A sermon I gave today near Washington D.C. outlines a strategy for how people can have victory over the mental turmoil that comes from being deeply wounded.
Today (D.V.) I preached at the National Peacemakers Conference. The question I sought to address is how we can experience mental victory over the emotional turmoil that comes of being deeply wounded. (I also wrote about this in Unpacking Forgiveness).
The theological basics of forgiveness are straight-forward. We are called to forgive others as Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32). Living this out is often a different matter. Often we find that even when we have resolved to follow the example of Christ, it is not easy to jump off the mental gerbil wheel in which we run as fast as we can mentally without making any progress.
Most can remember a time when it was hard to stop thinking about a way they were wounded.
The central point of my sermon from Psalm 73 was that one strategy for emotional victory is to, “Cultivate a vivid picture of the final redemptive (eschatological) work of Christ.” Rather, than being absorbed in analysis of how we were hurt, we ought to occupy our minds with what the Bible teaches about the return of Christ.
I developed this point from Psalm 73. There, the Psalmist admits that when he tried to understand injustice in his own strength, he was worn out (Psalm 73:16). He was only able to experience victory over mental turmoil by understanding the final destiny of evil people (Psalm 73:16-17) and focused on the blessed hope of ultimately being received into glory (Psalm 73:24).
So, if you say to me, “I want to forgive someone, but I just can’t stop thinking about it.” Based on the teaching of Scripture, I would tell you, “Cultivate a vivid picture of the future work of Christ.”
You might say in turn – - “Well, how will this help? Why will that make any difference?” It will help in at least 3 ways.
In cultivating a vivid picture of the final redemptive work of Christ you will be assured of justice. It is in picturing the final work of Christ that the Psalmist understands that justice will be served in God’s timing. This is a continuing theme throughout all of Scripture. We need not fret because of evildoers. God will see that it is set right (Psalm 37:1-2).
In cultivating a vivid picture of the final redemptive work of Christ you will be motivated to be merciful. Scripture warns that those unwilling to follow God’s gracious example should fear for their souls (Matthew 18:21-35. Blessed are the merciful (Matthew 5:7). It is the peacemakers that will be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9).
In cultivating a vivid picture of the final redemptive work of Christ your mind and heart will be enthralled with the beauty of God’s plan of redemption. Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far surpasses whatever trials we may face now. As Jonathan Edwards encouraged, if the disciples had access to our Lord during his first advent, how much more will we on the New Earth.
None of us can think our way through the twisted thorns of our painful pasts. We only find that our own thoughts pierce us again and again. It’s only as we focus on Christ – - particularly on what he will do when he returns that we will be so absorbed in the beauty of being in his presence on the New Earth that we will stop thinking about our wounds.
On Monday, I plan to post some very specific suggestions for how we can stop thinking about how we have been wounded. For now, reading through Psalm 73 (and also Psalm 37) is a good place to begin.