God Redeems Your Scars
James and Kyla seemed like the perfect couple. He was a successful architect. She was an ophthalmologist who put her career on hold to raise their children. They had a nice house in the suburbs and appeared to have a wonderful marriage.
But when Kyla first came to me for a counseling session, she told me they were near divorce. She had fallen out of love with James, who seemed to value his work more than he valued her. He worked long hours. She felt disconnected from him.
At the same time, James felt tremendous pressure at work because he was the family’s sole provider. He worked hard because Kyla always pressured him about family finances. At one point, without asking him, she even borrowed money from her parents to pay off a school loan. James felt betrayed.
Like many of us, James and Kyla began marriage with lofty expectations, but the realities of life hit them hard. They lost touch with each other. Their lives became chaotic and lonely. Their hearts became deeply and severely broken, and their behavior reflected those wounds.
People who become brokenhearted always feel alone—like no one can understand or relate. And yet James and Kyla aren’t the only brokenhearted people in the world. We’ve all felt the sting of hopelessness and despair.
We’ve known the death of a loved one, and asked God for answers.
We’ve known sickness and disease, and questioned “Why me?”
We’ve struggled with money, and wondered if we’d ever turn the corner.
We’ve seen our dreams die, and when our dreams die, our hearts break.
Why do some pains hurt us so deeply? It’s because our deepest wounds are felt where they meet with our greatest gifting. “Show me a man’s wounds,” someone once told me, “and I’ll show you his purpose.”
Whenever Satan sees someone born with a unique talent or ability, he instinctively understands that God must have a special purpose in mind for that person—and he goes on the attack.
Why does God allow this pain? It’s to prepare us for His purpose.
God has a dream for your life, and he has a dream for mine. Realized dreams are almost always the product of gifts and wounds working together in the human heart. God uses both to make us into what he wants us to become.
That’s why the early struggles in our marriage resulted in Karen and I having a marriage ministry—because God redeemed our marriage. He turned our wounds into hope. He uses our past to help hurting couples build a bright future.
It’s through brokenness that we are forced to admit our inability to make it on our own. That’s where we see our need for Jesus. The apostle Paul put it best in 2 Cor. 12:10—“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
God saved James and Kyla’s marriage. They are still together. Their marriage is growing stronger, and someday God will use their wounds to help others.
What plans does God have for your scars? You’ll find out when you give Him your brokenness.
Healing is a Partnership
Karen and I began our marriage with a host of sins, hang-ups, and personal wounds. From the start, our relationship was rocky. Our struggles took us to the brink of divorce until God stepped in and healed our marriage.
Much of that healing occurred when the two of us, as individuals, turned away from harmful behaviors and began to bring good things into our marriage. But we truly believe the overall result was supernatural: God healed our broken spirits.
However, divine healing isn’t always permanent. It can be lost. A friend of mine has a national healing ministry and often we’ve spoken about the tremendous number of people who find miraculous healing at his meetings.
One day at lunch, he told me that more than half the people he sees getting healed eventually lose their healing. I asked why, and will never forget his response. “Because they immediately go back to the same way they had been living,” he said.
Divine healing is available to us, but if we expect God’s healing to last, we have to be willing to change those lifestyle habits that put us in bondage to pain.
When God healed our marriage, Karen and I knew that we had to change the way we had been treating each other.
The dysfunction in our marriage was caused by our damaging and sinful behavior. My emotional bullying had wounded Karen. God healed those wounds, but I also had to completely change the way I spoke to her and treated her. Otherwise, every area God had healed would revert to the way it had been.
Healing is a process. I had to learn new patterns of behavior. So did Karen. We each had to do our part, walking with God and changing our lifestyle.
By the time our marriage’s healing was complete, Karen and I had become different people—with new habits, new customs, new behavioral patterns and an entirely different vocabulary toward each other.
Often I hear people pray, “God, please heal our finances” when what they’re really asking is, “God, please give us more money.” They want God to snap His fingers and change their lives.
God is willing to bless His people financially, but the primary reason people don’t have money is that they don’t know how to manage it properly.
He’s not going to drop a bucket of money on your lap if He knows you’ll misuse it. What He will do is come alongside you as you work with Him to heal your financial problems.
This applies to God’s works of healing across the board. He will heal your marriage, but that healing comes with the expectation that you’ll change—your lifestyle, the way you speak to one another, the things you expect from one another, the way you communicate with each other.
Healing is a partnership between you and God. It isn’t a one-time event. It’s a process that requires a long-term commitment to change.
Do you want Him to heal your marriage? He can and will. Are you ready for it?
Come Out of Hiding
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Early in our marriage—when Karen and I were struggling and on the brink of divorce—we were mentored by, Kerm and Lou Ethel Albertson, an older couple at our church. They had the kind of marriage we both longed to have. I was jealous of their relationship and wanted to know their secret.
We went to dinner with them one night when it was clear Karen and I had been fighting. Kerm talked to us about the many fights he and Lou Ethel had gotten into over the years, down to the intimate details of their arguments. He admitted his own stubbornness, disillusionment, times of pride and arrogance and sin.
I was stunned. How could he talk so openly about his struggles? He was unguarded and transparent, with nothing to hide. I could never imagine being that vulnerable, letting others see my flaws and insecurities. (At the time, I had plenty.)
Though God had been working in my life to teach me the importance of opening up to others, I struggled even to be vulnerable with Karen. But through Kerm and Lou Ethel that night, God showed me that their vulnerability with each other was what had kept them together so many years.
That’s what made their relationship so strong and vibrant. It’s also what gave them such a deep and meaningful relationship with God as individuals.
