These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Today we start the final series of lessons from James called Broken. Because of the sinful nature we are born with we are all broken. We are broken in many ways, but James mentions three of them.
Types of Healing
One of the questions that many Christians have is does God still heal today? How does God heal? Does God heal the same way every time? In this series we cannot address every aspect of God’s healing power, but these three.
- Today we are going to talk about emotional healing. Emotional healing is recovering from emotional hurt and pain that comes from being lied to, betrayed, ostracized, abandoned, rejected, ignored, or violated in some way. Emotional healing usually confronts unhealthy anger, bitterness, depression, guilt, shame, fear, loneliness, grief, or despair.
God uses a variety of prescriptions regarding your emotional and mental health. For example…
- Friendship Counseling – this is where God has placed a godly friend in your life that helps you through your thoughts of depression, loneliness, or dangerous anger.
- Professional Counseling – Sometimes the emotional brokenness is to such a degree that you need to seek professional help that will guide you through a process to help you understand your emotion, your thoughts, and to give you new strategies to help you deal with your emotions.
- Medication – God knows that our emotions and the way we feel is sometimes due to the physical breakdown of our bodies. Sometimes our bodies don’t produce enough chemicals related to our emotions so God has given some people incredible wisdom to determine what medicines help with what emotions.
- Scripture – Listen to Psalm 119:50 which says, “This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me” (NASB). There is something about reading and believing God’s Word that impacts how we feel when going through difficult times. Your emotions can be transformed by the Word of God. God can bring emotionally healing from His Word.
- Prayer – Also, prayer helps and heals us emotionally. We will look in more detail about this one today.
All those are helpful. Today, I want to show you something you can and should do on your own. This is so simplistic that it seems like it wouldn’t work or it may sound so strange to you that it is corny. But it is part of God’s strategy for your emotional well-being. In James 5, James is going to take a look at our emotions and say if you are emotionally sad here is what you do and if you are emotionally happy here is what you do. According to James, for emotional distress we should pray. God is saying come talk to me about it.
James 5:13 says, “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises” (NLT). Let’s break this down in small pieces, especially the first part.
- “Are any of you” – this is personal. This isn’t just for the spiritual elete. This is for you and me.
- “suffering hardships” – It a generic phrase that includes all the emotional baggage coming from the difficulties in life. Are you emotionally troubled? Is there something that is going on in your life that you are stressed out about? Worried about? Fearful of?
- “You should pray” – You need to talk to God about it. This isn’t just any kind of prayer, but a specific kind that I want you to consider. We will talk about this in a moment.
Then he flips it over and says, “Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.”
- “Are any of you” – Again, that’s you and me. He is talking to everybody.
- “happy” – It’s that inner since of contentment and joy. You can still feel this way even in the midst of adversity or troubling times. You are glad to be alive and you are seeing life through the correct lens. When this happens what are you to do?
- “You should sing praises” – This is not referring to going to church so you can sing. This is talking about you, as an individual, by yourself sing praises to God. When there is joy in your life and everything is going good, you should simply sing praises to God. When was the last time you were alone with God and just started singing to Him and about Him and about how great He is and all the wonderful things that he has done in your life.
So you pray when you feel bad and you sing praises when you feel happy.
God’s Prescription for Emotional Health
- For Emotional Distress = PRAY
- For Emotional Delight = SING
If you are like many people, here is what you might be thinking. “Jeff, I get that in order to get God’s power working in my life I need to talk to God and listen to what He has to say. But to be honest I’ve tried that and this difficult emotion I struggle with just keeps hanging on. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work for me. I was depressed and prayed and prayed and when I was done praying I was still depressed.” I hear you and I can relate to your frustration. This takes us to the question…
What kind of prayer heals emotional wounds?
So this brings us to a very important question, “What type of prayer is designed to help us emotionally?” Let me tell you about two people.
Jack was struggling emotionally. He was really down. He was needing a job and some of his so-called friends had abandoned him. He felt alone. When you talked to Jack he would talk about how bad is life was, how lonely he was, how he didn’t have any friends, no money, no future, and on and on. It was terrible and depressing. Every time you would run into to Jack this is what you would get week after week. Jack had a friend who gave him some good advice. He said, “Jack, why don’t you pray about this and talk to God about all this?” Jack said, “I’ve tried that and it don’t work.” Well, his friend said let’s pray right now and when Jack began to pray he simply started telling God all the things that were going wrong in his life and ask God to fix it. He was simply rehashing all this bad to God just like he was talking to anyone who would listen.
