“Time heals all wounds.” Dozens of well-meaning people have said this to us since our oldest son, Christopher, died in a car accident over two-and-a-half years ago. The intensity of emotions and shock do lessen over time but are diminished feelings really the measure of true healing? I have met countless people in my law enforcement career drowning their sorrow and pain from decades-old trauma with drugs, alcohol, sex, suicidal behaviors, etc. Time had indeed marched on for them since the initial tragedy, but they were far from healed. The tremors radiating from their wounds had cratered their souls, bruised their emotions, and crushed their spirits. No amount of time will heal the damage to our spirit from trauma or extreme grief. Only God can.
In John Eldredge’s book Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive, he states: “Scripture is abundant and clear: Christ came not only to pardon us, but also to heal us. He wants the glory restored . . . let this sink in: Jesus can, and wants to, heal your heart.”
Healing for the Christian is not merely numbed feelings or receding sorrow, but God’s glory, purpose, and mercies fully restored in us. In my own rocky journey, I’ve found three crucial components to a God-centered healing and restoration.
Surrender the heart. The largest obstacle to healing often isn’t the circumstance or events, but our unwillingness to fully open our wounded spirits to God, those deep, hidden, and most broken areas of our hearts. Fear of reliving the trauma and anguish keeps us from letting God do the necessary heart restoration—like a child with a broken arm desperately clinging to it, not allowing the physician to touch it. Yes, letting God work in those areas can elicit strong emotions, but like the setting of a bone, the temporary pain is necessary for the healing to begin.
I struggled with this for quite a while. I wasn’t ready to let God into the most injured parts of my soul after losing Chris. Thankfully, the Lord was patient and gently brought me to the point of surrender. Allowing God into these guarded wounds, which look different for each of us, must be an intentional act. We need to lay down the defenses, excuses, and anxieties at the Lord’s feet, understanding our Heavenly Father wants to heal us. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 NIV)
Keep a godly perspective. Why did this have to happen to me? Why did my son have to die? It simply isn’t fair. Ultimately, the cry of injustice invades our thinking when tragedy strikes. God can’t possibly understand. Or worse, he’s indifferent to our suffering. Anger and disillusionment set another obstacle to healing. Does God truly understand or care? Aside from being our Creator and knowing us intimately, Jesus left the Throne of Heaven, surrounded by legions of angels worshiping him day and night in perfection and glory, to come to the sin-saturated Earth and experience all the pain of humanity—catastrophic loss and suffering. He was rejected by his creation, tortured, and brutally murdered, and yet, he loves us so much that he still chose to suffer all these things for our blessing and benefit (Hebrews 2:9-10). Jesus understands perfectly our pain, loss, and suffering because he lived it, and he’s asking us to walk with him through our trials as he walked with the Father through his.
God not only understands our pain, but He has purpose in it. As the often-quoted scripture says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Pastor Rick Warren, after his son’s heartbreaking suicide, said in a sermon series, “Don’t waste your pain, let God heal it, recycle it, utilize it and use it to bless other people”
Since Chris’s passing, the Lord has opened multiple opportunities for our family to minister to those who have lost loved ones, and my capacity to empathize with the hurting and broken has grown exponentially through this process. No one can speak into the life of a wounded person like someone with a similar experience. Allow God to use your pain and your story to help those around you.
Choose to live again. When treading water in a sea of despair and heartache, it’s hard to imagine living life again. Smiling. Laughing. Looking forward to the future. Experiencing the joy of the Lord. Trauma and extreme grief cast a thick pall over any such hope. God instructs us to “patiently endure” through trials (James 1:12), which we should do, but there comes a point when He also calls us to much more than simply “enduring.” He wants us to live a Spirit-filled and abundant life (John 10:10). If we’re so crippled by the wounds of the past that we focus only on ourselves—our pain, our scars—we will never fully experience the blessed life and mission God has for us. I’m still working on this one, but His light is slowly piercing the darkness like the first brilliant rays of a new dawn.
We cannot return to the life we lived before the tragedy, no matter how much we may wish it. The wound will always be there, but God desires to restore our souls and walk with us all our days (Psalm 23), so it’s incumbent upon us to let Him.
If you’ve ever suffered trauma or extreme grief and are still struggling, please consider seeking out a licensed Christian counselor or your pastor to walk with you through the healing process, and pray and ask the Lord to open the closed areas of your heart, to give you a godly perspective, and to pour out His spirit, purpose, and joy on your life as you move forward.