Many of us have experienced conviction and brokenness about our sins and failures. But brokenness alone isn’t enough to heal our hurts. God needs more from us than brokenness: He needs us to come out of hiding.
God wants us to remove the masks we wear in order to hide our flaws from others. He wants us to share our struggles with others, even though that’s such a hard thing to do. Accountability is a critical step in the healing process, and vulnerability is an important step toward accountability.
Karen and I enjoy a much healthier marriage today. It’s because God called us out of hiding, and we obeyed.
It’s impossible to build a relationship with someone when your world is defined by fear, or when you don’t think you can trust them with your pain. It’s impossible to feel close to someone when you spend most of your life pushing them away. A healthy marriage requires honesty and openness.
Once Karen and I learned to open up to each other emotionally, we saw an immediate change in our relationship. Brick by brick, God dismantled the walls we’d built between us. We began seeing things in each other that we hadn’t seen in years.
I realized I could trust Karen with my most painful thoughts and emotions. The deeper I let her in, the closer we became. Eventually we learned to share our struggles with other couples, too. We found freedom and healing…and as we shared our own story, it began to help others find healing, too.
If you’ve never allowed yourself to experience the freedom of letting your spouse see the real you, do so today. Give your spouse access to most wounded, painful parts of yourself. You’ll find healing, and your marriage will thank you.
Don’t Let Your Anger Age
(Adapted from Jimmy’s newest book, When Life Hurts)
“‘In your anger, do not sin,’” Paul instructed the Church at Ephesus. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26).
Some of us may have grown up with the impression that anger is a bad thing, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. The Bible depicts God getting angry at the unfaithfulness of his people, and Jesus is shown confronting the money-changers in the temple due to His anger.
God uses anger to mobilize us to change. Righteous anger can be a positive force, driving people to do things they otherwise might not have done—ministering in an impoverished country, returning to school to become a preacher, running for political office, or confronting a brother who has given in to temptation. Anger, in itself, is not a sin. But anger can become sin when we allow it to grow and fester. It become rage. I call this “aged anger.” Aged anger is nothing more than human wrath, and wrath is reserved for God alone.
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James writes, “because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19–20). I used to say that aged anger gives our enemy a foothold into our lives, but it’s much more than that. Anger gives Satan an invitation. It’s a dare for him to grab onto our lives and come along with us for the ride.
That’s why Paul warns believers to settle their anger before the sun goes down, because festering anger is a dangerous and deadly thing—especially between a husband and wife.When we let anger stew and grow increasingly bitter, it begins to impact us in unhealthy ways. It digs its fingers onto our spirits, molding and shaping our emotions into something they were never intended to become.
It scratches at our wounds. It creates resentment. It causes us to see our spouse through a new lens colored by bitterness, hurt, and hostility. I see aged anger every time a couple sits in my office wondering what happened to their once-happy marriage. Both are weary and frustrated by the constant battle. Both are struggling to understand each other.
Both are angry. Rather than dealing with their anger, they have let it settle and grow, over and over again. They have given the enemy an entrance into their relationship, and he has used it to separate them. When the devil’s lies become your thoughts, they begin to compromise everything about you. They infiltrate your relationships and sabotage your marriage. They keep you from a right relationship with God.
So often this begins with festering anger. When you and your spouse have a disagreement, talk it out with honesty, grace, and openness. Rather than letting it sour overnight, let it out in the open and let the anger dissipate.
Your marriage will thank you.
Dealing With Pain the Right Way
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
Some may read this and think Jesus is saying that sadness is a blessing. But that’s simply not true. It hurts to mourn. It is painful. Mourning for the sake of mourning is not a blessing. What Jesus really meant is, “When life gets hard, bring your pain to me and I will comfort you.”
The blessing is that we have a savior to lean on in times of pain—and we all have pain. That pain impacts our actions, and our actions reveal its depth.
When I see a young wife in my office in tears because she can’t open up sexually to her new husband, I don’t assume it’s because she doesn’t love him. It’s not her heart, but her pain that causes her to hold back.
She may have experienced sexual or physical abuse as a child. Perhaps she grew up with the message that sex was dirty or wrong. The pain holds her heart hostage.
When I see a man struggling with alcoholism, I never assume it’s because he has a wicked heart. The bottle is simply his way of soothing a deep-seated pain.
To deal with his emotional wounds, he began drowning his sorrows in alcohol—until the addiction took over. He doesn’t drink because he’s evil, but because he hurts.
Pain has to be dealt with, one way or another. Left to our own devices, we always deal with it in the wrong way. We medicate ourselves with food, drugs, alcohol or sex. We motivate ourselves with unhealthy ambition or busyness. Some of us deal with our pain by meditating on it: becoming obsessed with it and wallowing in our misery.
Right or wrong, we all deal with pain in some way, utilizing the above coping mechanisms to get by. But we will never find true healing until we stop struggling to overcome our pain on our own and instead give our wounded hearts to God.
1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.”
In Jesus, we have a place to go to find healing. He can bring supernatural healing to even the most devastating wounds—the ones found deep within the hurt pocket of our spirits.
There is no wound God cannot heal, no pain He cannot remove, no sorrow so deep He can’t resolve it. But first we must give the pain to Him.
We must take the first step and let Him in. We must find the strength to open our hearts and surrender the deepest, darkest, most wounded regions of our spirits to God. We must say, “I’m in such pain, Lord. I need your blessing.” That’s not an easy thing to do.
If you’ve never acknowledged your pain to God, I encourage you to do that today. Cast your anxieties upon Him. Own the depth of your sorrow, and give God access to the most painful parts of your heart.
Only then will true healing begin.