Tag Archives: healing

Hoping and Healing

I do not have a victorious healing story.

I did not have a flash of light which made everything ‘okay’.

I did not wake up one day sick, and another day, well.

I have not been healed.

Yet I have hope.

For me, hope has been healing.

Choosing to hope when everything has seemed hopeless has taught me more about the God of hope that I would have dared to dream.

I’ve recently been reading Matt Bays brilliant book “Finding God in the Ruins” and in it, he says this:

“Healing has no map; every person’s experience is different. But if your journey is going to be successful, expect at some point to end up back at the scene of the crime. staring at the wreckage… And then you must tell your story without making it palatable.”

Quite often, when I tell my story, it centres around the parts which I found God. When mental illness went on a rampage but I emerged with a new calling. The darkest night in which the embryo of ThinkTwice was conceived, the times when I made the right decisions and found the light of a star in a dark night.

I’ve been challenged recently, however, about those times when I’ve surveyed the wreckage and not just found God, bit experienced something of who He is, without ‘making is palatable’.

The truth is, I do attempt to make my story palatable.

I edit my life to hide the parts of my story that I cannot face.

I do not let the light touch them.

It’s not that we need to tell our stories to everyone we meet.

 

 

But allowing those who love us to see us in the dark is a gift, not only to us, but to those who hear our stories and hear in our words that God moves even in the most unexpected of ways and in the most unexpected of places.

I have found hope and healing in telling my unpalatable story just a few times, because I think I’ve seen something of how God responds to us in compassion in the faces of my closest friends.

It’s still unpalatable for me.

But it doesn’t seem to be for others, perhaps because they see more easily a God who sits in the wreck alongside us and sheds light in the darkest places, and I have to believe that God created the darkness knowing we would find Him there.

As The Message Bible puts it:

“Everything was created through him; nothing – not one thing! – came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the life was Light to live by, The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” John 1:3-5

 

By His Wounds… Guest post by Kadash

I hate it when you go to those church services where people pray for each other and then they fall over. Why would you fall over praying? That’s just stupid. At least, I thought so but then one day it happened to me. I fell over.

How did I end up falling over? I had gone to one of those ‘prayer and healing’ services to see what happened. I’ve been a Christian all my life but still, I was sceptical of healing ministries. I was in a good mood that day, the sun was shining and I felt quite happy. But as I was praying I felt as though I should go forward and be prayed for. So I did. They asked me if there was anything I needed prayer for and I said “No, not really. Just pray for me please.” I shut my eyes and prayed and they held a hand up and prayed for me. In theory I was praying for my future, for guidance, but in reality I was just trying to hide from my past.

I can’t speak for others, but my story of self-harm started shortly after a traumatic break up with my then girlfriend when I was 17. During the break down of the relationship it seemed that everything I tried to do to fix things just made them worse. When we broke up, I blamed myself and it wasn’t long before I decided to punish myself. One cut a day for 50 days across my shoulders. Punishment. I told myself that was it, but it seemed that I could never go more than a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, before something would upset me and I’d cut again.

That time as I was praying, it had been maybe two months since I’d last cut myself but the urges were coming back and I didn’t know how long I could last. As I was praying for guidance, I fell.

I wasn’t pushed, and I wasn’t attention seeking. I just felt my knees crumple underneath me and I fell forwards and crashed down on my side. Half of me was still praying, the other half was like ‘What the ****?’ I half rolled onto my back and carried on praying, the other person placing their hand on my shoulder and praying in tongues for me. I sawimages flash before my eyes, but I don’t remember what they were.

And then it happened.

Everything went quiet and dark and I heard a strong but soft voice say: ‘If you need to cut, I’ll be your knife.’ Suddenly my brain was dancing around from thought to thought, Bible reference to Bible reference and it all made sense! I remembered Jesus and I remembered him hanging on that cross. Not the clean and mildly sexy Jesus of paintings but the bloodied and beaten Jew with nails through His wrists and blood flowing from gashes and wounds that covered His body. I remembered Isaiah 53.5:

‘But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.’

And as I remembered, I knew that I didn’t have to punish myself for the things I’d done wrong. Whether that was for the things I did wrong to my Ex or to God or to myself, I knew that the punishment had been dealt with by Jesus on the Cross. I knew that whatever my struggles or urges to cut, I could pray and Jesus would take them upon himself.

As I lay there on the floor I realised someone was still praying for me with their hand on my shoulder. Awkward, I was ‘done’. So I said ‘Amen’ out loud and opened my eyes and looked up to see who was praying for me. There was no one there; there was no one within three metres of me.

