flatline

The God who heals

Have you ever been hurt, so badly hurt you felt something had died inside of you? If you have, did you feel like you had spiritually and emotionally flat-lined? How do your recover?

It’s impossible to live for any amount of time and not be hurt. We all have wounds, because life isn’t fair. We suffer persecution. Simply living the Christian life is an affront to many people in society. It stirs up resentment among friends and neighbors. It certainly stirs up Satan, who will act. This is the crab in the bucket principle – they don’t want to change, they simply want to pull you back into the bucket with them.

People let us down: Someone we depend on, someone we admire, someone who should have lived an upright life, but instead exhibited some deep moral flaw and hurt those who respect them. We suffer when we sin: Yes, though my sin hurts God, and hurts people around me, I am a victim of my sin, too. Even when I acknowledge my mistake, confess it to God, there is still a sense in which a grievous wound has been inflicted.

So, when life brings you random wallops, or when you slip and make the biggest mistake in life, when you’re bleeding and broken, when the bleeding is internal, how do you recover?

Psalm 51 begins with a sub heading that says it succinctly: “To the Choirmaster: A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”

Psalm 51 is as beautiful and as heartfelt an expression of remorse as there is anywhere in literature. David expresses his sorrow for sin without alibis, excuses or finger-pointing. He takes the blame squarely in the chest. He has sinned, and he takes full responsibility.

But how does one feel when one has let God, his family, his friends, his church and himself down? What is David’s psychological mindset at this moment? The answer is that David feels dead. Emotionally and spiritually – and we can understand this, I think – emotionally he has flat-lined. He can’t seem to kick start himself. The wounds run too deep. The wounds are fatal. Emotionally, he will have to reboot if he ever gets going again!

  • It’s Important to Bottom Out First! David says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). In order for heart surgery to occur, it is important that the patient be out! Anesthesia must have taken its full effect! I’m no heart surgeon, but it must be hard to do heart surgery when the patient continually revives and tries to sit up!
  • When wounds run this deep, human solutions are inadequate. Remember Adam and Eve in their ridiculous fig-leaf solution to nakedness? Remember the prophets of Jeremiah’s day who were prescribing band aids for spiritual cancer (Jeremiah 6:13, 14).

No matter the cause of your hurt, whether it is persecution, disillusionment, or your own mistake, you need to appreciate how deep the wound runs, and how profound the hurt is. Don’t try to do this alone! When you sin at this level, the wound is fatal.

What needs to change is the heart. “Create in me a clean heart,” David pleads, “and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Only God can put David back together. The verb “create” always has “God” as its subject. The business of “creation” is God’s business. Humans manufacture, God creates.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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One thought on “The God who heals

  1. In verse 17, David writes that the best sacrifice to God is a BROKEN spirit and a contrite heart. Yet, there are opposing types of brokenness. There’s bad brokenness when we demand answers, we despair, or give up on God. In contrast, good brokenness through which we repent, we see our need for the Lord, we appreciate Him more, and walk closer to Him. Good brokenness blesses one with humble flexibility, but good brokenness isn’t the finish line; it’s a blessed line of demarcation, ushering in devoted, transformative obedience to God.

    David’s prayer in Psalm 51 is so repentant that it stands in great contrast to Jonah’s merely thankful prayer (Jonah 2) and to his snarly prayer (Jonah 4). So, in my new book, HELLO, MY NAME IS JONAH: SO IS YOURS, I contrast the prayers of Jonah to David’s. David chose good brokenness which called him to repent and seek God in far deeper ways. Jonah chose bad brokenness that was bitter and blamed God.

    I like that your title is “The God Who Heals,” because usually we discuss Psalm 51 only from the perspective of David’s requests that God: blot out, wash, cleanse, purify, create, renew, restore, and save. Yet, when we add up the entire collection of those requests, we can say He is “The God Who Heals!”

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