One of the reasons the NFL has a two week gap between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl is to give players a little space to heal up from various injuries they have incurred. We do the same thing for ourselves, don’t we? If we pull out our back or sprain an ankle we allow time for recuperation and healing to take place before we reengage in rigorous exercise or other physically challenging activities. If someone we know tells us about their injury, we easily empathize with them, and hopefully (as Christians) join them in praying for healing and recovery. Why don’t we do the same when people have been hurt spiritually?
As a pastor, I have found that the hidden wounds of the heart take far longer to heal than most physical ones. One reason for that is people tend to “rehearse their hurt” over and over again in their minds. It is akin to ripping the scab off of a flesh wound or repeatedly hitting a rod against a bruised knee.
Wounded people either tend to blame themselves or refuse to forgive the people who hurt them. So they lie awake at night, groaning in deep regret in response to the pain they have experienced. This is compounded several fold when people have been hurt by pastors or churches in whom they had entrusted their souls to.
How Can You Help?
As you walk alongside brothers and sisters in Christ (which I hope you are seeking to do), you will often recognize relational patterns that give strong indication of “spiritual bruises.” Those patterns might be symptoms of withdrawal (for people who claim to be social) or crass comments by people who are normally civil. As you recognize these or other self protective mechanisms, seek to draw near to them in hopes of beginning to build trust. Relating to wounded people is like trying to sure up the banks of a river where the pillars of a bridge once stood. Ask God for grace to empathize and understand what they have been through. Resist the temptation to think you can dump a truck load of concrete truth into their lives in one setting and they will be (or “ought to be”) good to go.
Here is YOUR prescription for coming alongside wounded people:
1 Thessalonians 5:14b
…encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
Patience does not necessarily equal space. Oftentimes leaving people alone to wallow in their wounds is the worst thing you can do. Patiently and prayerfully seek to show them that you desire their friendship even if they (at first) seem cold and distant.
Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, and as you incarnate His love for them through your time, relational effort and prayers you will gradually gain the windows of trust through which to share the Truth which will heal them.
Perhaps I can share some medicine for their soul in a subsequent post. But for now, as a follower of the Great Physician, would you ask Him for grace to seek out the walking wounded in your midst?