Emotional Healing: A Walk Through the Process
“Jesus is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” —Psalm 34:18
When Jesus walked the earth, he was drawn to the brokenhearted. His compassionate heart pulled him towards those who were hurting, alone, rejected and broken. Why? We could assume it was a hero complex, the need to fix things, which He did quite well. But, I believe Jesus’ motivation for ministry to the brokenhearted was much deeper than a ministry agenda. I believe that Jesus ministered to the hurting because He loves the brokenhearted. Jesus chose out of his own desire to forge friendships with those who dare to live this wild life with an honest and open heart. It is there, in the soil of an honest heart, that God performs the wondrous process of turning ashes into beauty. Ministry to the heart was not simply an assignment for Jesus. It was and is a part of His very nature.
I have my own testimony of emotional healing. My story is laced with unexpected losses, tragedies, disappointments and prolonged seasons of emotional pain and recovery. I do not believe that this disqualifies me from a sense of “wholeness” or “usefulness” for God. On the contrary, I believe that the crevices caused by pain in my heart are now wells for the water of the Holy Spirit, if I dare to submit them to God and receive healing in those places. My story trumpets the healing power of Jesus, and the redemption that He so passionately presses into the deficits of our life experiences. I believe that this power to heal is available through Jesus for all who desire for their hearts to be healed.
Healing hearts is something that Jesus has been doing since He set foot onto the earth, and He is still doing it every day! I love following Jesus around and serving His ministry to people’s hearts. Below is a glimpse of what the process of emotional healing often looks like for me. It is not a formula or grid, but a real-life testimony with insights shared along the way. My prayer as you read this is that you will both find yourself in the story for a deeper healing experience, as well as gather helpful tools for partnering with Jesus in this ministry. Join us at Unbroken 2020 to learn more!
She sits down in front of me; upright and composed. I ask her what she would like prayer for. I then watched her demeanor change. She tells me about a trauma she experienced one year ago, and the torment of emotional pain in her heart ever since. As she shares her story, her composure disintegrates. Her head hangs low, her body trembles, and in time the woman before me is weeping and undone. I move in towards her, and do what I always do first – I honor her.
Honor is the crown of emotional healing ministry (Jn 8:11). People are the way they are for a reason; their stories are tapestries of experiences that form the condition of their hearts. Most people who suffer from emotional pain have exerted enormous amounts of courage in their lives to be where they are. Too often they do not perceive themselves as strong, but rather as victims. People must know that they have strength, before they will identify with the strength to heal. As ministers, it’s our job to help people discover their strength, and honor them as overcomers in their own stories.
One of the common misconceptions about healing for the heart is that the brokenhearted are weak, unfortified, needy, and apathetic people. It’s not true. The brokenhearted are, in my opinion, the heroes of our world. These are people who are daring to live their lives despite real internal injuries. We have a lot to learn from them. The brokenhearted are not victims, they are overcomers.
“I honor you for choosing to share this with me today,” I looked her straight in the eye. “I know it takes courage to face this right now, and I want you to know that I see immense strength in you.” The honor I give her unlocks her heart further, as honor does, and she begins share honestly about the torment of a year in ministry leadership while trying to navigate her own unresolved personal brokenness.
What is happening on the inside of someone impacts the rest of their lives (Prov. 4:23). When the heart is sick, hurting, disoriented, and afraid, it sends those signals throughout that person’s entire being. As a result, the person’s perception and experience of life is overshadowed by that pain. When injuries to the heart are not dealt with, they fester until there is a breakdown of some kind, often proving destructive in some measure.
I feel that it is important to dismantle the shame around emotional, mental, and spiritual struggle, particularly for ministry leaders. Jesus was fully God, and yet fully human. He identifies with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). If Jesus identifies with us, why are we so afraid to admit our struggle? Does hiding our insecurities make us more qualified? Not at all. Jesus is most impressed with an honest and humble heart (Lk 8:15). Freedom comes when honesty is courageously chosen. The deeper the honesty embraced, the deeper the freedom can be experienced.
As the woman shares honestly, I take a few notes of the offenses she has suffered. When she finishes, I ask “Are you willing to forgive these people who hurt you?” I explain to her that forgiveness does not mean that what took place does not matter. It means handing over the role of judge to Jesus. I lead her in forgiveness. She courageously owns the process and chooses to forgive. I know that freedom has come when she begins to feel compassion for those who hurt her.
For the person holding the offense, forgiveness removes the impact that the hurt has had upon them. It requires the person to move forward, however, which means that they have to be willing to surrender to God the justice that their pain cries out for. The process of forgiveness requires the person to fold over the grave clothes on the offense and bury it, letting go of all hope for a better past.
The freedom that comes through forgiveness is stunning. Often people do not realize that when they hold on to bitterness, they are the ones who continue to suffer from the wrong done to them (Matt 18:34). The offender has long since moved on, but they are still living their life on a bed of needles that could be exchanged for a bed of peace through forgiveness. When an offense from the past continues to be deeply painful, it is often a sign that more forgiveness is needed.
Inviting people to forgive is our great privilege as ministers. It does not diminish their experience, but rather exalts the price that Jesus paid for it. The blood of Jesus is so powerful that it can redeem our past. This is the joy we have to share with people when we minister forgiveness.
“Do you want to release this emotional pain you came in with today to Jesus?” I watch her process the question and realize the answer was not as straightforward as it seemed. I add another layer, “Let’s ask Jesus this question. ‘Jesus, will I be safe if I give this pain to you today?’”
