The little olivewood creche was special to me ever since I had purchased it at a little tourist shop in Bethlehem. Travel and several moves later it was badly broken, not much more than a pile of wooden pieces. But I couldn’t get rid of it.
We all need to receive healing from God. (And if you believe you’re the exception, you need an extra special kind of healing!) I believe healing is perhaps the deepest meaning of redemption. Something has happened to us on the inside that has left us seriously broken. And even forgiveness, as wonderful as it is, provides only a partial answer. Those steps to healing have some common characteristics for each of us.
The need for healing comes in many varieties;
The child abused or neglected during his most formative years
The woman used for someone else’s pleasure so long she believes that’s all she’s good for
The addict whose soul, body, mind, future, and finances are completely controlled by an outside substance or behavior
The “good” church member exhausted from endlessly doing good things so she will look good
The spouse left hopeless, angry, and bitter from decades of marriage misery
The man whose unhealthy lifestyle has left him with humanly incurable diseases
The woman whose genes, choices, and circumstances leave her depressed and anxious
The parent, spouse, child, sibling, or friend grieving the death of a loved one
The person who sees no future beyond poverty, persecution, violence, or slavery
Jesus applied Isaiah’s passage to Himself when He said, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” (Luke 4:18-19)
We can hope that happens in one mysterious moment. And sometimes it does.
More often it’s a process, one in which you and I fully participate.
These steps are almost always important as you receive healing from God:
God-talk and violence – physical, sexual, mental, or spiritual – have mixed for centuries. Sadly that same mixture shows up in even “Christian” homes. Let’s agree that abuse of any kind is not what God wanted when He created marriage. But in our broken world too many face the reality that their “Christian” spouse is abusive. What then?
It may seem easy to look on from the outside and say, “God hates divorce, so deal with it.” Or, “Abuse is wrong. Just leave.” But for the person feeling stuck in such a hurtful marriage it’s never really that simple. Shame and guilt are heavy – sometimes almost heavy enough to take you out. You ask yourself questions like, “Can’t prayer fix this?” “What’s wrong with me that I can’t make this work?” “Doesn’t Jesus expect me to forgive?”
Yes, God can – and does – resurrect dead things and turn impossible situations into glorious displays of His grace. Nothing is too hard for Him.
But that – in part – depends on human choices – yours, and your spouse’s. God does not control your spouse’s free will, and you cannot control it either.
God hates divorce not because of some legalistic hierarchy of sin and righteousness, but because it hurts His children. Scripture makes clear that in our broken world there are times marriages are not saved. And God is neither surprised nor absent in your marriage dilemma.
So what do you do if your spouse is a Christian and abusive? Your emotions are certainly heavy and complicated. But putting emotions aside for a moment, here are some important things to know.
It’s a rare person who never gets emotionally flustered. And I’m not sure such a person truly exists. Some people get worked up over the smallest things – the coffee maker didn’t start on time, or your coworker pulled into your favorite parking spot just as you were about to grab it. But there are plenty of big things that can cause even the toughest person to temporarily lose their emotional footing, such as a serious illness, a major financial loss, the death of a loved one, or a friend’s betrayal.
Reacting out of your emotions when you’re worked up is natural. And we each have our favorite ways of doing so: withdrawing into isolation, lashing out in anger, or dissolving into tears or anxiety. Strong emotions affect our decision-making ability, and it’s easy to say or do things out of those emotions that we will later regret. One of the first steps in emotional maturity is understanding yourself well enough to know when you need to slow down long enough for your rational mind to catch up.
When you feel the heat of being emotionally worked up churning in your being, press PAUSE. Here are several mistakes to avoid at those high-temperature times.
Don’t make big decisions. Making wise decisions that will have long-lasting consequences requires a clear mind. Most of us can’t do that when we’re worked up. Quitting your job or your marriage, throwing away a friendship, selling or buying something expensive, moving to a new church or city, bailing out on a challenging project – none of those decisions can wisely be made out of fear, anger, disappointment, frustration, or any other strong emotion. Wait until your mental temperature cools somewhat, and include your rational mind in the decision-making process.