Since that day, I’ve only wanted to cut myself once and I didn’t. I prayed and five minutes later the urge was gone. I’m 20 and it’s now been over one year since I last cut myself. I may still have the scars on my shoulders, but I also have the truth that Jesus died for my sins on the cross and who was raised to life three days later to prove that he was greater than any sin we need to be freed from.

My prayer for you this Easter is that you’ll look beyond your circumstances, your past, beyond whatever is keeping you down and look to the Cross and the man on the Cross. I pray that as you look to that Cross you’ll see that sin and death are real, but that they cannot keep Jesus pinned down and I pray that you will join in the freedom of Easter day when Jesus came back to life as the Lord of all; our savour! Amen.

Sounds Mental… Self Harm

To accompany our new teaching series, I’ll be blogging about the topics once we’ve had the meetings on a Monday once a fortnight. We kicked our “Sounds Mental” series off yesterday using  the lyrics of the song “Angel” by Sarah MacLachlan – which you can listen to here.

Recovery from self harm is difficult – because it is an addiction and a coping mechanism – and recovery comes through finding new ways to cope. More information about self harm can be found   in our article marking National Self Harm Awareness Day 2011 .

There’s always some reason, to feel not good enough…

Whilst having low self-esteem can be one of the contributing factors in a struggle with self-harm, it can also be an issue in recovery. For many, being labelled a “self-harmer” can make it even harder to move on. We all have many labels – from our position in the family, our job and sometimes our painful past. They can be unhelpful and hard to overcome, but it can help to remind yourself of other, more helpful and hopeful labels. Whether that be that you are a survivor of a hellish time, a daughter or you’ve completed a charity bungee jump! For the christian, we have a complete identity in Christ – children of God and created in His image. It’s this identity which sustains and never changes, no matter how hard it may be to accept it.

Memories seep from my veins…

One of the most painful parts of coming to terms with a battle of self-harm is that scarring can not only damage how we see ourselves, but it’s also a constant reminder of the depths reached for. Coming to terms with scarring is an important part of recovery – but it’s not an easy part. In the mean time, there are now excellent creams which can help lessen the starkest of scars or camouflage make-up which is available from the Red Cross, and can sometimes be prescribed by your GP. Scarring can take a long time to come to terms with – but it might be helpful to be reminded of the scars of another. In Isaiah 53:5 it says “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The scars on Jesus’ palms were the sign of His saving grace – and whilst our scars may not be signs that we’ve saved the world – they are signs that by God’s grace we’ve survived.

Keep on building the lies…

Self-harm is enabled by lies. So often, it would not be possible without half-truths and white lies. When it’s over – the guilt of these lies can be crippling. The guilt of what has been done to the body – and also the effect of this on others can re-enforce old feelings of unworthiness and self-recrimination. So often, we forget that we are meant to forgive ourselves as well as forgiving others. If we have repented and our Creator has forgiven us – we have every reason to forgive ourselves. It’s not easy, but we can remember that it is our sins against ourselves – as well as others which were taken to the cross at Calvary.

I’m going to end with a poem by William Cowper – who suffered from crippling depression in his lifetime. Please be aware that some may find the imagery triggering – but there is a reminder of our beautiful hope in his words.

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

 

 

Redeem The Day

Yesterday I wrote a little blog on redemption which can be found here here.

Today, I wanted to write a little about redemption in the context of mental illness. In particular, the redemption of memories and days.

So often, the memories of the most painful days and events can leave an open wound. We may be able to come to terms with what happened, but as an anniversary rolls around again, we can be doubled over with the pain all over again – as fresh as that first time. We can dread the day coming, because we fear the pain that is linked to it.

Today it will be six years since one of the worst days of my life. It was a day which left an indelible mark on me, and every year since it has felt like I am forcing myself to relieve the pain and shame of that day all over again.

And in the intervening years, the date has sent me reeling.

But then, as I having been reflecting on God as Redeemer, I’ve come to the conclusion that if God can redeem the worst of us, the worst of humanity – He can redeem a date.

He can make a day which nearly destroys – into a day which sparks something new – but only if we let Him.

One of my favourite passages in the Bible is found in Joel 2:25-27 which says:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm[b]
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the Lord your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.”

Here God promises the restoration and redemption of years of difficulty – even when sometimes that difficulty is a result of our own sins and mistakes.

Redemption is an act of mighty grace.

Redemption isn’t forgetting what has passed – but a payment – and the debt of our sin is transformed by the blood of Christ.

Our shame is redeemed by His grace.

