by "BT"


Inner healing is a relatively recent concept in Christianity. There are many formulations of this concept, and this paper presents a composite of the diverse models.

The recent development of the concept of inner healing draws its inspiration from several sources. First, it is a legitimate move of God; with many experiencing “inner healing” and testifying of its benefit. Second, it is an attempt to “catch up” with the scientific secular fields of sociology, psychology and psychiatry. Third, the success of the “recovery” movement, with groups like alcoholics anonymous has inspired an explicit Christian attempt to address many of the same foundations covered in recovery groups. This paper takes the point of view that we can learn from science and the recovery movement but that a biblical understanding of inner healing goes further and produces a superior benefit in individuals who experience it. We could then call the product of inner healing “spiritual health”.

An explicitly biblical model of inner healing and spiritual health will have to go beyond the secular models. It is important to admit that the church fell behind the secular world for a long time in the realm of inner healing. In fact, one of the church world’s objections to pursuing a biblical model of inner healing is that it is “new age”, “psychobabble”, “criminal class” and in opposition to the ways of God. In truth however, the church has neglected inner states, especially hidden inner states for a long time. It took the sciences and the problems of addiction to wake us up to our ignorance. Many church meetings are a nightmare of superficial relationships. Putting on our “Sunday best” often means that we smile a lot, projecting an exterior persona of victory and peace while burying and denying the actual problems of our lives.

To go beyond the secular models means that while we first embrace these models and learn from them we then go beyond them. We have to progress into areas that are politically incorrect and taboo in the secular world. Areas such as sin and guilt, for example, must be addressed and “healed” in order to obtain complete health.

Seeing the Need for Inner Healing:

How can a person recognize that they are not spiritually healthy? Can you see your need for inner healing? Look for these signs: 1) persistent, reoccurring patterns of sin; 2) intolerance towards certain individuals that is not reasonable; and 3) emotional reactions that are out of proportion to the event that triggered the emotion.

So, for example, the alcoholic is the prototypical addiction that represents a persistent pattern of destructive behavior. Other “addictions” are sexual lusts, gambling, wealth, status, gossip, etc. From a Christian perspective these “besetting sins” represent evidence that something inside the person needs to be changed in order to “gain victory” over the addiction. When conversion, repentance, sorrow for sin, good intentions, intercessory prayer, deliverance ministry, shame, family pressure, etc fail to fix the problem then we can know that inner healing is needed.

Sometimes you find yourself unusually intolerant of another individual. You may say that you “react” to the person. When this is colored by hostility or a strong need to avoid the person then you can start to search for the inner problem in you. Of course, we are referring to those times when there is no clear explanation for this negative dislike of a person. It is especially clear when you see a pattern of dislike. For example, a person may intensely dislike financially successful people. This person may be bothered so greatly as to be known as one who always complains about the rich and their “better than thou” attitudes. In a case like that the wise thing to do is look inward and discover the problem within that is producing this reaction.

Thirdly, consider the times when you have emotional reactions that are out of proportion to the stimulating trigger. For example, a person says something to you like “that hat doesn’t really go with that shirt”, and while no one else who was present and heard this comment felt any malice or inappropriateness you find yourself greatly wounded and offended. Most likely you yourself cannot explain the strong emotion you are feeling. With time, if we are honest, we can find a pattern of sensitivity to certain triggers that produces an emotional reaction within us that is out of proportion to normal responses. These are signs that something in us needs healing.

Definition of Inner Healing:

We need to define “inner” and “healing”. The “inner” of inner healing refers to those parts of a human that are not physical. Emotions are of course inner, but so are thoughts, imaginations, intentions, world views, plans, etc. Likewise, “inner” does not refer merely to internal negative states, but any internal non-physical state. Note too that when the bible refers to the “inner man” this is a reference that pertains to the “new man” or “spiritual man”. Such a use of the term inner is more restricted than we intend when we talk about “inner healing”. The inner man refers to the healthy, spiritually valid part of us. The “inner” in inner healing includes any non-material part of us, good or bad. In summary, inner healing refers to the healing of any internal non-physical part of us, whether mental, emotional or spiritual.

