Not everyone who is wounded is a wounded healer. Put another way, it’s possible to be wounded and suffer significant loss and not use that wound to minister healing to others. Much of this is related to how we go through the grieving process associated with our wound and loss. I learned this when I went through a divorce in 2008–2009. Not everyone agrees with how many stages of grief there are, but everyone agrees that it involves working through different phases of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance and often sorting through accompanying feelings of pain, guilt, loneliness, and hope.
I didn’t go through the grieving process associated with my divorce perfectly. There were missteps, stumbles, and things I wish I could do over. However, by the grace of God, I reached acceptance and hope and noticed that I was able to help other people who were working through broken relationships. Out of my wounds others were receiving healing and comfort.
In changing metaphors, rather than speaking in terms of wounds and healing, I’d like to talk in terms of water and refreshment: out of my experience I was able to, in an imperfect way, give thirsty people a cup of cold water. However, I’ve noticed that in both giving and receiving water over the years, how we go through the grieving process affects both the volume and quality of the water we give to others.
Before we drink it, water travels through rock and soil and can pick up large amounts of calcium and magnesium and becomes what we call “hard water.” If I grieve about a broken relationship and my forgiveness of the person who hurt me is incomplete, then I become hardened and end up giving hard water to those I share with about my experience. It may help a thirsty person, but God is calling me to buy a “water softener” and finish the forgiveness process so I can give better water to people I know and love.
If significant depression linked to my divorce still plagues me years after the dissolution of the marriage, that would definitely affect the volume of water I can give to others. When I’m depressed, I can barely take care of me so how can I give you a cup of refreshing water for what you’re going through? The volume of water I can give is greatly reduced. I will need to revisit my grieving process and do some “emotional detective work,” perhaps with a therapist, to find out why I’m still depressed.
This is not a condemnation of those who have depression because of a chemical imbalance or some other issue. My heart goes out to you and I rejoice that there are medications that can help you find an emotional equilibrium and enable you to give others a cup of cold, clean water in the name of Jesus. Your fight with depression is a different fight than mine and I’m rooting for you as God upholds you through a difficult trial.
For many, the most dangerous stage in the grieving process is the one involving anger. We may be angry at someone who hurt us and how we feel they let us down. We may be angry at God because we thought life was going to be “X” and it turned out to be “Y.”
Anger, for a season, is a healthy response for someone who has been wounded and suffered loss. The Bible says, “Be angry and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26). But if the anger devolves into bitterness, then we have a major problem. The Bible also warns us against missing the grace of God and allowing a bitter root to grow up, cause trouble, and defile many (Hebrews 12:15). Sometimes water supplies get poisoned by arsenic, radon, or uranium. This is a grave matter because the water we have has been poisoned and will poison others.
In Exodus 15: 22–25, the Israelites had traveled three days without finding water. When they finally did find water at Marah, it was bitter. God told Moses to throw a particular piece of wood in the water. When he did this, the water became sweet. We have hope because in brokenness and in a radical dependence on Christ (the Piece of Wood), our waters too can be made sweet.
If you liked this post by Jonathan Coe, you might also like his new book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that is now available at this link: