By R.M. Harrington
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]itterness is perhaps the most devastating result of emotional suffering. A society that seeks to function without God is a society that will collect broken hearts, disappointments, and lifelong emotional sicknesses. By nature, we are a selfish people, even in the Christian world. We scorn the concept of praying before marriage. We resist the teaching of sound doctrine. The woman refuses to bow before the authority of her husband and it creates within her an emotional chaos. The husband, laying aside the honor of his wife, uses her to brush his ego, and the coldness of her response fills his heart with an emotional rage.
Children will not honor their parents. Parents provoke the children to wrath. Businesses promote from without rather than from within, and resentments rise among the workers. Churches favor one person above the other; thus follows envy and jealously. Some are helped and promoted, others are held back. Spiritual death consumes the congregation. Forgiveness is a word that lacks meaning. After one mistake, society never permits a conclusion to the payment. The perpetrator learns to live in hate rather than love. So we are ever angry, and self-focused, and bitter that no one gives us our “due” reward.
God Purposed Suffering
What of the emotional suffering that pertain not to the actions of others, but to the purposes of God? In the book of 1 Samuel, we read of a woman with a closed womb such that she could not bare a child. Her name was Hannah. The bible records her emotional turmoil with these words: “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore,” (1 Samuel 1:10).
Who shall comfort this woman? Who can even know that her emotional pain is a part of God’s greater plan for the Jewish nation? Yea, even the priest of the day, Eli, misread Hannah’s emotional stress, for it is written: “And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee,” (1 Samuel 1:12-14).
Isn’t this a strange thing? In this modern world, it is commonplace for every Christian teacher, preacher, and layman to believe that God gives them an inside track on the sufferings of any they approach. The actions of Eli should give us reason to ponder before we speak.
What causes such misplaced judgments?
We live in pride. Our attempts to help our hurting brethren are often based upon a sense of personal satisfaction rather than the need to alleviate the emotional struggles of our friends. Rather than address an emotional sickness with sound doctrine, we seek to come on as a wise and gentle friend. We seek to display a great and special communion with the Holy Spirit of God, as though our communion is better than the person who is suffering.
If not careful, praise rather than love becomes our motivation for helping. We seek to provide immediate gratification that results in instant feedback to our pride. Our words and our efforts provide but a moment of comfort. The healing solutions treat the symptoms rather than the emotional core of the problem. So we push out huge words surrounded by a slew of scriptures, and we urge the hurting person to trust in God, to be strong, and to make a commitment to resist the pain. We speak these words as though we have never been in this place of fear and doubt. It is not so much that we want them to trust God, as it is that we want them to immediately gratify our need to be a minister. Thus, rather than being ministers of the truth, we take on the role of self-appointed councilors. Oh how highly do we rate our own wisdom?
This is not the scriptural means for dealing with emotional sicknesses.
Thankfully, God has established a more sure solution to the emotional needs of his people. An example is seen in the book of James. It reads as follows:
“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” (James 5:13-16).
The steps are simple. They do not require a great parading of words. They do require action:
- For emotional distress, you must pray.
- Happiness is in singing psalms and lifting the name of God.
- Effective healing involves confession of known sins.
Why Do These Simple Methods Work?
In the role of self-appointed councilors, the goal becomes that of strengthening the mental resolve of the emotionally damaged person. Thus we ignore the need for spiritual cleansing. “Confess your faults one to another”. Prayers that heal emotional disorders must include an admission of the sins that surround and reinforce the emotional confusion. We must begin by:
- Examining Self – Without that we understand why we feel emotional distress, and the exact nature of that distress, we will not be honest with friends, self, or God. We must determine whether a hurt is real or merely perceived in the mind. We must also undermine our own selfish nature so that any hindering sins may be unearthed.
- Recounting Our Sins – If we should find sin within our own heart, we must confess it to God. We must also confess it one to another. True help comes from true understanding. Let not those who would council you act out of the blindness of Eli. Acknowledge sin, admit that God is true and man at fault. One can never be free of a broken heart if one refuses to release the bitterness that clings to that heart. One cannot be free from guilt if one holds near a heart of unforgiveness. “Be angry and sin not,” these are the words of self-healing. Cleanse your heart that you may approach the throne room of God without hindrance.
- Acknowledge God’s Love – In understanding of how deep and broad is God’s love for his people, there is no room for emotional baggage. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We love because we are loved. We endure the shortcomings of others because God endures us.
- Accept God’s Solutions – The scriptures are alive with Psalms that deal with depression, guilt, doubt, shame, persecution, injustice, adversity, and all manner of emotional sicknesses. Find the answers to your hurt, and memorize the words so that you may speak them in the face of the enemy. I speak not of the fleshly enemy.
- Resolve To Trust God – Faith in God is much more than merely making a decision in your mind. It is coming to the understanding that he does love you, that he will keep you, and that all things work for the good of the most people for the longest time. This means that even as Jesus Christ must go to the cross to endure the sins of the believer, so too must his followers, at times and for a spell, bear the burdens of the many. Note how that Hannah birthed Samuel, and how that Samuel became one of the greatest spiritual leaders of the Hebrew nation. The bible proclaims that not one word did he ever speak that fell to the ground. Can it be that Hannah, during her later years, rejoiced over the suffering that brought forth such a man-child?
Acknowledge that stress and strife are a natural part of life. We all suffer ups and downs. Let not the downs become consistently dominate.
All healings are a gift from God. Emotional healings are no different. Silencing the symptoms is not an answer. We must admit when we hurt least we refuse to seek help.
Human counselors are sometimes helpful, but go first to “The” Counselor. He along knows the exact purpose and cause of your burden. Eli failed to understand Hannah’s suffering. Yet the scripture makes clear that God himself closed Hannah’s womb. Some would say that Eli had already lost his communion with God. That may be so, yet it was Eli who relayed God’s response to the cries of this woman’s great emotional pains. “Go in peace:” he said, “and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him”.
The old man in the church with the kind arms is a good man. But a fleshly container limits his love. The anointed pastor is also a good man. But God’s purposes are greater than any man can know. The sister who shares your pain has been there too. But she cannot know your heart unless you openly reveal it to her.
In the end, it is God that will heal you. Seek him first. Put the matters of his kingdom above your own wants, needs, and desires. In so doing, you will lay down the pains that bind you to emotional turmoil.
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