Lovers v. Fighters

Inner Healing and Identity
Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

I am convinced that whatever our natural instinct is, God wants us to operate in the opposite. Take “lovers” vs “fighters” for example. If you know me, you would know I am a fighter. I’ve been fighting my whole life. History would support that I have been fighting since the day I was conceived. In fact, one definition of my name means “tenacious one, or persevering.” I have to “fight” not to fight.

For someone like me, fighting is natural. It comes easily. But if you’re a lover, fighting goes against every fiber of your being. (And for the sake of this article, the term “lover” isn’t the same as Mother Teresa, Jesus, or Gandhi. It is more a reflection of one who doesn’t stand up for himself or others.) Most lovers can’t muster up a fight for love nor money. You can’t even force a lover to fight. Lovers would rather walk away, cow down (good ole southern term), or even worse, decide to become a martyr. Some lovers finally get up the nerve to assert themselves but do so only passively. Passive fighting to me is cowardly, but that’s easy for me to say. I’m a fighter.

I’m learning as I grow older that whatever I can do in my natural strength is not what God wants. He wants me to trust Him. As a matter of fact, one of His names is Defender. Well, that’s not what I was taught my whole life. I didn’t know Him until I was around my late 30s, so I’ve got a lot of undoing to do. And 50-plus years of fighting isn’t easy to undo overnight. It takes work. Just like I hear it takes work for lovers not to “love.”

I have a lot of friends who are lovers. Exhaustingly so. They just want everyone to be happy at all costs – mostly at the cost of themselves. Most of them have been (or are being) used. Most of them are used up. It’s infuriating to watch. I want to just shake them and say, “Stand up for yourself.” They can’t; they are lovers. Or should I say, they can’t on their own. Which brings me back to my original thought: God wants us out of our comfort zones. Whatever comes naturally for us is the opposite of what He wants for us.

God wants lovers to become fighters and fighters to become lovers. He wants misogynists to become heroes and victims to become overcomers. It’s just the way He is. He wants to take every one of our natural strengths (or for lovers – weaknesses) and turn it around. He wants to empower us to be able to say, “I can’t, in my own strength, but I can, in Him.”

It’s so frustrating, until He defends a fighter who stood quietly. It’s frustrating until you see a lover stand and fight. It’s so cool to see a victim overcome. That’s one of the reasons He came: to set things right. He doesn’t want me to fight in my own strength. He wants to fight for me. He wants to win the battles I go through.

So, what do I get to do? He wants me to be a lover. Hardest thing for me. Kinda like a lover becoming a fighter … goes against every grain of their being. But, then again, that’s one of the many reasons He came to earth – to change the way I think … the way I am.

 

Take Off the Masks and Find Your True Self

My name is Kerri Johnson. For the past 20+ years, I have searched for answers to my own struggles. My lifelong passion has been in pursuit of my true identity and the healing of body, soul, and spirit. Out of those studies, The Center for Inner Healing (CIH) was birthed. CIH is an interactive healing process and a catalyst for helping people come out of the lies they believe and into the fullness of truth and identity.

Unfortunately, many of us spend our entire lives trying to mask who we are. That’s what we are taught. We are taught that we should hide our scars and shortcomings to survive and thrive in this perfect world. Neither of those statements is true. We shouldn’t hide our hurt, and the world is far from perfect. To be authentic, we have to identify our pain, bring it forward, and offer it on the altar of life to be able to be free. Otherwise, pain is our autopilot in everything we are, do, and say.

Pain is a great teacher and has helped us to be molded into who we are today. Unfortunately, no one teaches us how to embrace our pain and allow it to be a directive of the truth of who we are. We often need help to acknowledge our identity and the lessons pain has taught us, and to embrace our testimonies of how we have overcome life. We have to take every circumstance that has come to us, acknowledge the best of it, and let go of the worst.

We can’t cloak ourselves in pain, bitterness, and lies and expect to live a healthy life. We have to take off those issues and come into vulnerability and acceptance of all of the issues of our life and how those circumstances have affected us. Freedom comes in stepping out of the lies and cover-ups. That is where we will find who we are truly meant to be.

inner healing, pain, and identity
Photo by Lars_Nissen_Photoart on Pixabay

With masks off, we are free to be exactly who God created us to be and we are fully accepted. No more secrets, nothing to hide – the good, the bad, and the ugly. When you have no secrets, there is no fear of being uncovered. Everything is out in the open, and it’s all good. You become an instrument of truth, and folks can’t deny truth. As you’ve always heard, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

God created all of us with a plan and a purpose. With your help, He intends to see that plan and purpose come into fruition. He created us to satisfy His heart – just the way we are. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Far from it. But He does expect us to be willing: to be real, open, honest, and transparent, just like little kids.

Many of us spend a great deal of time doing life. We are living up to the measures of others in an atmosphere where the bar is constantly being raised. That is neither God’s best nor God’s plan for us. Instead, that plan is a diabolic initiative to destroy us and keep us consistently, miserably trying to become someone or striving for something that is not attainable. We have to say: Enough is enough.

