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When people suppose they are avoiding pain, and think the damage they have suffered is untreatable anyway, people are content to let traumatic memories and disturbing matters remain buried. Nevertheless, the surfacing of suppressed memories through upsetting dreams, flashbacks or whatever, can be a blessing – and might sometimes be a direct act of God – because the damage can be treated and the pain can end, provided people with these pasts stop living in denial. The surfacing of these memories long after the event makes sense and reveals divine wisdom because with the passing years these people have gained maturity, greater spiritual awareness, and sometimes greater access even to human help than when the original trauma occurred.
Whether it be credit card debt, early signs of cancer or past trauma, problems are never solved by ignoring them. Putting a crisis out of your mind might give you temporary peace but the problem will only worsen and you will inevitably end up wishing you had faced it earlier.
If you have a full bladder and you ignore the urge to empty it, the uncomfortable feeling will go away in a while. In time, the discomfort will return, reminding you of the need to take action. You can ignore it again and it will fade away. Keep ignoring it, however, and the pain will keep returning with increasing frequency and intensity until you either take decisive action or you embarrass yourself.
Inner wounds caused by past trauma act the same way. The memory and/or associated pain will make its presence felt but you can ignore it and it will go away. Eventually, the memories and/or inner pain will come back and, if ignored, they will keep returning with increasing frequency and intensity, because ignoring a problem merely gives it time to grow worse.
Nightmares, flashbacks and/or inner pain are your mind dutifully alerting you to matters you must face before they become even more serious. It is warning you that, despite your attempts to move on, you are still being crippled by past trauma. Most likely, your lack of recovery is because you have left past events languishing in the dark – where things always seem scarier – instead of devoting sufficient effort to prayerfully re-examining them in the reassuring light of God’s truth. For instance, lurking in the murky depths of your consciousness could be the fear that ugly incidents in the past indicate that God abandoned you and that he is not good and trustworthy, or that because of those unfortunate events God sees you as untrustworthy or unforgivable, or that you see yourself that way. If so, these are not merely events in the past; they are fears and lies that hold you back right now and will continue to do so until you identify the lies that haunt you and you explode them with God’s truth.
You need never fear truth. The Healing Lord is the God of truth and he moves in an atmosphere of truth, not one of living in denial. Just as Jesus offers full forgiveness but we must confess our sins – admit to ourselves that we are morally damaged – so healing is available to us but we must first admit that we have been internally wounded.
To deliberately live in denial is to resist the Spirit of truth. Even though he knew they needed healing, Jesus – the truth (John 14:6) – didn’t heal people without them facing reality and admitting their problem (examples). As much as Jesus wanted to heal them, their healing hinged on them admitting that they were sick and needed healing. Had they out of shame or through priding themselves in being macho said, “I’m fine,” they would have missed their healing. This principle applies to emotional healing as well as physical healing. There is no truth that takes God by surprise. There is nothing too hard for him or is beyond his ability to forgive.
There is great wisdom in seeking God’s timing but we must be alert to the strong temptation to twist this into an excuse for procrastination and missing God’s timing. The problem with letting sleeping dogs lie is that dogs do not sleep forever. If they will eventually wake and tear you to shreds, it is better for you to wake them, than for them to wake when you are sleeping. No matter how ill-prepared you feel now, you would be far more vulnerable then.
Defeatists and escapists say nothing can be done about the past, so just forget it and get on with life. The truth, however, is that much can be done about the past. We can heal from the pain of the past, we can forgive those who had hurt us in the past, we can learn from mistakes that occurred in the past, we can identify sins in our past and enjoy God’s cleansing, we can seek to undo damage that we did to people in the past. All of these are very important to God and sidestepping any of them displeases him.
Yes, the apostle Paul wrote, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead . . .” (Philippians 3:13) but this is the same man who at least twice in his spoken testimonies (Acts 22:3-5; 26:9-12) and at least four times in his writings (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6 1 Timothy 1:13-15) (and no-one knows how many other times not permanently recorded) glorifies God by recounting his sordid past. In fact, most of the Bible is devoted to recording past events – often analyzing them over and over.
Should someone who has made marriage vows forget the past and commit adultery? If someone cheated you out of thousands of dollars before he become a Christian, does he honor God by “forgetting what is behind,” declaring that he “is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” and continue to live in luxury at your expense, or should – before moving on – he do what can to rectify his past by returning your money? It was after Zacchaeus had resolved to put right his past misdeeds that Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house . . .” (Luke 19:8-9).
