups for grief, addiction, divorce, and illness. They bring people together around pain. Missional communities are small and focused. We don’t put up a sign in the lobby or run an announcement. We gather a community around a particular mission.
Second, we can listen well. Because we are intent on allowing the Holy Spirit to form and guide our community, we can take the time to really listen to one another. When I received training for healing prayer, I was told that 75% of healing can happen when we listen carefully to one another. It’s so rare that people get to really tell their stories to people that care. It takes patience and energy to listen, but it does so much to bring restoration. Just telling the story is powerful and helpful, but when we tell it in a redemptive, hope-giving environment, even more can happen. I think it was in a psychology class that I learned that people take all the complex data in their lives and turn them into stories. A caring, redemptive community can help to reshape the stories of pain. Even our sinful actions can be redeemed. James 5 teaches that if we confess our sins to one another, we can be healed. And it’s true. As a young adult, I was blessed to have a friend listen carefully and without condemnation as I shared some things I was deeply ashamed of. And then I heard that brother say, “Jesse, God forgives you. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.” It was such a powerful moment that I can still picture his face and room where we were sitting. And that moment reshaped my story and my life. (I’d like to say I haven’t needed forgiveness since then, but then I’d have to confess to the sin of lying.)
And then there’s prayer. One of the things we work on regularly is healing prayer. Our tool for that is called “Listen-Love-and-Pray.” I have found that it is very helpful to spend time praising God for who he is in times of healing prayer. There is something about praise that puts our suffering in perspective. Our God is one who has taken suffering and death into himself – swallowed it up in victory, we rush to say. But our God is one who knows what it is to suffer. He is simply the victorious God over sin and death, he is also the wounded healer, the suffering God who knows our pain and the sovereign God who holds our future and redeems our past. AND He is the Great Physician who heals our diseases, hurts, and wounds.
And when we call on him, he shows up. And oh my, our God is a healer!
So, another term for the church is “the Body of Christ.” When we gather as a community of disciples of Jesus Christ, the things that Jesus did become possible as we allow the Holy Spirit to work. One of the great privileges and joys of following Jesus is that he lets us be a part of this amazing work.
So today, if you are suffering and hurting, may the Lord bring healing to you. May he lead you into a community of healing where He can work through others to bring restoration to your body, heart, and soul.
May you experience his healing touch.
And then, may the Lord bring healing through you!