In the previous blog post we discovered as many as 61 % of people struggling with cancer are found to also struggle with forgiveness. By allowing God to search our hearts and deal with offenses, we have a much better likelihood of living a healthy and productive life. Recognizing symptoms with our cognitive faculties, however, does not automatically translate into heart felt change.
People may know that forgiveness is a biblical concept. Somewhere along the way they also may have been warned about the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of UN-forgiveness. Maybe they are genuinely grateful for a God who was willing to take on human form and die an excruciating death that they might be forgiven of their sins. What then, is the reason so many people experience inconsistency between their understanding of forgiveness and their willingness to confess and repent of sinful responses related to offenses and destructive beliefs which mire them in unforgiveness? Robert Jeffress quotes respected counselor and author David Seamands with this answer,
"Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the major cause of most emotional problems among evangelical Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people. We read, we hear, we believe a good theology of grace. But that’s not the way we live. The good news of the gospel has not penetrated the level of our emotions."
The medical model of dealing with mental health concerns involves categorizing symptoms to formulate a label. Labeling depression or anxiety, for example, merely as an illness to be treated with medications to alter the physiological makeup of a person, can miss the importance of recognizing the person as a whole: spirit, body, and soul. Many mental health conditions often have spiritual and emotional roots, and research shows that even many physical problems are rooted in emotional and mental health issues. Christians' treatment of things like depression and anxiety, while not ruling out the helpfulness of science, must seek to remove the obstacles that keep people from following God with their whole heart, soul and mind.
Some so-called “emotional problems” are not really problems with emotions, but problems with thinking patterns (including core beliefs) which trigger the emotions. Emotions are neither good nor bad, and they can be a powerful tool in exposing and clearing up thinking patterns. Emotions can be messengers--carrying a message to encourage deeper assessment of root issues to aid the process of healing.
The Scripture contains many examples of persons who examined their emotions in helping to overcome disappointments, adversities, and embittered hearts. Perhaps no one is more prolific in describing the emotional turmoil of his inner being than David.
David, ancient Israel’s second king, is a person who experienced great suffering in order to fulfill God’s purposes for his life. The outcast of his family, David was taunted by his brothers and not even recognized as a candidate for king when Samuel visited their house. Though David served the king faithfully, Saul (who also suffered from depression) hurled his spear at David, causing him to flee for his life and hide in caves to avoid being hunted down and killed. David also suffered scorn and humiliation by the actions of his wives and son. He broke God’s commands by committing adultery with Bathsheba. Then he committed murder in an attempt to hide the sin of adultery. When confronted by the prophet Nathan, David demonstrated genuine repentance before God. Although God forgave David, the consequences of his sin remained for generations. Through his son Solomon, a division in the kingdom developed into a split between Israel and Judah.
Out of the depths of David’s acquaintance with suffering came the psalm, containing much wisdom, comfort and relevance for today. Many of the psalms David wrote reflected the loss and grief experienced by God’s people. Many, such as Psalm 10, are also examples of how David responds to God in his heart. In Psalm 10, the first twelve verses describe affliction of the worst kind imaginable. David is oppressed and totally defeated by things completely out of his control. His loss cannot be corrected in any way known to man, and he feels helpless.
Then in verses 12-15, David turns his attention to God, and cries out to Him as helper, deliverer, vindicator, and One who is willing to act on behalf of the helpless. Verses 16-18 display David’s heart of gratitude and praise for the mighty works of God. The expression of the human condition is clear. David’s heart progresses from anxiety and depression to allowing his heart to be wooed by God and then to the joy of resting securely in God’s place of victory. Praising His Creator and acknowledging the truth about who He really is (vv. 17-18), David cooperates with God and his heart is transformed.
In Psalm 10 David writes almost four times the amount of text to describe the sorrow in his heart, than he writes to describe God’s intervention.26 As with many other similar psalms, David takes the time to explore and connect with the pain he was feeling. Similar to David, many people worsen their affliction and heartache by holding grudges, blaming, critically judging, or worrying about things that are out of their control. God allows David to emote and patiently listens to his cry. He waits for David’s thinking to change and his experience to come into alignment with the truth. As in the example of Psalm 10, the truth of God may be one heart cry away from inviting Christ’s forgiving, healing presence into a struggling person’s health concern or broken relationship. Truth transforms thinking, actions, and feelings.
If that sounds like you, take the time right now to talk to God and pour out your heart to HIM.
Note: More details about this are in my book. The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with offense and finding freedom in forgiveness. Most of the text above is taken directly from text near the beginning of Chapter Four of the book. I pray that you will find this book a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry