Can peace and reconciliation be experienced in the heart of one who has been deeply wounded?
My understanding of healing deep wounds grew considerably during my 12-year partnership with a Canadian biblical counselling ministry in Greenland, the country of my missionary calling since 1984.
It all began with a phone call I received from a couple who developed that counselling ministry, drawing on 40 years of experience ministering with Cree people and other Indigenous peoples of North America.
The biblical counsellors training course they had developed had led to Inuit and First Nation believers emerging as the preferred counselors in their villages.
“People come to the counsellors with problems, the counsellors skillfully help identify and process their traumas, lead them to Christ, and this in turn is contributing to growing healthy churches,” they told me excitedly on the phone.
It was a real breakthrough. Before the course took off, they said, they’d been involved in youth ministry and family counselling for years, “but no matter how much the people liked what we taught they couldn’t get it to work in their lives because of deep emotional wounds that kept pulling them back to relational flare-ups and drinking. We have found a believer can’t grow spiritually with unhealed soul wounds.”
I began to get excited myself, because that blockage was the same thing I’d seen in Greenland as well.
Seven months after that phone call I was sitting on the edge of my seat listening to this couple introduce the biblical counsellors training course in town after town in Greenland.
At one point a picture was projected on the wall which was especially appropriate for where we were – it was an iceberg diagram. As the model was described, I glanced out the window. There, in the harbour, was a giant iceberg in real-life! It came from the largest iceberg-producing glacier in the northern hemisphere not far from the town. As we all learned, 90% of an iceberg is below the surface of the water, while only 10% is above the surface.
The teaching was understandable and also profound. “Just like it is easy to see the iceberg above the surface of the water, it’s easy to observe the problems in our lives like anger, fear, relationship problems, and addiction – but the real source of these troubles lay under the surface, in our subconscious where we don’t recognize them.
“The destructive heart beliefs and vows that were lodged in our hearts through bad experiences we had as children go deep. Beliefs like ‘I’m powerless’ and vows like ‘I will never trust again.’ Without an experience of healing, forgiveness and love our lives become more and more broken.”
At a teaching presentation like that, I got to know an elderly man across the table from me. He had a soul wound from his father which was still affecting his life all these years later.
“How can I forgive my father?” he said. “It was 56 years ago, but I still feel anger towards him for always kicking me around as if I was a soccer ball!” This man in turn had deeply wounded his own children, some of whom had committed grievous acts.
By His wounds we are healed
The teaching continued. “Most of us have heard how Jesus bore our sins on the cross, but we don’t often hear of how He also bore our emotional pain. Isaiah 53:4-5 says, ‘Surely he took up our pain…and by his wounds we are healed.’ Get alone with God and a trained counsellor if needed. Identify and feel the painful emotions you have been pushing down for years. Grieve your losses. Some find writing helps.
“Then leave it all with Jesus on the cross – along with your old sinful nature – and don’t look back. Acknowledge your new nature in Christ which has been ‘created in righteousness and true holiness’ (Ephesians 3: 22-23). Now, get to know your new identity in Christ found in the Scriptures, and enjoy the healing love of your heavenly Father.”
In Greenland we saw many experience the gospel of peace for the first time through God’s healing of the deep pain of the heart.
The pain of the heart we carry has consequences and addressing it is essential if we are to thrive and be ambassadors of reconciliation. Many who are deeply wounded can’t go through this process alone. They are stuck and need help. There is still a great need for skilled biblical counselors and trainers, for churches and ministries who work with Jesus the Healer and can lead the way to peace and reconciliation that begins below the surface of our lives.
Errol Martens has served the people of Greenland for decades as a veteran worker with Youth With a Mission. He is now based in British Columbia. Iceberg photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash. This blog series is produced in collaboration with the Peace & Reconciliation Network, an initiative of the World Evangelical Alliance. Read all the posts at faithtoday.ca/reconciling.