Counselors call this “rumination.” A lot of people sit at home, dwell on the negative and find themselves getting deeper and deeper in their depression, anger, fear, or bitterness. When cows ruminate, they chew on their cud, chomping over and over without swallowing. When humans ruminate, they repeat negative thoughts over and over, dwelling on something either in the past or the present — but do nothing to change anything. Ruminating is like spinning your wheels in the mud. You don’t seem to be getting anywhere, so you just keep spinning your wheels, faster and faster. You keep digging a hole, find yourself stuck, and dig deeper and deeper.
Examples of rumination include repeating in your mind negative experiences in the past, replaying conversations that you had, dwelling on the “injuries” and “injustices” that you have suffered, or asking questions that don’t have answers, such as “Why am I so depressed?,” “Why me?,” “What is the meaning of all of this?” or “Why did he or she say that?” You may ruminate about your physical problems, your aches and pains, your emotions, your sensations or just about anything. The key thing is that you are stuck. You just keep chewing the emotional cud over and over.
Now let’s talk about Dave’s prayer. When Dave prays he lays it out before God. At times it sounds dangerous, disrespectful and it may make you a little uncomfortable with what Dave is saying to God. He tells God how disappointed He is in God, how hurt he is by the people who have hurt him, and He is gut wrenching honest with God about how He feels about what is going on or not going on in his life. If Dave were to stop there, he would simply be ruminating just like Jack. But Dave’s prayer goes on to tell God how great He is, how loving He is, how merciful, sovereign, wise, and caring He is. And he goes on to say, “I don’t know what it looks like for my problems and your character to come together, but I resolve to trust you through this and to depend on you.”
When you hear Dave pray you hear a man who has gone through some deep emotional trauma. Dave has actually lost a child to death and grieved greatly, later he would commit adultery, and arrange for a murder to look like death. He would eventually make a decision that would cost hundreds of lives. He had enemies who would chase him down and try to kill him. He has experienced great pain from others and from his own hands. He understands the emotions of rejection, regret, shame, humiliation, and depression.
The Dave I’m talking about is King David in the Bible. He eventually found emotional healing from all these dark emotions. One of the ways that God brought healing into his life was through prayer. But not just any kind of praying, but a specific type of prayer that I want to introduce you to and want to encourage you to pray this way the next time you find yourself struggling with loneliness, regret, depression, anxiety, or some other difficult emotion.
Prayers that heal emotional distress are called LAMENTS. A prayer of lament is a prayer of pain, hurt, and struggle. Nearly one-third of the Psalms are prayers of lament. A prayer of lament has three parts.
Recount your PAIN
First, you start off by recounting your pain. You pray with honest emotion, honest anger, genuine frustration, you vent, and pour out all your anger, frustration, dissatisfaction, and all your hurt before God. When you do this, it may not feel very reverent or respectful to God. You are being gut wrenching honest with God. When you read some of David’s laments you find David not sounding not very reverent to God at times.
Recall God’s CHARACTER
The second aspect of a lament is the recalling of God’s character. First you recount your pain and second your recall God’s character. This deals with who He is, what He has promised, and what He has done in the past. This is where you remind yourself of how awesome God is while you are sitting in the valley of death or the pit of despair or the hall of shame.
Resolve to TRUST God
Third, in this prayer that is designed to bring emotional healing, you resolve to trust God, to depend on Him no matter what.
Examples to follow when you feel “bad” due to…
What I want to do is give you some examples from David’s prayer. He comes to God emotionally distraught and overwhelmed and finds emotional healing at the hands of God.
There are five major reasons that bring emotional pain: depression and doubt, guilt and shame, persecution, injustice, sickness, and the impact of aging. These are things that bring you and I down. There are others, but most of the downers in life will fit into one of those categories. I have listed a Psalm of Lament for each one of those as a model and example that you can use to guide your praying when you experience one of those hard emotions.
As you go through each Psalm they all want follow the order of these three components, but they will be in there in some form or fashion.
Take a look at Psalm 13 which deals with depression and doubt.