Our pain is redeemed by His compassion.

Redemption doesn’t mean that we never find things difficult. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a tinge of sadness, but it does mean being able to have hope in the future, despite all that has passed.

Redemption means not letting what has passed, spoil what is in store for us.

So far, God is redeeming this date for me, it’s the ‘best’ 29th November I’ve had since 2006.

There is a Redeemer.

We just have to let Him do His redeeming work.

“A scar means I survived”

Scars can be a massive issue. Whether they be the marks of childhood illnesses such as chicken pox or from surviving an attack or fire. Sometimes they are a constant reminder of a battle with self-harm.

Scars can be hard to come to terms with. However they came to be, it can be be painful to be reminded again and again of something which made such a mark on your body, on your soul.

I used to hate my scars. I used to be disgusted by them because for me they represented weakness and I so desperately wanted to be strong. I hated that every day I was reminded of all I had been through, the lengths I had resorted to in order to keep the pain at bay.

I remember very clearly the day I began to see things a little differently. In Chris Cleave’s book “The Other Hand” he writes the following words;

“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means “I survived”.’

A scar means “I survived”. They were words which jolted right through me. Perhaps, my scars were not as ugly as I thought they were. Perhaps they didn’t mean I was weak. Perhaps, instead my scars were a sign that I had fought. Fought with all my heart and all my mind.

It does not mean to say that I chose healthy coping mechanisms or that I should continue down that dark and difficult path. But it did mean that I could stop punishing myself for my past.

It meant that I could begin to be thankful that it was over. I could be thankful that I was beginning to heal.

Linda Hogan expressed it in the following way:

“Some people see scars and it is the wounding they remember. To me they are proof of the fact they’re healing.”

Wounds heal.

The past can heal.

That does not mean that the pain ceases to exist. It doesn’t mean that you never have to face up to the pain.

It does mean that we can be freed from shame.

Why?

Because of the scars of another. Scars that marked the palms and side of Jesus Christ. Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote

“I shall accept my regrets as part of my life, to be numbered among my self-inflicted wounds. But I will not endlessly gaze at them.”

And so it must be with scars. They will remind us. It might be painful. But it is not the end. We do not have to lose more by gazing at the pain and remembering the shame. Instead we look up and look around, acknowledging where we have been. But not allowing it to stop where we can go.

A scar means “I survived”

A scar means we have a life to live, with all the pain and joy and confusion that life can hold.

Wounds that Heal?

Two days ago I completed my third year project. A 10,000 word dissertation which has been a labour of love for the past year. “Towards a pastoral response to the suicidal” was the title and it has not been easy. And yet, it has been full of hope. Writing about suicide and suicidal feelings is not the happiest, most upbeat of topics – but writing about how we can support those suffering and educate the Church and society in which we live has inspired and encouraged me.

I wanted to share the final paragraph of my dissertation, because it expresses (briefly) the journey I have been on during the writing. It reads:

“In practice, suicide prevention is more complex and nuanced than can be written on paper. It is not merely a matter of adhering to rules and guidelines, but connecting with the pain and despair of the suffering, using our own pain behind us as an easel and painting a picture of hope, rooted in the biblical narrative and person and work of Jesus Christ, His palms bearing the scars of the nails and arms open wide leading his people home.”

During the writing and researching I have delved into the darker side of humanity, and yet I feel I have been able to glimpse the light that shines from and through Christ Jesus. It is a light which is not afraid of the darkness. It is a light that fights when the darkness threatens to drown it out.

It is my hope that my dissertation will not sit at the bottom of a drawer, gathering dust -but that I may be able to put it to good use and utilise what I’ve learned in the real world. It has, in some ways formed my own pain. It has reminded me that we have the gift and responsibility to use our pain to comfort those who are still in the depths that we once fought through. It is by the wounds of Christ that we are comforted and healed and saved. I am beginning to realise that our pain becomes the fire which burns for others. It is the fuel of our compassion.

As Nicholas Wolterstorff writes so beautifully:

“By his wounds we are healed”. In the wounds of Christ is humanity’s healing. Do our wounds also heal? This gaping wound in my chest – does it heal? What before I did not see, I now see; what before I did not feel, I now feel. But this raw bleeding cavity which needs so much healing, does it heal while waiting for healing? We are the body of Christ on earth. Does that mean that some of our wounds are his wounds, and that some of our wounds heal?” (1)

I believe, have to believe, that our wounds do heal and that in the process God may show his healing power through our wounds and the healing of those wounds. It is my prayer of petition, and my prayer of praise.