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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Walking Through the Healing Process

Walking Through the Healing Process

Based on his book 7 Ways to Choose Healing, Stephen Arterburn offers practical tips for how we can walk through a process of healing successfully. Those tips include connecting with others, learning to take risks again, and forgiving those who have hurt us.
Original Air Date: April 23, 2021


Stephen Arterburn: You have to experience both the sadness and the anger or the great disappointment, and you have to talk about it and you have to open up about it and admit it to yourself. And when you do that, when you’re talking about that reality, it just frees you.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: No matter what type of drama or hurt you faced, whether it was pain from abuse or the loss of a friend or a divorce or a shattered dream, there is hope. Today on Focus on the Family, Steve Arterburn joins us, and he’ll discuss how you can experience healing even after the worst circumstances in your life. Your host is Focus president Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Uh, John, pain is a very real part of life, that’s just a fact, and all of us will go through it at some point. Uh, you may get through many years and not suffer a lot of pain, but at some point, there’ll be loss of some sort, maybe the death of your parents or something, but you will experience it. Um, my own parents, many of you know that story. I mean, I was an orphan by the time I was 12, I’d already been in foster care for a year. Uh, it was a tragic situation, but, uh, I got through it, and I got through it mainly because of Christians who believed in me and loved on me, like my football coach or teacher-

John: Hmm.

Jim: … and they inspired me to do more than what I thought I could do. And that’s what it’s about, um, by God’s grace I’m here today. And, uh, I think that’s true for each and every one of us, no matter where you’re at. Steve Arterburn has written a helpful book, uh, to lead you through the healing process, it’s called 7 Ways to Choose Healing, and I’m really looking forward to this discussion today. Uh, like Steve, I’m passionate about seeing how the Lord can redeem someone’s story out of a painful circumstance. One of those sayings I love is that often our passion is born out of our pain-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and that’s the theme of today’s program.

John: Let me mention that Steve Arterburn is founder and chairman of New Life Ministries, which is a national faith-based broadcast, counseling and treatment ministry. He’s a speaker, he’s an author and teaching pastor at Northview Church in Carmel, Indiana.

Jim: Steve, welcome back to Focus.

Stephen: Thank you. It’s great to be here. You know, you start talking about pain. I, I hate pain, and when I go to the dentist, I, I don’t ask for Novacane, I, I ask for an epidural.

Jim: (laughs)

Stephen: And, and it’s not just the physical pain, I don’t like pain. And I think there are a lot of us, uh, that do everything we possibly can to deny it, avoid it, but it is the pain that brings us right back to the Lord, and it’s pain that leads to healing. You know, if you’re-

Jim: Wow.

Stephen: … just always avoiding pain, you’ll never get the treatment that you need. And I think God is right there with us in our pain and really wants to bring us to Him.

Jim: Well, you’ve launched right into probably one of the deepest theological points you could launch into in the first couple of minutes here. I mean, the idea, uh, that pain is a purposeful process.

John: Hmm.

Jim: Um, a lot of people don’t want to believe that, that if I’m living a good, healthy, robust Christian life, I will not suffer. That’s not the equation.

Stephen: No, that’s not. And, you know, when I was going through seven years of infertility, uh, I had some people that would say to me, do you think that, that that’s a result of some kind of spiritual problem? And it was so painful to go through that. And then, you know, the Lord blessed me with this daughter that’s just this most adopted, and, and I’m telling you, there was nothing that got better in my life theologically or spiritually that landed me one of the greatest gifts in the entire universe. And so people that try to put something on you, uh, if you’re going through pain, their theology is off. And I remember a woman, I was speaking in Des Moines, Iowa on toxic faith, and I was talking about that sick Christians aren’t second-class, she had been kicked out of church because she had an unresolved health issue that never got better, ended up in bed and after five years, she finally had the strength to come back to church, and it was on the day that I was preaching on sick Christians aren’t second-class in God’s kingdom.

Jim: Hmm.

Stephen: God uses everything, and if we were in the garden, nobody would get sick, nobody would have pain, but I don’t know if you’ve noticed, we’re not there anymore.

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: And I know in my life one of the worst things that ever happened is after a 20 year very difficult marriage, um, you know, my wife divorced me and I was in pain, and, you know, a lot of people would say, well, you know, how did you contribute to the divorce? All this stuff like that.

Jim: Right.

Stephen: Well, I know this, I was a pretty good guy. I mean, I’m not denying that, that I had problems, but a lot of guys are a lot worse than I was that divorce would never be in their, uh, future. I’m just saying that we make these judgements about things that happen-

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: … and we really need more compassion. Now fortunately for me in my pain, these couples didn’t want me to get weird, and so on Sunday night they created a group called Couples and Steve.

Jim: (laughs)

Stephen: (laughs) And so-

John: How did that make you feel, Couples and Steve Bible study?

Stephen: … we’d, we’d go to church, hey, you go into Couples and Steve?

Jim: (laughs)

Stephen: And it, but it was a time where they didn’t kick me out of the couples group-

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: … and it really was a time for healing. And so if you’re in pain, you know, yeah, you could have caused something that got you there-

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: … but oftentimes it’s just a result of a fallen world outside the garden.

Jim: Well, maybe that’s the right place after a warm beginning.

Stephen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Maybe we get to the question this way. I mean, I’ve heard you say before that for the person who’s been hurting because of discouragement or divorce like you just said, or death or disease, some trauma that hits us, it’s essential that they first decide that they want to be healed.

Stephen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I mean, it’s a big emphasis of your book here, 7 Ways to Choose Healing. You’ve got to want it. Well, what does that mean?

Stephen: Well, in the fifth chapter of John is the story of the guy that was sick for 38 years by the pool of Bethesda and, or Bethsaida, and Jesus says, do you want to be healed? The guy’s been there 38 years trying to get in the water to be healed, but Jesus says, do you wanna be healed? And so, there is this issue of choice, you do have to want it. And sometimes we get in this place that we call learned helplessness-

Jim: Hmm.

Stephen: … where we think there’s nothing that we can do, you can’t do everything, but you can do something. Uh, but we’ve met these people that no matter what you offer or say, they’ve got an excuse or some resistance there. But, you know, it goes beyond desire, you have to have this other thing called willingness. In other words, you have to want it so much that you’re willing to take a risk and do some things that maybe are a little bit uncomfortable for you, uh, to get better or to change. And if you’re doing the same thing like this 38-year sick guy, same thing for 38 years, you’re probably gonna be doing it for another 38 years.

Jim: Well and Steve, the difficulty in this whole arena, and I, I don’t think that Focus on the Family that we talk much about this because it is difficult, because there are people that have prayed for 10, 15, 20-

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: … or more years. Please take this affliction from me, explain it, and why it may not happen?

Stephen: Yeah. I think there’s a verse for them, uh, that simply says, those who persevere receive the crown of life, and sometimes all we’re called to do is just get through it. And so many people have afflictions that are so painful and so difficult, and that really a day, one more day is a victory. And I just want you to know that, that God is with you, your angels are in the presence of God making sure He doesn’t, uh, ignore what you’re going through, and He loves you in the midst of that pain. And it was not the original plan, it is not the original plan. Yes, we do things that hurt ourselves and sometimes we’re the victim of people hurting us, but I’ll tell you, God’s there for you, and if you can cling onto Him and grow closer to Him rather than abandon Him, or think He’s mad at you or experienced shame or something like that, you will receive that crown of life. He will bless you; He will comfort you. And it’s so difficult to minister to those folks that-

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: … just don’t get better.

Jim: Well, and I appreciate that because I think that’s the heart of what we’re trying to accomplish today is to give people hope. In the book, you mentioned a girl named Rachel.

Stephen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Describe her story and what she found.

Stephen: Well, she just became aware that there were some things in her past, she had been abused. And, um, so she decides to open up and share, and she gets some encouragement to go see a counselor, and she opens up to this counselor and then she starts to get better. And like so many people, you know, she really didn’t know what counseling was all about or thought that was for really sick people or something like that. And, and so many times we don’t know that we can be helped, that we can live a different life until we go out and get some kind of help. Uh, I don’t wanna shock you here, but my wife, I take Thursday and that’s me and my wife, that’s our day. We go see a marriage counselor every Thursday. I was telling this to a guy-

Jim: (laughs)

Stephen: … on a golf trip and he was shocked that I, I said, well, hey, I believe in counseling and it, and it helps.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Stephen: And, uh, he said, that’s just crazy. And then I saw him about three months later, he says, we’re going every other week.

Jim: (laughs)

Stephen: And, and they’re learning some new things.

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: I, I got to tell you, when we are willing to let somebody step in, look at and help us to grow as an individual or a couple, sky’s the limit as to what we can do.

Jim: Well, I appreciate that, and sometimes in the Christian community we get lost in that counseling issue.

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: Um, because it can at times you talked about connecting with your childhood or-

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: … connecting with your feelings and we’ve had enough comedians-

Stephen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … make fun of that.

Stephen: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Jim: But when you look at it from God’s perspective, how do you think He expects us to take the pain, those fragments of brokenness-

Stephen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and, and, you know, the circumstances we go through in life, how does He expect us to patch that together and have a healthier relationship with Him first, and then with those around us, including our spouse, our kids, our parents, and our friends?

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, what would he expect us to do? So, let’s lay it out there, why counseling is okay in a Christian context.

Stephen: Well, my wife and I do a group at our church, Northview called Take Your Life back on Sunday night, and it’s for putting your big toe in the water. It’s one step above just going to church and sitting there. So, we talk-

Jim: (laughs)

Stephen: … we do question and answer, and then you have a discussion time. There are other people that have a wise, old soul that they can go to in that church who’s solid in their faith and they can get good advice and wise counsel. But most people don’t have those kinds of situations. So, you find that person who feels called by God to learn as much about the Bible, learn as much about the human dynamic and how to communicate and connect with you and provide healing. And that person that’s called to preach from a pulpit is no more called than the person that’s sitting in an office inviting people to come in, share their story, give them some insight and direction. That’s the counselor. And I have been so blessed in my life to work with committed, dedicated Christians who that was just their calling.

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: And to say that counseling is not Biblical or whatever, you’re discounting all these, uh, Christian counseling schools and Christian colleges, their professors, all those students that are excited about studying that-

Jim: Well, and the help they bring. (laughs)

Stephen: And all of the help. And that’s really the bottom-line Jim, what’s the result? Do people that go to counseling now not wanting to go to church anymore? No, they, they got healed, they wanna share that. And that’s where we take our pain and we process it and we use it with purpose. God doesn’t wanna waste one ounce of pain that we’ve been through.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

John: Steve Arterburn is our guest on Focus on the Family, and, uh, his book is 7 Ways to Choose Healing. You can request a copy and also schedule a time to talk with one of our caring Christian counselors here at Focus on the Family if, uh, you really don’t have one of those trusted people Steve just mentioned, uh, to talk to. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, uh, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Steve, let me, let me go to some of the core principles that you have in the book, one is trust, and trust can be broken, you know, relatively easily.

Stephen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Uh, it might be serious like infidelity or, you know, a parent-child relationship issue. Um, but how can they find that genuine connection, um, so you can trust trusting people-

Stephen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … that you can be real with people, even if it comes with some risk.

Stephen: Yeah. I, I find so many people are committed to predictability and sameness and protecting themselves. And I think faith causes us to step out and risk and connect with other people. Now, in my ministry one of the things that we deal with is severe broken trust. We, we don’t wanna trust people that aren’t trustworthy, we wanna forgive them, but that doesn’t mean we instantly trust them. So, you wanna watch what people do not what they say, uh, because if a person is broken trust what they say means nothing. They want, you wanna see them become consistent and congruent and authentic, then we can now take a, a solid, good, possible risk that might result in a deeper, richer connection. But I gotta tell you, don’t assume that every physician knows everything, uh, they need to know, they have specialists for that. Don’t assume that every person that says they’re a Christian knows everything that they need to know to help in your situation.

Jim: That’s a very good point, and, uh, I appreciate that. You know, so often I’ll talk to a non-believer and they’ll say to me, Christians are a bunch of hypocrites. And, you know, the fact is I said to one-

Stephen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … recently, you’re right.

Stephen: Absolutely.

Jim: Because we’re sinners saved by grace.

Stephen: Right.

Jim: So, we by definition are at times gonna be hypocrites because we can’t live up to a perfect standard.

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: That’s the absolute reason Jesus is necessary is to, um, forgive us for our shortcomings in this life, and we’re not gonna live perfectly, so let me just ask you to forgive me now.

Stephen: Yeah. (laughs)

Jim: I mean, but certainly don’t use that as a reason not to draw closer to God. (laughs)

Stephen: Well, when you write a book and you act like you know everything about a subject, I mean, it’s an invitation to hypocrisy. And so, I always want people to know that, yeah, I did write a book about healing, but I have so many areas I’m working on healing. And don’t judge Jesus, uh, based on the hypocrisy of the people that follow Jesus, they’re doing, many of them are doing the best they can.

Jim: You’re right. (laughs)

Stephen: And, and-

Jim: Yeah, and it’s not an excuse, but it is reality.

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: And I think for the skeptic, it’s important to realize that. Steve, we’ve mentioned this idea of being able to open up that’s important and to understand, uh, what’s real, what’s true. Let’s move to the grieving process.

Stephen: Hmm.

Jim: I wanna mention that because we all go through these painful experiences at some point, and there’s a story in your book that caught my attention. She’s a woman named Karen who was grieving a broken relationship with her father. This is so common, and thus the reason I wanted to touch on it.

