Throughout our lives, we all experience emotional wounding and trauma. We live in a fallen world, and no one escapes life without suffering, pain and, in many cases, some form of trauma. Unfortunately, many church leaders I’ve worked with over the years struggle to acknowledge and effectively minister to the emotional distress and deep brokenness in the lives of those they serve.
Jeremiah offers words that speak to this failing, “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14 NASB).
Jesus was intimately acquainted with grief, expressed his emotions openly, and welcomed those with broken and messy lives. In my experience, the church can do better welcoming the broken and wounded in our midst by creating space for the healthy expression of emotions with an eye toward healing and redemption.
Here are a few things leaders should know when ministering to emotionally wounded people:
- Recognize that Jesus expressed emotions, as did the Apostle Paul (Psalms) and other godly men and women in Scripture and throughout church history. The healthy expression of emotions is biblical.
- Accept that expressing emotions in the right environment, with the right people, at the right time, is healthy and a necessary component of healing. In some cases, an individual may need the help of a professional counselor, and we should not hesitate to make a referral.
- Understand that beneath most emotions, there is a profound need, a heart’s cry, for what only God can give.
- Embrace the truth that strong emotions left unexpressed come out in other ways —often in physical disorders.
- Be willing to enter into another’s pain and pray for emotional healing. Learn to weep with those who weep.
We become healing agents as we create safe spaces in our Christian communities for broken individuals to share their stories without judgment. Just as we pray for the physical healing of broken bodies, we must learn to pray for emotional healing of the soul.
For more on this topic, I invite you to read my article, “Inviting God In: Opening the Door to the Messy and Miraculous Process of Inner Healing Prayer.”