Let’s not pervert the Holy Word of God in a shameful attempt to justify cowardice or sin. God wants us not to bury the past but to learn from the past so that it ceases to be a useless waste and what was once a stumbling block is transformed into a stepping stone to greater things. We were born again not to hide from the past but to take the hand of our victorious Lord and boldly face it. The crucified Lord who did not sidestep the ugliness of our past but in his own body bore the full consequences, wants us to partner with him to resolve and restore our past so that we can live in freedom and purity and wholeness.
If you kept spending more money than you earned, every day that you refused to face the need to budget, the more serious the financial crisis would become. If you were lost and heading in the wrong direction, to push on as if everything were okay would keep taking you further and further from safety. If your car began making an unusual noise, ignoring it could turn a minor repair into a needlessly expensive, inconvenient, and even dangerous, experience.
I could keep piling on example after example, but surely there is no need to risk boring you by drawing from the well of countless more examples. The stark fact of life is that living in denial is the highway to disaster. If understanding the problem is essential to finding the solution, then refusing to acknowledge the problem perpetuates the problem. If the truth sets us free, then keeping ourselves ignorant keeps us imprisoned in a self-imposed dungeon of despair.
As enticing as it seems, living in denial ruins our lives by perpetuating the problem. In fact, it almost invariably intensifies the problem. Moreover, living in denial is contrary to the God of truth who loves you so passionately that he yearns not to dominate you but for you to co-operate with him in saving you from your dilemma. We long to keep ourselves in the dark about our situation, but God is light. “. . . what fellowship can light have with darkness?” asks God in his Word (2 Corinthians 6:14). “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” asks the prophet (Amos 3:3, KJV). How can the God of truth and light partner with you in your healing and in granting you peace if you are committed to a methodology totally opposed to his ways – if he declares “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) and you prefer to languish in slavery to lies about yourself; if he “searches all things” (1 Corinthians 2:10; Hebrews 4:13; Revelation 2:23) and you want to bury things; if he says people “loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19) and you think it is good to keep things in the dark?
The emotions we don’t want to face are inside of us, whether we deny it or not. They don’t scare God. The only problem is that they often scare us. He wants you to have the courage to get really honest with yourself and with him and face your fears and your past disappointments, frustration, anger, inner pain, and so on. He is not shocked. He knows it already and he still loves and accepts you. Rather than force himself on you against your will, he honors you by restraining his longing to deliver you and tenderly waiting for you to trust him enough to invite him into the dark corners of your life and let him touch that ever so tender part of you with his healing hands.
It is in the dark that shadows loom and harmless things seem terrifying. It is when we bring them into the light that sanity returns.
God wants you empowered to get on with your life but this cannot happen until with Christ you face the ghosts of the past. Living in denial is a sure way to keep the pain nagging in the background and hinder healing. Distressing dreams or emotional pain can be an invaluable way of helping us face reality so that we can heal.
Various things are needed to resolve emotional issues associated with past trauma. A key matter is to end the blame game. Nothing festers the wound, preventing healing, like blame, whether it be God, other people or ourselves that we blame. Our one and sure hope is to let our crucified Lord do what he longs to do by letting all the blame be placed on his innocent shoulders. There is blame – grave offences have been indeed committed – but we let all blame die with the One who died for the sins of the world; the one who was tormented so that our torment could end.
An obvious key to finding peace is talking to God about the issues. Something we can foolishly overlook, however, is talking to people about the things that disturb us. Many of us think ourselves too spiritual for this. If so, we are more “spiritual” than God. For Scriptures exposing as a lie our temptation to keep things solely between God and us, see Our Need of Human Help. It would be negligent, however, not to issue this warning: when it comes to being wise, sensitive and understanding, the average person is sadly lacking. Trusting some people with your secrets is like trusting a butcher to do open heart surgery. Make a matter of serious prayer the choice of who you share with. Then, as it were, test the waters to see if he or she is both worthy and competent before launching into a full revelation of whatever concerns you.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other . . . so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Here’s a powerful saying: You are as sick as your secrets. (Source)
Keep pounding heaven’s door until every personal implication is revealed.
In the dark, things seem more frightening that they really are. It is when they are brought into the light that they lose their power to terrify. It is then that they cease to haunt us.
Living in denial can never change reality. Nothing can change the past. But embracing the truth of our past empowers us to change our future reality and find true healing.