We have to realize that we are enough simply because of who we are – bruises, warts, and freckles. We have to learn to accept ourselves and everything that has ever happened to us. We have survived and overcome. God wants to use our stories to help others live in truth. As our authentic selves, we are a unique tapestry of the events and stories we have lived, and in that, we are enough.

Inner healing, pain, and identity
Photo by Klimkin on Pixabay

Often, in the unveiling of our unique, authentic selves, we need someone to come alongside us and help us get back to who we were created to be, like children. Children have no problem walking into a room or relationship with their hearts wide open. As we grow, we start believing the lies about who we are.  Before long, we forget who we are. We forget how to live in freedom and fullness of a healed heart. Life drapes us in counterfeits and lies, so we often don’t know how to get back to that original self.

That’s where CIH comes in. We can help you take off those masks and frauds and unveil your best self. Your true identity is the only place you will find peace, rest, and true joy. Otherwise, you are just like everyone else, walking around in your pretend world, masked and miserable.

So, if you are searching for your true identity and a tribe of wounded warriors, we are here, waiting to come alongside you in this pursuit of non-perfected, real, authentic testimonies and messages of hearts healed. Join us on this great adventure. You won’t regret it.

A Wilderness Season

Have you ever been “amiss” with God? I know we all get frustrated with Him but I mean, like, nothing, no feedback, lights are on but no one’s home? Not just for a day or two but for a long period of time?

Have you ever longed and cried out for Him so much that you felt like you couldn’t cry or beg anymore? Have you ever felt like your prayers were hitting the ceiling and bouncing back? Or better yet, you felt like God left in the night with no forwarding address?  Have you ever measured your relationship with Him by how well you perform?

If you answered yes to any/all of the above, you may have come into a season called the Dark Night of the Soul. The Dark Night of the Soul is a period of time often described as “A Wilderness Season.”

It’s an amazing experience that I often talk about by saying, “I’m glad I went there, but I never want to go again.” I think anybody who cries out to the Lord for an authentic relationship with Him will experience it – but very few talk about it.

The Dark Night of the Soul is a time when God strips away every false ideal, expression, impression, and opinion (and everything else) you have about yourself and God. In its completion, you will realize the privilege of coming to the “end of yourself.” Most importantly, you’ll find out who you really think God is, aside from your doctrine, faith, and/or experience of Him.

It’s both terrifying and frustrating. If you survive it, in the end, you’ll not only unlearn a lot, but you’ll also slow down. You will sense a “shift” like Paul refers to in Ephesians 4:12 – a “katartismos,” so to speak. You will find that you don’t push up against God with your demands of yourself, others, and even Him. You’ll learn to rest, breathe, and respond instead of reacting.

It’s kind of like a shifting of gears in the Spirit. Cruise control, if you will. You’ll realize that you’re no longer in a hurry or running late. As a matter of fact, you’ll soon recognize that you’re not running at all. Instead, you’re basically just showing up.

You will finally choose to be. And watch God do. Whatever He wants. Without your help. You will finally realize that He doesn’t need you. He really just wants to be with you. And that is really cool.

No expectation, no performance. No rush. No worries. Just you and the Creator, the Most High – hanging out. Together. Quiet. Kind of like finally coming home – to yourself.

The best part is that your heart will overwhelm your mind with a greater experience of who God is and most importantly, who He created you to be. It’s actually a very cool experience. After it’s over.

Here’s a testimony of one of our tribe members, describing her experience in the Wilderness season, otherwise referred to as the Dark Night of the Soul:

“God Wants to Be My Mom?” by Vicki Eitel

For more testimonies and experiences like this, please look around our website.

Or contact me for more info as to how you can join The Journey, our tribe.

God bless,

Kerri

Who’s Afraid of Death?

A guest post by Janet Eriksson …

You don’t realize how long you’ve been holding your breath until you finally start to breathe. I am living now in a depth of peace – mentally, physically, spiritually – that I’ve never experienced before. Everything is different. I’m not making it happen. It just “is.”

It started three days ago. I knew my prayer ministry session would be big by how stirred up I felt. I was almost resistant. The last time I felt that way was the breakthrough that saved my life from cancer 11 years ago, when I repented of “death wish.” So I knew this would be big. But I couldn’t have imagined what was coming.

In prayer ministry, we start with the fruit (what we’re struggling with in our life) and ask the Holy Spirit to show us the root (where that struggle first started). We invite Jesus in to heal it at the root.

My fruit was that no matter how much I try to stay in peace, I can’t. I practice contemplative prayer. I have learned how to respond and not react (for the most part). I listen to worship music when I am stressed. I’ve had trauma prayed off me so many times. These have all brought deep and lasting changes in my life. But I can’t quite stay in peace.

Last week, I nearly had a meltdown over a circumstance beyond my control. I kept asking God to keep me in peace. I ended up in fetal position on the couch with a pillow over my head, sobbing, “I can’t do this, God.”

That’s the fruit I presented to my prayer minister, along with a question for God: “Why do I always fly off the handle?”

All my life, I’ve had hair-trigger emotions. My dad used to lovingly call me Sarah Bernhardt. My meltdowns could go from zero to 80 in two seconds. Through inner healing, I have come a long way from that level of reaction. But I still struggle to hold my peace when something comes at me. “Why, God?”

We went into prayer. God is very visual in how He communicates with me, so it’s almost like being in a movie. As my prayer minister prayed, I could see myself as a baby in the womb. Hands and feet were flailing. My prayer minister asked what emotion I felt. “So frustrated.”

The scene shifted, and I was a kid in elementary school on the playground. So much chaos. As a kid, I hated recess. All the kids were bigger than me – running wild, jumping, screaming. I just wanted to hunker down. The first time I enjoyed recess was when I got into sixth grade and found a group of friends who sat under a tree listening to music.

In that chaotic playground scene, I noticed a man standing behind the fence, staring at me. I knew immediately it was a demonic spirit. It was clear it had a right to be there and wasn’t going anywhere.

My prayer minister invited Jesus into the scene. My perspective shifted, and I was curled up like a newborn. I’ve had glimpses of this scene before but never knew why. I believe it was the Lord preparing me for this moment. I saw myself in the hospital delivery room lying on a scale where they weighed me as a newborn. The doctor was concerned at my frailty and weakness, and he spoke what seemed like a death sentence over me.

My mother had a high-risk pregnancy (for that era). I was small and physically weak, and the doctors worried I would not respond well to life. They spoke their doubts, concerns, and limitations over me. I absorbed all of that into my little being. I felt like I was sentenced to respond to how they saw me. I was born with a compromised immune system, had trouble getting nourished, was sick all the time, and had trouble recovering from illness. I remember always being frustrated (there’s that emotion again) because I wanted to do what my body wouldn’t let me do.

Later I came to realize that a curse of premature death and spirit of death had come down both sides of my family line. Hence, my flailing in the womb. Death was trying to knit itself into me from the moment of conception. Unfortunately, as a little one, I allowed that spirit of death to torment me. I gave the doctors power and authority (above God) to speak life or death over me. I believed their words instead of God’s – the God who made me and gave me life!

No wonder I’ve never known the feeling of true rest. I’ve always felt like “I won’t make it.” As a child, I shied away from activities that would have grown my physical strength because I was afraid those things would hurt me. I didn’t “choose life.”

Of course, I judged them all – my mom, the doctors, and even God for making me so weak. In reality, God did not make me weak. He made me little and super sensitive for His own delight! It was that mean old spirit of death – and my agreement with it – that made me weak.

As I watched that scene unfold of me as a newborn on the scale, with the doctor hovering over me, I realized the doctor was holding a clipboard, and he scratched my name out of the book of life. (Keep in mind, this is all symbolic. The Lord gave me that vision so I could “see” what happened spiritually. My mom’s doctor didn’t actually do that, but the enemy used the doctor’s words spoken over me to convince me that I did not have life.)

The Lord showed me three spirits had teamed up – the spirit of fear (I was always afraid of death and scared to fully experience life), the spirit of jealousy (“God, why didn’t You make me strong and healthy like the other babies?”), and of course the spirit of death. These critters are all part of “the enemy.” Demons get assignments just like angels do, and this bad bunch was assigned to thwart God’s plans for me.

The spirit of death was by far the strongest. I had given that spirit power over my life. My words say, “Jesus has conquered death,” but my heart has always believed the lie that Jesus isn’t more powerful than death. (In case you were wondering, that’s a sin.) In my heart, Jesus always pales in comparison to the power of death. That’s a bad place to be – a place of no peace and rest.

In my prayer vision, with me as a newborn in the delivery room, the spirit of death sunk its claws into my head. It said, “She is mine.”

My prayer minister said, “Janet, would you like Jesus to come into this place with you?”

“Yes, please.”

In a split second, in my spirit, I heard the music from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The door to the delivery room flew open with a loud crash. Jesus came in! He walked straight over to the spirit of death and punched it in the face. Sent it reeling. The spirit fell to the floor, and Jesus pinned it with His foot.

Jesus said, “She is Mine.”

Jesus looked around the delivery room. The spirit of fear and the spirit of jealousy were cowering behind a crib. Jesus looked at them and said, “Any questions?” Those other spirits left the room.

Jesus looked at me and, never taking His gaze off me, He took the clipboard from the doctor and erased the marks where my name had been scratched out of the book of life. Jesus blew on the eraser dust, smoothed the page, drew a beautiful design around my name, and smiled.

