Friday, October 7, 2011

Healing Through Pain

Healing Through Pain
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

We argued for four hours.  For months my wife, Debbie, had been saying that we needed counseling, but I disagreed.  Denial is a dangerous word with potentially dire consequences.  We had just returned home from our third term of missionary service in the Philippines and were attending a series of missionary renewal services sponsored by our mission sending agency, the Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM). While there, we had been invited to attend a caregiver’s seminar immediately following the meetings.  Thinking it might help us, Debbie wanted to stay.  I did not. The argument was intense. I won the skirmish but, in retrospect, nearly lost the war.

The upshot of the argument was that I finally realized that Debbie was right.  We needed help and began to search for a place to go. Within a couple of months the Lord led us to the Missionary Renewal Asia Pacific (MRAP) ministry, also known as Ministry Resources International, an Assemblies of God missionary care ministry in Kirkland, Washington. AGWM graciously granted us a three month sabbatical, and we packed our bags.  Three months ultimately became a year.  Had we not dealt with the issues when we did, I am convinced that within a short time we would have emotionally crashed and perhaps have been permanently been lost to the ministry.

At MRAP, our counselors, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, began to push and probe into the issues that brought us there.  A physiatrist that works in partnership with them diagnosed me as depressed, and Debbie was dealing with a more moderate case of depression but also had burned out.  Not surprisingly, we had some marriage issues as well. Dealing with these kinds of things, some of which required deep repentance on my part, is like peeling an onion.  The problems we faced, which were far too many to enumerate here, had multiple levels that had to be exposed and dealt with in order to be healed. Like peeling onions, they also provoked a lot of tears, and I experienced more personal pain than I have ever known.  I had to make a choice of facing my pain or running from it.  Facing pain is hard, but it is the path to healing.  God chose to heal me through the pain, not from it.

For me, some of my issues stemmed from my mother, a wonderful Christian lady who suffered from being manic-depressive.  Over the course of 31 years I estimate that she was hospitalized in mental institutions at least fifty times, lasting anywhere from two weeks to ten months at a time.  I had no idea at the time how deeply this affected me.  Somehow my family managed to cope.  Under Spirit led counseling during the sabbatical, however, I discovered that the disruption to our lives caused by her absence bred in me a subconscious sense of abandonment since we never knew if Mom would be there when we needed her.  This fear led to a felt need to control circumstances and people around me—an understandable but unhealthy emotional defense mechanism. For years Debbie and I have known that I have had an anger problem and prayed that God would reveal its source and bring healing.  While it would be far too simplistic to say that my fear of abandonment was the sole cause of my anger, I do believe that the roots of the problem stem from there.  As God has healed my emotions, the level of my anger and my sense of abandonment has been greatly reduced. We’re still praying for the completion of my healing!!

As God brought healing to Debbie and me as individuals, he also began to heal our marriage.  As a Christian, I have hope.  2 Corinthians 5:17 is clear that my past doesn’t have to define my future.  I cannot change what has happened, but I also needn’t be enslaved to the past—especially the things regarding my mom, over which I had no control. As the Holy Spirit, my counselors, and I confronted the issues (so did Debbie, but her story is not mine to tell), God began to heal my inner being.  It didn’t happen overnight, and it still isn’t complete.  After a year of full time counseling, Debbie and I were able to return to missionary service, which in this case meant visiting our supporting churches in the States.  We still maintain regular contact with MRAP and made two return visits.  God has continued to heal us even as we have now just returned to the Philippines.  We still have our disagreements as a couple and are still people in process, but God has brought much healing through our pain.  Glory to his name!! 

*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

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Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

1 comment:

  1. Progress, not perfection, my dear brother, is all any of us can expect. It took 50+ years to get the way you are. The total healing you speak of may take 50+ years to happen. Who care how long it takes, as long as there is progress.