A spiritual wound is one committed in the authority of Christ by His body. It is mortal, a matter of life and death, and only Jesus Himself can heal it.
The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, But who can bear a broken spirit? (Proverbs 18:14)
Today’s verse touches on a subject that has enormous consequences for the body of Christ and for individual believers. The issue of spiritual wounds has become something of a ‘hashtag’ subject – indicating its current popularity – and that alone should be enough to compel us to look long and hard. I have lived first-hand the truth that the Church is the only army that shoots its wounded. Tragically, there are many out there who have never healed, and our churches are full of these ‘dead soldiers walking.’
Real spiritual wounds and spiritual excuses.
Given that it’s something of a ‘popular platform,’ it’s important to identify up-front that there are those who use this as a kind of universal excuse to avoid spiritual responsibility. There will always be those who manipulate a very real tragedy to suit themselves. They like the attention and the ‘validation’ that counselling brings. Claiming a spiritual wound also provides a handy excuse to avoid commitment or sidestep the teachings about our obligations and responsibilities outlined in the Bible. While we’re ‘wounded’ we can avoid active duty. They play this card for all they’re worth, milking it for every advantage and greedily grabbing the time and efforts of counsellors who should be investing in others who truly need them.
The hurts these people claim are often simply personal offense rather than the deep, paralysing woundedness of real spiritual wounds. It’s not about the spirit at all but rather about self. While wallowing in fleshly self-pity and imagined or pretended wounds, they don’t realise that, ultimately, it will become a spiritual issue. We become what we speak. If we continually speak a twisted truth and manipulate others through pretence and spiritual laziness, our spirits will become twisted and unreceptive to the real truth. Having said this, it’s critical that we know and understand that real spiritual wounds are rife in our churches.
Real spiritual wounds are mortal wounds.
I vividly recall a counsellor who had the gift of knowledge stop in the middle of a discussion on something completely unrelated. He looked me in the eye and said: “You have received a mortal wound.” It came as something of a shock, because I had – like many other walking wounded – simply buried my hurt and carried on as normal. I somehow thought that if I ignored it, it would heal on its own. As a ‘good Christian’ I should simply forgive and move on. My faith should be bigger than my woundedness. In that moment, I realised that a spiritual wound is a mortal wound. We can slap on a Band Aid, but it continues to bleed out unseen.
Those who have received a spiritual wound seldom see the truth of this. They are slowly stripped of life and live in a kind of hollow, aching, utterly broken darkness that gradually overtakes them. My experience happened shortly after I lost my husband to a long battle with bone cancer. Looking back, I realise now that the pain of losing him whom I loved beyond life itself was far less than the spiritual wound I received. There is a world of difference between emotional or ‘worldly’ pain and the anguish of spiritual pain. As today’s verse clearly points out, my spirit could sustain me in my earthly woundedness and loss. But a broken spirit is beyond our earthly ability to bear. A broken spirit brings a slow, agonising spiritual death.
Christ is a critical element of a spiritual wound.
It took a long time for me to understand why a spiritual wound has such destructive power. After all, the Bible is filled with wonderful promises that are the Word of God. They have the power to heal and deliver and help us to overcome. What I missed, though, is a very deep and critical truth: these wounds are always centred around Christ. Now, before we all get antsy about the very real truth that Jesus wouldn’t be involved in something like this, let me say that it’s absolutely true. He wouldn’t, and I believe that this kind of woundedness is abhorrent to Him. But we need to look at the very real implications of our role as His body to understand the connection. In essence, we are Christ – He is the head, and we make up His body. We are to live as the outward expression of His nature.
As such, our church is more than simply a family. They are a part of ourselves – one body – and they are the manifestation of Jesus. When our church wounds us, it is as if Jesus Himself wounds us. Of course, He doesn’t literally do the wounding. We do it in His name and in His authority. By the same token, we receive it as such. This is even more powerful when leadership is involved. Our church and our church leadership carry the nature and authority of Christ. We, as Christians, must relate to them as if to Jesus Himself. When we receive a spiritual wound, therefore, it is always as if it were from the hand of Christ Himself. It therefore can never be healed except by the hand of Jesus.
Living with a spiritual wound.
Inevitably, a spiritual wound generates a deep internal conflict – a kind of crisis of faith that automatically follows because we cannot bear a broken spirit. We relate to God on an entirely spiritual level. We can be battered, bruised, and broken on a physical and emotional level, but our spirits can still remain strong in Him. Break the spirit, however, and we’re incapable of spiritual interaction with God. This is why we simply slowly bleed out. We bury it and slap on a semblance of faith and life, but deep inside, the essence of life – our spirit – slowly drains of the sustaining presence of God.
A broken spirit cannot simply heal naturally like a broken bone. This is because the centre of our faith and life – Christ – is instinctually perceived as integral to the cause. A wounded spirit is one which has had faith and trust in the nature of Christ brutally stripped away. Again, though Jesus would never do this, it has been done in His name and authority. This issue has to be addressed for a broken spirit to heal. What happens, though, is that we think we need to ‘be bigger,’ to manifest the nature of Jesus, to stand firm in faith, and to ‘be a victor.’ All that happens is that we’re loading up a whole heap of guilt and expectation onto a spirit that is incapable of carrying it because the life in it, the life of Jesus, is gone.
Church response to a spiritual wound.
The reality is that the church and the perpetrators seldom realise what they have done. For them, it’s ‘business as usual.’ They deliberately or inadvertently perpetuate the myth that we should ‘build a bridge and get over it.’ Forgiveness is commanded, so we must forgive and move on. Tragically, by being oblivious to the truth, they can continue to deepen the wound. The attitude and response of our church to our spiritual wound can, in fact, repeatedly hack away at a broken spirit, debilitating the wounded even further.
What happens is that they turn the responsibility for everything over onto the wounded. This creates all kinds of conflict and confusion. After all, Jesus wouldn’t punish us if we didn’t deserve it, right? We must have done something, or our faith is too weak. We’re too self-centred. If we don’t forgive, we’re in the wrong. The reality though is that a broken spirit is incapable of forgiveness. This is purely simple logic. In our humanity, self cannot forgive. It’s beyond our ability. Only Christ in us – His life-giving, empowering presence – can enable us to forgive. Forgiveness is a divine, spiritual, supernatural thing. When the spirit is broken and the life of Jesus is bleeding out, the expectations of the church are not only impossible. They also increase the already unmanageable load on a shattered spirit.
The first step to healing a spiritual wound.
Our instinctive response is to close ourselves off from those who wound us. Given that the nature and authority of Jesus are so inextricably entwined with a spiritual wound, we make a fatal mistake. Without realising it, we draw away from the only source of healing. We close ourselves off from Christ. Our Christian walk becomes hollow pretence. We appear to have faith, we walk around like nothing is wrong, but slowly shrivel up inside because we’re cut off from the life-giving presence of Jesus. This increases our resentment. Because He’s ‘not around’ and doesn’t hear our cries, He’s rejecting us once again. He really doesn’t care and it’s all our fault. If we were stronger, better, or more forgiving, He’d love us more. As a result, our withdrawal increases and our spiritual death compounds.
The absolute truth is that only Christ can heal a spiritual wound. We must first acknowledge that it’s mortal – it’s a matter of life and death. This means taking hold of the truth that we cannot judge Jesus by what His body does. When He comes, He will separate the sheep from the goats. This tells us clearly that there are those who do not reveal His true nature and abuse His authority. Jesus separates Himself from these. He states clearly that He does not know them. I thank God that He revealed this truth to me. To heal, we must separate ourselves unto Christ. We must turn to the life within us. A broken spirit that calls to Him will always find healing and sustaining power.
True healing for a spiritual wound is in the cross.
Our relationship with Jesus is the only source of healing. This, in turn, is built on the cross and all He did because He loved us. His sacrificial life is the single most powerful truth and the healing balm to restore a broken spirit. Our healing starts in remembering that every single human experience – including our spiritual wound – was encapsulated in the cross. Jesus lived the same agony, betrayal, woundedness, and anguish. More importantly, He did it for us. He went ahead and made a way for us to be restored to His perfect life. Because a spiritual wound is a matter of life and death, it’s also a matter of resurrection. Being mortal, it requires that we are brought back to life, not simply patched up.
Turning to Christ is imperative. It is our one-one-one relationship with Him that effects healing and restoration. Contrary to our skewed expectations of faith, He doesn’t expect us to ‘zip it’ and pretend we’re okay. Healing comes when we pour it all out to the only one who truly understands. This kind of raw, brutal honesty is drawing poison from a spiritual wound. It’s cleansing and liberating. Of course, it doesn’t mean we wallow in it. Healing is always a process to moving towards wholeness and life. But while a wound is healing, it needs to be continually cleaned and the dressings changed. Christ-minded counsellors can help, but true healing only comes from intimate relationship with our true healer.
Accountability for spiritual wounds.
Healing for a spiritual wound is a long and excruciatingly painful process. These wounds are the single most destructive reason why so many turn away from the church and from Christ. Spiritual healing is a study all on its own and too much to cover in a single devotional. But what is critical is that we, as the body of Christ, need to understand the consequences of our actions. There is absolutely no doubt that we will one day be held accountable for those we have wounded or how we treat our wounded. We must take hold of the truth that the spirit is God’s domain. If physical murder is a sin, how much more the spiritual murder of His people?
When we destroy what belongs to God – where He chooses to presence Himself and give life – we are, in fact, ‘murdering Jesus.’ What we do to others, we do to Him. While these words applied in context to kindness and care, the converse is also true. We cannot have one without the other. If we so abuse the authority of Christ, the blood of the wounded is on our hands.
Lord Jesus, we pray for those wounded in Your name today. Forgive us if we have been party to this, even inadvertently. Help us to see beyond our attitudes and responses and honour the trust You have placed in us by giving us Your name. We bring our own wounds to You, trusting in Your love and resurrection power. Grant us the grace to be honest with You and to receive Your healing so that our spirits may once again live to praise and honour You.