Healing the Spirit
I was asked to give this talk on the healing of the spirit to share my belief in God and to allow me to explain my hope that I and others could be made whole through the mercy and blessing of God regardless of the pain and grief we feel.
I have been asked: how could you have faith with all the pain and grief in the world? After all, there is unfairness and injustice everywhere to be seen.
That is true, yet when I consider the pain and grief in the world -- all the unfairness and injustice, I am brought to remember that although God is just, our God saves us [Isaiah 45:21] even when we have been unjust or unfair. The pain and the grief in the world is the burden God bears because of His mercy and patience. In spite of His justice and our sins, God is unceasing in His efforts to save and redeem us [Isaiah 40:28]. God shows great patience with us. However, just as the Holy One shows patience with us, so God shows patience with others who wrong or harm us.
Our part in this, according to the scriptures, is that only that as God has patience with us, so we should have patience with God [Psalm 130: 3-7].
Patience with God is essential in times of suffering, doubt and despair. Without patience we can not wait long enough. The world is unfair and as a result there will be suffering, doubt and despair -- both earned and unearned. In the mists of confusing darkness that plague us, we need to always hold on firmly to patience in God. By our patience we give God opportunity, in this life or the next, to redeem us from those things which plague us. Patience allows for the healing of our spirits.
To help us hold on to faith, God has given us commandments and scriptures to carry His word and for us to hold to. The Bible clearly warns that this life (by itself, without more) is unfair, that it is Christlike and acceptable to mourn or weep when we are afflicted, and that there is a consolation for those who suffer. The Bible says "blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Life is Unfair
The Book of Job (in general) and Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; 9:11, are very specific. Life is unfair and harsh. That is the nature of a fallen world filled with those who are allowed to choose to sin. God is justified not by what happens in this life but by the fact that "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:14)
Christ confirmed the Book of Job when he also noted that misfortune falls upon people without regard to sin or other "justification" acceptable to the natural man. As the scriptures reflect:
"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him saying, Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."
That is, misfortune often comes not because of the sins of our parents, or our own sins but because we live in a natural world. Misfortune comes because the natural world is full of trouble. God can allow the tribulations of the world to afflict us because God is able to, and intends through His works, to give us consolation and to restore us from the pain of the world. That is, though we fall and are bruised, though we are hurt and suffer, by God we shall be blessed and healed.
Just because God promises to heal us, God does not expect us to embrace trouble or to be glad when we are afflicted. Christ taught men to pray:
"And lead us not unto temptation, but deliver us from evil..."
The Greek term used for evil in that sermon also means tribulation or misfortune. There is absolutely nothing wrong in desiring to escape the natural man's tribulation or the natural world's misfortune and we are permitted (and encouraged) to pray that we might be delivered from the bitter cup of suffering to the extent that it is possible. [Note the example of Matthew 26:39.]
In this life is impossible for us to avoid misfortune. As long as we dwell within this fallen telestial world we will suffer pain and confusion. To help us, God has given us his word to provide patience and comfort. While we may suffer and know pain, it is the intent of God that we have hope.
"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
There is more than this life.
There is a special warning that our hope extends past this present world and life. Otherwise the gospel would make men miserable and would lead to despair.
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."
1 Corinthians 15:19 Note Isaiah 24:4-6
The world is imperfect and it is only by going beyond this world that we can find a basis for hope and for comfort. Because of the imperfection of the world it is true that often things are worse than we know or can understand. Things are often much worse than we even can suspect.
"...knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:"
Rev. 3:17 Note 2 Corinthians 5:4-6
In the Book of Hebrews Paul wrote the congregation in Jerusalem just before the prophecies in Matthew 24 were fulfilled with the Temple being defiled and the city overthrown. He had known pain and suffering, and attempted to prepare those he wrote to for what was to come.
The pain of the present is real.
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees. Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you ..."
"And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be of the consolation."
2 Corinthians 1:7 See also Isaiah 51:11 and Isaiah 61:2
There is no suffering without consolation.
There is not suffering without consolation. Yet, in spite of the promise of consolation, everyone suffers. The heavens mourn. Even the Savior knew sorrow, for it says:
Christ wept even though he knew that his friend was with God and even though Christ had the power (and was about to use the power) to raise him from the dead. Even absolute knowledge and power do not prevent us from suffering or from being moved to weep.
If Christ wept and felt grief, all the more we will weep and feel grief.
To weep for those whom we love who are dead is a Christlike thing to do. We are blessed if we mourn properly. Note Luke 6:21.
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."
Matthew 5:4 See also Psalms 37:11; and John 14:18
Christ came to comfort those who mourn, not to avoid all sorrow.
Christ and the prophets came to comfort those who mourn.
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; ... he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted ... To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord ... to comfort all that mourn."
Isaiah 61:1,2 See also 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 and Romans 12:15
And God knows that to wait for his comfort tries us and strains our patience. It is not easy and God knows how hard it is for us.
"Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience."
James 1:3 See also Hebrews 10:36 and Luke 21:19
But we are promised that consolation will come.
God wants us to know that we will have consolation, if we hold on to patience. He gave us His son that we might have faith, that we might flee unto him for refuge, that we may lay upon hope.
"That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us."
Hebrews 6:18 See also 2 Thessalonians 2:16 and Romans 5:1ff
The promise is not that we will be saved in this world, and not that we will avoid grief or sorrow or affliction. the promise God has given us is that we will find healing of our Spirits, after the time and troubles pass. In the world we will know pain and tribulation, but God has given us a promise that His Son has overcome the world.
"For all flesh is as grass..."
1 Peter 1:24
"...by whose stripes we are healed..."
1 Peter 2:24 Isaiah 53:5
Further, Christ spoke:
"These things I have spoken unto you, that you might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
Gospel of John 17:33
We need to live.
The true message of the gospel, or "good word," is that there is redemption. That while the world can be a terrible place, we should take joy in it and have hope in God's ability and determination to restore and provide consolation because Christ has overcome the world.
In my own life I take three things to heart from the scriptures. These three things are how I have applied the scriptures and faith to my own experiences. These are what I believe I have learned:
First, that Christ knows our pain and views us with empathy and love. He is not untouched, but has suffered all that we suffer. [Hebrews 4:15; 2:17] Our pain is real and Christ feels it with us.
Second, that from an eternal perspective, our pain is of a brief moment.
In fact, I often view God as I would my own parents, who when as a little child I was certain I could not live with the normal pains of growing up, or that the pain of a bruise (either to the body or an ego) would never end, my parents knew better, but with love and patience held and comforted me.
Third, that in the end, God will make the end greater than the beginning. That is, that God will redeem, heal and console us so that in the end we will be better off for the experience, having grown, learned -- and -- having in addition, been made whole. I have faith that Christ has overcome.
I come to these conclusions after many hard experiences of my own.
I have not sufferred as much as many, I have been very blessed. Yet, my life has not been free of hardship or sorrow. My spouse and I have buried three children (one at almost seven years of age, and one at twenty-two months) and been through three miscarriages. Our youngest child suffered severe cardiac problems and went through the Norwood Procedure at five days of age. She died a month and a half after she was released with a full recovery and was expected to live.
Win and I have been through long and cripping pain, with terrible things happening just when we thought we were starting to heal.
Like everyone, I could choose to find complaints about various employers, church leaders, teachers, and other authority figures in my life. I am like everyone, in that sometimes my life has not seemed as easy or as fair as I would have liked. Yet, I also know it could have been far worse.
God has sustained me and renewed me. Through prayer and patience I have received answers to my prayers and the consolation of the Holy Ghost. God has enabled me to go on. Friends I never realized I had have supported me more than I can express. By being able to avoid bitterness, I have found joy in spite of the sorrow. Having known the bitter, I appreciate the sweet much, much more.
I have also learned. It is important to God that we are allowed to be free. In order to let us be free, God must let us stumble and fall. If God lets us stumble and fall, God also allows others to stumble and fall. To allow us time to repent, God must allow us to commit wrongs without immediate destruction. If God allows others to repent as God allows us to repent, then they too must have time to repent and be allowed to commit wrongs that are not immediately righted.
I have learned that to allow us faith, God must allow things to happen that are beyond the logic of this world. Thus things happen for which there are no simple answers, for which there is no immediate justification, for which we can only respond in faith that judgment comes not in this world, but in the next. But everything is proof of the infinite mercy of God.
So in this world the rain falls on the just and the unjust. The sun shines on all. Sparrows fall. But nothing passes that God does not mark and that God will not account for and heal, if we but wait for Him.
Do not be mistaken. I would not willingly have entered into many of the sorrows that I have met. Yet, in spite of them I remember 1 Peter 1:7 and hope that in the end I may be like gold tried by fire, better and purer for the experience.
2 Corinthians 1:4 puts my current hopes best:
"[God] comforteth in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God."
I know the truth of that scripture from times past, and as God comforts and heals me again in my present sorrows, hope to prove the comfort of God in my life again. Trust in God is something I have learned from the heart, not the mind.
Thus, in every time of sorrow I pray that I may be able to walk in the light [1 John 1:7], and to be comforted in God.
We cannot avoid sorrow. As the Bible put it, we live in a "vale of tears." As the result of things that seem unfair (and of things that often are unfair) we must mourn and know pain and grief. Yet, God has prepared a more excellent way for us, one that will help us in the difficult path of healing and of turning all things to the good and the glory of God.
In this hope I pray that you may overcome the world, and be blessed of God, that though you mourn and know sorrow, you may find comfort and redemption. I pray that you may be healed in body and Spirit.
Sincerely, and in the Name of Jesus Christ,
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