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: What was she grieving about, and what was the outcome?

Stephen: Well, she was grieving that she didn’t have the father that she was supposed to have, that she was en- you could say entitled to, that we all-

Jim: That she expected?

Stephen: Yeah, that we all want to have. And so, a lot of times people will say, how do I honor, uh, my parent that was so dishonorable? And I say this, first, let’s grieve the loss of that idealized parent or the parent that you expected so that we’re not waking up every day hurting over that parent. So, when you, and I think grieving has to take place before forgiving. So, you, you le- it’s a gift from God to grieve that loss, it heals your future, you don’t have to feel it like it happened yesterday.

Jim: How does a person do that? How does a person grieve that loss?

Stephen: That’s one of the biggest questions of counseling ever. How do I grieve? You have to experience both the sadness and the anger or the great disappointment, and you have to talk about it and you have to open up about it and admit it to yourself. And when you do that, when you’re talking about that reality, it just frees you-

Jim: Huh.

Stephen: … from having to stay stuck back there as a little child who isn’t getting what they want, and you no longer expect this defective parent to step up and do what they never did before. So the grieving frees you to literally accept them as a struggling human being. Now, if I see them kind of like me, we both have brokenness, I’m more able to forgive them. Now I can embrace the reality of my life that didn’t have that father versus waking up every day feeling sorry for myself or wishing. And a lot of people are spending their life wishing, and they have dreams that will never come true. We would never expect a person with no legs to run to our aid, it makes no sense. And we expect this defective father to rise up and finally say, you’re a great man, or you’re the daughter that I, I love, not gonna happen. So God gives us this gift of grieving. And, you know, Jesus had to grieve, He did grieve, a man of sorrows and acquainted with the bitterest of grief. And I would say the epidemic of the Christian community are un-grieved losses, we’re trying to do this superficial forgiveness thing, but we’ve never gone back-

Jim: Huh.

Stephen: … and truly done the work, the grief work, and I believe that that’s best done with another person that can hear your protest, help you with the tears-

Jim: To process it.

Stephen: Yes, because many people have been sexually abused, physically abused, emotionally abused by a father or a mother, and they’ve never done the grieving and that weight is still on them. And I want them to be free.

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: We all want them to be free of that.

Jim: Well and Steve, I wanna be really clear so people hear this who may have, they’ve yet to grieve that-

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: … that, that really does set the ability for you to forgive. I wanna connect those two-

Stephen: Yes, right.

Jim: … like you started because the grieving, it tills the soil of your heart to make it so you can plant the seed of forgiveness.

Stephen: Yes. And so what we have to do is we go back and do that hard plowing up of the heart, and then we actually when we do that, we come to see them in a different light because we’re not holding up, uh, some idealized image that they need, we’re just seeing them and accepting them as they are, and that, that allows us then-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Stephen: … to move over into this forgiveness mode.

Jim: Steve, you mentioned in the book is something that really caught my attention, uh, a term you called justifiable resentment.

Stephen: Oh my goodness.

Jim: Now in the Christian dictionary, that doesn’t sound-

Stephen: No.

Jim: … very spiritual, justifiable resentment. What do you mean?

Stephen: Well, there are two things you don’t wanna carry around, plutonium and-

Jim: That’s true.

Stephen: … justifiable resentment, because when you have something that you’re upset about, uh, and you tell somebody and they go, oh, we ought to get over that, you know, that’s your problem. Okay, that’s one thing, but when you tell somebody about your situation and they say, Oh wow-

Jim: You’re-

Stephen: … of course you ought to, you, I mean, I’d never forgive that. I would, I’d be angry forever. You see, now it’s justifiable resentment, but God says, get rid of all resentment. And when you have a justifiable resentment and you keep that, you’re killing yourself-

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: … you’re destroying any potential for healing, for hope. So I put those two words together because I don’t wanna discount the pain that you’ve been through, you are justified in having that resentment, but you still must get it out of your system and be free from it. If you had a father that was abusive or a mother that was abusive and you don’t forgive, and you’re justified in that anger and bitterness, then you give them all of this real estate in your brain, in your life that they don’t deserve to have. When we forgive, we free ourselves of that, and now we are free of resentment and bitterness, just like God has said. He doesn’t tell us to get free of it because that’s what good people do, He wants the best for us, and He doesn’t want that kind of darkness inside of our lives.

Jim: You know, so often, uh, Steve, if I speak and speak about my childhood and the difficulties I had and an alcoholic father and all that, some people who are, you know, in their 40, 50s, maybe even 60s will come up to me afterwards, and I’m sure you’ve had this kind of experience. And they’ll say, but how do you do that?