The spirit of death was still in the room, pinned under Jesus’ foot. I knew I had to repent for allowing that spirit to control my life. I repented, and the critter shrank to the size of a cotton ball. Jesus picked it up in His hand, set fire to it, and the thing burned into a pile of ash.

The pile of ash did not disappear, so I knew something else had to be done. My prayer minister asked God what was left to do. Jesus told me, “You always turn your head and look away from death because you are afraid and you can’t deal. Come and look at death in my hand and you will see who I am.”

I moved closer and looked straight at the pile of ash in Jesus’ hand. I repented of always hiding from death, and for my lifelong fear of death. Before my eyes, the ash shriveled up, disintegrated, and was gone.

I repented for judging the doctors, my mom, and God. I gladly accepted the life God intended for me to have all along.

Where death had tried to weave itself into my life, Jesus’ untangled and renewed me. My prayer minister asked the Holy Spirit to fill me with His Spirit of Life. I felt a surge pumping through my physical arteries. It was the breath of life God had breathed into me at conception that I had never allowed myself to experience.

All this took place spiritually in the “delivery room” (I was delivered!).

In the next hour after the session, I experienced an immediate drop in the high blood pressure I had been struggling with. I chose (and desired) to eat healthy food for dinner instead of the “bad for me” food I always crave.

Immediately after the session, I received an invitation from a client to bid on a freelance project. I’ve had a long habit of bidding too low on projects and undervaluing myself. This time, without hesitation, I bid twice as high. There was nothing in me that would have allowed me to lower my bid. If the client rejected my offer, I would have stood firm, just as I did with three other conditions of the project. Without argument, the client hired me.

I asked God what had changed. He showed me that since I was no longer choosing to align with death, I was free to earn a “living.”

Fear of death had always been strongest for me at night in my bedroom. Because of soundproofing issues, I had moved my computer into the bedroom for my session. So the whole thing took place in the very space where the enemy had tormented me. That night when I went to sleep, I felt a peace I had never known.

Two days later, I encountered another moment of frustration like the one that began my session. This time, I was immediately able to step away from it, re-center myself in peace, and let the Holy Spirit resolve the situation. I love how God often gives us a “before” and “after” so we can see the changes from our healing.

Since that time, I am walking in a deeper place of peace. My insides have changed. I feel like my very DNA has been cleaned up, recalibrated, and restored to life. I can’t wait to see what Jesus will do next along this journey of healing.

*****

Janet Eriksson is a prayer minister, writer, editor, and teacher in Dahlonega, Georgia. She loves conversation with friends, front porch swings, sweet tea, and spending time on lakes and rivers. The author of five books and editor of many more, Janet blogs and teaches online at https://adventureswithgod.blog/.

 

Journey to Enter His Rest

A guest post by Susan McPherson …

I have been a Christian since I was 15; and not just a “church-going Christian” but also a follower of Christ, as in, I gave my life to Him, removed myself from my friends, found new friends who were like-minded, and began a life of seeking and trusting God. Sounds like everything would be great after that, right? What more could I do?

I had daily devotions, married a man who was a follower of Christ, and had many children. God was with me every step of the way and did many miraculous things in my life, and I saw lots of answers to prayer – regularly. I had a prayer group in my home, which was amazing, and we saw lots of answers to prayer on every level. And I had a church that was as close to a New Testament church as you can get that I had the privilege of being a part of for 43 years. I homeschooled and raised my 7 children in the Lord, filling them daily with the Word and teaching them about God and His ways.

Everything was rocking along pretty well until my children became teenagers. I thought homeschooling, church, and loving and caring for them as best I could would insure godly children. You would think so! But, no, they began acting like I did as a teenager, before I was saved! So that’s when I started on a quest/search for what was missing.

My search led me first of all to a book called A Time for Repentance by Elizabeth Greer, and I had the privilege of being able to talk to the author occasionally. She knew and talked about stuff I had never heard of, mostly about repentance. Now, I had repented of my sins, so I thought that was enough. And it probably was for me but not for my children. All the generational sins were still there.

I found out my Granddaddy was a Shriner, a high order of Masons, and my son’s grandfather was a Mason. This was having serious effects on us! This was one of many generational sins that were uncovered. The author of that book A Time for Repentance made this statement that really rocked my boat: “When you see your children sinning … start repenting” (p. 126). Up to that point I had operated more out of “When you see your children sinning, work harder on them.” As in, pray harder and pull the rope in more on them. It was a very stressful time trying to control my growing children. And make them into good Christians.

My body began to fail – my back gave out, resulting in back surgery, and later on my endocrine system became pretty non-functional. So in my 40s after knowing the Lord and trying to follow Him for 25 years I began a new search called “Journey to Enter His Rest.” (Or, to find out who I really am in Christ.)

As I began to rest because of my back, my spirit began to calm down so He could speak to me. He first of all gave me the scripture in Matthew 11:28-30: “‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light’” (NASB). Thus began my search for “rest.”

