Have you ever asked yourself this question? I hear this one frequently in therapy as people seek help with emotional struggles. They want answers to deep questions of the heart, and they want them now. When time continues to reveal steady weakness, they feel frustrated and discouraged. Because they can’t see progress, they resign themselves to believe that they will always struggle with that. one. thing.
How tempting to feel discouraged by our weaknesses! How easy to think that, just because we struggle, we are defined by our trial. How unfortunate to assume that, “This is who I am. This is the way it will always be.”
Whatever the struggle—depression, anxiety, grief, marital strife, difficulty trusting others, past trauma, addiction—we can grow impatient with ourselves and expect instant success. When faced with the reality of our situation, we can blame ourselves for not improving fast enough; we can blame others for hurting us; we can even blame God for seemingly sitting back and doing nothing. As a therapist, I have seen individuals assume one of three roles—and consequent beliefs—as they navigate through the arduous healing process. Let’s address each one. We might see a reflection of ourselves and move even closer to healing that lasts.
ROLE #1: THE PASSIVE BYSTANDER
When we seek emotional healing, we can feel tempted to assume a passive role. We may admit our shortcomings or talk with a friend, but then we stop doing the work. We bump up against a wall and feel tired of trying. We give up prematurely. Individuals who fall in this category lack follow-through and may give in to laziness and despair. They think, “God will take care of everything,” but then fail to take advantage of the resources He has placed in their path. They haven’t yet called that counselor whom someone recommended they see. If they’re already in therapy, perhaps they haven’t made homework a true priority. They haven’t been vulnerable with their friend about that ‘something’ weighing on their heart. Or if they have opened up, they find themselves lacking authentic accountability.
ROLE #2: THE SELF-HELP-ER
While some individuals may be tempted to take a passive role in their healing, others may be tempted to fall into the opposite extreme—shifting into over-drive and stopping at nothing to GET BETTER NOW. Individuals who fall into this category find themselves grasping for control and using their own resources. They have asked God for healing, but He hasn’t responded according to their timeframe. They think, “God doesn’t care about me. If He did, He would have healed me already,” or “God won’t come through for me.” They lack trust in God because they have been disappointed so many times before. They shove Him out, avoiding honest conversations with Him. Consequently, their prayer life suffers. They find themselves restless, dissatisfied, and burnt out.
ROLE #3: THE RECEPTIVE & ACTIVE COLLABORATOR
Healing takes time. Oftentimes, so much longer than we would like. We expect immediate healing, but healing is a process. A journey. In order to progress towards deeper healing and freedom, we must take on a role that is receptive and active. This means balancing the temptation to either give up to soon or take everything into our own hands. A receptive participant acknowledges his or her weakness and desire for healing and then fully releases the healing timeframe to God. An active participant seeks healing in all areas of life—including the physical, emotional, and spiritual – and is willing to do his or her part of the work in each area. We are called to collaborate with God, the Divine Healer. We are His co-workers! (1 Cor. 3:9) And sometimes that means accepting that His timing is not our own.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO LIVE OUT ACTIVE RECEPTIVITY
What does living as a receptive and active collaborator look like? We are called to take care of ourselves on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. This means first addressing our basic, physical needs—getting enough sleep (7-9 hours each night), regularly exercising, and eating three healthy meals a day. If we have been diagnosed with specific health concerns, we need to address those diligently by caring for our bodies as qualified health practitioners recommend, even if it may be burdensome.
On an emotional level, seeking professional help (or at least the help of a trusted mentor) can literally help us “re-wire” neurological pathways in our brains that have been negative for so long and rebuild new and healthy ones. Scientists refer to this phenomenon as neuroplasticity, meaning our brains are quite adaptable.
On a spiritual level, the receptive and active collaborator pays attention to the little ways that God is speaking each day. They allow the words of trusted friends, family, spiritual mentors, and counselors to move their hearts. They listen attentively to the words of the daily Mass readings or other daily devotions, and ask God what He wants to teach or show them. They recognize the blessings in their lives and intentionally thank God for them. Acknowledging that their healing takes time, hard work, patience, and humility, they choose to trust that God wants to walk with them throughout everything.
POWER MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS
Maybe you feel as if you are doing all these things and you still have not achieved the healing you would like. Maybe you feel stuck and don’t know what else to do. Father Mike Schmitz, international speaker and campus minister at University of Minnesota, Deluth, gives a six-minute talk titled, “What Does God Want Me to Do?” and gives practical tips on how to figure out what God wants us to do next. He explains that God will not expect you to answer a question that He hasn’t already given you an answer to. This means that everything we need to do has already been revealed to us. We don’t need to fret about how on earth we will achieve perfect healing, and how it must happen NOW; we need only take the small, day-to-day steps that we already know we need to do. And God will take care of the rest.
Most of all, we must pray for the grace to fully surrender our healing to Jesus and to trust in Him more fully. Saint Paul wrestled with his own weakness, too. He begged the Lord three times to take it away. But he surrendered his understanding and proclaimed, “His grace is sufficient for me, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Jesus is the Divine Healer. His thoughts are not our thoughts; our ways are not His ways (Is 55:8). His time is a mystery, and He desires us to surrender that to Him. He yearns for our trust. May He make our hearts receptive as we actively seek His will in our healing!
In His Heart,