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God is in the business of healing. He came to heal us from the damage of sin, as well as to enable us to grow in our relationship with Him. In fact, if we do not heal from the damage sin has caused in our lives, our spiritual life will almost certainly be impaired.

At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He quoted from the Old Testament Book of Isaiah (Luke 4:18-19) defining what His ministry would be like, what it would include. It is very clear that Jesus’ ministry would be a ministry of healing as well as of salvation.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim freedom for the captives
And release from darkness for the prisoners,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
And the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort those who mourn,
And provide for those who grieve in Zion-
To bestow on them a crown of
beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the Lord for the
display of His splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
And restore the places long devastated;
They will renew the ruined cities
That have been devastated for generations.”
[Printed text – New International Version]
(Isaiah 61:1-4)

Oak Tree in Field - In these verses an interesting scenario is presented. The prophet Isaiah is speaking about One who will preach the good news of the gospel, free those who are in bondage, heal the brokenhearted and comfort those who mourn. All these are healing ministries. The person who will come to do this is Jesus Himself (as He made evident both through His statements and His ministry). The text goes on to say that those who have experienced these healing ministries of the Lord will become “oaks of righteousness” which means that their righteousness will be their strength. He goes on to say that these “oaks of righteousness” will be the very ones that will restore what is ruined in the culture. They will become powerful change agents in their cultures.

He makes it clear that only those who have come to know Christ and have been set free from their emotional issues will impact the world for God. It is only those who have been healed from their spiritual poverty, emotional wounds, bondage to addictions, and distorted thinking who will be able to help others be restored from the damages of sin, renew their minds, restore broken relationships and build healthy families.

How does this healing come about? Believers can deal with emotional issues by completing the following process.

Identify emotional issues.

The following list describes unhealthy ways emotions may affect us, thus indicating that something needs correction or healing. See if any of these items are descriptive of your experience. (List can be found on Handout “Checklist of Inappropriate Ways to Handle Negative Emotions”)

  1. You are numb and do not feel your emotions.
  2. The emotions you feel are mainly negative.
  3. You tend to overreact or be supersensitive in certain situations.
  4. You do not know how to express your emotions appropriately.
  5. You are afraid of certain emotions.
  6. You try to distract yourself so you will not feel certain emotions.
  7. You believe that certain emotions are bad and that you should not have them.
  8. You are often confused by some of your emotions.
  9. You are depressed for no clear reason.
  10. You do not know how to deal with pain.
  11. You are bitter, negative or simply unable to enjoy life.
  12. You take out your anger on people that are not the source of the anger.
  13. You are not able to control your expression of anger.
  14. You feel out of control most of the time.
  15. You are afraid to stop and be silent with just your emotions.

Everyone has emotional issues to some degree, at some time. This is part of being human and living in a fallen world. If even one of these statements describes you, it indicates that there is an emotional issue you need to deal with. If more than one of these statements describes you, there are more serious emotional issues to attend to. Although these statements indicate that something is wrong, they do not tell what is wrong. Determining that will take more time and careful analysis.

Understand the healing process.

Emotional issues may affect many areas of a person’s life. Therefore, we must look at many areas of life in order to understand the healing process. Following is a list of actions that may need to be taken for a person to heal from emotional problems.

Stop abusive relationships – If a person continues in a hurtful relationship, emotional problems will worsen. It will take all of his energy to just survive the relationship, and therefore, there will not be any energy left to work on emotional issues. In hurtful relationships, self-worth is destroyed, distorted thinking patterns emerge, and the person is cut off from what he needs. Therefore, it is necessary to stop these relationships or change them in order for healing to occur (Psalm 1:1).

Control addictions – Severe addictions hinder a person’s ability to deal with emotions because these addictions exist, at least in part, to keep the person from feeling their painful emotions. Addictions also destroy relationships and are an escape from the real issues of life. Addictions must be brought under control before a person can make any progress in healing (Romans 8:12,13).

Learn to view and express emotions properly – Emotional problems begin primarily from not being able to deal with emotions appropriately; and therefore, it is crucial that a person learn about emotions and develop the ability to deal with them and express them appropriately (Ephesians 4:26).

Grieve pain and losses – Everyone needs to learn how to grieve losses from both the present and past. A person with emotional problems almost always has unresolved emotions from the past that are stored internally. These emotions must be felt and released, a process called grieving, for the person to heal. (Isaiah 61:2,3; Matthew 5:4).

Understand needs and how to get them met appropriately – God has created everyone with needs, and whether or not a person is aware of his needs, he is still driven to meet them. In order to live a healthy life, we need to be able to identify our needs and learn healthy ways to meet them (Matthew 6:32).

Learn to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy thinking and behavior – People who are hurting tend to think in extremes. They may discount positive things that happen or maximize bad things that happen. They may jump to conclusions with little evidence or deny that painful events bother them. Behaviors follow our beliefs, so if our thinking is wrong, it will lead to unhealthy behaviors as well. In order to become healthy one must develop correct thinking about oneself, others and God (Romans 12:2).

Develop healthy relationships and a good support system – One of the primary ways God meets the needs of people is through relationships with others. Therefore, we need to be able to develop healthy relationships. Because no one person can meet all the needs of another person, we need to have a network of good relationships, a support system. People were not created to live in isolation, and all of us need caring relationships, validation and helpful feedback in order to function well in life (Hebrews 10:24,25).

Learn to grow spiritually –Emotional healing and spiritual growth occur simultaneously. You cannot have one without the other. Therefore, it is important to focus on both at the same time. They need to be intermixed. Jesus wants to help you grow spiritually and heal emotionally and relationally at the same time (Matthew 5:3,4).

The first two actions in the list (stop abusive relationships and control addictions) must be addressed first because failing to address them will prevent the other six from happening. The last six do not happen in any particular sequence. Rather, they may occur simultaneously during a group session or in personal counseling. In order to explain them and show their importance, they are noted here as separate issues.

One might ask: Why is this so complex? Why are there so many areas that need to be addressed for a person to get better? The answer is that people are complex. We are made up of several interrelated systems: physical, emotional, mental, relational and spiritual. When something goes wrong in one of these systems, the others are also affected because everything about us is interconnected.

It is like a problem I recently had with my car. A rock was temporarily caught between a pulley and a belt and stretched the belt. Because the belt was not tight enough, it began to slip on the alternator. Since the alternator wasn’t turning fast enough, the battery ran down. Neither the battery nor the alternator was producing enough electricity to run the car so the lights would not work and the engine would not run. When one part failed to function properly, other parts that were dependent on it also began to fail.

It takes a great deal of work to align all the systems in our lives. But when our lives begin to function correctly, it leads us to new levels of maturity and enables us to function in a healthy and effective manner.

Seek outside help to deal with emotional problems.

People often need help dealing with emotional problems. In fact, God never intended for us to deal with them alone. Scripture tells us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). It is usually only when we can be totally honest, in the midst of safe people, that healing will take place. When we bring our struggles out into the open they lose much of their power over us, and we can find needed support and help to overcome them.

There are many sources of help for emotional issues. Sometimes several of these sources need to be employed at once, or over a period of time. The following is a list of such sources: (in no particular order)

1. Personal counseling

2. Support groups — These groups focus on a single issue that all the group members have in common (e.g. death of a child, divorce, etc.)

3. Addiction groups — These are also called 12 step groups. They focus on controlling a specific addiction. For example Alcoholics Anonymous focuses on controlling alcohol. Over Eaters Anonymous focuses on controlling eating. There are groups for almost any kind of addiction.

4. Restorative groups — These groups focus on developing emotional and relational health. Their goal is to help people learn how to handle emotions correctly, grieve past losses, think correctly and develop needed relational skills.

5. Involvement with the body of Christ — The church can provide a lot of help in the healing process. We can find encouragement and help to grow spiritually. A growing knowledge of the Word of God teaches us how to think right. It can also provide safe and supportive people who will encourage us and hold us accountable.

6. Medication — Stress due to emotional problems can cause brain chemical imbalances and other physical problems that may require medication. (E.g. A common problem is the development of clinical depression that requires an anti-depressant to restore brain chemical balance.)

There is always hope for healing from emotional problems because nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). God wants to transform our lives from the inside out. If we change on the inside, external aspects of our lives will change also. Some people are able to effectively apply principles of recovery to their own lives after they hear or read them. Others need outside help over a longer period of time before their healing is complete. Regardless, it is the people who work hard at all aspects of recovery and who look to God for strength and guidance in the process who make the fastest progress in recovery. Recovery is hard work, and there are no shortcuts.

Application Suggestions:

• Read Psalm 146. List and meditate on the ways God meets needs and acts on our behalf (note verses 5 through 9).

• Using the “Checklist of Inappropriate Ways to Handle Negative Emotions” identify any inappropriate ways you deal with your negative emotions. (See Below)

• If, after reading through the list, you are concerned about how you handle negative emotions, talk with someone who has experience with emotionally-based problems.

Evaluating and Dealing with Emotional Issues

Checklist of Inappropriate Ways to Handle Negative Emotions

  • You are numb and do not feel your emotions.
  • The emotions you feel are mainly negative.
  • You tend to overreact and be supersensitive in certain situations.
  • You do not know how to express your emotions appropriately.
  • You are afraid of certain emotions.
  • You try to distract yourself so you will not feel certain emotions or you do unhealthy things to alter your mood. People often fixate on things outside themselves (food, sex, work, cleaning, shopping, spending, alcohol, drugs, etc.) in order to avoid dealing with internal painful emotions.
  • You believe that certain emotions are bad and that you should not have them.
  • You are often confused by some of your emotions.
  • You are depressed for no clear reason.
  • You do not know how to deal with pain.
  • You are bitter, negative or simply unable to enjoy life.
  • You take out your anger on people that are not the source of the anger.
  • You are not able to control your expression of anger.
  • You feel out of control most of the time.

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