The “healing” of inner healing refers to something that is wrong being made right. “Healing” then resembles spiritual transformation and spiritual maturation. The goal of healing is health, and a healthy person is a Christ-like person. When we are spiritually mature, displaying the character of Christ, trusting God, at peace, able to forgive and loving God and man; then we are “healed”.

Defining inner healing as we are sets a high standard. It is important to realize that inner healing is closely related to other spiritual disciplines such as discipleship programs, the study of scripture, fellowshipping with other believers, worship, acts of service, etc. The main reason to identify a separate category of inner healing is to recognize that some problems are often not solved by the standard spiritual disciplines. The unique benefits of inner healing ministry stem from the facts that some problems are not our fault and will not respond to merely seeing the truth about God or being repentant for our visible sins. Some problems stem from states within us that were formed when we were children We are only indirectly aware of these states when we merely use our adult minds to direct our spirituality. There are things within us that we need help in seeing. We are in fact, in places, innocent of some of the evil within us; evil we did not ask for or cause by our choices. These parts of us that we did not cause ourselves are easily approached by using an “illness” model; where we are “sick” not “sinners”. We will see clearly as this discussion continues that complete spiritual health and “inner healing” will have to go beyond a strict illness model and involve our choices and sins too, but it starts with a focus on our sickness not our sin.

Four Causes of Sickness:

We will look at four things the “cause spiritual sickness”. 1.Wounds. 2.Lies. 3.Sins. and 4.Doubt. Usually these 4 categories are mixed in our experience of the events of life. For study purposes though we will divide up events as if there were 4 separate components to our lack of spiritual health and completeness.

1. Wounds.

We all experience inner wounding. These may be dramatic, like sexual abuse or like an unexpected tragic and premature death of a parent. Neglect, war, social rejection, parental conflict, etc. The list of commonly experienced human wounding is all too familiar to us. Wounds can also be subtle and difficult to recognize at first. For example, a mother can be controlling and competitive with her daughter, and wound her daughter, in a subtle fashion that is not clear in the original family setting or the mind of the wounded daughter.

The wound component to our formation is the most legitimate reason to explore a concept like inner healing. That is, when a person gets hurt the normal human response can go in a variety of directions, such as anger, insecurity, revenge, fear, etc. Some of these responses can add to our problem, and the additional problem is partly our own fault. The original wound however, is not our fault. The wound in itself, being not our choice or fault, means that we are truly innocent relative to the wound. Our innocence justifies the use of a concept like healing that implies innocence. No one blames an insulin dependent diabetic for being sick. Likewise, in the inner realm, no one should blame a person for being wounded.

So, for example, imagine a 12 year old girl whose parents are fighting and in conflict. Imagine that they finally divorce and the girl has to live with her mother. She is likely to feel this loss as a wound. Imagine for a minute that her mother loves her and is trying to help her with her wound. Despite her mother’s help, she may, in response to this wound, seek male attention from older boys or men that results in her entering into sexual relations that are not healthy. These secondary unhealthy events are partly her fault. She had to disobey her mother and her conscience in order to enter into this further. Therefore, as we progress in our analysis of inner healing we need to keep in mind that a person is formed by a variety of factors, some of which are their choice and some that are not. The assignment of guilt versus innocence is obviously difficult since most of our life events are a mixture of chosen and non chosen events.

2. Lies.

Another common human experience is to believe a lie about our wounds. For example, in the imagined story above, imagine further that the 12 year old girl comes to believe that she is the reason her parents’ divorced. That sort of distorted thinking does, unfortunately, happen all too often. It is basically believing a lie. This lie may be an active deception given to the girl by an evil spirit. Such a lie can come, in part, through humans, who most likely have no conscious desire to bring further destruction to this girl. Satan however does have a conscious desire to “kill and destroy”.

Lies about wounds will compound the original wound. They make the situation worse. For the most part the wounded person is again innocent relative to the lie. Of course to some degree we are responsible to discern truth and resist lies, and a mature Christian may be able to make choices, such as various spiritual disciplines, that improve their ability to resist lies. A child, however, who has been wounded, especially if not raised with a spiritual education, is really not in a position to resist an evil spirit. So, again, inner healing is a good approach, since we should not be assigning blame to a person who has been deceived about their past.

3. Sins.

Humans who are wounded tend to sin in response to their pain. This is an unfortunate reality that must be recognized. It goes back to the fact that humans have a sin nature. Since “sin” is a huge topic, and one that is nearly absent in our culture and churches, I will make a few comments here about the sin nature.

Sin is an entity that is described by God as part of his revelation to humans. It is defined in relation to God in that sin is described as a force that leads humans to disobey God. It is a force in humans that is opposed to God, hostile to God and the enemy of God. Without first realizing that there is a God and that He has commands, and that He demands that humans obey Him then the concept of sin doesn’t make sense.

Sin is a central concept in God’s revelation to humans found through the Jewish people and through the teachings of Jesus and his followers.

Looking first at the Old Testament, we see immediately that God created humans in His image, but that through Satan and disobedience the humans “fell” and were changed. Not only were humans cursed and driven from God’s presence, but they had a new force to contend with. In the story of Cain we see this introduced: before Cain killed his brother Abel God came to him and said “sin is laying at the door and he desires you, but you must master him”. We know what happened; and the rest of the old testament is a chronicle of the power of sin and the helplessness of humans to master it.

John the baptist in one place describes Jesus’ ministry of incarnation on earth like this: “behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. Again it is said “now, at the end of the time of this world Jesus has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Of the Holy Spirit Jesus said that “when I send Him He will convince the world of sin.”

Paul has a long and serious discussion of sin in the first 8 chapters of his letter to the Romans. In it we learn many important truths about sin. First, we learn that all humans have the power of sin in them, whether they are “Jewish or gentile.” This means that all humans, regardless of culture, education, religion, race, intelligence, training, understanding, technology or political environment have the power of sin within them. We also learn that this sin power is inherited as a sin nature. That is, sin is inherent in human nature. Sin is not learned. This inheritance started with Adam and his sin and has been passed down in its full power to all humans.

Now, in the context of inner healing the important thing to realize is that a wounded and deceived person adds to their problems by sinning in response to their pain. Without conversion and sanctification a person really has no choice but to sin. Even if a person, through training or culture, can resist a particular temptation, eventually sin will dominate. Again, looking at the 12 year old girl whose father and mother divorced, imagine that she has a strong conviction that using drugs are wrong. Her friends are trying to tell her that she should smoke some pot rather than being sad (or mad) about her father. She refuses. Still, some other sin will eventually present itself to her and sooner or later she will fall into some self destructive behavior. For example, as stated earlier, she may become prematurely sexual with boys or men in response to feeling abandoned by her father. This is an unfortunate reality about the human condition; sin compounds wounds and lies.

The sins we commit cause further damage and produce “spiritual sickness” because they unleash a variety of consequences that attend sin. Doors are opened. The Holy Spirit is grieved. Demonic forces are strengthened. “The wages of Sin is death.”

4. Doubt.

Doubt, or unbelief, is one of the causes of spiritual sickness. Doubt is the cause of much suffering and dysfunction, and it is the one cause that is usually not recognized as contributing to a person’s overall problem. That is, God reveals to us that He allows evil to exist for a purpose. He has allowed us to be wounded and lied to. He has allowed humans to be dominated by sin, and has allowed us to sin in response to our pain, even though it caused us further problems. In short, He has allowed us to suffer spiritual sickness. Do we believe that a loving all powerful God, who is completely good, allows us to suffer? Life seems very cold and indifferent unless we know that the seeming distance and disinterest of God is an illusion. The truth is this: God allows evil in order to accomplish a higher purpose. He allows Satan and sin to hurt us because He will use these experiences to form us into people who can do good in the world and who can work for Him. In our example of the young girl who suffered her parents’ divorce at a crucial formative period we can see that her whole life view could change as she becomes an adult. She could easily become cynical about the whole process of life on earth. Youthful idealism is eroded by life experiences and a sense of joy and trust is replaced by a flat earth. People give up trying to be good, trying to be positive, trying to give to others because their world view is one of doubt, not faith.

If a person doesn’t see that they were allowed to suffer for a purpose then healing will be very difficult. Often, in fact, the wounds we experience produce the very same gifts and abilities we need to be used by God. For example, a sensitive and discerning individual can be targeted by wounds that make them a critical and judgmental person. Now, God could have allowed these evils to occur because He sees the end product: a person who, after healing, uses their discernment to bring others His presence. You might object to a God who uses evil to do good. You might wonder why He had to create beings with free will, and you might wish that sin never entered the world. Fine. But, really, Jesus is clear on this point: God is good, and His redemption of a fallen race is a gift. Inner healing is just an extension of this salvation. Inner healing is the means by which trauma and pain become a powerful force for good. This transformation, however, must include an understanding that it is “unbelief” and doubt about God’s goodness and wisdom that often undercuts healing.

Four Remedies to Cure the Four Causes:

Now, the four causes of spiritual sickness require 4 remedies. Again, we will present these as if they are separate events, when actually they often occur in a mixture of the time and space of experience. The four remedies are: 1. Comfort. 2. Truth. 3. Repentance and 4. Faith.

1. Comfort.

A wound is healed by comfort. Like a salve, or balm, God will comfort the wounded. He is tender and gentle in His handling of wounds. “For we don’t have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our sickness, but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” This comfort can take many forms. For starters, just hearing from God that much of my “problem”, manifested often as disturbing thoughts, attitudes and actions, is not my fault is comforting. Thus, when I go to God and encounter Him regarding my wounds, lies, sins and doubts and I experience tenderness, sympathy, understanding and acceptance I am greatly comforted. There are as many forms of comfort as there are differing wounds. It can be a comforting feeling, it can be understanding given in a dream, it can be a deliverance from danger, the fleeing of the devil, reconciliation with previously challenging people, acceptance in a church community, or just a pervasive sense of peace. In one place the bible calls God “the God of all comfort”. One name for the Holy Spirit is “the comforter”. God heals through comfort, so seek Him for this remedy.

2. Truth.

A lie is reversed by learning the truth. When a person has been falsely accused it causes intense inner turmoil. When the all knowing Judge declares that the accusation is a lie healing occurs. This sort of truth hearing usually involves a person seeking God with an open, naked and transparent heart. That is, if I am always trying to defend myself and justify myself I cannot hear truth. I must go to God in honest brokenness and ask Him to address my turmoil. I must ask Him if the guilt I am feeling is true or not. Only when I want to hear the truth more than I want to justify myself can I hear God. This is normally accomplished by slowly learning to feel the emotions within me. When a person finally converts a vague feeling of condemnation into a specific accusation and sits before God to hear His view then that person will hear the truth.

Again, there are many ways that truth can be obtained. In addition to prayer God can use a multitude of voices to deliver us from lies. One of the benefits of psychology is that we can learn about humans, families, birth order, personality types, basic drives, denial, etc, and through the enlightenment of psychological truth hidden things can suddenly be seen. Likewise, counselors, both trained and self taught can be useful. Spiritual directors, mentors, sermons, bible reading, accountability groups, all have been used repeatedly to bring light to darkness and truth to lies.

I remember having a dream about my father that broke a stronghold and carried me one step further into health. I dreamed that I was back in my childhood house. The house looked just the way it was except for one room that didn’t really exist in the house; a workroom. I was in this workroom and my father was working on some wood, building something. In reality my father was not handy and did not build things. But in this dream he was building something and focused on the task. I was standing there, but he didn’t seem to notice me. Jesus was there too, in human form, and was talking to me, and was showing me things about my father. So, for example, while my dad was focusing on the piece of wood I could “see” that he was challenged in his life and had to concentrate hard to succeed in his career and be a provider for our family. Jesus pointed this out to me and told me that his inability to notice me was because of his own problems, not because he didn’t love me or because I was not lovable. This was a revelation to me and I knew it was the truth. It broke a lie I had believed all my life up until that dream.