I eventually learned this condition of mine had a name – performance orientation (P.O.). When I heard about it and then read the fruit of P.O. it described me perfectly. I thought I was doing good all that time all those years, and I was, and it was killing me and my children. This is what I learned about the “fruit” of a person who is performance based – as in, the foundation of P.O.:

  • “tries to please” – I had done that my whole life because I quickly found out that if I pleased people, I got recognized and everyone liked me
  • busy all the time
  • can never do enough
  • feels responsible for everything and everyone
  • self-righteous
  • lonely
  • demands love/gifts

And many other traits. I think every one was characteristic of me!

I discovered the reason why I felt like I had to work to perform: lack of affection. Which also was my story. My parents, although very good Christian parents who provided well, did not know how to be affectionate. My insides were starving for acceptance, love, and recognition. So began my life, as a young child, of doing to get recognition and acceptance, which felt like love to me.

That carried right over into my Christian life. I tried to be the best Christian and make everyone around me be that way too. No wonder my kids were running the other way! They didn’t want any part of that, and I can see why.

So … I began repenting. Of course, being an unhealed P.O. person and just discovering this, I repented of everything! I was the best “repenter”! (See how P.O. affects you? One could say, there is no hope.) The truth is there really is no quick fix for P.O. But the first step is to “recognize” it. I had done that and knew that was me to a “T.” So began my life of repenting, thanks to my children.

Another thing about P.O. is that the only way for it to be healed (for it to get out of me) is through relationships. It can’t be “cast out,” and you can’t try to make it go away (that would be P.O.). The only way is to come into His rest and let others minister to us.

Needless to say, I still see P.O. or the fruit of it in my life today. If something unpleasant or bad happens to one of my children, my first thought is “What could I have done to have stopped or prevented that” or, “I should have done thus and such …” But I have come a long way!

Ask my friends, those who have been in relationship with me through this process and minister to me – still – constantly. Their lives to me are like water to a dry parched ground. This is the tribe Kerri talks about. We are all on a journey to find our true selves – who God created us to be – and live in His rest, not a life of striving.

By God’s grace and the relationships I have found, He is conforming me to His image.

I invite you to take this journey with us. Come out of whatever your foundational lie is that causes you to live less than who God created you to be. Discover His truth that will lead to your freedom!

*****

Susan McPherson is a mother of seven and blessed with many beautiful grandchildren. After raising her children on a farm, she and her husband have moved to the mountains, where they are enjoying rest.

What Is Your Struggle?

Do you know who you are? Do you know who God created you to be?

Most people don’t know, but they are searching. I call this an identity quest.

How about you? Are you in search of your identity?

You Are Not Alone

If you’re on an identity quest, know that you are not alone. You are in very good company. Many of us are on the same journey. There is a whole tribe of us, and it grows bigger every day.

Getting to know your own heart is a key to discovering your true identity. I hope you will find some keys here to help you along your journey.

When we are not in touch with our true identity, we can experience all kinds of difficulties. These come from the lies we believe, or from things we hold onto that we need to let go of. Our goal with the identity quest is to help find freedom and live in true Peace in all areas of our lives.

In Search of Identity

These are common struggles of people who are searching for their identity and their tribe:

“I feel the emotions of everyone around me and it’s unbearable. I’m afraid to go into a crowded store because I’ll get overwhelmed. I’ve got the weight of the world on my shoulders.”

“When I hear certain people’s names, I growl. I’ve blocked them on Facebook. I’m still angry at things they did to me. When I see them, I avoid them. When I hear about something good that’s happened to them, I roll my eyes. I have a bitter taste in my mouth just thinking about them.”

“I feel overwhelmed all the time. When the slightest thing goes wrong, I want to curl up in a ball and cry. I feel like everything is too hard, like I just can’t do it. Some things that have happened to me, I can’t get them out of my mind. I feel like I keep re-living them.”

“I have too many things to do and I can’t get it all done. People are always asking me to do things and I can’t say no. I’m worn out. I can’t get a break. Why won’t they leave me alone?”

“When I lie down at night, my brain doesn’t turn off. I can’t sleep.”

“It’s hard for me to feel what other people are going through. I can’t understand what they’re feeling. I can’t relate to them. I end up criticizing them, and I don’t know why. People ask me why I’m so analytical, why I can’t empathize.”

“I feel disconnected from everything. Like I’m always on the outside looking in. I get angry for no reason. I feel stuck.”

“When people say good things about me, I can’t believe them. I can see good things about other people, but not about myself. I keep criticizing myself. I say the same self-defeating things over and over. I can’t seem to break through this.”

What Is Your Struggle?

What is your struggle? Knowing what holds you back is the key to moving forward. You can’t get free if you don’t know what is blocking you.

If you see yourself in any of these situations, or if you simply want to know who you are and to live as the person God created you to be, join us on our Identity Quest.

 

How Trauma Settles in Our Bodies and Emotions

Trauma affects mind, body, and spirit. Trauma locks itself into our bodies.

