I’ve recently found my head swirling with long forgotten thoughts, thoughts so deeply buried, so intentionally hidden that their surfacing has rocked me. It’s got me thinking about the solutions the world offers to help us cope with emotional and mental pain and then to consider how, as Christians, we might respond in these situations.
Memories from childhood are often a blur of loosely connected events, combined to create a recipe of flavours unique to each child, some sweet and some which leave a bitter taste. Even within the same family, memories are interpreted through the individual lens of each member, each affected differently by the events and people surrounding them.
Our present reality cannot be experienced outside of the confines of our mind’s childhood memories. Sometimes we subconsciously mirror our own childhood and other times we will seek to live in the opposite way, with the intention of breaking away from the past and living in a new and better way.
If our childhood was unhappy the world tells us that our past will forever disable our future. Modern psychology doesn’t fit Jesus into the equation; they just add adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) together and the number produced (0-10) will tell you whether or not you will have a happy and successful life. I’ve done the quiz and I know that there is hope beyond their prognosis.
The outcome for adults who have suffered many ACEs is a cocktail of mental health issues, addictions and physical ailments. Even with years of therapy, CBT and various drugs, the prognosis for such individuals is grim. There’s a better way though, a way which offers freedom from the past. It’s a way that Mary Magdalene found and we can find it too. That way is found through Jesus Christ.
Jesus didn’t just come to save us from our sins, but also to heal our wounds. ‘He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds’ Psalm 147:3, Jesus came, ‘to set the oppressed free’, Luke 4:18 and ‘He daily bears our burdens’, Psalm 68:19.
When we have gone through pain, we don’t need to suffer alone, but we can take our memories and ask Jesus to the heal the consequences of those experiences. He won’t just put a sticking plaster over them, but he will wash them and His love will gradually soothe them and heal them, so that these events don’t break us, but they become the conduit for his love to us and through us, to others. Our suffering, when put into the hands of Jesus transforms into something extraordinary.
Our suffering is never wasted; instead he uses it to shape us, to soften us and in our vulnerability we can honestly say that we are nothing without Christ. It is at that point of vulnerability that he can truly be glorified through us. It’s at the end of our healing journey that we see the beauty in what he’s allowed, for it is then that, ‘we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God’ (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Practically speaking though, how do we move forward, when memories from the past begin to overwhelm us, and we feel like we’re drowning? With Jesus as our guide, prayer becomes even more essential, for in the darkness we must cling to the light, even if it seems to be just a glimmer. Sometimes we only have the strength for an arrow prayer, but, however small our prayerful offering, God hears and answers.
During my darkest nights, as I’ve lain awake with memories knotting together in my stomach, I have recited Psalm 23 over and over. One night recently I was doing this and I got up, opened my Bible, with the hope of some comfort and immediately fell upon Psalm 23. Yes, he was there during that night and as the Psalmist says, ‘he restores my soul’. There is no greater peace than the certainty of knowing that God sees you and cares about everything you’re going through. That morning I wept, as the feeling of safety engulfed me, safe in the arms of the One who saw everything and weeps with me.
He’s not just there for me, but for you too. If you are going through your own ‘valley of the shadow of death’, please know that Jesus is with you and he’ll get you through this. You aren’t alone.
If I can pray for you, please let me know in the comments.
Sending blessings to you all, Vicki
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