Healing: Ways To Reclaim Our Personal Power

As a believer in Christ, the term personal power is probably an unusual term for me to use. In fact, in our circles, all power belongs to the Lord Jesus – end of discussion. Unfortunately, when a person has been abused, traumatized, or suffered through years of chronic illness, God seems far away. Feelings of intense powerlessness begin to envelop her.

photo by Anthony Tran

Hopelessness is a daily companion.

In those times, emotional, mental, or physical healing are a dream out of reach. The darkness cloaking us feels eternal. Finally, we lay down whatever fight we had left. Internally, we curl into the fetal position and cede our power or personal will over to the invader.

Healing And The Medical World

After living with fibromyalgia and chronic migraines for 15 and 13 years, respectively, I am no stranger to the medical world. Until that time, my personal interaction with doctors was yearly check-ups and birthing my children.

Consequently, I entered the world of medicine expecting an answer to my pain and fatigue. However, what I received for 8 solid months was more questions. In fact, a rheumatologist insinuated that my symptoms were psychological. In other words, he said I was probably ‘just depressed’.

Photo by Arnold Obizzy

I wonder if he would have said that to a man? Furthermore, I wonder how many other suffering women he dismissed?

Thankfully, due to the support of my husband and family, I persisted until I found a doctor who could diagnose and help me. My point is, the medical world has the power to demean us and deepen our sense of powerlessness. Although there are empathic physicians available, there are many who have no bedside manner while they are informing us what they know (or don’t know) about our illness.

At least that was my initial experience. And I know I am not alone.

Can the medical community help us? Most of the time, yes! However, when you have questions, do some research of your own before your appointment. Arrive prepared with personal knowledge. Finally, when you are hurting, never allow yourself to be shut down by a doctor on an ego trip.

There are other, caring physicians available.

Photo by Kaur Kristjan

1st Way To Help Ourselves

For many years, my perennial flower beds have been a source of peace for me. I’ve called it my dirt therapy. Recently, I discovered that there is a reason for the positive feelings I have when I play in the dirt.

Scientists have discovered a bacterium in soil microbes that have a similar effect on the brain as an anti-depressant. After testing rats by injecting or ingesting the microbes, researchers found that the rats had less stress, better cognitive abilities, and increased concentration.

Lettuce provided by Unsplash

The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients [who]reported a better quality of life and less stress…Gardeners inhale the bacteria, have topical contact with it, and get it into their bloodstream when there is a cut or other pathway for infection. The natural effects of the soil bacteria antidepressant can be felt for up to 3 weeks if the experiments with rats are any indication.

Other studies revealed many positive results from gardening. These included reductions in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, as well as increases in life satisfaction, quality of life, and sense of community. In addition, gardening increased life satisfaction, vigor, psychological wellbeing, and cognitive function. Further research on gardening found it improved life satisfaction and mood.

Photo by Sasha Matic

2nd Way to Help Ourselves

Gardening may not be something you can or want to do. I understand. What about a walk in nature?

“There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human well­being,” says Lisa Nisbet, PhD, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies connectedness to nature. “You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”

Moreover, studies have shown that a 30-minute walk in nature will speed the health recovery process, reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of cancer. In addition, it will lower cortisol levels, a stress hormone.

Photo by Yoksel Zok

Unfortunately, we humans tend to brood. Scientists call this morbid rumination, and it causes us to focus on the negative aspects of our lives. Naturally, focusing on the negative can lead to anxiety and depression. Scientist and researcher Gregory Bratman, and colleagues, discovered that participants in his rumination study who walked in wooded places had less brooding activity in their brains.

3rd Way to Healing

In 2015, UC Berkeley psychology PhD candidate Craig L. Anderson began investigating awe and its association with nature. He conducted two studies, the first with 124 vets and underserved youth who went on either one-day or four-day whitewater rafting trips. Each kept a diary of their daily experiences and emotional responses.

Anderson wanted to track awe, amusement, contentment, gratitude, joy and pride.

In the second study, with a similar number of participants, Anderson chose to have them in nature – hiking, walking, etc. However, this time they did not participate in the excitement of whitewater rafting. Again, they kept daily diaries noting experiences and emotional responses.

In both studies, says Anderson, awe was the only element that predicted whether people would feel less stressed and more “healed.” Further, awe was the only emotion directly associated with nature.

Anderson said, “…awe essentially stops the brain and allows the expression of other positive emotions.”

Photo by Irina Iriser

The Healing of Awe

First, I want to thank Ann Voskamp for pointing me to the studies on nature and awe. As one who understands suffering, she has a gift for putting words to pain. My intent here is to spread the word farther.

My grandchildren know that around me, the word awesome is reserved for God alone. Of course, since God created the world, nature is indeed, awe-inspiring.

Photo by Erda Estremera

According to the Bible, nature serves as a testimony to the majesty and glory of the Lord.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1, ESV

And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 6:3

His splendor covers the heavens,
And the earth is full of His praise. Habakkuk 3:3b

 In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Psalm 95:4-5, ESV
Lastly, in Romans 1:19-20, Paul writes that our unbelief is without excuse. Why? Because the awe of nature is enough to convince us of God’s existence.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse
Photo by Vlad Dyshlivenko

The Ultimate Healer

Since the creation of the world, we have been lavished with the beauty of nature. Some may have to drive or walk to a park to enjoy it. Others live in the midst of it. Fortunately, we can all look up at the stars or own a few house plants.