Stephen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: How do you let go? That’s been my whole problem my whole life, and you can see they’re knotted up.

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: And I’m sure people are listening saying, okay, I hear you, but how do you let go? How do you let go of that justified resentment? I’ve been trying to do that for 20 years, Steve.

Stephen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I mean, you can hear them, right?

Stephen: Yeah. Sure. Sure.

Jim: And, and you as, a speaker sometimes I have found myself a bit perplexed because so much of it is who you are, how you’re wired, your personality, your experiences, all those things. There is no formula to say, let go, you gotta let go, and I don’t know how you are gonna do that. I know how I did it, but it will be unique to you, but you have to do it.

Stephen: Yeah. Some people let go by working the 12 steps, some people let go by seeing a counselor, and some people let go with a, a great coach or spiritual advisor. I would just say this, I don’t think you can do it alone.

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: If you could have, you would have. And the risk you take of walking into a meeting where other people are trying to let go of things, uh, that risk is so worth the risk, or opening up to another person, finding, uh, where have people gotten help for this? But I wanna tell you, if you’re 65 or 70 years old and you’re still, uh, knotted up over that, it is not too late. I have seen people-

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: … develop this whole new life-

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: … because they finally said, I gotta deal with that father issue.

Jim: Well, I think that’s good. And finally as we end, you talk about the, the two final keys, uh, to serve somewhere or in many places and to persevere.

Stephen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: You, what do you mean by those two concepts?

Stephen: Well, when I serve, I’m getting out of myself and into other people.

Jim: Serve others.

Stephen: Yeah. And, and I become this other centered person. And then the persevering through whatever difficulty, because I know not everybody has a very, very good life, not everybody has a, and especially in, in third world countries, it’s hard, it’s difficult, but you persevere and never, ever give up that God is with you, and call upon God in a supernatural way to comfort you and guide you.

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: And, and literally as I said before, that’s all that’s expected, you will be blessed in some way, but it may not be the way we get, we call blessing over here in our Western culture.

Jim: I think I might, uh, lobby you to add a third. (laughs)

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: So you’ve got serve and persevere. I like the idea of the concept of living in a bigger story than yourself as a Christian.

Stephen: Yes.

Jim: I mean, that’s part of what we’re called to, this is God’s narrative.

Stephen: Yeah.

Jim: We are players in that, we don’t have to be the center stage.

Stephen: Well, there’s an upper story that’s going on-

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: … and we’ve got the lower story. And one of my favorite stories is Mordecai Ham, who was this evangelist back in the 30s, he had these tents and people would come and come down the aisle and the crowds dwindled and the people stopped coming so much. And one of his crusades in North Carolina, he’s back at the hotel weeping over how sad it is that God isn’t blessing him. It was that night in that hotel he was weeping that very few people had come down the aisle, one that came down was Billy Graham.

Jim: (laughs)

Stephen: Now you never know what God is doing.

Jim: Yeah.

Stephen: You feel, the upper story could be what’s huger than Billy Graham coming to Christ and seeing what he did? So I would just say this, God’s doing something beyond what you, uh, see, don’t give up on God, He’s not given up on you.

Jim: Wow. Um, Steve, that is so good. Uh, Steve Arterburn, author of the book 7 Ways to Choose Healing, uh, you have brought the wood to the fire my man, and thank you for putting that flame in our souls to say, we can get help, it’s there for us, we just need to do some things to open our hearts to allow God to work, that is the secret. Uh, thank you so much for being with us.

Stephen: Thanks for letting me do it.

Jim: And for the audience, uh, let me ask you to, uh, request Steve’s helpful guide, 7 Ways to Choose Healing. It is so practical and easy to read and, and good to have handy or to share with others. There are millions of people who need Biblical advice, and many families, uh, who are struggling need that advice. You can offer them practical solutions through your support of Focus and all we do here with the broadcast, counseling, resources, articles, and so much more all in the name of Christ. So be a part of the ministry, and with the donation of any amount we’ll send you Steve’s book as our way of saying thank you.

John: Donate and get 7 Ways to Choose Healing when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, (800) 232-6459, or you can donate and get that book and other help at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And if you need to speak to a counselor, please let us know, we have caring Christian counselors here who can, uh, help you with whatever challenge you have going on right now. Uh, you can just call that toll-free number and we’ll set up a time for them to call you back for that free consultation. And again, that number 800 A-FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks so much for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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7 Ways to Choose Healing

7 Ways to Choose Healing

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