Summary: How do we receive God’s healing and strength? 1. Affirm the truth 2. Trust in God’s sovereign love 3. Forgive those who wounded you
(Note: The title for this message is from a Rick Warren series; however the sermon itself is original)
In the 1960’s, during the Vietnam War, a new term was coined to describe soldiers who had been injured in battle, but who were still able to walk without assistance. They were called the "walking wounded". Originally, the term referred to physical wounds, but it soon entered the popular culture as a description of those who were suffering from emotional and psychological trauma. Many Vietnam veterans returned home to jobs and families, apparently healthy and whole; but they continued to struggle with the psychological after-effects of the war for years, long after their tours of duty had ended. And some are struggling even now. While I was researching this sermon I came across an organization called the "International Brotherhood of Walking Wounded," whose mission is to help Vietnam vets who are still suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This week, we’ll be seeing many reminders of another traumatic event – the 9-11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Thousands perished on that day. And for each person who died, there are dozens more who were personally affected by the tragedy. Husbands who lost their wives. Children who lost their fathers. Police and firefighters who lost partners. People who worked and lived in Manhattan, and witnessed the tragedy firsthand. And then the rest of us, all over the country and all over the world, who watched it unfold on television, watched in horror and disbelief as airliners full of people slammed into the World Trade Center Towers, watched as the buildings burned and collapsed, killing thousands of people. Even if you didn’t know anyone who died, you couldn’t help but be affected by those terrible images. And inevitably, in the coming week, as we watch the news programs commemorating the anniversary of 9-11, some of the feelings we experienced on that day will come flooding back in. How many thousands of people are still dealing with the emotional aftershocks of that event, how many "walking wounded" from September eleven are still among us?
I’m using this tragedy as an example because it’s a shared experience, something we’re all familiar with. But in fact, most of the experiences that create hidden wounds are not public events. Usually, when we’re bruised and broken emotionally, it’s because of some private tragedy; some personal trauma. Something that few other people, and perhaps no one else, knows about. Words spoken between a husband and wife, or between a parent and child. And as much as our friends may want to empathize, they can’t really understand. No one else can fully enter into our world, to feel what we feel, and to suffer what we suffer.
And so I wonder: to what extent are you and I walking wounded? How many of us have hidden wounds, known only to ourselves? How many of us are hurting, from the after-effects of toxic relationships or dysfunctional families; still recovering from old losses and betrayals; still hearing the echoes of unkind words spoken long ago? Probably most of us, to some degree or another. And it’s not as if all that hurt is in the past. We’re constantly being assaulted as we make our way in the world. Sometimes we’re bumped or bruised, sometimes we’re deeply wounded, but it’s simply not possible to live among other people, in a society, or a family, or a church, and not be hurt. That just the way life is; how it has been ever since Adam and Eve left the garden, and how it will be until Christ returns. We sin. We wound one another. Sometimes we do it unintentionally, out of ignorance or thoughtlessness. We may not even know when we’ve done it. Sometimes we do it on purpose, out of anger, or pride, or spite. But we all cause pain, and we all experience pain. As David expressed in Psalm 109:
"But you, O Sovereign Lord, deal well with me for your name’s sake;
out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me."
"But", someone might ask, "even if we do have hidden hurts and secret sorrows, so what? Why stir things up? Why not leave them alone, let sleeping dogs lie?" And my answer is that our pain is not as dormant and inactive as we would like to think. Even though it’s out of sight, even though we’re not consciously dwelling on it, our pain can still produce all kinds of destructive emotions and behaviors. Anger. Rage. Depression. Emotional numbness. Marital conflict. Alcoholism. And on and on. Now, I’m not a psychiatrist, and I don’t pretend to be up on all the theories about the subconscious mind. But I am a pastor and a counselor. And from experience, I know that often the roots of our problems go deeper than we realize, down into the parts of our soul that are hidden from public view.