Koinonia
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Koinonia

You’ll Never Get Over It

The wounds of the past may never fully heal but that doesn’t mean that we can’t hope for a better future

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

A friend sent me a jarring yet comforting article about the brutal truth that we just might not get over the traumas from our past.

Though the title might feel a little clickbait-y, the gist of it is an honest confrontation of the truth that the wounds may never fully scab and that the scars still sear.

Also, I wonder if my friend was being passive-aggressive by sending me this article — a tacit, subliminal message to embrace “the suck,” if you will.

How would you feel if a pastor or a trusted confidant told you that you just might not get over that one thing? Imagine sharing your deepest hurt with a counselor, perhaps accidentally thinking out loud in a sigh, “I just might never get over this.” And to your surprise, your counselor affirms your darkest fear by invoking the famous John 4 line by Jesus: you are right when you say…

Without context, not only does that seem like an impossible pill to swallow, it seems insensitive and frigid. Think about how that line of thinking resonates with someone who has been, for years, conditioned to think that blessings upon blessings befell the believer.

A pairing of a poor theology of suffering and a more-than-healthy seasoning of cherry-picked Bible passages, we think that eventually all things will resolve itself and we will once again live life without a limp.

But what if the sun doesn’t rise the next morning?

For many, life seems to feel more like a hopeless dusk than it does a hopeful dawn. And I get that. But what the article tries to do is lather the seemingly hopeless truth with a hopeful paradigm shift: we can both live with the scars of the past without letting it define who we are.

David Powlison, the author of the timely piece, is a counselor at heart and has been integral to challenging my own thoughts about Biblical counseling. He articulates as if he knows my own propensity to deny and bottle up, that emotions can worsen the hurt so that it festers and sets down roots even deeper into your heart. Yet, he offers some encouragement:

“But hurt and loss can become transmuted into a deeper good — still fierce, still sorrowing, but now clean. Not only clean, but hopeful. Not only hopeful, but fruitful. Not only fruitful, but wise. Not only wise, but even loving.”

But the question is how can this be achieved? On the spectrum of turning my hurt into love, I feel more like “Man on Fire Denzel” than I do “Remember the Titans Denzel.” The prophetic words of Powlison asks that very question:

“How on earth does ‘You are with me’ (Ps 23:4) connect with ‘Right now I am walking through a dark valley. I feel vulnerable. Shadows of death threaten me. I am besieged with evils.’ How does ‘You are with me’ get traction, so that I am changed and become unafraid?”

I don’t know. I’ve tried to make that connection before. I’ve tried, as many older brothers and sisters exhorted me to in the vaguest and most unhelpful ways possible, to just “run to the Gospel”, whatever that means. I’ve tried just sucking it up because showing weakness only authenticates itself.

Therein lies the rub: how strangely liberating is it to say that I will never get over it? I suppose what matters most is what you do after said realization, but I just feel relieved even writing those words. I am not endorsing a fatalistic attitude that leads to giving up. I am, however, attempting to make sense of the palpable tension between hurt and healing. Cross and Christ. Sin and Sanctification.

We live in a world where pragmatism reigns supreme. Its tentacles are ever so apparent even in the Evangelical world, as we are inundated with self-help books and articles like “29 ways you can improve your relationship with God”.

Its implicit message is deafening: you can get yourself out of any pit if you just try harder. Be more patient. Have more faith. Basically, try to bear the Fruits of the Spirit without the Spirit.

It is no wonder, then, that I have come across many fatigued Christians. As they experience a Sisyphus-like reality, their guilt is compounded because they feel like they should have gotten over all the pain and sorrow years ago. They might blame themselves for not having enough faith. Where does it end?

And this is where I am comforted by the truth that I won’t ever get over it: it is in the impossible task of attempting to repair all things in which it becomes the fertile soil that cultivates faith. Faith grows from a place of abandoning all delusions of self-sufficiency and going to a place of surrender. To express and practice a life of spiritual bankruptcy is, after all, a Beatitude (Matt. 5:3). The remedy is not to fix it but to faith it (sounds weird, but let me have my parallelism).

In Wreck-It Ralph, we see a clear picture of the fallacy of self-maintenance; Fix-It Felix can fix all things until he can’t. And in that moment, his identity and ideologies are all shattered.

But for Ralph, he has a moment of clarity: he isn’t what he can or can’t do. He’s even resigned to the fact that the best part of his day was to get ever so ephemeral of a glimpse of Sugar Rush while he gets tossed off the building. But I think he gets it: “Turns out I don’t need a medal to tell me I’m a good guy, because if that little kid (Vanellope) likes me, how bad can I be?”

We may never get over it but we mustn’t be defined by it. We may still be hurting but we shouldn’t allow it to dictate our lives. We don’t need “signs” to tell us that we are good because if God likes me, how bad can we be?

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Encouraging, empowering, and entertaining. In Christ.

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Jason Lim

Jason Lim

I am a sinner saved by grace. Somehow a pastor who uses words to bless others. INFJ and Enneagram 4.