Healing the Scars

I’m sorry this one’s a little long. It might only be for a few people. Maybe one. But I know I need to put it out there.

You’re pleasant at work, courteous at the grocery store, gracious to everyone you know, and kind to those you don’t. And behind every smile is so much pain, anxiety, and burden, you feel like you might shatter.

You’re holding it in as best you can. You think if you tell people what you’re feeling, you’ll either scare them away, or offend them with your weakness and failure. So you keep pushing it all down. Sometimes it works for a while. Other times, the ways you’ve coped with this in the past come back to offer a little relief. It never lasts long, and you feel even worse later. But for now.

Behind the struggle, there’s a voice. It’s one you hate, yet are so familiar with, it’s a strange kind of comfort. The voice doesn’t tell you that killing yourself is the answer. It knows you’re smarter than that. No one wants to do that. But it finds so many ways to describe the relief of not being here. Of not letting anyone down. Of not being rejected. It doesn’t focus on dying. It offers a way to stop hurting.

The picture is of a scar on my arm, a reminder from my teen years, when I used to cut myself to fight that voice. I don’t think there’s one core reason I did it. I doubt there’s just one reason for anyone. For me, it was a mix of punishing myself for failing the expectations of those I loved, and bringing the constant emotional pain into the physical realm, where I could control it, if only a little.

Here’s my confession: after almost three decades of ministry, I still fight the voice once in a while. I’ve seen genuine healings and miracles—in my own life, and in others’. I’ve experienced God’s presence in ways I’ve never been able to adequately express. But every so often that demon returns to take another shot or two. I recognize it quicker, and I’m no longer tempted to cut myself. But when I’ve fallen into internalizing negativity, rather than letting Jesus displace it, I’ve definitely damaged myself, emotionally and physically. I can’t prove that depression was a direct cause of the lymphoma, but I know the darkness I was in did my immune system no favors.

When you get knocked down—by people, life, or your own old ways of thinking, it’s easy to let whatever negativity they’re projecting erode your identity in Christ, and devalue the infinite worth he holds you in. Instead of letting him judge the lies attacking you, you agree with the lies, and condemn and punish yourself until you lose your identity and vision.

If you recognize you’re seeing death as a relief from pain, rejection, and failure, please see it’s a big deal. You’re actually making death your savior, instead of Jesus. I’m not writing this to criticize, but to empathize. I know this mindset. I’ve fought it, and overcome by remembering one thing.

When the darkness sets in, and you know nothing else, know God loves you. I know how simplistic and hokey that may seem. But it’s one of the most powerful and profound things you can do. From that one foundational truth, you can reset your heart, renew your mind, and begin recovering who God says you are.

I’m grateful for all the information I see about suicide prevention on social media, and talking with someone is crucial. But remembering—knowing—his love is real is what’s always brought me to a place I could finally consider talking.

Right now, if you’re able, please stop whatever you’re doing. Take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders. Even if you can’t feel his love yet, stand in it by faith. Choose love. Say it: “I choose to live in your love for me, Jesus.”

Now take one step by finding one good thing in your life you’re grateful for. See something positive about yourself. I know the resistance to this. I know how despair, rejection, and pain try to control your thoughts and feelings. Fight it. Recognize one way God has shown you his love. And another. And another. If you can, say them out loud. Even if you’re at work and have to do it quietly, speak their truth out loud over your life.

Keep going. Let God’s life-giving thoughts lead you to others even more powerful, until they begin to overwhelm the hold of all the dark ones. Let him encourage you through the Psalms and transform you through the Gospels. Let him love you until you actually love yourself.

My prayer for you:

“Jesus, you’ve already taken the darkest, most painful parts of our lives to the cross. They’re not ours anymore. I pray for everyone who reads this to have a revelation of that truth and grace, and that they’d be truly free to become all you see them as. I pray for hope, healing, and breakthrough, and that anxiety and depression have no power in their lives. I pray they know they’re so loved, so blessed, so celebrated, that the enemy can’t get a word in.”

I hope these scriptures are a help in restoring your heart and renewing your mind:

“I am the Lord who heals you and makes you whole” (Exodus 15:26).

“You are my greatest treasure” (Deut. 7:6).

“I have come to you so that you may have life, and have it to its fullest” (John 10:10).

“This is the secret: Jesus, the hope of glory, lives in you” (Colossians 1:27).

“If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. The old life is gone, and everything has become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

“The cords of death entangled me, and floods of destruction swept over me. In my distress I cried out to the Lord for help. He reached down from heaven and took hold of me. He pulled me out of deep waters, and led me to a place of safety. He rescued me because he delights in me. You will keep my fire burning, God, and turn darkness into light” (from Psalm 18).

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