I discern things in my body. Often, I can relate pain to circumstances.

One time, I was pushed onto my back. For years, whenever I experienced something similar, I immediately felt pain in my back.

When I asked the Lord, He showed me I had locked fear into my back from that first experience. I was still carrying it. Every new trauma triggered that pain.

So I prayed to release the trauma. I don’t have trouble with my back anymore. If I do feel back pain, I know I need to check spiritually how I’m doing.

Often we manifest physically what we are carrying spiritually.

Like grief – it often settles in the lungs. A friend went through several funerals, just a few weeks apart. She started experiencing respiratory problems. Her body was compromised as she was walking through grief.

Another friend developed chronic respiratory problems after her father died suddenly. He died in the autumn, and every autumn she experienced respiratory problems. Grieving is a process, a gift God gives us to work through our pain and loss. But if we know the ways we are carrying grief in our bodies, we can ask God to lift that.

When we don’t resolve our trauma, it can build over time.

Think about a person who experienced childhood trauma. She never found healing for it. As an adult, she experienced other traumatic events, whether physical or emotional. Again, the trauma wasn’t resolved. So it just builds up.

One day, the slightest thing goes wrong – maybe she misplaces her car keys – and she has a complete meltdown. She feels overwhelmed, like she can’t handle one more thing. Her overwhelm isn’t really about misplaced car keys. It’s going back and picking up all that unhealed trauma.

We have to invite the Prince of Peace, Jesus, into those old places of trauma. He is able to lift out the trauma and replace it with peace, so we don’t keep carrying it and constantly feeling overwhelmed.

God’s Not Going Away

A guest post by Janet Eriksson …

About 10 years ago, I took an inner healing class where I learned that the way we see God as adults can be shaped by the way we saw our parents or primary caregivers in childhood.

Parents Can Affect the Way We See God

For example, if a parent abused me, I might expect (in my heart) that God will abuse me somehow. Even though I say, “God is good,” I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I never quite trust Him.

This expectation can be very subtle. My heart may hold onto a hidden belief that God is against me. I keep seeing evidence of that expectation, even though I say out loud, “God is good.”

As another example, if a parent wasn’t around much in my childhood or didn’t spend time with me, I might expect the same from God. So I struggle to sense His presence. I don’t expect God to show up when I need Him most. I try to take care of myself instead.

Or if a parent didn’t seem interested in anything I had to say as a child, I might conclude God isn’t interested either. My prayer life suffers because even though I talk to God, I don’t really believe He wants to hear from me. Mom or Dad modeled that for me.

Because these expectations are often hidden in the heart, I don’t realize I’m seeing God in this skewed way. But if I start to explore these areas where I struggle in my relationship with God, the Holy Spirit will bring to mind those childhood experiences that affect how I see God.

As I learned about these kinds of situations in that inner healing class, the examples made sense to me. So I asked God how my parents might have affected the way I see Him. I was shocked at what God showed me.

Why I Feared God Would Die

My dad died suddenly when I was only 15. It was a terrible trauma for me. I had been locked into that trauma for 27 years. I couldn’t even talk about my dad or think about him. Memories of the event and memories of my life with him were shoved into a closet in my mind, with the door bolted. I avoided the subject of death. When people talked about someone who died, I grew very uncomfortable and left the room. 

When I asked how that affected my relationship with God, He showed me that I also thought God would die and abandon me forever. I thought when it came my time to die and go to heaven, God would already be gone. No wonder I was terrified of death.

Inviting Jesus into that Place of Trauma and Death

My prayer minister and I invited Jesus into the place in my heart where I was stuck in trauma. I felt like Jesus understood my shock and grief. He wept with me, and He lifted the trauma off of me. Jesus showed me He was there with me when my dad died. I could literally see the memory of the paramedics taking away my dad, but Jesus was still standing there with me, holding onto me, and He never left me.

As suddenly as my dad had died, that’s how sudden the peace was that filled my heart. I could breathe again. I felt joy instead of sorrow because I knew my dad was absolutely alive – still the vibrant and fun-loving person I remembered. He wasn’t lying in the ground somewhere. He was hanging out with Jesus. And finally I knew, with my whole heart, Jesus would stay with me too. He wasn’t going anywhere!

I repented for judging God – for believing the lie that He would die and leave me – and for not really believing He was eternal. That unbelief had been hidden in my heart. I always said God was eternal, but in my heart I didn’t believe it. That’s why I struggled so much around “death.” The truth I spoke with my lips – that Jesus gives eternal life – was not what I held in my heart. You can see where that creates a constant struggle.

Thanks to Jesus, a Lot Has Changed

Since that time, so much has changed. I’m able to talk about death and able to mourn with people when they lose someone they love. My wonderful memories of my dad have returned. I can talk about him with my family and can see the ways I resemble him (my sense of humor, especially). I have found old photos and set them around my home (where before, I only set out photos of my mom).

