Blocks To Healing – Part II
by Ruth Ann Cramer
“Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. …but you are restricted in your own affections.” (2Cor 6:2,12 RSV)
In the first part of this series (Blocks To Healing – Part I), Matthew discussed issues about blocks encountered in healing ministry, and highlighted three specific ones: Idolatry, Serious Sin, and Unforgiveness. In Part II, I’ll focus on five blocks that often occur, and present comments about ministering to the Blocks. Since I’m using real-life examples, I’ve changed the names and adjusted some of the circumstances.
At its root, pride is a manifestation of idolatry. It consistently elevates the estimate of a person’s worth in their mind, and installs them as the central priority in life. We think of a prideful person as being conceited, self-satisfied, self-important — the lifted chin, the nose in the air, above it all, looking down on others. Isaiah says it well: “We have heard of the pride of Moab, how proud he was; of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence…” (Isa 16.6 RSV)
But pride in a Christian can be far more subtle, even hidden; especially if one wants to be seen as good or holy, and knows that outright evidence of a lofty view of self is not seen as Christ-like. Still, widespread practice of pantheism and New Age among Christians, no matter how well disguised, proves our vulnerability to pride just as our spiritual parents fell for the lie in Genesis: “…your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods…” (Ge 3:5 RSV)
• Always In the Center – We usually think of pride as believing oneself to be above, better than others. But pride is a centering on self, whether it be on our goodness — or our badness; on our worth — or lack of worth. Self-pity, excessive self-censure and self-castigation while seeming to stem from humble self-assessment, is rooted in pride — as revealed by the centrality of self in our actions and thoughts.
Forty-five years ago, I’d say to my spiritual director, “I’m nothing.” He’d reply, “You mean, you feellike nothing.” “No, I really am nothing.” I’d insist. “Is that humility with a hook?” he’d ask, meaning, “Are you saying you’re nothing, so I’ll come back with “But, you really are something?” Thank God, I’ve come to know who I am in Christ Jesus, through His word and His healing.
The subject of humility came up in a small meeting of healing ministers and one person said to another, “Oh, you’re so humble.” “Well,” the other replied, “I don’t think I’m humble, but everyone says I am…. so I must be.”
• Blinded – Pride blinds our inner vision, keeps us occupied and filled with self, elevates our worth, centers both positive or negative thoughts on self. Pride blinds us from seeing others and other’s needs, even their attributes; blinds us from perceiving broader truths and realities. We can’t see beyond ourselves; and so, become deceived. The prophet accurately diagnoses the condition (see also Satan And His Minions):
“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, whose dwelling is high, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” (Ob 3 RSV)
• Stubborn – Unapproachable, touchy and defensive — stubborn pride refuses to concede or even consider alternatives whose focus is on the needs of others. It raises its own almost-impossible barrier to hear and entertain new information, procedures and revelations. It’s never a barrier to God, of course, He knocked Paul off his horse when Paul was filled with arrogant aggressiveness, but pride routinely gets in the way of wisdom and discernment in our day-to-day lives.
Stubbornness reinforces and protects pride, making it more deeply entrenched, blocking our relationship with God and others; and our ability to receive God’s healing.
“The beginning of man’s pride is to depart from the Lord; his heart has forsaken his Maker.” (Sir 10:12 RSV)
“But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride.” (Jer 13:17 RSV)
“Humble yourself greatly, for the punishment of the ungodly is fire and worms.” (Sir 7:17 RSV)
A young woman came to us for physical healing, demanding that God heal her — because she deserved it. She’d always been a good person, obeyed all the rules and now, she was sick and miserable; God owed her healing. Gentle prodding revealed deep-seated anger and bitterness at Him. We counseled she must first renounce these and be reconciled with God. Pounding fists in her lap, she demanded healing as she ordered. Her husband intervened, saying, “Listen to these people”; she told him to “butt out”.
Finally, after considerable discussion, we prayed for physical healing in the manner she requested. But mired in self-righteous self-pity, her outbursts grew worse, accusing us of not properly doing as she’d directed. After more prayer and discussion it was clear we could not proceed further; Matthew had to end the session prematurely.
Jack and Jill, on verge of divorce, wanted desperately to keep their marriage together for the sake of the children. Jack said he’d been weak in the past and allowed his wife to run things because it was easier and let him off the hook. But now he wanted to face his responsibilities and assume leadership in the family. He told us his wife wouldn’t let him lead because Jill — did not believe — she could do anything wrong.
During the discussion, we sensed Jill, deep down, wanted to let go, to be lead, protected and cherished by her husband. But her father, an autocratic dictator, determinedly raised her as a son. She became what he demanded; strong, perfect, invincible and impervious. She moved from her father’s control, married, and assumed control. Jack had been weak; she couldn’t — wouldn’t — trust him to lead or make decisions. She would not relinquish control — or even share it.
Through numerous sessions, we assured Jill that God stood ready to heal, to bring the marriage to the fullness of His intentions. But in Jill’s eyes, to change, to say she needed or wanted help, would mean she’d been wrong — that is, not perfect. Her values and paradigms would not let her change. The marriage would continue on her terms, or not at all.
The marriage failed; the children floundered.
LACK OF FAITH
The Scriptures tell us all prayers are answered, though not necessarily as we intend. So to, healing doesn’t always happen as we intend. Because faith is an integral part of healing ministry, many blame a lack of faith for frustrated expectations. And, in their zeal to stoke the faith of those who seek healing, some ministers will elevate the importance of faith to such a superior, dominating role it overshadows Our Lord’s involvement in the process. Sometimes, we who minister, especially when we face what seems an impossible case, are tempted to believe we “haven’t enough faith”. What is faith and its role in healing?
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1 RSV)
Christian faith is believing without seeing. Though I cannot see, I believe. Though I do not behold with my eyes, nor experience in my mind, emotions or body, I believe.
Faith pertains to improvable invisibilities. With so much manipulation of reality today, it’s hard to accept what we haven’t seen, heard or experienced. Our culture says, “I’ll believe it when I see it”. The Bible reverses this order: “First we believe, then we see.” God asks us to believe in invisible realities; in God, and His Word, sight unseen: “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2Co 5:7 RSV)
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren…there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…to another faith by the same Spirit” (1Co 12:1,4,9 RSV)
We cannot conjure up faith, i.e. will it into being, make ourselves believe. Faith is a gift, one of the many received through the Spirit at Baptism and enhanced in Confirmation. True faith is so real; it is a substance. It takes us behind the visible to the underlying reality. Faith in our Loving God enables us to endure, overcome obstacles and great difficulties, press on, step out and seek healing or minister to others.
Faith dwells in and springs from the heart or human spirit. It comes from knowing the One in whom I have faith. We cannot feel faith. We may feel emotions that respond to faith or cause us to question or deny faith; but emotions are not faith. Feelings based on emotional experience are not faith.
Faith grows and matures in our spirit, that deeper innermost place. We cannot think faith in our minds — we can look, learn and reason things out — but this is not believing spiritually. Nor can we increase faith on our own. Our faith grows through our active relationship with God as we learn to recognize His action in our lives and experience His love for us.
“but my righteous one shall live by faith …we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.” (Heb 10:38,39 RSV)
A lack of faith in God, His goodness and love for us is a major impediment to a relationship with Him and a significant block to healing. Here are a few relevant scriptures:
“And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6 RSV)
“…and Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and walked.” Ac 14:9,10 RSV)
“But Jesus said, ‘Some one touched me …and he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” (Lk 8:46,48 RSV)
“And he could do no mighty work there …and he marveled because of their unbelief.” (Mk 6:5,6 RSV)
There can be no question that faith plays a crucial role in our Christian life: In our relationship with The Father, His Son and The Holy Spirit in our day-to-day lives; and whenever we seek healing or to minister.
“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Mt 17:20,21 RSV)
Faith is a gift, freely given. We can impede our faith, deny it and refuse to use it. But we cannot increase it except through prayer and the vicissitudes of life with God.
Whenever we seek or minister healing, we must make a concentrated effort to remove or silence any impediments that cause us to hold back. Still, we must also remain content to work with what faith we have in the secure belief Our Lord is also present with all the power and authority necessary to accomplish His will.
Paul enjoins us to “…continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard.” (Col 1:23 RSV). While faith is a vital part of healing ministry, we affirm this wise perspective:
My faith is not in my faith — my faith is in Jesus.
Many of us have deep hurts and traumas we may not remember, but nonetheless afflict, block, shape, harm, impact, even paralyze us unknowingly. Buried in our past we act as in Jeremiah: “Woe is me! I am undone, my wound is beyond healing. Yet I had thought: if I make light of my sickness, I can bear it.” (Jer 10:19 NAB) Nevertheless, to rationalize, accept, bear up or put up with inner trauma and wounds, does not heal them.
Memories and responses to inner trauma actively affect how we think and feel; ways we behave; how we see and treat others; how we believe they see and treat us; and particularly, the decisions we make.
Let me tell you a delightful story. Matthew tells a shorter version in How Satan Gets To Us; this is my version. Joe and Mary, known for marriage retreat work were the ideal couple with many lovely children. They surprised us by asking for counseling. It seemed Joe threatened divorce, because Mary would not do the laundry. Laundry had piled so high, there was no room left in the basement; the children had no clean clothes, Mary ran up huge charge accounts buying new clothes. Joe said she was either being stubborn and rebellious, or just didn’t love the family any more. Mary tearfully denied both accusations; she loved Joe and the kids, she wanted to do laundry; but couldn’t bring herself to do it.
As we prayed, listening for the Holy Spirit’s promptings, we sensed a trauma of terror, panic, and a cold, dark place. Mary began to shake with fear as The Holy Spirit brought to Mary’s mind a terrible event: She and neighborhood children played in an empty lot. They’d found an old trunk and took turns locking one another in it. While Mary was locked inside, one mother called for the children to come home. Forgetting or mischievous, they ran home, leaving Mary locked in the trunk until early morning when police found her — cold, traumatized with terror, believing she’d die and never be found.
What did this have to do with laundry? “The basement is not a cold, dark place!” Joe said. “I put in windows and new lights, painted the walls, put down bright linoleum. It still didn’t help.”
We asked Mary to recall how she felt approaching their basement. She realized she felt dread; she had to force herself to go down the stairs, and when down, felt trapped, closed in, could hardly wait to get out. So, evil was using her childhood trauma to keep her trapped in fear, and bring disruption and chaos to her marriage and family.
In prayer, we asked Mary to again see herself in the trunk; only this time, to see God present with her and she hadn’t known it. It took time and real spiritual effort for Mary to forgive the children. She then renounced the spirits of fear, panic and terror harassing her and sent them away (See Weapons For Warfare and Discarding Evil Spirits for more detail). We prayed for healing of the memory, so she’d remember the event but no longer suffer its effects. Mary phoned us later. “I’m healed!” she said, “I’m on my12th load and having a great time!
Sandra’s story is another example of childhood trauma that affects adult behavior. Physically developed early, she suffered sexual molestation by her father, her relatives and their friends. Feeling deeply betrayed by her parents, especially her mother who did not protect her, she believed herself to be of no value except an object of lust. Lack of esteem and fear of men made Sandra unable to deal with attention in healthy way.
Because marriage did not end the unwelcome advances, Sandra resolved she’d make herself fat and unattractive; force others to see she was “more than a body”. Time passed and trusting she was “old enough” or “married enough” to be safe, she’d lose the weight. After attracting unwanted attention again, she’d regain the weight. Finally, with her health suffering, she had to end the see-saw loss-gain, accept her attractiveness as God-given, and ask God’s healing to deal with unwanted attention in a healthy way.
Even in the midst of our infirmities and desire for healing, concealed attachments can exist that block healing until they are renounced. These are best illustrated by true stories.
David, age 25 — tall, dark and very handsome — was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident. His older brother Jesse, age 30, gave up future plans, career, and social-life to care fulltime for David. Every day we’d see Jesse plod along, pushing David in his wheelchair along the sidewalk in front of our house at Christo Rey. So we invited them to be regular drop-ins at our prayer meeting.
One evening, about 60 of us were having a great time praising and singing and I sensed The Lord wanted to heal David. I slunk behind a couch where hopefully, no one, including God, could see me; maybe He’d choose someone else to minister. Ignoring my disobedience, he insisted: “Stand up and go to David.” Across the room, lifted an exultant voice: “The Spirit is saying Ruth Ann is to minister to David!” “I confirm that!” another shouted. “So, do I” chimed a third.
My heart pulsated as I stood from my hiding place. — revealing, I was sure — my doubt, skepticism and fear. The room burst into praise; then quieted as I made my way through them to stand in front of David’s wheelchair.
The Lord said to me: “Hold out your hands to David. Say to him. “David, rise and walk!” A gift of faith descended upon me and filled me; and I knew — with not one doubt — God would heal him. David’s dark eyes stared up at me. Beside him, Jesse expectantly held his breath. The room fell silent. I held my hands just inches from David. “David! The Lord says, Rise and walk!”
David’s eyes flashed and blinked; he didn’t speak. Nor did he move. “David” I encouraged, “You only have to try to move your fingers toward mine, just want to; God will raise you up. God says He will heal you now!” Soft prayer began. I poured all the love I could into my tone and expression; I placed my hands on his. “David, stand and walk!” “No” David said, “No”.
Desperate, Jesse begged him, “David, how can you turn this down? It’s your one big chance, and my one chance to get on with my life. Don’t say no!” “No!” David said, “I don’t want to be healed.” “But, why!” I asked. “Because,” David said, “before my accident, I was a very bad sinner with women, and if I’m healed, I know I’ll go back to the same sins.”
