Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In "Other" Words Tuesdays - Soul Wounds

Esthermay at The Heart of a Pastor's Wife is hosting In "Other" Words Tuesdays this week. She has given us a great quote to think and ponder on.
“For most of this century we have wrongly defined soul wounds as psychological disorders and delegated their treatment to trained specialists. Damaged psyches aren’t the problem. The problem is disconnected souls.”
by Larry Crabb -
Connecting:Healing Ourselves and Our Relationships

Can You Define Me?
I think it is important for us to gain a biblical understanding of two important words found in the Bible. Four times throughout the Psalms in the NIV Bible, the phrase downcast soul is used. Psalm 42:5, Psalm 42:6, Psalm 42:11, and Psalm 43:5. It seems the Psalmist knew a thing or four about hurting, hmmm?

In each case, the Hebrew word for downcast is shachach. This verb is transliterated to mean:

1) to bow, crouch, bow down, be bowed down
a) (Qal)
1) to be bowed down, be prostrated, be humbled
2) to bow (in homage)
3) to bow (of mourner)
4) to crouch (of wild beast in lair)
b) (Niphal) to be prostrated, be humbled, be reduced, be weakened, proceed humbly, be bowed down
c) (Hiphil) to prostrate, lay low, bow down
d) (Hithpolel) to be cast down, be despairing

Downcast does not refer to separation. The soul mentioned in the verses above isn't cast out, it feels cast down.

The Hebrew word for soul used in all four of the verses above is nephesh. This noun is transliterated to mean:

1) soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion
a) that which breathes, the breathing substance or being, soul, the inner being of man
b) living being
c) living being (with life in the blood)
d) the man himself, self, person or individual
e) seat of the appetites
f) seat of emotions and passions
g) activity of mind
1) dubious
h) activity of the will
1) dubious
i) activity of the character
1) dubious

Obviously the soul refers to every living aspect of a person here. I would lean more toward inner than outer, but the definition does mention life and breath, so I think it's a very encompassing word to describe the center of our being as humans.

Is Your Soul Wounded?

Going back to the quote above, what would you say are soul wounds? I haven't read the book, but I would venture to say that it refers to a spiritual pain. Obviously it speaks to the damage our souls receive in relation to disconnecting from God.

Sin is the main cause of the feeling of separation from God. We came into this world damaged by the sin of the Curse given by God to Adam, Eve and the earth in the beginning, referenced in Genesis, when sin entered the world. However, we were redeemed by the blood shed on the Cross for our sins when we believed in Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." ~ John 3:16-17 (NIV)

Is Spiritual Disconnection Possible?

I would highly agree that spiritual disconnection is possible for those who have not accepted Christ as their personal Savior, but once we are His, we are His forever. I submit that we feel disconnect rather than become disconnected.

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" ~ Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)

I learned a long time ago not to trust my feelings. My soul may feel spiritually disconnected, but God's Word tells me that this can never happen.

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." ~ John 10:27-29 (NIV)

So What's the Problem?

I would venture to say anything that causes harm or a feeling of discontent or downcast, if you will, to the soul as in the above-mentioned definitions based on the Word of God is a soul wound.

Are soul wounds and damaged psyches be the same thing? Based on the definition above, our souls can be harmed by psychological disorders like depression or by the damage inflicted upon our hearts and minds from abuse. Abuses to us on any level damages not only our psyche but our souls in the form of feeling hurt and pain and anguish on very personal levels. We may be told to get over it and live in the now but unless you've been through it and walked out on the other side, you don't know how long it takes to get there. What takes one person eleven months to recover from may take another eleven years. What injures you day in and day out for eleven years may be healed after a moment of prayer or it may be the thorn in your flesh forever. It may be the thing God uses to keep you where He wants you or He may heal you from it in days, weeks, months or years after beginning counsel.

Although these abuses may be one of the causes of a feeling of spiritual disconnect, is not the only cause. Sin in our own lives is the main cause of disconnected souls. We know the remedy for that. (If you don't, please email me at sisterchick1@yahoo.com)

Is There a Doctor in the House?

To call soul wounds psychological disorders is like calling gray charcoal. It depends on how you see it. I believe our souls are wounded when we feel separated from God, feeling that disconnection, no matter what the cause. Whether it's psychological or a crisis of faith, the feeling remains.

How do we treat it? The only remedy for both is reconnection to God.

Today I am going to the doctor for a knee injury I sustained sometime last week. I'm not seeing a dentist for it. He couldn't help me. By the same token, I wouldn't expect my pastor to be able to fix my knee nor my doctor to be able to counsel me on how to repent of my sins and ask forgiveness. The one thing I have in common between the two is God. I can go to Him for all matters involved and trust that He will work His will in my life.

Does this mean I neither seek the counsel of doctor or pastor? No! It means that I supplement it, not out of distrust to God but out of the wisdom He has given me to utilize the gifts and skill He has given man.

I suffer from depression. I cannot blame this depression on my alcoholic father (he's recovered now) and I can't blame feeling separated from God on my injured knee. It's likely that the depression is a result of a chemical imbalance in my body that was diagnosed at the age of 9. Emotional and verbal abuse were just gravy. It's likely that my lack of quiet time is because I spent too much time watching NCIS and reading for pleasure (not that spending time with God isn't a pleasure but you know what I mean...). Sin. Not that NCIS and reading for pleasure are sin, but I didn't put God first. Instead I ate fried rice and relaxed my knee. Sin. I don't need my psychiatrist to tell me that I've sinned, but I don't need my pastor to tell me that I have depression, generalized anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, IBS and fibrocystic disease. It would be a waste of each one's time to counsel and treat me in what they are not specialized in. Not to mention my own. My pastor has better things to do than listen to me go on about how my older sister has abandoned the family and how that makes me feel. My doctor really wants to hear more about my knee injury than my questions on why bad things happen (illnesses) to good, very good people.