This Christmas, as a special treat, my sister showed a DVD she had made from old home movies. For the first time, I got to see my dad in his younger years, before I was born. I loved every minute of watching him and have asked for a copy of the DVD so I can watch again. I never could have done that without the healing Jesus brought into my trauma.

inner healing
God’s Not Going Away!

*****

Janet Eriksson is a prayer minister, writer, editor, and teacher in Dahlonega, Georgia. She loves conversation with friends, front porch swings, sweet tea, and spending time on lakes and rivers. The author of five books and editor of many more, Janet blogs and teaches online at https://adventureswithgod.blog/

Dark Night of the Soul

I’ve been wanting to share something that I’ve experienced personally in the past few years. I have noticed a few others going through something similar, so I believe now would be a great time to share.

A few years ago, I went through the greatest season of loss I have experienced (since a divorce 20 years ago). This season has been very similar to a divorce but of greater capacity. This season of loss was not only of my job, but also of a great family of friends and many of those I loved in my own community.

Most detrimental (at the time, but now one that I am learning to be grateful for) was the loss of my identity. I pretty much lost everything that I ever knew to rely and depend on. What was one of the darkest seasons of my life led me to what I later learned was referred to as the dark night of the soul.

The dark night of the soul is when you come to a place spiritually (usually as a result of some sort of dramatic/traumatic shift) when nothing you have depended on before sustains you any longer. 2015 – 2018 was/has certainly been a season of the dark night of the soul for me. It has (in reflection) been one of the worst and greatest experiences of my adult life.

After having been in ministry for over 20 years, I was beginning to dread all sorts of participation in the “process.” I felt my prayer time was not productive. I dreaded leading the service that I was pastor of. I even began to dread worship (which has always been one of my greatest loves) or, at best, longed for something more in worship – more connecting, more transformational, more impacting. I began to feel like I was dead to all things “spiritual.” I no longer enjoyed things that had previously inspired me and revived me.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the folks that I pastored but was starting to question the process of “church” altogether and felt like most of us were going through motions without true transformation. I decided, with much prayer and fasting (and a lot of other circumstances that I won’t go into) to resign from my pastoral position.

Immediately after resigning, I was invited to come on board with a large charismatic church in a nearby county. I was offered an opportunity to grow with an amazing staff who shared a like vision for transformation and living a consecrated lifestyle.

As if that wasn’t enough, I was contacted by a couple who lived in my community and was given a building in the downtown area of my hometown very near the college campus. I have had a dream of ministering to college kids who were searching for healing of their body, soul, and spirit and felt like this was the beginning of that becoming a reality.

Shortly thereafter, I was invited to join an international ministry that I had worked with for over two decades. I felt this was an opportunity to shift some things spiritually and move into a new season of challenge and change, not only for myself but for many others that I had been networking with for over 20 years. I took that position only to resign after a few short months.

Before long, I felt like I had no energy to do anything. I began to feel that I couldn’t carry out what I had so longed for. I slowly began to resign from every encounter that presented itself. I began to resign from ministry altogether, and then, life, altogether.

And with that came the onslaught of many long difficult years of “weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” I began what I felt like a wrestling with God that I’m still not sure is over. I couldn’t imagine that 20 years of ministry would leave me having so many questions and feeling so unfulfilled. I was angry and upset that I had sacrificed my life for something that was less fulfilling than a career where I could’ve at least made lots of money. I began an intense battle with God and my identity.

I felt I had “showed up” spiritually for the past few years and was really searching for something more than just “showing up.” Quite honestly, I felt I owed something more to myself than just showing up and I was sure God wanted something more of me than to just show up. So, I didn’t. I basically didn’t show up for anything except my family for at least three years.

I didn’t really do anything. Let me rephrase that. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t read (something I have always – at least in my adult life – thoroughly enjoyed). I couldn’t even listen to music. The only thing I felt I was capable of doing was just being. And, most often, just being quiet. And for those of you that think you know me that wasn’t something that came easily. But that’s what I began doing. Just being quiet.

I found it very comforting to sit in my yard, on my porch, by the creek, pool, inside, outside, in my car, anywhere … just as long as it was quiet. I didn’t want to talk to anybody or do anything. I just wanted (needed desperately) to be quiet. I had a lack of interest in anything. Not even art! And art had been a place of solace for me my entire life. I only wanted to be with my family and hopefully, they would be quiet.

I also had a couple of friends who insisted in relationship (if it were my choice I probably would’ve removed myself from them as well but they were very tenacious). Instead of dragging me out of my quiet, they joined me in it. We started meeting for “church” in the barn of my neighbor’s property where one friend kept her horses. Every Sunday a.m. we would have a quiet service amongst the chickens, horses, a black cat, and a rooster who needed deliverance.

In hindsight, if it weren’t for my tenacious friends and my saint of a husband, I would’ve dived straight into the throes of depression. I had never been quiet and still before and it was very discomforting. Actually, it felt very much like depression, but not. (I went through severe depression after my divorce in the 90s and this was very similar but very different).

I just wanted everything and everybody to be still and be quiet. I felt like my very being demanded that everything in my environment be very quiet and very still. It was as close to satisfaction as I could get. And it wasn’t very satisfying but somehow seemingly necessary. I learned from my very dear friends who counseled me that this was the dark night of the soul.

I persisted (or should I say, God wrangled me) in my quiet for almost three years. In that place, a shift began to take place: My passions. My objectives. My heart. And, absolutely, the core of my identity. I was experiencing a death to self that I had not invited. And, without the help of friends, probably would not have endured. It was the most painful experience of my life. For the first time in my life, I felt like God had left me.

Now before you go getting all religious on me, let me clarify, I felt like God left me. He did not. But, I felt like it. Much like Jesus when He cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” I very much felt like God had forsaken me. I heard nothing from Him, nor sensed Him for over three years. I say over three years because I am still learning this new place in Him. It’s not like before. It’s very different, very quiet.

I don’t know how to explain it. Before, I would do something because I felt like it was what I was supposed to do: the right thing, so to speak. Now, I don’t really do anything, unless He moves me to do it.

It is a very strange place in that I can sense Him, hear Him, move on behalf for others. But for myself, it’s different. As a matter of fact, in ministry I can certainly see Him as being more powerful than ever, more specific than ever, for others. But for me, it’s a different story. I am still being quiet and still.

I often wonder how long will this last for me? I don’t know. Maybe forever? I know of one pastor who went through the dark night of the soul for nine years and another for almost a decade. I’m not excited about that, but I am hopeful. And that is a change. I, at one point, lost all hope. In everything: people, “church,” even God and His plan for me. I’m getting back to that. It’s been hard. Unless I get real still. When I’m still, I feel like I’m making progress.

I’m still unsure about my identity. I’ve lost a lot of friends, my church. I still have a lot of questions about “the church” and a lot of other things that I thought I was sure of. I’m not sure of much now, other than the fact that God is good and He will work all things to good. But for now, I’m just being still. Being quiet and waiting.

I used to think I knew what His plan was. I don’t. Probably never did, but that’s okay. I do know that I don’t want to just “show up.” I want to be exactly who He desires me to be, doing exactly what He wants me to do. I know who my real friends are, and God is broadening that circle. There are a lot of us out there who are searching for our true identity. (I’m amazed how many aren’t and who are satisfied just going through the motions.) I know my husband is a saint. And I know I’m going to be okay. Who knows – maybe I was supposed to be still and quiet all along?

Now that I’m at least reading again, I’ve learned that there is a name for this place. It’s called “liminal space.” It’s the “place between the before and the after.” Jesus went here, at the cross, before the resurrection. Elijah went here in the cave, before his ascension. Jonah, in the whale before Ninevah, etc. – You get the gist.

I think we all will get to go here, if we are truly seeking God’s best for our lives. It’s a great and terrible place, but I wanted to write this so if you go here, you will know that you are not alone and it’s not a bad place (if you make it out, lol). I, we, you will learn that it’s not about us. It’s a place we all get to go for God to redirect our attention, our interests, most importantly our motives. And, if we all learn to sit quietly, we will learn, it’s all Him. It is all about Him. Once we learn that, He will take care of the rest. And, meanwhile, I’ll be resting. In Him.

Are You Bitter or Better?

“How do I know if I’m bitter?” I am often asked that question. Here are some ways you can tell:

Do people set your teeth on edge?

Who have you blocked on Facebook lately and why?

Do you cross the street when certain people come your way?

Does your jaw set when you think of somebody? And why?

When you hold onto unforgiveness and let it grow in your heart, before long you will have bitterness.

Bitterness grows roots that bury deep in your heart. It hurts you. It blocks God. It stunts your growth.

Think of your heart as a garden. What happens when weeds grow in your garden?

Hurt and bitterness are not necessarily the same thing. But hurt can lead to bitterness if you don’t deal with it. Bitterness is unhealed hurt. It’s when you keep gnashing your teeth long after the initial pain is gone.

Bitterness can be devastating. It causes further hurt to you and to the people you are bitter against.

Can you think of a time when you were hurt and felt bitter? Or a time when you didn’t?

Bitterness can also affect the physical body. It can cause the hands and feet to draw up. That’s a sure way for me to know if I’m dealing with bitterness.

The good news is that God has provided a way to get over bitterness:

1. Choose to forgive.
2. Then forgive.
3. Wash, rinse, repeat.

If you’re not sure where your bitterness comes from, ask God to show you who you have aught against, and why.

If you are ready to forgive those who have hurt you, here is a simple but powerful prayer:

Lord, I forgive _____ for _____ and I choose to release them.

Then test it out. The next time you see those people or think of them, how do you respond?

Do you growl? If so, wash, rinse, repeat.

Or are you able to pray blessings for them?