So, seek truth. Let go of your attempt to control the lies within you and sit before God and talk with Him about what you are feeling, what you believe and what you hope. He will speak the truth in love, and it will set you free.

3. Repentance.

To repent means to change. Sometimes it is defined as “a change of mind” and sometimes it is defined as a sorrow for sin that brings a heart change. Both are true, since it really means to turn from sin to God, to turn away from sin and towards God, with “all your heart, mind and strength”. Thus repentance is an active process, involving our will more than does the above remedies of comfort and truth. We need to understand that repentance is not legalism. Even though repentance involves our making decisions, it is still embedded within the larger framework of our relationship with Christ. For example, God convicts and we repent. Without the inner voice showing us our sin we would not be able to use our wills to turn from sin. Likewise, when we turn from sin to God we have to be able to actually find Him. Much of the strength to change comes from finding God, feeling loved and forgiven and from asking for help. Without the help that comes from the Holy Spirit we could not change. Nevertheless, repentance involves our will more than being comforted and than seeing the truth do.

Thus repentance is hard work. Repentance is closely tied to unpleasant experiences. Contrition often is accompanied by shame. Shame is an unpleasant emotion, but in order to be sorry for sin a person must see their sin. They must see and feel the true horror of their sin. Such revelation is unpleasant. Likewise, to take responsibility for sin, to crucify the flesh, to deny wrong desires, to “mortify the members of our flesh” is unpleasant. Furthermore, to admit sin, to confess sin, to apologize for sinning, and to reveal our weaknesses to our spiritual community is hard work. Additionally, we must find forgiveness for those that have hurt us. We must turn from gossip, malice, envy, hatred and all such similar responses to pain and instead find humility, patience, forgiveness and hope. These are difficult tasks; but without the hard work of repentance healing is impossible.

4. Faith.

It is difficult to understand why God allows evil and suffering in the world. It is difficult to understand that God chose the circumstances of my birth, my family of origin, including all of the attendant wounds and lies of childhood, for my good. We need to finally understand that even though God is good and never directly does evil, He has allowed sin to enter the world. Now, of course, God proves His goodness by rescuing us from sin at the cost of His own son. Nevertheless, He also allows us be participants in His salvation, and He wants us to understand Him, trust Him and love Him.

Look at the story of Joseph in the old testament. Joseph suffered many wounds. He was betrayed by his own brothers and sold as a slave. He was unjustly accused of immorality. He suffered long and painful prison experiences. He had caused some of his own problems through pride and boasting, and no doubt came to regret his actions. So, how did he get “healing”?. Well, first he was rescued and comforted. He also learned who he was in God’s eyes and learned wisdom. He grew in understanding and wisdom. Eventually though he had to see that God had allowed evil to happen to him for a good reason. He had to yield to the plan of God and embrace his suffering as worth while. He had to be content with his life and trust God to work good out of it. Of course, we know the outcome of this story: Joseph is a hero of the faith. Now, do you want to be a hero of the faith?

Often times the strongholds we inherit are the soil of our fruitfulness. For example, a person who is raised in a critical household, who is lied to internally and comes to believe that they are “no good”, who responds sinfully by overusing alcohol and choosing “addiction” can, through spiritual healing, become a strong and powerful leader of similarly afflicted people. Great ministries are born when God rescues a person from great bondage. The person so chosen though must take part in their deliverance. In addition to being comforted and enlightened, in addition to repenting from sin and obeying God, a person who wants to be fully healed must come to believe that their life was planned for good. They must accept the limitations and painful aspects of their life, realizing that God is asking them to sacrifice for Him. Healing does not consist of merely being freed from the past. The goal of inner healing is not just to feel good, or to be at peace. The spiritually healthy person is not merely someone who is now prosperous and confident and strong. Healthy people also see that they are part of a spiritual war, and that their life will retain some scars of battle. Inner healing is complete when a person trusts God enough to accept the life they have been given, walk in contentment, and give back to God in the form of gifted service. When we really find out who we are, and why we are on earth, and we rejoice in our formation, and we accept any residual limitation that God is asking us to bear, and labor for Him to the best of our ability; then we are healed.

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