No one welcomes hardships. They hurt. And they can negatively impact our relationship with God and others. But, they can also refine us, re-prioritize our hearts, and restore us to the healed, whole individuals God created us to be.
Instead of avoidance, denial, blame, or closing off from others when difficulties come, open your heart to the Only One who can allow your hardships to lead to your personal and spiritual growth. Here are three ways hardships can lead to your healing:
- Hardships remind us that we need a Healer.
When I had a tiny spot of basal cell carcinoma removed from my forehead, the outpatient surgery wasn’t tiny at all. The incision was so large and the skin on my forehead so tight, that the stitches kept popping open, requiring multiple staples to close the incision. That caused excessive bruising, swelling, and facial trauma that had me in pain and literally unrecognizable for the next several days. During that time, I had to continue to be still or lie down lest my forehead begin bleeding again in between the staples. I couldn’t read or focus on work. I missed my aerobic workouts. I felt useless. I was hurting all over. And, being that it was my first surgery ever (apart from a C-section 30 years ago to bring my daughter into this world), I gained a new appreciation and compassion for those who deal with chronic pain, persistent health problems, or disabilities that limit their day-to-day activities.
In addition to praying that God would heal my forehead quickly and restore my bruised and swollen face back to some form of normalcy, I also prayed that just as the cancer was thoroughly removed from my body that God would begin removing from my heart and mind anything else that was toxic and growing into something damaging. As I began to pray that, I realized I needed to be healed, not just physically, but spiritually, as well.
That time on my couch, in God’s Word and in prayer, I set my mind on things above (Colossians 3:2-3) so God could do a work in me on things inside. While recovering from a minor facial surgery, I experienced a precious time of allowing God to perform a heart surgery…exposing to me what was toxic in my attitudes and actions. My prayer was that by the time I was able to get off the couch and leave my home, I would have experienced more removed from me than just a clump of skin cancer.
Could your physical pain make you aware of some emotional or spiritual pain that God needs to heal, too?
- Hardships can make us more like Christ.
Not all hardships can make us more like Christ. Sometimes they can make us bitter, unforgiving, and doubtful. But if we allow God to do what His Word promises He will do if we surrender to His purposes, then we can be confident that He will make us more perfect and complete like His Son, Christ Jesus.
James 1:2-4 exhorts: “Consider it all joy, my…sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” To become “perfect and complete” means to become more like Christ, who is our example of perfection and completion.
Do you want to become more compassionate, more humble, and more aware of the sufferings of others? Do you want wisdom, discernment, and a more heavenly perspective? God says that is yours if you surrender to Him that hardship. And therein is healing. When we become more like Jesus, we become more whole and complete.
- Hardships can expose to us wounds we didn’t realize we had.
I recently reached out to a friend via email. The response I received in return was entirely unexpected. It was actually hurtful. My first thought was what happened just before she got my email? In many ways, it felt like my friend was lashing out at me.
My flesh wanted to fire back a response to let my friend know how rude and careless she had been. But then I realized I would be doing the same thing to her that hurt me. So, I prayed about it. For two days. And during that time of venting with God about how I had been treated, I became aware of a wound in me that needed to be healed. Not the wound my friend had inflicted, but the wound of needing to be liked, hating to be misunderstood, and feeling desperate to control another’s response toward me, rather than surrender it completely to God.
I repented of my need to be liked, my desire to control how others perceive me, and my tendency to run from anyone who might hurt me like that again. I asked the Lord to make me aware of the times I put expectations on others and then expect them to apologize when they’ve disappointed me. I felt that friend had placed expectations on me that I couldn’t meet and yet how many times have I unknowingly done that to someone else?
Through that difficulty with my friend, I realized I needed to surrender areas of my heart to God to be healed of my pride, my insistence upon being right, my desire to defend myself, and my focus on myself and my feelings. I was also given the strength to respond kindly to my friend and prayerfully heal what could have been a gaping wound between us.
Pain and hardships often come when something unexpected touches our lives. But could you start praying that God would touch your life in such a way that exposes wounds in your heart, mind, and soul that you didn’t even realize were there so you can pray for spiritual healing, as well? Anyone can ask God for contentment and a pain-free life. But when we ask for spiritual healing and wholeness and opportunities to become more like Christ, that is a prayer that, according to 1 John 5:14-15, reaches His ear and delights His heart.
For more on the ten steps toward healing and wholeness, see my book, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts.