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The Wounded Healer

• Dwayne Polk

Our wounds (emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual) in no way disqualify us from ministry. In fact, God often uses our healing experiences to assist others who are suffering from similar wounds. Dwayne affirmed this truth for us by appealing to its scriptural basis and by sharing a personal experience as a wounded healer.

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Dwayne Polk, our Associate Pastor of Discovery Ministry, gave the sermon for this week. Even though, on a deep level, we all know that love truly is the central thing in life and that we should be doing it radically, we find it difficult to love others. Why? Dwayne suggested the possibility of an aversion to vulnerability. Love requires a level of vulnerability, which entails the chance of being broken or hurt. No one likes being broken or hurt. For two essential reasons, this is relevant to Christians. First, human beings just generally do not like pain, whether physical, emotional, or psychological. Because of this, we will spend much energy and time sheltering ourselves from perceived danger…and vulnerability is shunned. Second, some Christian theology overemphasizes the power and victory of God leading people to see of any sign of weakness, pain, or vulnerability as evidence of their lacking faith or even inability to minister.

The aversion to vulnerability, Dwayne suggested, leads many Christians to a painful tension in their Christian walk. On one hand, they have reasons to protect themselves from vulnerability to danger created by openness. Yet, on the other hand, this would appear to make it hard for them to love fully and be completely real with any weakness or suffering that they do have. Is there a biblical response to such a tension?

Dwayne read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, where Paul gives a benediction in a letter to the church at Corinth. Paul speaks very clearly about his belief that God consoles him in all his “affliction” and troubles he has endured. Paul is equally clear about God consoling him so that Paul would be able to console others with the same consolation they received from God. A paradigm emerges: weaknesses, suffering, and affliction can be used by God to exhibit God’s power. Incredible as it may sound, God can use affliction and suffering as a pipeline of sorts for God’s power to flow to and through someone’s life! How can such a thing be? “Through Christ!” Paul exclaims. Having our identity in Christ ensures not only our ultimate consolation and salvation, but also our present sustenance as well.

Dwayne also read 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10, popularly known as the “Thorn in the Flesh” passage. Paul was relaying an experience to some of his critics in the church of Corinth who wish to challenge his position and authority as an apostle. He had received a wondrous vision of Heaven but directly after that was assaulted by an unknown “thorn in the flesh” – a product of Satan’s activity. Paul prays three times for the problem to be removed. It is then that God lets him know that God’s grace can carry him through and that “power is made perfect in weakness.” In a dramatic twist, Paul boasts not about the vision itself, but the way that the power of Christ exists in him in his weakness and sufferings. He again supports his main thesis of Christ manifesting his power in and through weakness.

Dwayne then tied Paul’s main thesis with the love issue in the form of a serious question: If Paul is correct about the power of Christ being “made perfect” in weakness, and, at the same time, if love itself entails vulnerability, why do many Christians still perceive “weakness” to be such a horrible thing? It would appear that Paul’s thesis would pose a direct challenge to any type of Christian belief that promotes a pain-free, problem-free image of Christian life.

Jesus was the ultimate example of power in weakness. In Wounded Healer, Henri J. M. Nouwen’s calls someone who, like Jesus, not only takes care of her own hurts and those of others, but uses her personal “wounds” in order to help others a wounded healer. This identity is applied not only to people in professional ministry, but also to ALL Christian believers…because all Christian believers are ministers! Being a “wounded healer” means two things:

1) Allowing God to use affliction to grow empathy for others’ sense of pain and

dependence.

2) Allowing the affliction to become an opportunity for divine comfort and

empowerment.

Dwayne then gave a deeply personal example from his own life and ministry about what it means to be a wounded healer. He clarified that it implies neither going into service without proper care to one’s own need nor explicitly searching for affliction. It does imply a genuine openness to God with one’s hurts.

Woodland Hills Church was presented with the following challenge centered on its mission statement:

Being a community of spiritually empowered people

Who are consumed with the love of God

And wish to serve with the power of God

Means that we must be open to being wounded healers.

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Topics: Healing, Love, Pain & Suffering


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"I am a podrishioner that just wanted to say thanks for sharing Woodland Hills through podcasts and videos. This is my place to get a spiritual refill, and it’s where I get most of my teaching from. Since I've starting following you four years ago, my view on God, myself and other people has radically been changed. Thanks so much, and keep sharing the Kingdom!"

– Knut-Inge, from Norway