Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How Do You Know If You’re Healed?

Everyone faces trouble in life, but some hurts are harder to get over. Death, abuse, abandonment, addiction, and tragic loss are just a few things that take more recovery time. Whether you caused your own demise, or someone else hurt you, healing takes time. But how do you know when you’re “there?”

Two sure signs are when you’re able to live in the present, and when you become productive and fruitful.

Seven years ago, I went through an unwanted divorce and my counselor gave me a very helpful visual for the healing process. He held his writing tablet at face level and said, “Right now, the divorce feels like this to you. Your attention is focused here. You’re spending most of your energy coping with your present brokenness.

You’re aware life is going on out here,” he said, waving his hand in my peripheral view. “But right now you don’t feel like you’re part of that world.” I nodded. “You’re struggling for survival; you have to force yourself to function each day.”

Then he laid the tablet on his lap. “In a few months your divorce will move down here,” he said. “You will still think about it a lot, and the hurt will still be fresh, but you will be more aware of other people. You will have more energy to invest in your children and work, and you will find pleasure in relationships and activities again.” This time I nodded, eager for the glimmer of hope he offered.

Finally, he tossed the tablet to the corner of his office. “Eventually, your divorce will move over there.” He turned back and looked me in the eye. “The day will come when you will be happy again. God will fill your life with new relationships, dreams, opportunities, and laughter. You will only think about the divorce when something triggers your memory.

“When that happens, it will be like suddenly noticing there’s a tablet over there on the floor. Painful memories will rise as if from a great distance. You might wince. Then you’ll go back to whatever you were doing.”

This illustration gave me hope over the next few years. Now I know what he said is true. With God, healing does come, no matter what kind of hurt you’ve experienced.

Joseph had every reason to feel wounded. His brothers hated and conspired to kill him, but at the last minute decided to sell him instead. At the age of seventeen Joseph became a slave in Egypt – where they spoke a foreign language, practiced different customs, and worshiped strange gods. Despite this, Joseph thrived in his master’s house, that is, until the master’s wife accused Joseph of rape. Even though he was innocent, his master threw him in jail.

For thirteen years Joseph suffered because of other people’s choices. He must have experienced the same feelings we do: confusion, anger, doubt, revenge. When he finally got out of prison, however, he did two things that revealed healing had taken place.

“Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, ‘It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering’” (Genesis 41:51-52).

Obviously you don’t forget being sold by your own brothers, and spending years in prison for something you didn’t do. However, the pain can fade into our peripheral view, just like my counselor’s tablet. When you’re healed, you don’t focus on the pain of the past; you live in the present and have hope for the future.

Secondly, healed people produce good fruit. Joseph modeled forgiveness to his sons, saved an entire country from starvation, brought honor to God, and expressed mercy to his brothers. Even though he referred to Egypt as the land of his suffering, he didn’t let that stop him from helping others.

Where do you see yourself in the process? Can you say God has helped you forget the pain of the past and is making you fruitful where you are now? Are you using your experiences to encourage others? It takes time, and some days are better than others, but hopefully you’re on the way. I’m with you on this journey, letting God heal my past and working for a productive future.

(I am currently working on a divorce recovery book for women whose husbands wanted out of the marriage. Watch for more news  and excerpts on my blog.)

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