Where Is God in Healing Our Woundedness?
By Tambry Harris
Ignoring emotional and psychological pain stunts us; a holistic approach is required to heal and live life fully.
“Let the past be the past.”
When memories and intuition brought forth the fact that I was sexually abused as a child, this is what I was told. It’s clearly the easier answer and is certainly the most socially acceptable: silence the pain and push down the hurt… and I couldn’t do it. My survivor-self knew repression would only keep me stuck with woundedness festering inside my body.
Strong evidence has proven that ignoring past trauma is not the healthy approach. I would even say it is not the life-giving approach. When I was introduced to the book, The Body Keeps the Score, by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, I finally found an ally. Dr. Van Der Kolk gave scientific data to what I intuitively knew: I needed to take healing steps for my mind, body, and spirit to thrive.
We all have choices to heal or not heal, to grow or not grow, to ultimately bring good or harm from difficult situations. Being in charge of your life and knowing you have some ability to shape your circumstances starts with awareness of subtle sensory, body-based feelings. The greater the awareness, the greater our potential to control our lives. Knowing what we feel is the first step to knowing why we feel that way. Believing we have control over the direction of our lives is critical. I may not have had control over what happened to me as a child, but I have control over how I move forward. I have control over whether I stay stuck in survivor-mode or if I move into a thriving life that God would want for me. My internal GPS is saying, “recalculating,” so I can get back on course.
Dr. Van Der Kolk states, “The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.” My abuse left me with the belief that I was unworthy. In my work, I find that this is true for many survivors of abuse. It took two things to break my belief: first, examining the woundedness with the guidance of a therapist, and second, allowing God to support me and love me unconditionally. That was the healing combination I needed to find and claim my truth… and my intended path.
“Where do you think God was when the abuse was happening to you?”
I believe God was there, crying for his beloved child. I believe it broke God’s heart. However, God’s nature of uncontrolling love means that God could not single handedly prevent the abuse. God could not stop the abuser from passing on the abuse he experienced as a child. My abuser did not choose to do his own healing work and instead allowed his woundedness to harm others. Instead of transforming his pain, he transmitted it. I believe God cried for him, as well. While I believe God’s nature could have guided my abuser in choosing a different path, God could not force him.
This knowledge was critical to my healing. There was no malice or oversight by God. I was not less important to God and my sense of unworthiness was false. My trust in a loving God kept me close to the One who is the ultimate comforter. I could feel God’s spirit supporting and loving me, even when I didn’t feel lovable.
As a child, I always had a sense that God was with me. I would stand outside in the backyard looking up into the stars believing God was somewhere out there. I felt God’s presence, and in some ways, I thought he might be smiling down on me. It took years for me to believe that God would actually draw near to me, but God became so near—his spirit within me—that I just needed to acknowledge it.
Knowing that something better awaits and that God is present, wanting each of us to know peace, love, and kindness, is the foundation for my healing. Combining the knowledge of God’s uncontrolling, unconditional love with our own will to heal and take control of our lives is what enables us to take steps toward healing and thriving.
“The brain may forget but the body always remembers.”
My therapist told me this as I struggled to understand what was going on within my healing journey, which highlights the critical importance of mindfulness practice in trauma recovery. By nature, trauma shuts down our inner compass, skewing our ability to know our truth and navigate our way forward. Somatic therapy, which recognizes that a person’s inner feelings and trauma impact their physical form, was an essential step for me. By releasing pent-up trauma from the mind and body, healing occurs from the inside out. This unique approach combines mindfulness, grounding techniques, and traditional talk therapy.
Allowing my body to release, allowing my body to know, and learning to be present to my pain was essential. Releasing this pain and learning to be still in my body opened me up to mindfulness, meditation, and the ability to feel present and centered.
Therapists will tell you that the brain seeks to protect your well-being and that memories come when you are ready. I believe God protected me until I was strong enough to process my past, and my therapist partnered with God to support me as memories were revealed. Slow, intentional healing is critical. Examining our woundedness and allowing our relationship with God to grow can free us from the limiting box of trauma.
“God invites us to cooperate with God’s work to promote healing, goodness, and love.”
One of the core beliefs in Thomas Jay Oord’s book, God Can’t, is that because there are things God cannot do, God needs our cooperation and “participation…to make our lives and the world better.” It is not God’s fault that over 35% of women worldwide have experienced sexual abuse. It was not God’s fault, nor mine, that my childhood innocence was stripped away by a pedophile.
What I can do is be a voice bringing truth into the space of secrecy, silence, and shame that surrounds this topic. I can encourage each survivor to sense a God who wants them to thrive and to see the “Going-Forward” chapter that awaits them. Trauma and abuse are often surrounded by shame, and as a Spiritual Director and Transformational Coach, I see many people stuck at the point of seeking to understand their worthiness and other limiting beliefs.
As we invite God in, we begin to do the healing work to overcome the emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental pain. This approach took me to a new level of meaning in my life and brought about the desire to be a wounded healer, understanding to some degree the wounds and pain of others. I bring what I know. I create safe space for individuals to be still and bring their questions and their pain to God where a deep level of healing happens. I invite others to open their hearts to know that God is with them, always ready to be drawn into that sacred space. Mindfully inviting God into the healing process and listening deeply to God’s discerning voice will bring increased peace and direction.
Henri Nouwen, in The Wounded Healer, states, “Those who can articulate the movements of their inner lives, who can give names to their very experiences, need no longer be victims of themselves, but are able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering. They are able to create space for the Spirit whose heart is greater than their own, whose eyes see more than their own, and his hands can heal more than their own.” We are allowed the opportunity to choose healing, growth, expanded space and collaboration with God’s spirit.
I have come to believe that all of these broken pieces in our lives can come together to create a beautiful mosaic that is uniquely us. We may need the help of others to know how the pieces fit and even which ones to release. By allowing God to shine through our mosaic, we bring beauty and hope to those around us. As wounded healers, we align with God and act as sources of healing, helping to overcome some of the negative forces that exist in this world. We can be encouragers for those needing support, and we can be the light on God’s intended path for them.
If you are interested in stepping into your healing growth, expanded space and collaboration with God’s spirit, I would love to share a free chapter of my book which frees you from deeply rooted limiting beliefs created by trauma and nurtures healthy, life-giving beliefs to open you up to a whole new chapter in your life. Contact me at [email protected]. I also welcome the opportunity to work with you to claim your exciting next chapter by transforming unhealthy patterns into life-giving ones that manifest your thriver self.
Tambry Harris is a Spiritual Director, Transformational Coach, Speaker and Author of Awakening the Light: A Survivors to Thrivers Going-Forward Story (American Bookfest 2020 Best Book Finalist). Tambry helps others claim their best selves and lives by examining limiting beliefs and unhealthy patterns that get in the way of attaining their deepest desires and embracing their whole self. Tambry earned her Master’s Degree in Applied Psychology from University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She blogs at survivorstothrivers.com and loves all things nature.
To purchase the book from which this essay comes, see Love Does Not Control: Therapists, Psychologists, and Counselors Explore Uncontrolling Love