Our Wounded Healer

We all hurt and have needs – yet there is real hope for us:

Yesterday as I was walking the dog I was reflecting on how rather odd I am. Unlike most other folks, I have very little recollection of my past. Certainly my memories of my childhood and my youth are very few and quite limited. And those that I have tend to be mostly negative: about things that wounded me, hurt me, crushed me. A lifelong poor self-image has been one result.

Of course we all have issues, hurts and problems in our lives, and some have been wounded far worse than others. But still, for the Christian, we are meant to allow God to bring some real healing, restoration, and wholeness. It may take a lifetime, but that is the God we serve. Indeed, Jesus IS known as the “Suffering Servant,” so he is certainly well-placed to help us in our deepest needs.

As I was reflecting on this, I thought of a few books and a few authors. The title The Wounded Healer popped into my mind. And I was also reminded of the Christian counsellor Dan Allender. So when I got home I pulled out their volumes. It was Henri Nouwen who wrote the book that I just mentioned – back in 1972.

But his book actually did not talk very much about Jesus as the wounded healer; he had more in mind Christians who counsel others out of their own weakness, pain and wounds. So I grabbed the three Allender volumes and revisited them. The ones I have are:

Bold Love with Tremper Longman (NavPress, 1992)
Cry of the Soul with Tremper Longman (NavPress, 1994)
Hope When You’re Hurting with Larry Crabb (Zondervan, 1996).

They are all quite good, and as I revisited them, I wondered what other titles of his might be worth looking into. One I discovered I bought right away, and it is that volume that I want to refer to here:

Redeeming Heartache: How Past Suffering Reveals Our True Calling with Cathy Loerzel (Zondervan, 2021)

Before sharing some selections from that book, let me mention a few other things. In my walk with Jilly dog I did reflect on our Lord, the wounded healer. “By his stripes we are healed” we are told in the same portion of Scripture that calls him the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Consider verses 4-5 (ESV):

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.

He certainly is our wounded healer. And think further about his life on earth. He was born to die. He came to earth on a mission, and he knew what he was going to have to go through. Two passages are worth noting here. One is John 13:1-5:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Even though he knew he was shortly to suffer a horrible death, yet he spent his time serving and loving the disciples. What would we do in such a situation? The second passage is related. In Matthew 27:46 we read these words of Jesus: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This was not pretend suffering – this was utterly and painfully real. Yet he endured it for you and me. Talk about someone who knows fully about everything we are going through. He is no aloof, uncaring God. He knows our suffering inside out. And he does something about it.

Image of Redeeming Heartache: How Past Suffering Reveals Our True Calling
Redeeming Heartache: How Past Suffering Reveals Our True Calling by Allender PLLC, Dr. Dan B. (Author), Loerzel, Cathy (Author) Amazon logo

Getting back to the recent Allender/Loerzel book, the subtitle is this: How Past Suffering Reveals Our True Calling. The authors remind us that we are all hurting people, and we have all had degrees of trauma we have been through. But most of us tend to hide that or try to forget about it or cover it up. Instead, we need to work through it, in light of who and what Jesus is for us.

They discuss three categories of outsiders (folks who have been hurt, harmed, betrayed, abandoned, abused, etc.): the orphan, the widow and the stranger. They say this about the first group:

Even if our parents are still alive, we can be orphaned emotionally. Our hearts are designed for comfort, rest, and protection, and we are born with an intuitive understanding that our needs are meant to be taken care of. An orphan mentality becomes activated when our needs are not taken care of, profoundly affecting our style of relating. We become emotionally orphaned when the element of betrayal enters our lives. Betrayal involves any neglect or a failure to care and provide for the needs of another human being. It results in a loss of trust because of the shame experienced in being vulnerable. Betrayal, like all forms of harm, need not be intentional…. pp. 51-52

Most people have known something about this. My own parents undoubtedly loved me, but never really said this nor knew how to express it. So the few memories I have of them when I was young are mainly somewhat painful and hurtful memories. The authors argue that dealing with those hurts with the help of Christ is the only way to proceed.

Of interest, what I had written above about Jesus being forsaken I had penned before I had got this book. Thus I was interested and pleased to see that the authors in fact spend an entire chapter (Ch. 10) on this reality of Jesus being forsaken and how that relates to our own healing.

The plaintive words of Jesus recorded in Matt. 27 are of course taken from Psalm 22:1 and the verses that follow. Allender speaks of how this Psalm still touches him so very deeply, 50 years on from when he first read it:

There is something in the cry that resounds through the ages and seeps into every nook and cranny with an ache that feels too dark to bear and too holy not to hear. Jesus did not cry quietly. His words were not merely a reaction to what he was enduring physically; rather, they were a lament of utter abandonment and dereliction.

 

I believe that this is the point in the gospel story where we are meant to enter Jesus’ trauma and our own. Here he who is God’s Son was no longer an honored heir; he was an orphan. He who was a friend in communion with his disciples was now rejected because of their inability to stand by him; He was a stranger. He who was intimate with the Father and Spirit was bereft and alone, cut off from the holy dance of love; he was a widower.

 

It is crucial to understand that the greatest suffering one could endure in the Hebrew Bible came from the threat of being made an orphan, stranger, or widow. In any attempt to comprehend Jesus’ inconceivable suffering, this trilogy is the most useful lens. In taking on the sin of the world, he became the sacrificial lamb of God, the one who bore the full weight of the human condition in order to arrest the betrayal of the orphan, the powerlessness of the stranger, and the ambivalence of the widow. He became the lonely son, the exiled stranger, and the isolated widower, providing a way for all forms of death to be swallowed up in the vision of new life. In trauma we either succumb to some type of death, or we transcend it through holy lament, transforming it into priestly remembrance, prophetic imagination, and royal authority. pp. 157-159

By being united to Christ, we are no longer orphans. Just yesterday on the social media I shared a video about a shelter dog that was finally adopted by a loving couple. The video shows the dog clinging fiercely to the woman as they drive the dog to its new home. You can see the emotion in the dog, with its tail wagging furiously, as he realises he is finally going to a real home with real loving owners.

It has these words: “This is Seiko. He was just adopted. Now that he finally has a human of his very own, he’s never letting go.” It is actually quite a moving video – and there are a number of them like that. Here is the link: https://www.instagram.com/weratedogs/reel/C6rx0zzPI6P/

When I posted it, I said this: “These things always offer me sermon material: we too should have exceedingly great joy in being adopted into God’s family, and should never want to let go”. And all this ties in perfectly with what this chapter is talking about.

We all feel like orphans, like castaways, like rejects, like failures. We feel unwanted and unloved. Coming to Christ and accepting his love and forgiveness is the first step in being healed of these deep wounds and painful experiences. In Christ, we are NO LONGER ORPHANS!

They close that chapter this way:

Jesus is our King, and we are his bride. He has suffered the ultimate shame through abandonment, isolation, bereavement, and all the trauma hell can pour out. He drank the cup and took in the sour wine of sin and judgement and rose up on the third day. All the trauma we have known, he knows. The writer of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to emphathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15). The good news of the resurrection cannot transform our trauma unless we know that our orphaned, exiled and be revived hearts are heard and felt by the one who rescues us. Without a divine attunement, redemption would be a concept, not a felt reality. Without divine containment, we would not be sufficiently grounded in hope. Without divine repair of rupture, we would remain orphans and aliens bound in our shame and left as widows who cannot love or be loved.

 

Jesus asked for the cup of sorrows to pass, but not without being willing to drink it down on our behalf. In so doing, he offered us the privilege of both drinking the cup of his blessing and joining him in lament….

 

When Jesus became an orphan, stranger, and widow, our suffering was absorbed into the glory of his kingdom. Jesus is our Priest who is attuned to our struggle and speaks to the Father on our behalf as a brother. He is our Prophet who contains our waywardness by calling us to become who we are meant to be as a friend. He is our King who repairs our ruptured relationship with God and leads us like a good shepherd to all the good provisions of life. As he lives out what it means to be a priest, prophet, and king, we are called as well to use our heartache to birth goodness. pp. 169-170

Practical application of all this is also discussed in later chapters in the book. But you can see where the writers are going with this. Our Lord knows all about what we are going through and what we have gone through. And he calls us to walk with him in the healing journey.

There is no better doctor for the soul than Jesus. So let us draw near – boldly.

[2020 words]

4 Replies to “Our Wounded Healer”

  1. May I thank you, Bill, for so frequently providing pastoral encouragement to your readers.

    I’ve been comforted, in particular, by your reflection above, “Our wounded healer”.

    Just by coincidence — or maybe God’s providence? — I was about to email to a friend two paragraphs from the writings of the great Welsh evangelical minister and medical doctor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981), on how to combat spiritual depression.

    In the excerpt, ‘The Doctor’, as MLJ was affectionately known for much of his career, quotes Psalm 42:11. This is where the psalmist exhorts himself: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

    In the same spirit, Dr Lloyd-Jones asks his readers, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”

    He recommends that Christian believers, when they face discouragement, should take the following course of action. He writes:

    “The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’ — what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’ — instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’.”
    [Source: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures (1965), pp. 20–21.]

    I find that this practice of “preaching a sermon to oneself” — which was a widespread practice among the English Puritans of the 17th century, according to the late J.I. Packer — is a powerful antidote to doubt, discouragement and despair.

    Reading aloud or singing a Psalm is an effective way to preach to oneself and refresh one’s mind and faith.

    Psalm 23 (“The LORD is my shepherd”) is the ultimate “go-to” psalm and deserves to be committed to memory.

    Another powerful and comforting psalm to which I return time and again is Psalm 103 (a psalm of David).

    It’s a good deal longer than Psalm 23, so one may not be able to commit all of it to memory; but one should at least be able to recite verses 10 to 12:

    “[The LORD] does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
    For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him.
    As far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

    What incredibly good news this is to start the day with instead of staring glumly at the news headlines!

    I highly recommend that, in times of personal discouragement and setbacks, one should read all of Psalm 103 — and, to derive the greatest benefit, read it ALOUD.

    It is a tonic for the soul.

  2. Thank you so much Bill. Your words brought tears to my eyes. So true and yes I have experienced very similar.

    On a practical note we all need to understand the cost of sin. Every human being has a body which is much more than a mind-bogglingly complex machine – far and away the most complex, functional piece of machinery in the universe. If we were a human-made machine each human would easily each be worth billions, probably trillions of dollars yet the wages of sin is death. Sin not only costs more than we are worth – it costs more than Jesus’ suffering was worth.

    The debt nations and states attain in promoting sin is only a tiny fraction of the cost of that sin simply because of God’s grace. The world does not yet understand this, however.

    While we can know this and give it credence yet we still sin and yet God has said He is willing to pay that price if we just give allegiance to Him. Out maker does not want to lose us.

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