Healing is hard work, but worth it

Written by Ben Matychuk

Do you have trouble getting out of bed? I’m with you. In fact my sleeping schedule this past week alone has been irregular. Or maybe you have trouble working. I’m there too. Maybe you’re forgetting memories or routines that should be second nature. Maybe negative interactions affect you deeply. Maybe you have habits you’re embarrassed about. I’m with you on these things, too.

I’m not writing as someone with a past of mental illness, but as someone who is in the midst of that struggle right now. I can’t necessarily tell you what works and what doesn’t because I haven’t gotten there, but what I can do is share a Scripture God used to impact me:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

My first thought was, “Zealous for good works?” That’s not me. I know it’s good to help people push their cars out of the snow, do favours, be generous and kind even to those who annoy me, and so forth. But I only recognize these things as good, I’m not zealous to do them. This is not to condemn myself, or you, but it means there is something clinging to me that needs to be conquered.

Healing takes work. I’ve learned that for me, it involves dealing with some deep anger issues toward people in my past who have hurt me. I could never imagine these things would affect me as deeply as they have, but here we are.

Healing Life’s Hurts by Graham Bretherick provides steps to help with this healing process. The book suggests writing letters (without delivering them) to the people who have hurt me to “get the poison” out, forgiving these people, and then considering reconciliation with them.

Those last two steps especially are not appealing to me. But what else am I going to do? Remain where I am? Sleeping inconsistently, losing my temper over small things, battling depression every week, struggling with loneliness and lack of motivation, and not genuinely caring about doing good works?

Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking what I’ve thought before. Maybe freedom isn’t for me. Maybe other people get it because they’re caring, loving, and competent and I’m just not. So that’s it, I don’t get freedom. I’m not worthy of it.

And you’re right, you’re not worthy. I’m not worthy. But is that what God cares about? Consider Titus 3:3-8, which builds on the previous passage I quoted:

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

It says right there that Jesus saved me. Because I’m so great and worthy? No, the opposite! Because I am unworthy and trapped in my sin, disobedient, enslaved by certain passions, and hating people! I was destined for these awful things, but God thought otherwise and did something about it.

This is not simply encouragement. I don’t want you to read this and go away feeling maybe a little better, but with no practical solutions for how things can change. As I said, I’m still in this. But I read that Scripture and thought, I want to walk in the good work that Christ paved the way for. I want to be renewed by the Holy Spirit! I desire that, so why isn’t that happening?

I believe it’s because of wrongly thinking I could obtain freedom while still refusing to let go of my anger and forgive those who wronged me. I can’t stand on a platform of victory and speak to you from there, but I can challenge how you think of yourself and how I think of myself. I’m not worthy, but I became worthy when Christ died for me and gave me hope that I can be free from depression and destructive habits.

Why not just give up and wallow? Because I want freedom! I want to know what life is like when I’m not held back and gutted by these awful things! The Bible says freedom is available. We are all equal humans on this earth with the God-given right to receive freedom if we trust in Christ. Since that is the case, why would we speak over ourselves the lie that we can’t someday be free?

It’s true I have not conquered these things, but after years of dealing with the same issues, I still believe I will walk in freedom someday. Join me.