We cannot expect God to miraculously flood a sensitive area of our lives with peace if we keep trying to run from it rather than face it head-on. God’s longing is not to anaesthetize but to heal; not to promote cowardly living in denial but courage.
Many things took a long time to surface because whenever he would touch anything that hurt I would run. This has happened so many times, even since becoming a Christian.
I spent all last year in intensive counseling and ministry to get to heart issues and breaking off lies that I have believed. Healings took place and it began to open me up to freedom I hadn’t experienced in years, not to mention that God started using me again.
Then when God put his finger on a situation that I revisited, I started my old thing of turning away. I pressed on, however and trusted God, and he brought about a deeper healing.
Your teaching has reaffirmed that by letting God touch sensitive issues and not running away I am heading in the right direction. If and when there is more, I will not be so quick to turn away again.
A woman writes:
I always thought I was so very strong. I thought I had built up impenetrable fortresses. I saw myself as a female warrior. Nothing could mess with me. I was as tough and rugged as any man. I could laugh at pain. If I hit the dirt I could get up off the ground every time, saddle back up and ride on with the best of the soldiers, sword at my side. No girly princess garbage for me. I’ll rescue myself, thank you. But despite having for all this time believed myself to be fighting, I’m now seeing that I was actually running away.
To have believed myself all these years to be so strong, only to discover I’ve been a coward is a hard pill to swallow.
Writes someone who had suffered severe childhood abuse:
This webpage was like being hit between the eyes. I had previously talked to God about my past but only now have I seen that I hadn’t told him everything. Whenever thoughts of the past would come I had always tried to shoo them away. And whenever I remembered the bad things that my dad or others had done, I would always try to excuse their actions by telling myself such things as, “They are just people. People make mistakes.” This I did out of fear that I might end up hating them.
Now I see that trying to forget the past is like each day trying to torment myself more and more. Forgetting is the worst response. The real solution is to bring my rotten past to the loving Lord. Putting fresh food with rotten food will not make the rotten food edible. Instead, the rotten will slowly pollute the fresh food. Even if you throw out half of the rotten food, the half that is left will still affect the new. So it is with us. When we don’t give the Expert all of our past, we are preventing full healing.
I feel so much better now that I have told Daddy God what I had within me. This is the beginning of the healing. I feel that full healing will be a long process but regardless of how long it takes, I know that it will be worth it. My desire is to live in God’s best.
Another woman writes:
I had a real phobia of men with blue eyes. This intense distrust did not include blue-eyed animals or women and didn’t even extend to prepubertal boys. The shade of blue I thought most menacing was a bright blue iris surrounded by a darker ring. I had no idea why I felt this way and why it would take me quite some time to warm up to blue-eyed men I’d have to work with or with whom I’d interact at church.
About five years ago (I’m now in my early 50s) I was praying about this and the Holy Spirit told me he’d like to show me what caused this phobia. I immediately recoiled. “NO! If it were bad enough to cause a lifelong phobia in the first place, I’d probably have a heart attack now if I saw it!” He was gentle and did not force me but he kept nudging me for about a week to let him show me. Finally I decided my desire to be free of the fear exceeded my fear of the discomfort confronting it would cause, so I told him I was willing to have him show me.
What followed turned out not to be nearly as scary as I had supposed, so please don’t be disturbed by the way it starts off:
All of a sudden I was about two years old, naked, and flat on my back on a steel table in a hospital that smelled like antiseptic. (I’ve never liked that smell – it gives me chills.) I was in terrible pain in my ears and throat. I was fighting like a wildcat but being forcefully held down by a group of strangers in gowns and masks. All I could see was their eyes. Then a man with blue eyes surrounded by darker blue rings bent over me and his eyes were all I could see. (It was the doctor, but I was too young when it happened to make that distinction.) Then the vision ended.
I checked with my mother, who told me that when I was 18 months old I was in danger of losing my hearing due to constant infections of my ears and tonsils. She is sure that the memory is of me in the operating room just before being put under.
With the knowledge of where the phobia came from I was freed from it. Now I’m perfectly okay with blue-eyed men of any eye shade. The Holy Spirit knew how to help me, but he wouldn’t force it on me. He just gently persuaded. Because I was willing to trust him, I am now healed of a lifetime torment.
(I suggest recording the web address of this page so that you can keep returning to this list)
Courage to Heal from Sexual Abuse (A very different page to the above link)
Healing of Memories Why memories needs to be restored, not destroyed
Not to be sold. © Copyright 2008, 2012, 2014 Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.net-burst.net Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.