What's Your Point?

Oh, I do seem to be rambling, don't I?

I'm wrapping it up. Bear with me.

When we're feeling spiritually disconnected we aren't. Nothing can separate us from Christ. The truth is that we have just moved to a point to where we aren't communicating with Him and seeing Him at work in our lives. When this happens, we need to find out why. Is it because of sin or is it because of something hurting our souls more on a realm of a physical nature? Making use of the proper resources God has given us will go a long way in rectifying the matter. If you aren't sure where to start, start with your husband, then your pastor. If your pastor recommends counseling for depression or seeing a doctor for a check-up, glean from that wisdom. But if you know in your heart of hearts, your soul, that you are depressed or experiencing an emotional trauma not relating to your relationship to God, by all means, make a doctor's appointment and feel good about it. Remember: Luke was a doctor. He attended Paul through many of his travels and I'm sure he provided great counsel and friendship to him as well as medical treatment.

This was a hard post to write. I have so many feelings regarding this issue that it's impossible to put in one post. I was probably about as clear as mud but I would really like to read this book to get a better idea of where the author was coming from. It is so going on my TBR list!
For more IOWT, click here.



Angela said...

I learned a long time ago not to trust my feelings. My soul may feel spiritually disconnected, but God's Word tells me that this can never happen. amen amen amen

Oh my goodness,,this devotional spoke volumes to my spirit...((hugs))to my soul!!!!

LAURIE said...

awesome post today Laurie Ann. I loved your analogy of who we go to when we are in pain. Many times we go to the wrong person ... instead of seeking Gods counsel we seek out what others have to say first. When all along God is the One Who has the answer, the remedy. -love, Laurie

Saleslady371 said...

Thank you for all the time and effort you put into ministering to us in God's Word. Thanks, too, for sharing your wonderful heart. I'm sorry you had to suffer those maladies, but what perception you have to offer us!

Always praying,

MiPa said...

Laurie Ann,
You said so clearly what I was thinking and muddling through. Thank you!

Kim@Seasons of My Heart said...

Thanks for sharing your heart today. May we all LONG...to daily run to him...our FATHER..who is our safe refuge.

We are SO blessed to have him to turn to, in our time of need.


Karen said...

Good job Laurie Ann, you seem to like to ramble on like I do. You do it well, thanks for the post and its rich insight.

mamas*little*treasures said...

Laurie Ann - thank you so much for sharing from your heart! You truly seem to be a student of the Word, and I appreciate you sharing all of your insight with the rest of us. It is always a blessing to read the words of another woman who is walking with the Lord, and you have give me much to think about today. Blessings! Nina

LauraLee Shaw said...

(((((((((HUGS)))))))))) Laurie Ann. HUge, Texas-sized ones. I have struggled with depression on and off my whole life, so I know just how to pray, and I will.

Peter Stone's blog has been a WEALTH of encouragement for so many struggling with depression. You can find him here:
When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong. You won't leave his blog without something for your soul.

Love you so much, dear sister.

Michelle Bentham said...

Hey Laurie Ann,

A Pastor (the one who "wrote the curriculum for Freedom Ministry at our church) says, "People will tell you your emotions will lie to you, but I disagree - your emotions will always tell you the 'truth' (facts) about what you believe." Your emotions will always agree with what you put your faith in... That's a pretty powerful statement. I agreed with the enemy and complied with his lies for so long... I needed help to figure out what was just facts vs. what God's truth is.

This is an excellent post and a strong reminder that everything - every aspect and part of our being - must be subjected and surrendered to God's will and authority for Freedom to come.

We must give up what we desire most - Freedom on our own terms, in order to receive the Truth that sets us free. This is good stuff. You go deep and I love that about you.


Sharlyn Guthrie said...

Your post is so thoughtful and well-organized. I totally understand and appreciate what you are saying. I had a little different take on what the quote meant by "connection," but that's why it's so interesting and uplifting to read what the same quote means to others, right? Thanks for sharing your heart.

Denise said...

Speak on sweet sister.

Esthermay said...

Just a little bit of rambling. LoL :-)
But. . . I follow you.
And – YES! Absolutely: Get the book. I have the first edition which I don’t even think is in print anymore. It was suggested reading in graduate school and I am SO glad I read it. This book is MUST reading for any counselor in the field who wants to ministry as a part of the Body of CHRIST is should be REQUIRED reading for anyone in ministry.
(Sorry about all the “yelling” via caps.)

You’re absolutely correct that Crabb refers to being disconnected from GOD.
But I do disagree slightly that we can not be separated from Christ. Perhaps I did not read deep enough between the lines, but sin definitely causes separation from God – the first 8 chapters of Romans is very clear on this. Until the pride of our humanness is vanished – we will continue to be separated from Him. Many will be separated for all eternity.

Once that “connection” to God is made, then it is far easier to discern whether a person is experiencing soul-wounds or a damaged psyche. Some studies (endorsed, or course by Christian therapists and disputed, or course, by secular therapists) show that the number of damaged psyches goes down once the soul-wound is healed. Many – by NO means all – damaged psyches are simply spiritual deadness.

You are so right though about this being a “loaded” quote. It’s a loaded topic to be sure!

Thanks for a post that I must chew on now . . . .
Happy Tuesday, Friend.
Hope all is well with your knee. Glad you chose not to see the ophthalmologist on this one!

Patricia said...

Thank you for sharing your heart. I especially liked the reference to Luke traveling with Paul. He surely must have ministered to him on a spiritual and a physical level.