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

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Psalm 73 Healing Word

             "But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;  I will tell of all your deeds" (Psalm 73:28).  This is the final verse of the Psalm and a good place to begin this article.  When a person tastes of God as refuge, there is no sweeter place of peace to be found.  So sweet in fact, the story must be told. 
            There is not enough space to quote it here, but before continuing, please read Psalm 73 in its entirety.  We are told Asaph is the writer.  He begins the Psalm with a verse that acknowledges the value of a transparent heart before God.  In the next nine verses, he observes the violence and acts of terrorism conducted by people who have no regard for God and the value of human life.  In verses 10-14 he seems overcome with thinking how these evil people seem to prosper better than people like himself who are trying with all their heart to follow God.  He recognizes his erroneous thinking in verses 15-20, and in verses 21-24 he looks deeper into his own heart condition.  Verses 25-28 tell how he allows the blessing of God to sweep through his being and become a transformed person. 
            It is a common experience for a follower of Christ to get "weary in well doing" when desires for more of God and efforts to make positive changes seem to be going nowhere.  The Message translates the Psalmist's words like this:
"When I was beleaguered and bitter,
    totally consumed by envy,
I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox
    in your very presence.
I’m still in your presence,
    but you’ve taken my hand.
You wisely and tenderly lead me,
    and then you bless me" (v21-14).
Sometimes it's not even the wicked that embitter our hearts.  We look around and see people seemingly more successful in areas in which we would like to be more prosperous, and we react like a "dumb ox."  We lose sight of the meaning of success.  This week I came across this quote, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts" (Winston Churchill).  When we get stuck, we must take our embittered heart to God and allow Him to change it into a blessed heart. 
Our most significant actions are courageous and  consistent steps toward God.  God can make a way even where there is no way. 
            Sometimes it is God himself with whom we become angry.  When bad things happen that cannot be blamed on a specific person, such as natural disaster, car accident, or chronic health problem, the blame often goes toward God.  That is the case in my own life.  At birth my optic nerves were both damaged to the extent of legal blindness.  My lack of eyesight did not allow me to obtain a driver's license or play competitive sports like other kids my age.  Particularly as a teen being "different"  was not cool, and it created anxiety and even suicidal thinking.  Raised in a Christian home, I was prayed for many times for the healing of my eyes.  I struggled with many questions like "if God has the power to heal, why doesn't he give me 20/20 vision?"   I formed critical judgments against God for not doing something about the miserable conditions a serious vision limitation creates in a person's life.  Many situations were compounded by other peoples' misunderstandings, judgments, and false assumptions about "disability" and what is needed to overcome.
            It was first in 1998 that I encountered a model of healing that identified false beliefs and dealt with negative feelings to allow God's power to transform my life.  Although I became a Christian at a young age, I lived many years spiritually blinded to the deeper intimacy with Father God available for the asking.  My spiritual vision was blocked by the lies I believed about God, myself, and other people.  I believed lies such as "There must be something wrong with me," "I really am damaged," "I am worthless," "I will never be good enough," "I will never be known or appreciated for my real self," "Others will always take advantage of me," "God loves other people more than he loves me," "I'm unlovable, so I'll never know true love," "God has let me down," and on and on go the lies.   These lies left me feeling abandoned, rejected, left out, ashamed, unworthy, incompetent, anxious, untrusting, powerless, weak, flawed, inferior, insignificant, unappreciated, hopeless, defeated, depressed, and confused. These are "normal" human reactions, but until I was ready to allow God to show me the deeper problems in my heart, all my good Christian performance was not enough to break through.
            By receiving God's deeper healing touch, I began exchanging the lies for the truth that God loves me no matter what and it doesn't really matter what other people think of me when I am secure in God's love.  Believing the truth changes how I feel also.  I feel accepted, loved, and secure in where I'm headed. Although I may never have it ALL worked out, I praise God that I have Him as a refuge like the Psalmist )quoted above) to run to when the times get tough.  My behaviors changed as well.  For example, my wife began noticing that I was less "controlling" of her in our marriage.  I was less demanding because I didn't feel I had to limit or avoid certain behaviors of hers to keep myself from being hurt.  I was freed to love her more, and give her more freedom to be who she is.  The same dynamic is true with family, co-workers, customers, authority figures, and other people in my life.
            The Psalmist recognized what really counts is not his good performance in comparison to other people (who do evil; or even good), but it is about his heart condition before God.  "When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,  I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you" (Psalm 73:21-22; NIV).  He was willing to let God change the "brute beast" part of his heart.  Whether we like to admit it or not, each of us has that part going on. In order to identify the "brute beast," it helps to change the question we ask ourselves.  Instead of asking if I am a "brute beast," I should ask where are my thoughts, feelings, and actions like a "brute beast?  If we ask ourselves, "Am I like those people described in verses 4-12 of Psalm 73?", we would probably answer "no."  But if we can be honest with ourselves and dare to ask God to show us what is truly in our heart, we can become free of the bitter roots that grow into that kind of behavior (see Hebrews 12:15). 
            Focusing on not just changing behavior, but changing from the inside out produces lasting results.  Asking God not just for healing of physical conditions but healing of the inner person is of greater significance.  In my case, seeking healing of physical eyesight is of less value than the healing of the eyes of my heart.  The physical body is a temporal existence, but yielding my heart in sweet surrender agrees with the Psalmist's conclusion, "But as for me, it is good to be near God" (Psalm 73:28).  God has answered my prayer for a miracle of sight.  Healing the eyes of my heart is a greater miracle than healing my physical eyesight.  That's the way I SEE it anyway! <smile>
            I am grateful for the path of healing God has granted me.  Though educated at a doctoral level, it is really my background and experiences that qualify me most to counsel, teach, and speak on topics of inner person change and finding freedom in Christ.  My approach to counseling ministry incorporates the inner healing models I have studied and continue to live out in my growing relationship with God.  I have authored a book called Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart which discusses the topic of forgiveness as the core of surrendering to God's refuge and finding freedom.
             Finally, let me encourage you to go with God on this healing journey the Psalmist, many others, and I have gone.  Your family, business partners, church or ministry staff, and others with whom God has purposed for you to share His love, will all thank you!  Are you struggling with negative thoughts and feelings like those described above?  If you are finding it difficult to get rid of nagging thoughts, put bad feelings to rest, or quit an undesirable habit, you may need to take some drastic steps toward God and HIS power to change.  Don't put it off any longer.  If you need help with this process and it's difficult to find someone in your area, we host people at our Blue Rock Bed and Breakfast who come for ministry and/or vacation time.  We would welcome the opportunity to see you.  See more at .
           "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26).
 by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry