I learned something a little scary about myself this weekend while cleaning my bookshelves. As I rummaged through the piles, I was embarrassed to see the number of half-read and un-used 'self-help' books. I had books on personality types, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace, dating insights, The Five Love Languages, books on time management, self-improvement, and deeper inner healing. I even had a book by Dr. Phil . . . Really Mary?
I know that at least I'm not alone in this. Type 'self-help' in the search engine of Amazon and you get over 172,000 book titles. We live in a culture looking for the quick fix to every problem. We scour glamour magazines, best-selling authors, and psychological experts looking for the one product, insight, or procedure that will finally 'fix' us and make us 'okay.'
What Are You Seeking?
Don't get me wrong, I do feel that bettering ourselves is a worthy cause. But if I'm honest with myself, behind my desire to buy all those books is a deeper longing for wholeness. I want some hope to find the answers to my fears. I'm looking for a strategy to handle my chaotic life or a medicine to ease the ache of any of the pains that surround me.
The problem with the self-help phenomenon is it can gives us the illusion that we can actually fix ourselves without the help of God. Instead of dealing with our hurt, sin, and deep issues, we learn strategies for coping and hiding. We're just putting band-aids over our gaping, oozing wounds.
In high school, I hid my wounded-ness and deep insecurity behind my list of achievements. With three varsity sports, student council, shiny awards and leadership roles galore, I looked like I had my act together. But inside, I never thought I was enough. I was never pretty enough, smart enough, or funny enough. I believed lies about myself that bound me. I thought the shame and pain I carried inside from past hurts could never mend. So I just coped. I kept pushing through and pretending I was okay when I wasn't.
But God didn't come into our humanity just to give us a band aid for our wounds or coping mechanisms to push through. He came to give us life and life to the fullness. (John: 10:10) He came to restore us and to make us whole. He came to bring healing.
A huge part of Christ's ministry on earth was to heal. Throughout scripture we see the countless stories of him giving sight to the blind, making the lame walk, raising the dead, and healing the lepers. The way He heals isn't exactly the same today . . . It's not like you wander through a colony of lepers on the way to Geometry class. (That would be scary.)
Today, it's our souls that are wounded.
You can think if your leg isn't broken or your arm isn't severed off then God has nothing to heal. But to live in this fallen world is to know pain and the effects of sin in our hearts. We all carry pain from shame, rejection, or feelings of unworthiness. But just as Christ ministered healing to the lame and the lepers when He walked on the earth 2000 years ago, He wants to heal the wounds and blindness of our hearts today.
'He carried in his own body on the cross the sins we committed. He did this so that we might live in righteousness, having nothing to do with sin. By his wounds you were healed.' 1 Peter 2:24 (CEB)
So Fix Me Already
Okay, you might be thinking, 'Mary, I have prayed a million times for this same thing, and God hasn't fixed it. It still hurts. It hasn't gotten better. God isn't healing me!'
But what I have learned in my own healing is that God doesn't want to just 'fix' us. Our God is not a Santa Clause or a magician. He is a gentle healer and a loving surgeon. He wants intimacy with us – a relationship. It is in and through that relationship that His love has the power to heal our wounds. It's a lifetime of walking with Him as our closest friend. He wants to hold us and walk through the pain with us, using the healing of the sacraments and bringing the resources and the people to guide us along the way.
Whatever your wound is – rejection from a failed relationship, separation of your parents, loss of a loved one, insecurities, abuse, shame from sin, feelings of abandonment, addiction, or a long list of small ways you hide your failures and inadequacies – God endured that very wound and carried it on the cross to so that you could be restored to new life. In our journey to wholeness we don't need a “self-Help” book or a another formula. We have a savior. The wounded healer calls to you today . . . And by his wounds, you can take confidence that 'you are healed.'
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)