“But God will give you all the grace and strength you need.” I said. Others begged with similar affirmation. “Jesse, take me out.” he ordered. Jesse, mute, eyes brimming with tears, face in deep, angry hopelessness, wheeled David out and down the front walk. Every day we watched the two of them go by; both seemingly, joylessly bound. David believed God would heal him; he doubted God could save him.
A husband, deeply worried about his wife, asked us to see her. They had three children, the last born greatly deformed. In ministry, Sarah revealed her life revolved almost exclusively around the sick child. Her focus was so singular her husband and other children didn’t receive the love and attention they needed. She refused to allow God’s involvement in the deformed child’s care and future. “God won’t take care of him like I can.” She refused to forgive God for the child’s deformity and to “let go and let God” into the situation. Sarah had given her life over to Tragedy; Tragedy became “Who I Am”.
Severely crippled with arthritis, Karen did not want to be healed. She didn’t come right out and say it; but as the Holy Spirit led us in ministry, it became clear. Why? Why on earth would a beautiful young woman want to remain painfully disfigured?
It seemed that in their early marriage, her sportsman husband spent all his free time hunting and fishing, leaving her alone with small babies, causing her a sense of abandonment, deep resentment and a belief she was not worthwhile nor important enough to receive his time and attention. When she became sick and crippled with arthritis, he finally had to stay home. If she were healed, she reasoned, he’d go back to his old ways.
INNER RESOLUTIONS (VOWS)
Most of us make serious resolutions or vows before we’ve fully matured and bury them in our value/belief system. Hidden to our conscious mind, some add constructive direction to our lives, but others can be harmful. The negative ones often result from a serious trauma involving anger, hurt, disappointment, betrayal, abandonment or humiliation. They are renewed and reinforced whenever a similar trauma occurs, making them even stronger, ever deeper. Here are a few examples:
- I’ll never love anyone or anything again.
- I’ll never open up, or make myself vulnerable like that again.
- I’ll never let anyone humiliate me again.
- I’ll always be the first to leave a relationship.
- I’ll never say I’m sorry or ask for forgiveness.
We’ve ministered to many adults who’ve been hurt or taken advantage of in their teenage years by the opposite sex; who as children or teens, vow never to let another man or women hurt them, or even get close enough to hurt them. As adults, they’ve sublimated the vow and can’t understand why intractable inner walls keep them from fully disclosing themselves, or allowing others to get close. The Lord will not interfere with these destructive promises that we freely make to ourselves, but will free us from them as we willingly renounce and give them up.
Twice divorced, Louise had an ongoing battle with men (relationships never lasted) and with authority (often quit jobs or got fired). Growing up, she never knew what her father would do. An alcoholic, his behavior was erratic, physically and emotionally cruel. No child ever pleased him. Mother behaved as a doormat. As a young teen, Louise made the resolution, “I’ll never be like my mother! No man will ever dominate me or tell me what to do!” She yearned for loving relationships and meaningful employment, but only on her terms. Growing more cold, bitter and inflexible, she was domineering and anxious — an uptight, nervous wreck. She had no trust in man or in God, believing they’d all be erratic and cruel like her father — which meant they all had to be manipulated and controlled!
Many women, sexually abused in their past, have vowed no man would ever touch them or take advantage again. Yet they long for marriage and intimacy. Beverly wanted to get close to others, but never could. Deeply sorrowed because she longed to marry and have children, she realizes (in her words) “too late” that she’d been hurt in several teen romances and had made an inner vow. She has sabotaged relationships; she now feels hopeless, angry, bitter; full of regret, and too old to realize her dream of marriage and children.
MINISTRY TO BLOCKS
Destructive blocks, buried deep, can slow or frustrate healing until they are confronted and dealt with. Ministry is seldom a single-issue situation. All must be renounced, and many require painful forgiveness of offenses. Memories of the trauma that occasioned the block must be healed, and any evil spirit(s) that crept into the situation must be dealt with. Often, reconciliation with Our Lord through the Sacrament is in order.
Evil spirits are dealt with in The Name Of Jesus as presented in Weapons For Warfare and Discarding Evil Spirits. Vows must be formally renounced and rendered null and void using The Name Of Jesus by the person who made it. The vow is simply that, a vow not a spirit. But the process usually requires the authority and power of Jesus because of the vow’s importance as a driving factor in the person’s life.
Related paradigms and habits must also be adjusted. Hard work over time is required to remove destructive habits and negative knee-jerk reactions. But the good news is the healing process will release New Life into an area where once death-dealing Old Life held sway.