Whether we want to admit it or not, each one of us has experienced some form of hurt in our lives that we would rather not recall or dwell on. We may think we’re over it because of the passage of time or that it no longer has bearing on anything we do because we “dealt with it” back then. Perhaps the hurt is fresh and currently ongoing. We do our best to numb the residual pain by staying busy, avoiding close, intimate relationships, or actively engaging in destructive behaviors like substance use or self-harm. No matter the level of hurt or abuse we’ve experienced, it leaves a mark on our souls. None of us are exempt from experiencing pain at the hands of another human being, sadly. This is the reality of living in a fallen world.
Abuse occurs in several forms, according to Dr. Steve Tracy, founder and CEO of Mending the Soul, a nonprofit based in Portland, OR that is committed to helping people heal from any form of abuse or trauma through their Biblically grounded and psychologically informed curriculums. People can suffer from physical, sexual, spiritual, verbal abuse, and neglect at the hands of loved ones or strangers. Dr. Tracy defines each type of abuse follows:
Sexual: exploitive sexual contact and the forcing of unwanted sexual acts. Sexual acts that include a power differential, knowledge differential, and gratification differential.
Physical: causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to a family member or someone who lives in the household. Asserting control with threats of imminent physical harm.
Spiritual: inappropriate use of spiritual authority to force a person to do that which is unhealthy.
Verbal/emotional: repeated incidents where a person is insulted, degraded, humiliated, threatened, isolated, deceived, or controlled.
Neglect: failure of a parent or guardian to provide a minor with adequate food, clothing, medical care, protection, supervision, and emotional support (Mending the Soul Workbook, 2015).
Abuse creates fragmentation; pieces of our soul become cut off and hidden away. To keep the pain and shame from bubbling up and overwhelming us, we ignore or minimize these pieces of us that we are ashamed of, even though the abuse was never our fault. However, the effects don’t automatically disappear just because we’ve pushed them away. They manifest in our lives in ways sometimes unbeknownst to us, but damaging and sabotaging nonetheless. There is only one way back to wholeness; integrating these banished parts; essentially “mending the soul.” This work is not something we produce in ourselves, but rather occurs when we surrender to Jesus and let him perform this life-saving surgery to mend our soul. Isaiah 61:1-4 vividly describes this healing work of Jesus in our lives and is the mission verse of the organization:
1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Ironically, we are hurt within the context of relationships and we heal in the context of relationships. There is no other way. We may think it’s safer to depend on ourselves after being hurt, and that’s what our brains tell us to keep us in isolation to avoid more hurt. This sounds ideal, but is not how we heal ultimately. The work of mending our soul is not easy and can be downright terrifying, especially after what we have been through. The good news though, is that if we choose to open ourselves up to healing, the miraculous can happen. Check out some of the testimonials from others just like you that have found healing on the other side of fear when they joined a Mending the Soul small group to work through the interactive and integrative curriculum. https://mendingthesoul.org/mts-basic/. No matter how big or small you believe your hurt to be, hurt is hurt, and if left to its own devices, continues to wreak havoc on our lives. Jesus can and wants to heal your soul, if you’ll take that first step! Check out the many resources available on the website, pick up the Mending the Soul book and workbook, and when you’re ready, consider joining a group to experience powerful and transformative healing.
Check out Mending the Soul’s website to learn about groups in your area, look at their curriculums, including one for children, and read about their international work in Africa. https://mendingthesoul.org/
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