I think it’s easy for most of us to get caught up in the lie that in order to minister to others we have to have everything figured out ourselves. Throughout my time in the counseling program this lie has been a constant struggle for me. When you’re working with other people’s wounds on a daily basis it’s so easy to look at your own and think “Really God? How in the world am I ever going to help them?” We are so quick to believe that our wounds inhibit us in helping others when sometimes they are in fact what God uses to bring hope and healing to His children.
This is how our Lord operates. It’s through our experiences, sometimes the darkest one’s, that we come to understand the lessons we need to learn to help those Christ brings into our lives. The memories from our own pain enable us to help light the path for others who are still in the midst of their own darkness. Carl Jung, a secular psychologist, once referred to a therapist’s role as being a “Wounded Healer.” What Jung essentially meant by this is that it’s by a therapists own wounds that they are able to understand the wounds of their clients. As Christians, I believe we are all called to be wounded healers and I think the Lord gives us every opportunity to do so.
I remember the first session I had with one of my clients who was battling depression. She walked in, sat down and looked at me without saying a word. There was no expression. No emotion. She barely responded to any of my questions and I had no clue where to even begin with her. I saw a body, but I remember thinking how lifeless she looked, as if all the passion to live had been drained from her. The sadness in her eyes wasn’t foreign to me. I recognized her emptiness, as I had seen it every day I looked in the mirror during my own depression a few years prior. I thought back on my own experience in therapy and I remembered vividly the day that my therapist looked at me, sensing my exhaustion, and he said to me, “Drewe, you are hanging on the cross right now, but the crucifixion always comes before the Resurrection.” Little did I know that God’s providence would have me come face to face with my client who was enduring her own cross; one similar to the one I carried a couple years earlier. In that moment, as I sat with her, my journey through therapy and my time spent in agony suddenly had more meaning than I had ever realized. Her struggle was different, but the path she would have to walk would be the same.
We all have these moments where we encounter someone whose cross resembles our own. When these moments occur, I believe this is when God gently asks us, “Can I use your wounds to help stop the bleeding of theirs?” I always think of the post-abortive women who have the courage to stand in front of Planned Parenthood and tell the young girls their testimony of pain and regret. Their wounds, in that moment, are being exposed to help other young women not walk down the same path. I can’t think of a more beautiful way to find healing than to help someone else by showing them the wounds you carry in hopes they won’t be afflicted in the same way. When we realize that our wounds are not our own but that they belong to Jesus, then we will have the courage to let Him use them for His children.
So often though, we want to wait until we feel “whole” to begin to give Jesus access to our wounds. When I first started the counseling program I remember thinking, “Wait Lord, I’m not ready, I’m not healed yet.” I felt like Jesus was about to throw me to the sharks. I looked at my healing as a destination, as if one day I’d wake up and I would have arrived; I’d be whole and then I would let Him send me off into the world to do His will. Until then, I wanted to safely hide and heal before I was in a position of letting others see my wounds. I didn’t want Him to use me yet because in my mind, I wasn’t perfect. I wasn’t worthy to be used in my broken state and I sure as heck was in no position to help others in their brokenness. But Jesus wasn’t asking me whether I was ready; He wanted to know whether I was willing. He had to keep speaking to my heart, reassuring me that He wanted my wounds. We so often think that nobody wants the wounded part of us, so when Jesus comes to us and asks us for permission to use them, we hesitate. But we must see that it’s the parts of us that we often want to hide away, that Jesus can use to bring the most healing in the world. We must have the courage to, as Blessed Mother Teresa used to pray, “Deny Him nothing,” especially in how He wants to use our wounds.
I try to help my clients see that healing is a life long journey that requires patience with God and patience with ourselves. As Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr once said,
I think we carry our wounds until the end; they do not fully go away but keep us humble, patient, and more open to trust. The healing lies in the fact that our wounds no longer defeat us or cause us to harm ourselves or others. Wounds become our daily offering to God, and they develop in us compassion toward the weakness of others.”
Great humility can be borne through our wounds when we give them to God to use. What a sweet offering, to give back to our creator the parts that we are so afraid to expose to the rest of the world. It’s important for us to realize that healing isn’t something we do to ourselves; it’s something God does within us. We have to be active participants in our healing and we have to seek out the ways the Lord is calling us into deeper healing, but we have to surrender our wounds to His perfect timing and trust that He is healing us even when we feel like we’re spinning around in circles. If we can trust in this, then we won’t be paralyzed by our wounds, but transformed by them. We must trust that even when our wounds seem too overwhelming to look at or we’re not ready for them to be exposed to others, that Jesus will give us the grace to see that it’s,
“In our own woundedness, that we can become a source of life for others.”-Henri Nouwen (Catholic Priest)
As I was thinking about what it means to truly be a wounded healer, I began to meditate on how it relates to Jesus. Jesus Christ is the greatest wounded healer. He used His physical wounds to bring about our redemption. As He hung there, pierced by our transgressions, His wounds became powerful. It was through Jesus’ wounds we became saved and as Scripture tells us, it’s by His wounds that we are healed (Is 53:5). If we are to imitate Jesus, as we are called to as Christians, then our wounds need to be used as a source of power in the world. We are able to do this not by our own merit, but by His. Because we are part of the Body of Christ we share in Christ’s suffering and if we share in His suffering, then we also share in His wounds. And if we are healed by His wounds and His wounds have become our own, then we become extensions of the healing wounds of Christ. Soak this in. This means that our own wounds have meaning; they have power. For our wounds to have power, we must embrace them, just as Christ embraced His and embraces ours now. Our wounds have not bled in vain, just as Jesus’ didn’t. In those moments when our wounds are exposed to the world, telling of the times we carried our crosses and suffered for love of Christ, that is where our healing lies and where others will find healing through our wounds.
So, my challenge to you is this: Let your wounds be the means that others find Jesus. Let your wounds remind you of those places within your soul that cry out for His love and mercy. Don’t be afraid of your wounds. Don’t run from them. Don’t reject them. Use them. Touch others with them. Offer your wounds to Jesus and let Him make them beautiful. Let His power be brought to fullness through your wounds. He didn’t die for the perfect you; He died for the wounded you. When we accept our wounds, we accept Jesus’ wounds. And through His wounds, we are made whole. Dare to have the courage to let yourself be amazed by the way He can use your wounds to bring healing to others. In that, you will find your healing. In that, you will become a wounded healer.
May you be blessed and bless others in your healing my brothers and sisters!
My name is Drewe Weymouth and I’m a pastoral counseling student. I believe the most fundamental attribute of the Pastoral Counselor is the foundation of faith in which they rest upon. Whether it is the language they use, the specific therapeutic techniques they implement or the psychoeducation they provide to their clients, Jesus Christ and the teachings of His Church must remain at the heart and center of everything a Pastoral Counselor says and does.