In the past few decades, mental health has been majorly highlighted in society, and more and more people have begun to really explore the effects of trauma in our lives. It is becoming clear that these are issues the Church needs to be better informed on as well. In our western church culture, I have found that most of us learned to deal with pain or trauma by sticking a Band-Aid on it, suppressing it, or invalidating it. Statements like, “Other people have it so much worse,” or “I just need to be more thankful,” or “Where’s your faith”…became common Band-Aids and invalidations of our experience in a world that is still broken.
Lately, I have been reading through the book of John and as I’ve encountered the relationship between Jesus and the siblings, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, I have sensed Lately, I have been reading through the book of John, and as I’ve encountered the relationship between Jesus and the siblings, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, I have sensed Holy Spirit really wanting to speak to me through their story. It began when I genuinely sensed him tell me that I’m a “Martha.” I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. Outwardly, I don’t feel like I exemplify what I have pictured Martha to be like. However, I began to see that Martha seems to process everything from her head knowledge. She doesn’t appear to have a connection with what’s really happening inside of her heart. For example, in John 11, the part of their story when Lazarus dies, there is an interesting contrast between the two sister’s reactions. We find Martha rushing out to meet Jesus before He even gets to their house. Mary is surrounded by community and immersed in grieving, and she doesn’t go to Jesus until she hears that He has called for her. Both of the sisters meet Jesus with the exact same statement, “If you had been here my brother wouldn’t have died.” The difference between the two statements is that Martha continues on with proclamations of faith in Jesus and knowledge of who He is, while Mary simply ends with no further commentary. As true as Martha’s declarations were, Jesus’ responses don’t show that He was overly impressed or moved by what she said. In response to Mary, we read, “Jesus is greatly troubled in his spirit, and He wept.” He was moved by her sorrow and met her in her pain. Later on in the story, you find that Martha’s declarations of faith didn’t manifest when it was actually time to remove the stone from the smelly tomb. She had a lot of head knowledge about the truth, but when the rubber met the road, she expressed what was really in her heart; a lack of faith.
I go into the depths of their story because, in the midst of it, I realized that my natural inclination is very similar to Martha‘s. I quickly roll over my own disappointments and pain with statements that sound like faith when they are really denial or suppression of what is going on in my heart. By doing that, I don’t allow Jesus the opportunity to really meet me in that point of pain. I can know in my head that He is with me, but until I get to experience His nearness even in the depths of my sorrow and pain, I will not have a deep connection with Him like I see Mary having throughout her story.
There is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis for the things we walk through in life. Physically, healing varies greatly depending on the type of wound we have. All wounds require attention, but the level of attention is very different. In the same way, the processes that we go through to find healing from pain or trauma in the realm of our emotional, mental and spiritual health can also be vastly different. The ultimate goal in every situation is to find true healing by inviting Jesus, the Healer, into every part of our hearts. This especially includes the most broken parts. We cannot experience the fullness of His abundant life when we gloss over or hide important areas of hurt and trauma. The more informed that we are as the Body of Christ on the effects of wounds and trauma, the more we will become an incredible source of healing within our body and to the world.