- “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?” Lord, it feels like you have abandoned me. I feel like you don’t care what happens to me. It feels like you have walked out on me. Where were you when my marriage fell apart? Where were you when my child died? Where were you when I couldn’t even pay to keep the lights on? It feels like you have forgotten me and given up on me. “How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?” He is wrestling with “anguish” and “sorrow.” He says he is struggling with “anguish in his soul.” The soul is where our emotions reside. He is feeling some type of torment, agony, and anxiety. He is talking about emotional pain. He is talking about emotional and mental pain. “Sorrow” deals with grief, sadness, or regret in some way. He is either grieving over what has happened to him or regretting something that he did or should of done.
- But regardless of what is happening here this is a daily struggle for he refers to this battle as happening “every day.” When he gets up it’s there, when he goes to work the anguish follows him, when he has lunch the sorrow sits at his table, when he goes to town the emotional pain doesn’t ever seem to go away.
- “How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” Is he struggling with being paranoid? Does he think that those who don’t like him are the cause of what is happening to him? Or is he concerned about others wishing for his downfall to see him like this?
- “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!” Talk to me, guide me, give me some direction. Where are you in all this? I’m praying and waiting, but I don’t see you doing anything. Answer me!
- “Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.” Is he suicidal? Is he thinking about killing himself? Maybe he is simply wishing he was dead rather than having to go through what he is going through. The joy of life is gone.
- “Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’ Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.” Look at the implications God. I’m trying to live for you and bring you glory, but my enemies they want me to fail, they want me to give up so they can rejoice in my downfall.
- “But I trust in your unfailing love.” He has recounted his pain, but now he recalls God’s character. The phrase “unfailing love” refers to the covenant God has made with His people. To where He will never leave nor forsake His people. To where all things work together for good to those who love God. “God, I don’t know how you are going to work this out and instead of walking around in self-pity I am going to trust you. I am going to trust the fact you love me and your love is unfailing. I’m hurting and I don’t understand it, but I’m going to trust You.”
- “I will rejoice because you have rescued me.” Now notice this statement of faith. “Okay, because you love me and you are going to work this out I will make the choice to rejoice because you have rescued me.” This is a statement about his future. “I’m going to rejoice now about the deliverance that is to come.”
- “I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.” Now, notice the vow or decision he makes after pouring out his pain and frustration to God and recalling God’s great character he makes a choice. He makes a choice to rejoice and sing to the Lord because God is good. Do you think he feels like rejoicing or singing to the Lord? Read the first five verses. Do you think he feels like it?
Here’s what’s going to happen. If you are not careful you will say, “I understand what Pastor Jeff was saying but I just didn’t feel like rejoicing or singing to the Lord. I tried to pray and worship God but I was just to down.”
Part of your spiritual battle and warfare is fighting your emotions. As a follower of Jesus, you have to stand and fight for who you are in Christ, take every thought captive, and choose to behave differently than you feel. Take those raw and painful emotions and lay them before God, daily.
Before we close and we leave this place there are some general observations I want to leave you with.
- “Ups” and “Downs” are NORMAL. You are not the only one feeling like you do or who is going through what you are going through. Feeling discouraged, depressed and stressed is normal. We all struggle with these emotions.
- Emotional healing demands we move beyond the SILENCING of our symptoms. We will ignore the symptoms of deep emotional pain. The use of drugs, the over indulgence of alcohol, blaming others for our emotional state, staying busy all the time, pouring yourself into ministry, manipulating others, and gaining attention. We need to call time out and find out the root cause of what is really going on in our hearts. Let’s go beyond trying to silence the pain with these type of things.
- Emotional healing is a gift from God. No matter how your healing comes about, whether it’s through a prayer of lament, godly advice, medical help, or professional counseling or all the above your emotional healing will come from God.
- Emotional healing requires help from others. God designed you that way. Others cannot do it for you, you have to lament before God and listen to what God says through others. Receive encouragement from others, let them love on you and bless you, let them help you carry the load, and also let them admonish or rebuke you when necessary. It’s all a part of the healing process.
- Emotional healing sometimes demands extended and specialized care. There are some hurts and pains that require professional guidance. If you feel like you need professional help you can contact him. His name is Kevin Wilburn and his information is in the sermon guide this morning. If you feel like you need more specialized care, I highly recommend you contact him.