I was 17 years old when a friend of my mom's asked me for prayer concerning nightmares she was having. That was 1975 in the days of the charismatic renewal, when the Holy Spirit was being experienced in the denominational churches but there weren't yet any independent charismatic churches. As a result there were many home based "prayer & praise" meetings and Bible studies attended by anyone who had been baptized with the Holy Spirit or was curious about it, because the people in the pews knew more than their priests and pastors about the Holy Spirit at that point.
That is why my mom's 45 year old friend felt comfortable asking teenage me for prayer for her nightmares. As soon as I laid hands on her head and started praying I saw what I would call a 'closed vision', meaning when my eyes were closed I could see the vision, but when my eyes were open I couldn't. An open vision is when your eyes are open and you are 'in the Spirit' as John called it in Revelation 1:10 and 4:2, where everything disappears and you are in the Lord's realm, or your eyes are open and you see the natural world AND the spiritual world almost as an overlay (that is by far the most common one I have).
This wasn't that however. When my eyes were shut a scene played out before me. When my eyes were open I was in the natural realm like normal. The vision was of an event that happened to her when she was about 7 years old, which she acknowledged through tears as I described what I was seeing. I then prayed for her and the Lord touched her and completely healed the memory of that event, and she reported a couple weeks later she'd had no more nightmares since that time of prayer with me.
Most of the ministries that advertise themselves as 'inner healing' ministries focus to one degree or another on a supernatural touch from the Lord to take away memories of past pain such as I describe above. If not that, then it is often deliverance from demons focused or about past generations as the blame for why that person is plagued by x problem or memory.
What we see in scripture is practical walk-it-out-yourself steps a person takes to regain emotional or mental health after a touch or revelation from the Lord. I started talking about the prophecy of Messiah from Isaiah 42:1-4 which says in part that Messiah will not break a bruised reed, and won't fail nor be discouraged until He has set righteousness in their lives - that is what we've seen in scripture.
There are times when the Lord will provide a word of knowledge about a past event and touch the person concerning that event, but even when that happens a person must 'walk out their salvation' to see His righteousness in their lives, meaning they have to rebuild their emotions and thoughts in a healthy (God's) way. The person who was abused by say, their father when they were a child, can be touched by the Lord about a particularly painful event with him, but when they see their father every week they still must apply that touch from the Lord to their relationship with him in order to see God's righteousness in that relationship and in their own emotions and thoughts.
Most certainly the woman at the well received a touch from the Lord when He told her 'everything I ever did', but then she still had to go back into that city and live her life. The man who had the Legion cast out, who wanted to run away with the Lord in his new life in Christ, was instead told by the Lord to go back to his home and friends and tell them what great things the Lord had done for him. The woman in adultery was commanded to sin no more but to go and rebuild her life. They had to walk out that touch from the Lord they received.
Did the chicken cross the road or did the road pass beneath the chicken's feet?
The people we've covered in this series had known issues - multiple relationships, demons in them, and so on. But one aspect of emotional healing we didn't cover concerns the unknown-to-the-person need for emotional healing. This is the person who thinks they are fine, unaware their priorities in life which they think are in line with God, are really not.
The rich young ruler is such a case. When the need for emotional health isn't obvious like a woman caught in the act of adultery or a man with multiple demons, or a woman who has lived through multiple marriages, relationships and sexual partners, how does the Lord bring that person into emotional health?
Once again we see the Lord brings a person to the point they must make a decision for health and a rearrangement of their life. In Matthew 19:16-22 the Rich Young Ruler comes to Jesus saying, 'Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?'
Immediately Jesus stops him and asks, "Why are you calling me good?" We read the verse without stopping, forgetting this was a real conversation, filled with pauses, reflection, and deep thought before each response. The man had just called Jesus 'good', to which Jesus replied, "There is no one who is good but God, so why are you calling me good?"
In other words young man, by calling me "Good Master" and knowing there is none good but God, are you therefore calling me God?" That was Jesus' question back to him - that was the big issue to his question, what must he do to have eternal life? We know it is believing in Jesus, but the young man may have just been trying to be polite calling Him 'good master' - Jesus used the moment to zero in on the issue: Do you believe I am God?
Here is where the road is passing beneath his feet
The man's need for an emotional rearrangement wasn't apparent. By the standards of the day, much like the 'Prosperity Movement' of 2 decades ago he equated financial blessing with God's endorsement of him and his lifestyle. Wrong. He was blessed not because God was blessing him for being righteous, God was blessing him so that he might see it was not his righteousness that brought him the blessings of wealth - God was doing it because He couldn't reach him any other way. God was trying to reach him through his idol of money and status, it wasn't an endorsement of his spiritual life.
(We see the same in the church at Laodicea in The Revelation 3:14-22 who thought because they were rich and spiritual they needed nothing, but the Lord told them in His eyes they were naked (not righteous - no robes of righteousness) and blind and poor and wretched and miserable.)
No answer is the wrong answer, so Jesus tried another approach
Upon not getting the honest response He sought, Jesus backs off and approaches the same issue of who he believed Jesus was another way, talking about the Commandments and if he wanted eternal life to sell all he had and come be a disciple of Jesus. The man went away sad. The conversation exposed his battle between money and status, and his desire for eternal life. Upon seeing the ugliness of his own heart he backed away rather than choosing to go through the ugliness of his sin and emotional need to lay hold on eternal life.
It is the same with people today - it is all about the exposing of our heart, or our past decisions that put us where we are today, and then making the right choice. There may be a touch from God here and there along the way, but more often than not He simply gives us revelation about our heart, shines His light on past mistakes, and then gives us the opportunity to take a step in a new direction.
That direction is towards emotional health, but it is not often the easy choice. Usually it is the more difficult choice as we've seen with the woman at the well who had to live in that city, with the woman in adultery who had to go and sin no more and restore her life, with the man who had Legion and had to go back to his home and friends.
The difficult decision is very often the decision the Lord wants us to make and empowers us to do so, but it is an act of faith, a step into something new - emotional health. Healthy thoughts, healthy feelings, healthy relationships - these are what renew the mind and rebuilds lives. Even if there is a mighty touch from God along the way, you still have to make right decisions, discipline yourself to right thoughts and feelings - that is the only way to emotional health. It is the doer of the Word, not the hearer only, that lives the blessed life.
New subject next week that is somewhat related, 'Controlling your emotions' - until then, blessings,