Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How a Searchlight Helps to Cure Cancer

According to Barna Group survey results published on their web site November 3rd, seventy million Americans "are dealing with unresolved emotional pain or conflict in life." Three out of ten people (30%) perceive their behaviors, dreams, goals, ideals, values, or relationships to be affected by cancerous feelings such as bitterness and resentment.

Dr. Michael Barry published a book earlier this year called The Forgiveness Project. His medical, theological, and sociological research at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America  in Philadelphia, PA finds that 61 percent of cancer patients have struggles with forgiveness of past hurts and wounds, and 34 percent have very severe struggles with things like hatred and revenge. The disease of unforgiveness causes immune deficiency in the body which causes physical health problems including the formation of cancer. Barry's book shares personal stories of patients healed from cancer primarily through their discovery of, and willingness to release, offenses they hadn't fully dealt with from their past. 

If the psychological, physical, and spiritual health problems related to unforgiveness are so obviously apparent, why do so many people remain trapped by their offenses?   The answer to this question is not a simple one and could be tackled from many angles, but I believe looking at the human heart and how it responds to emotional pain is a key. The inability or unwillingness to release offenses is the number one dream-killer of all time.

There are two major categories of fencing (or walls) which result by not properly dealing with offenses. One type of wall is very visible, easily recognized, and distance is maintained whenever possible. The other type of wall is often invisible, hard to recognize, and therefore hinders many activities in life because it pops up at unforeseen moments. The corresponding responses to these types of walls travel in two extreme directions; one is revenge and the other is apathy. Since outward aggression is less socially acceptable, most responses steer away from revenge (at least overtly) and tend toward apathy. This is often a learned pattern in human development from childhood into adulthood. Invisible walls of self-protection develop because repeated failure to find adequate resolution to offenses creates increased distrust of others and increased vulnerability to harm. Negative thoughts form inaccurate beliefs (lies about self and others), which create actions (behaviors), which create habits, which create lifestyle patterns of denying the pain in order to cope. The cycle of offense discussed in my previous blog post shows how this happens in every person alive to some degree at least.

The two types of walls translate into two types of unforgiveness: when your conscious awareness tells you, and when it doesn't. Emotional pain is often minimized or ignored, as explained by the apathetic response described above. The subconscious type of bitterness, hatred, resentment, or blame is much more common and becomes likes a hidden cancer destroying a person. Some of the symptoms that often reveal this are: chronic stress, anxiety, depression, self-condemnation, perpetual conflict, and lack of trust and love for others. In Part Two of my book, Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart, I cover this in much detail.

Failure to deal with offenses, even long forgotten ones, can derail your success in achieving goals and steal your dreams like nothing else. You may not develop cancer cells in your body, but unforgiveness could be eating at your emotions like a cancer that consumes your strength and weakens your ability to be effective in key areas of your life.

True forgiveness is not possible without recognizing, acknowledging, and dealing with root sources of offense. If you are a God-follower, you can take heart in the example of David in Psalms 139. He starts out with verse one saying, "O Lord, you have searched me and you know me." The past tense indicates a relationship and "walk" of habitual transparency of his inner person. The Psalm continues with an intimate description of God's creative ability in forming each individual person with unique traits purposes for being. The last two verses come back to the soul searching theme with David requesting,
"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting."  (Psalm 139:23-24)
This indicates intentionality on David's part for God to expose his "anxious thoughts" and "offensive way." In this manner he permits God to deal with the heart of the matter and remove any fences (walls) that his offense had erected. Whether the offense is intentional or unintentional (sin of comission or omission), the crippling, deafening, blinding, and imprisoning effects are the same.

God has a searchlight bright enough to pinpoint your problem "cancer" cells. The "treatment" may not seem pleasant, but healing comes through no other means. Yielding to His love and mercy reaps eternal rewards. The way to break free is to surrender to God the rights of final judgment of the matter that offended you. The mystery of forgiveness frees you from the grasp of either extreme; revenge or apathy. Then you can beat the disease and be on your way to success and significance!

            Note:  The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  I pray that you will find this book a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ.


by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry