Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jimmy Evans’ new book When Life Hurts: Finding Hope and Healing from the Pain You Carry (Baker Books, 2013).
In this fallen world, everyone experiences some kind of pain. A wide variety of painful experiences – such as rejection, shattered dreams, betrayal, abuse, illness, job loss, and the deaths of loved ones – can cling to your soul, leaving hurt feelings there. If your pain remains unresolved, it will disrupt your mental, emotional, and spiritual health as you carry it around with you every day.
It’s vital to face your pain and resolve it, so you can let go of that burden and enjoy a healthy life. The only effective way to do that is by taking your pain to God and inviting him to heal you. Here’s how you can do so:
Let go of any inner vows you may have made. Inner vows are promises about the future that you make to yourself about pain you’ve suffered in the past. For example, you might vow: “No one will ever break my heart like that again” or “I’ll never let myself be poor.” While it may seem like inner vows will help you, they’ll actually hurt you, because they encourage you to try to control certain areas of your life rather than trusting God with them, they lead you to act in irrational and even absurd ways, and they can start to guide your life when it should be the Holy Spirit who guides you. Surrender your inner vows – and every part of your life – to God, inviting him to change your hard heart to one that’s full of His love as he guides you through the healing process.
Stop trying to deal with your pain in unhealthy ways. You can’t truly heal from pain by medicating (using some type of pleasure, such as food or sex, to make yourself feel better temporarily), motivating (turning to ambition and busyness to try to distract yourself from pain), or meditating (focusing constantly on your pain to try to justify it). Instead, confess your pain in prayer to God and welcome the healing that only he can give you.
Listen to the messages that your pain communicates. The pain you feel always communicates some kind of message – either good or bad. God may be speaking to you through your pain to direct your attention to something in your life that needs to change and to help you learn and grow. But Satan may also use your pain to speak to you, in an attempt to draw you away from God. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom you need to discern the difference. Keep in mind that God’s voice gives you loving comfort and guidance designed to help you heal, while Satan’s voice leads to feelings of fear, doubt, confusion, and shame designed to make you despair. Listen carefully for God’s message in your pain, and reject Satan’s messages.
Embrace the truth that you’re not a burden, but a blessing. Don’t let the pain you’ve gone through cause you to devalue yourself. If you feel as if you’re a burden to God or other people, pray for the Holy Spirit to send you a fresh dose of confidence and remember your core identity as one of God’s beloved children. Know that your wounded soul is never damaged beyond God’s ability to heal. Accept the complete and unconditional love that God offers you and welcome God’s healing work in your life. Whenever thoughts of insecurity or shame enter your mind, remind yourself that, from God’s perspective, you’re a blessing to him and others.
Replace deceptive thoughts with biblical truth. Your mind is a battleground between the good and evil sides of the spiritual realm. When you allow your mind to dwell on your pain, you become vulnerable to thoughts from evil sources that tempt you to sin. But when you regularly read and think about God’s Word, the Bible, its truths will sink into your soul and help you recognize and pay attention to good thoughts that lead to a healthy life. When you notice a negative, unhealthy thought in your mind: expose it as a lie, expel it from your mind, and fill that space in your mind with a biblical truth.
Come out of hiding. Don’t try to keep your pain a secret. Realize that God knows all about it, and loves you anyway. Be honest and vulnerable with God, expressing your deepest feelings about your painful experiences and confessing sinful ways that you’ve responded to that pain. Confess your pain and sins to a few other people you can trust, asking them to pray for you, encourage you, and hold you accountable throughout your healing process.
Enter into a healing partnership with God. Realize that God doesn’t intend for you to passively receive healing; he wants you to actively work with him during the healing process. Cooperate with God to change unhealthy lifestyle habits that have caused you to be in bondage to pain. Keep in mind that God wants to do more than simply relieve you of pain; he wants to redeem your pain to accomplish good purposes in your life, such as helping others who are also going through pain.
Let your brokenness lead you to a closer relationship with God. Don’t be afraid to face the brokenness that pain has brought into your life. Through brokenness, you must admit that you can’t make it on your own through life, and you can see how much you need God. As you struggle through pain, you can discover God, and realize that God can console you in any amount of sorrow, help you overcome any failure, and erase any type of fear from your life. Trust God to heal your brokenness by restoring you to wholeness – and in the process, draw you closer to him.
Break the cycle of pain in your relationships so you can leave a healthy legacy. Do whatever God leads you to do to change unhealthy attitudes and behaviors that you’ve adopted due to pain in your life. If you do the work necessary to change, you can break a cycle of pain that otherwise would hurt your children and others who come after you. So take personal responsibility for your choices rather than blaming others, rely on God to help you as you do the work necessary to change, forgive the people who have hurt you, forgive yourself for your mistakes, and accept God’s forgiveness. Aim to leave a legacy of blessing for your loved ones.
Adapted from When Life Hurts: Finding Hope and Healing from the Pain You Carry, copyright 2013 by Jimmy Evans with Frank Martin. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com.
Jimmy Evans is the cofounder of Marriage Today, an award-winning television program that airs nationally to more than 100 million households daily on Daystar and reaches more than 200 countries worldwide. In 1994 he and his wife, Karen, founded Marriage Today Ministries as a way to bring help and healing to hurting couples. They are the authors of the bestselling Marriage on the Rock, and Jimmy is also the author of several other books, including Lifelong Love Affair, The Keys to Sexual Fulfillment in Marriage, and 7 Secrets of Successful Families. He and Karen are popular speakers whose conferences on marriage and family issues regularly draw huge crowds. They divide their time between Amarillo and Dallas, Texas. Find out more at www.MarriageToday.com.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.