The point is, time spent in nature brings healing to our troubled souls. Most importantly, it also leads to the awe of our Creator and Lord…the ultimate Healer.

Photo by Josh Hild

 

Healed: What Happens If You’re Not?

The word healing brings with it a kaleidoscope of feelings. Many experience complete freedom from former disease or pain. For others, like me,  the idea of healed body became a distant memory. What happens if you’re not healed?

At a time when a career I loved was taking off, my body betrayed me. I had had an intense few years leading to this point: the last two of our three children married in one year

Dad had suffered with cancer for seven years and ultimately died.

Mom had had mental problems all of my life and dad’s death escalated those. Our  hands were full in our attempts to help her.

My husband was diagnosed and treated for cancer.

During all of this, I was completing a master’s degree and an internship in chaplaincy. But it was ALL behind me and I was experiencing success and fulfillment. These were joyful days, even in the midst of an oncology center, which is where I worked.  Those courageous patients taught me more about living life than I could have learned anywhere on earth.

A weight lifted; my life was in a good place.

My husband was in remission. We had an empty nest. Each of us enjoyed fulfilling careers. Our daughter and son-in-law had given us 2 young granddaughters whom we adored.

The Road of Suffering

At some point, pain in my legs began waking me up at night.

Although I wore Dansko’s, the shoes were no longer helping my legs. The pain worsened and became coupled with fatigue. I attempted to ignore it and plow ahead…

Until one day after work, fatigue overwhelmed me after walking from my office to the ground floor exit. I thought I may not make it to my car. It was parked a half block from the hospital. I could not ignore the stranger within me any longer.

For eight months I saw various doctors and specialists attempting to discover what was wrong with this body I had called home. Finally, a pain management doctor told me I had fibromyalgia. Not long afterward, the migraines, which are often associated with fibro, began in earnest.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, life as I had known it, was over.

Without healing, life can feel hopeless.

“The deep meaning of the cross of Christ is that there is no suffering on earth that is not borne by God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What Happens Now?

Many of you have a similar story, experienced similar losses. You could be writing this yourself. You’re well acquainted with the grief associated with loss. You’re familiar with the stages with which I cycled and grappled…

And continue to cycle during dark seasons of my life. My go-to emotion is anger. It feels more powerful than the grief that can drown me.

I wondered how God could use me, now. I questioned if He had even called me to ministry in the first place. A body wracked by pain and fatigue seemed useless to me or anyone else, for that matter.

Can you relate?

A quick Google search will reveal that we are a nation, and yes, a world in pain. In 2015, in America, medical scientists were sounding an alarm that 11.2% of the population was reporting chronic pain. By December 2020, the number had jumped to just past 20%; that equals to approximately 50 million people. In a 2021 study, the UK reported 38% of adults with daily pain.

These figures don’t touch the number of people living with debilitating diseases. Each of those statistics represent a face, a person whose life was upended by pain or disease. Every one of those people have had to release their dreams and goals. Too many have falsely believed they no longer have purpose.

A decision must be made. The next step is crucial.

The Choice

It’s embarrassing to admit, but it took several years for me to make my choice. I’m still making it, actually. Initially, at least, making the choice requires making it daily, sometimes hourly.

 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,

Deut.30:19, HCSB

Choosing life sounds like a no-brainer. But when the life God wants me to choose is different from the life I had and loved, the choice can become less clear.

Sometimes we may need to simply choose life. It is possible to become so attached to something or someone we have lost that we move forward blindly, looking over our shoulder to the past rather than before us to what lies ahead. The Bible tells us that as she looked back, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt. I suspect that many of us have had this happen to us without our realizing we have become frozen, trapped by the past.

Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Naomi Ramen

I was trapped by my past. In my stubbornness, I didn’t want to look ahead to future possibilities with God. However, until I stopped dwelling on my former life, I would never be released from the self-made trap of grief and anger.

Gradually, and with humility I came to a place where I chose life.

 

Healing: What happens if you're not?

 

Healing

Healing looks different for each of us. Many pray to be healed. A few even demand physical healing, (whether in “Jesus’ name” or by their own virtue.) Others hope for it, but don’t expect it. Still others seek healing continually, going from doctor to doctor or faith healer to faith healer.

Certainly, I have prayed for healing. I have asked others to pray for me, too. After so many years, however, I find that I have accepted that I will not be healed, physically. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped trying new medications or stopped seeking wisdom from my heavenly Father concerning my suffering.

But my wrestling and anger is mostly gone, now. I wish I could say with the apostle Paul that I give thanks for the pain, but most days, I’m not there. However, the healing I have experienced is in my soul. Ever so slowly, with the help of a therapist, I’m learning that God doesn’t love me only when I’m in ministry or serving. He loves me regardless of what I do.

That’s a hard lesson for someone who was teethed on “doing,” both at home and in the my denomination.

Miracles

Approximately two thirds of the miracles Jesus performed on earth involved healing. It’s safe to say that it was important to Him. However, if you read the passages describing each healing miracle, you will find that there is usually a lesson being taught by the healing, (John 4:43-54; Matthew 9:1-18; Luke 6:6-11).

Healing isn’t the main point.

Oh, it always is for us, at least in the beginning of our affliction.

But, there is so much more to glean from these ailing bodies than physical health. When Jesus touched the leper and told him, “Be clean!” (Mark 1:40-45), Jesus was modeling compassion. The main thing was not the physical healing, but that He did the unthinkable. Jesus touched a leper with love.

With Him, it’s always about the miracle of the heart.

What miracle do you need today?