Why did Jesus ask the cripple of 38 years if he wanted to get well (Jn. 5:6)? Healing can come at a cost to people. It can cost aspects of their personality, their patterns of self-protection, their sense of familiarity with life and how it works. Obviously, the benefits of a free heart far outweigh the costs of healing, but it is a still a choice. That choice belongs to the person receiving ministry, who will also be the one to live out the impact of that decision.
The heart is not truly healing unless the heart is honestly and authentically engaged in the healing process. People can declare themselves “well” all day long, but if their heart is resisting that change internally, they will walk away unchanged and even frustrated. Pursuing wholeness means ministering with the patience, gentleness, and kindness to assure that the whole person is on board and able to move forward honestly in the healing process.
Emotional pain is different than physical pain in a number of ways. One of the main differences is that emotional pain is often an expression of an unmet need. It is not simply a violation that needs to be cast out or reversed. Emotional pain can also serve a purpose of protecting or advocating for the heart, in which case it needs to be validated. Jesus offers our hearts a better protection than emotional pain. People often need a revelation of God’s protection before they feel safe to engage the healing process and release their pain from its protective role.
“I don’t think I can do that right now … let go of this pain…” the women looks at me in despair. I look back at her with bright eyes of hope. “That’s okay! Let’s do this first …” I then begin to work with her on building her connection with Jesus, her sense of safety with Him, and her experience of His love. “Let’s ask Jesus, ‘Jesus how do you see me? Is there a lie I believe about you?’”
One of my favorite aspects of healing prayer ministry is helping strengthen people’s connection with God. One word from God can solve a thousand needs of the heart. I spend a lot of time in ministry sessions building intimacy with God, because I know that as soon as someone has that connection for themselves, Jesus will meet their needs directly. My goal while ministering is to bring people to a place where they can receive the love of God deeply, and from there I get to simply watch Jesus perform. Once someone is connected to the love of God, their heart is suddenly safe, and they will shed layers of emotional pain without resistance.
It is both an art and skill to discern and deconstruct the blocks that people live with in their relationship with Jesus, to reconcile people in their hearts to God (2 Cor. 5:18). This is because some of the blocks are conscious, but many are unconscious. Many people live with a distant, shallow, or fragmented connection with God. They have never really stopped to ask why their intimacy with God is not vibrant. The good news is that the “why” question can be answered when brought to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows both our conscious and subconscious minds and he is very willing to reveal hindrances to our intimacy with Jesus.
In time, this woman who is sitting before me renounces the lies that she has come to believe about Jesus during her time of suffering. She renounces the lie that He was absent, that He was apathetic, that He is distant, and then … she asks Holy Spirit, “What is the truth?” The truths from God are deposited into her heart like love bombs determined to consume her pain. It is glorious to watch. “Do you think are ready now to surrender your pain to Jesus?” “Yes!” “Okay, let’s give it to Him and ask, ‘What do you give me in exchange?’”
God designed our hearts to be full. When the heart gives something up like emotional pain, it is left with the need to filled in that same place. Not only that, the pain that was released is often in direct contradiction to a gift of God that belongs in that space. Divine exchanges are the point of transformation when it comes to healing the heart. (Is. 61:1-3)
For example, when someone releases to God the lie that their voice does not matter, I am most confident that God has called them in some capacity be a voice. When someone gives to God the fear of friendships, I wonder if they are anointed to foster and nurture community. Individuals who have wrestled with fear often have a call of courage on their life. The enemy works very strategically in our lives to shut down our purpose through specific emotional pains and interruptions. When ministering, it is an absolute joy not only to see emotional pain be healed, but also to see the individual’s heart find its true home and purpose through a divine exchange.
Suddenly, the power of God comes into the room and I watch a transformation take place. The women describes to me that she has been so fearful since the traumatic experience, but in this moment, she can feel God calling her a lioness who was made to roar! Boldness and courage fill her heart from the Holy Spirit. I prophesy over her, and we both erupt into grateful and heartfelt prayer. She then looks up, “The pain is gone!” Tears of joy. She is healed!
If we could x-ray the soul, the impact of these emotional healing moments would blow our minds. It is no small thing when God binds up the brokenhearted, and sets captives free. It is miraculous, and involves outcomes that many would consider medically and psychologically impossible. Often you can physically see the effects of the emotional healing in the person’s posture, demeanor, face, and eyes. The core of the healing, however, has taken place deep within the heart and soul. The person’s testimony is the shouting evidence that Jesus has done what only Jesus can do for them; performed a healing in their heart.
Emotional Healing is part of the heartbeat of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are so many people suffering from emotional and mental pain in our world that are not being offered hope for freedom. I believe it is part of our responsibility as followers of Jesus to share this good news that Jesus heals hearts. I also believe that it is our responsibility to be honest about our own hearts’ condition, and become vulnerable before God and others for healing ministry when we need it. Jesus is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18). Let’s position ourselves closer to Jesus!
May the compassionate heart of Jesus be ignited in you today! I hope to see you at Unbroken 2020 where we will explore these topics more!
Note from the editor: Katie is speaking at our Unbroken conference next week. Unbroken is our conference all about emotional healing, where attendees both receive ministry and are equipped to minister to others. Space is still available for this conference, which takes place at our headquarters in Pennsylvania. Click to learn more about Unbroken →