Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:14-17 NLT
Our battle is ultimately not against our behaviors, thoughts, or our sin, but against Satan and the fiery arrows that He attacks us with. These fiery arrows often come in the form of lies that have been rooted in our souls through pain and wounds we develop from our life experiences, producing shame and faulty core beliefs in our lives.
Yes, we sin because we are sinful, but we also sin because we are sinned against and we develop ways to cope with the pain that others’ sin has caused us. This pain is often caused unintentionally by those that are closest to us, like our friends and families, resulting in emotional wounds in our lives.
Wounds tend to come in the form of two extremes. The first is “big W” wounds. These are caused by infrequent painful experiences of high intensity. It could have been sexual or physical abuse, the loss of a parent, a life threatening situation, the divorce of parents, or other infrequent experiences of high intensity.
The second form of wound is “little w” wounds. These are caused by frequent painful experiences of low intensity.2 This type is more common and all of us have experienced this. For example, maybe you had consistent experiences of someone communicating to you that you’d never measure up in life. Maybe it was unintentionally communicated to you over and over that you had to perform to to get approval. Maybe you were bullied consistently, controlled, or manipulated. Maybe a parent was physically or emotionally absent consistently. All of these could cause little w wounds leaving a deep impact on our soul and leading us into the extreme range of wounds.3 They can affect us just as much as Big W wounds.
Whether it’s wounds from our families, our friends, sexism, racism, injustice, or the lies of the world communicated to us, we all have wounds. In life, we can think that we have gotten over the past or since we’re no longer angry about something that happened years ago that we’ve moved on. But painful events and wounds from others can deeply impact our souls, leading us to cope rather than truly heal. And on top of that, everyone is created uniquely and responds to painful events differently. So something that deeply hurts one person may not affect another person at all. Identifying and addressing our emotional wounds in life is a crucial part of discipleship and becoming more like Christ. If we ignore our wounds, this will severely limit our ability to connect with God and others for the rest of our lives until we work through them with others. See, the ways we sin and cope are ultimately about medicating our emotional wounds in life.
“YOU CAN NEVER BE MORE SPIRITUALLY MATURE THAN YOU ARE EMOTIONALLY MATURE.” -THE EMOTIONAL/SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLE
A friend of mine, Dr. James Reeves, explains so well why addressing wounds is so important in what he calls the Emotional/Spiritual Principle. The Emotional/Spiritual Principle states “You can never be more spiritually mature than you are emotionally mature.” Put differently, unaddressed emotional wounds cause us to hit the ceiling of our spiritual growth. How? Well when we’ve been hurt by others we develop bitterness, we isolate, we believe lies about ourselves, God, and others, we inhibit God’s work in our lives. In short, we sin. When we sin, our intimacy with God and others is stifled.
So often in scripture the measure of our maturity and love for God is directly linked to our ability to love others. One example, Luke 20:27 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’”. The degree to which we love others is directly correlated with our ability to love ourselves. And our ability to love ourselves is directly correlated to our ability to love God and understand who He truly is. It’s an entire progression. When we have experiences of being hurt by others our view of God and others is damaged, and we medicate these wounds in a myriad of different ways, inhibiting our emotional and spiritual growth.
By identifying and working through our emotional wounds with people who are loving and accepting, we can begin to see God for who he truly is as a loving and personal Father. As that happens, we can begin to see ourselves as God sees us, as someone who is loved, valuable, and adequate. These beliefs take root experientially, in our hearts, growing us closer to God and others. This is true discipleship.