We had a large lilac bush behind my childhood home. Every spring when I fill a vase with lilacs, their fragrance transports my thoughts back to that house where many special memories were made.
Memories. We all have them. Some good, some not so good but they’re stored somewhere deep within our brains. Just like a computer stores information on a hard drive, our brains also have some sort of storage system.
I have wonderful parents and I have wonderful memories from childhood too.
But I believe it’s safe to say that all of us have some not so good memories whether from childhood, teenage years, young adult years or beyond.
Painful circumstances or trauma can occur at anytime or any age.
So what do we do with those nagging painful memories if they keep re-surfacing?
I don’t have a professional answer to that question but I can share a snippet from my own personal experience.
I believe that painful memories will hurt forever unless we find a way to release them and we can’t release them until they’re healed and there’s only one healer.
After I became a Christian, I took Jesus back with me to a painful time in my life. A time period when I was too weak and consumed with circumstances to reach out to Him.
I talked to Him about it, showed Him the scene, the pain, the emotions, the heartache and relived it in His presence. He knew all about it anyway but healing began when it came out of the darkness of my soul and into His light.
I emptied myself first by confessing my own sins–making myself a clean vessel ready to receive all the healing Jesus had for me–I prayed, pondered, journaled, talked to trusted friends, prayed with friends and even talked and prayed with a Christian therapist for 6 weeks when I got stuck at one point in the process.
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20
He is the God who heals, not only for today, but for the trauma of yesterday too. What concerned me, concerned Him.
God is LOVE. And Jesus is God.
Love is the balm that heals.
Emotional pain is just as hard to work through as physical pain. Often it’s even harder because nobody sees it.
Others don’t always know when we’re suffering from emotional pain. It’s easy to hide it but those hidden things are like razors cutting away at the fiber of our being. It’s hard to keep it together when that’s going on so we may head into the safety zone of denial and just pretend it never happened.
Denial is a safeguard. I truly believe that denial is a gift from God to guard us against the overwhelming rush of emotions that are too painful to deal with all at once. But in the long run it’s not a healthy place to stay. It’s a place to visit but not to live. We weren’t meant to live in denial forever. It will sideline us. Stagnant us. Bind us. And it will keep us in chains if we pretend we’re okay when we’re not.
The buried hurt will come out eventually. Most often through things like isolating ourselves from others, bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness, just to name a few.
We’re designed to go through life with God–allowing Him to help us through the valleys and the rough rocky places. When we shut Him out, or if we were too young or weak to cope with the pain (when it occurred) we may try to soothe it through other methods.
There’s the obvious ones like over consumption of alcohol, drugs, risky sexual behavior. Usually, it’s not the behavior that needs addressing first but the deeply rooted pain that causes the behavior.
But there’s less obvious ones too — excessive spending, excessive eating, excessive use of social media, busyness, workaholism, perfectionism, over-dependence on people to meet our needs, running here, there and everywhere, doing rather than being, trying to order our world outwardly because inwardly we’re bleeding.
I’m sure there’s more ways but you get the idea.
I’ve been there; done that. I mean getting trapped in the mindset that things, other than Christ, would fill me up and set me free. It may work but only temporarily.
Using the gifts of God to replace the holy presence of God is a bandage not a remedy and we will go through many bandages until the remedy is finally applied.
…“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
When I think of abundant living, I think of a surrendered and joyful relationship with our living Lord through worship, praise, prayer, with evidence of God’s Spirit growing in and through me like a harvest of blessings.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23
The fruit associated with abundant life is hard to experience when we’re hiding behind a facade, pretending that everything is okay.
God wants us to toss out the band aids and expose our wounds. He wants to set us free. Once we’re set free, the memories will be there but they won’t have the sharp sting that they once had. They’ll turn from a bleeding wound into a beautiful scar.
If the process seems slow, His faithfulness is not. He’s there in the struggle and will bring us to the point where we can finally say, “That memory is there, but it isn’t painful anymore.”
It’s not easy but when we finally get to the end of our grieving process with accounts settled and forgiveness extended (forgiveness is an essential part of healing–whether toward ourselves or others) there will be freedom.
The path ahead will clear. No more getting stuck in one spot. We’ll keep moving forward authentically with Jesus and others.
We won’t hide pain anymore, because we know life is hard and it’s okay to grieve safely anytime, anywhere in the presence and comfort of Jesus.
That beautiful scar I mentioned above? It’s a reminder of what Christ has done, it gives us our story. The wound becomes recycled into something lovely and useful. It becomes a gift. God gives it purpose, meaning and none of it will be wasted. The byproduct is wisdom and doors will open to help others.
I know this is a simple way to describe emotional healing and some may not find it helpful.
However, I think what’s most important is that we are not alone and Jesus is the healer of yesterday today and tomorrow.
The journey toward emotional healing begins when we take our first step with Jesus and if that means stepping back before we can move forward it’s worth the trip.
PS: Whew! This was a lengthy post. If you read this to the end, thank you. I try to keep my posts around 800 words or less but as hard as I tried I couldn’t shave this one down.
(Disclosure: This is not a professional article. The opinions in this piece are that of the author and aren’t meant to be used to diagnose or treat illness or psychological trauma or pain. It is solely meant to be a thought provoking piece about faith, hope and love. Every situation is different. If you have memories that are severely painful (more than just nagging) It is up to you to decide what course of action to take whether seeking professional services or other avenues).