“I don’t think I have the emotional energy to walk around this mountain again,” I confessed to my husband late one night, as my throat swelled and my eyes stung. It was my second round of significant betrayal from two separate groups of friends in two years, and I had hardly made it out of the first one alive—in fact, my heart was still thawing from it.
Years later, I can say that my heart is healed and it pumps stronger than ever before. The blunt force wound of betrayal is closed, but at the time I thought I would never experience freedom. Where do we begin in treading the road to recovery for the trauma of relational loss?
Often the immediate thoughts are along the line of “Can I ever trust anyone again?” and “The pain would likely be less bearable if (this person) had died.” And, as with any other type of grief, there are the more prolonged thoughts like “Will I ever get over this?” and “Can God love me like this? Does the sickening squalor of bitterness in my heart mean that I don’t truly know Him?”
Since these thoughts and questions can turn into debilitating doubt with the potential to paralyze us until we finally die, I think it’s helpful to search out how we should go about processing it all.
When I was nearing the birth of my first child, I was still experiencing so much inner turmoil (which became self-hatred, and then shame before God). I decided, thereby, that I would be indefatigable in my pursuit of a clean heart before my every dishonoring word became soaked up in the subconscious of my child’s upbringing.
I had encountered successful months, but the victories seemed short-lived. One day as I was reading, our gracious God in His preeminent mercy kindly made “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant” (Matthew 18:21-35) come to vivacious life in my heart like a portion of scripture never had. And I don’t use “life” in a “fairy godmother spell” kind of usage, but in that of a “sobering fear.”
It resuscitated the truth that my heart had long forgotten—enormous, life-swallowing mercy had been poured over me, and I was unwilling to give a drop. Even Jesus prayed, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive those who are indebted to us.” I realized that that statement was an indictment chained heavily around my neck. He gave me the grace to perceive the ominous truth that if my heart was unwilling to give mercy, how much mercy had I truly known? How could I continue to claw at others in my obsession with self-victimization if my heart was indeed in a prostrate posture before God?
I had been choosing the chute of self-pity over the ladder of forgiveness and humility, but faithfully He turned my heart of stone into the meaty flesh of desire for purity and brokenness. Although I pray for His spirit to possess me so I can be an orchard of sweet fruit, there’s still a lot rotting. The recovery I’ve experienced? Now I come to God as a broken vase, eager to be fixed and filled. That is all He needs.
I don’t merely file my experiences under the “personal refinement” category in my brain and move on. I know that God wants to sanctify me and He is doing it even as I write this. I praise Him for that, but I think that a vital piece of what I missed in my healing process was that He also wanted me. He wanted me to be free and He wanted me to forgive. But He fought for me and brought me out from under the burden of it so I could have the scales of my self-pity removed in order to see Him as more beautiful.
When we see Him as more beautiful, we are empowered to go where He wants us to go. He tests us so that He can bring our love to fruition, and matured love can say to Him, “I am not offended at you, God, and I will wait for You in my seasons of doubt, despair, bitterness, loneliness, anxiety, and lethargy” (and we know that although these seasons occur for everyone, they seem to be multiplied overseas).
Jesus entered our vineyards to plod there for the long haul. He came to bring recovery to us. He is the prize at the end of it all and He knows that He is the only longing we have that will not betray us. He wants us to lean in as we pour out.
What scripture has God used to bring recovery to you? What mountain has God asked you to walk around again, and in the walking, brought recovery?