Heart Scan: Identifying Wounds

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series: Heart Scan. John Burke and I shared about identifying what has wounded our hearts.

To hear the message from John that inspired this series, see the notes or listen to John’s message on overcoming a wounded heart.

To dig deeper and apply the message, work through the Next Steps.

You can read the notes below, watch the message John shared at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast, or listen to what I shared at South Campus here:

Why is it so hard for us to deal with ordinary love?  That’s really the question we’re unearthing in this Heart Scan series.  We like the concept of love, we want to be loving people, yet it’s so difficult. Why?  A major factor is that we all get wounded in the battle of life. And if those wounds don’t heal properly, we stay hurt, and hurt people hurt people.  So we have to identify the wounds and let God bring healing if we ever want to deal with ordinary love in life-giving ways.

When someone does something that pokes the unhealed wounded heart, so as a result:

  • We rage.
  • We fight.
  • We push away.
  • We attack back.
  • We defend.
  • We accuse.
  • We just stay withdrawn even from those closest to us to protect the heart.
  • We avoid people to protect ourselves because an open wound gets easily hurt again.
  • We blame others for our over-the-top reactions to some little comment that pokes at the unhealed wound.

This is exactly how evil spreads. Hurt people hurt people hurt people because we’ve never healed.  As a result, we stay vulnerable to evil’s lies.

The Scriptures talk about the heart a lot. The heart is the spiritual center or core of who you are.

  • “The greatest commandment is to love God…with all your heart.”  (Matthew 22:37)
  • “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34)  
  • “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5)
  • “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11 NASB)
  • “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matt. 15:8)
  • “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chron. 16:9)

The heart is the spiritual center of who you are. The heart is where you relate to God, the place from which you can truly love people. Your heart is where your creativity, your emotions, and your motivations come.  The heart is critical to understand, and it’s critical to realize that it too can be broken. I’m not just talking about a romantic heartbreak. That’s how we often use the term, but that’s just one example. A father wound, a mother’s abuse or neglect, abandonment, sexual abuse, getting bullied over and over, or just taking lots of little relational dings. We live in a world at war and no one escapes unharmed.

This is how evil works in the world. Evil propagates through wounds, lies, and unhealed relationships. It doesn’t take a major assault like death, abuse, or sexual abuse to create a wounded heart, by the way. This is so important to understand, for many good people assume they haven’t any real brokenness because they haven’t endured the horrors they read about in the paper or watch on TV. Depending on the age or circumstances, it can be an embarrassing moment like stuttering in front of the class or being called names and believing the lies. Or we may have 50 or so paper cuts that accumulates over time. None of them a big deal, but all together, they rob your joy, steal your ability or desire to love people. You can start believing lies that feel true—because the hurt reinforces the lie and vice versa.

God wants to heal our wounded hearts. He can’t overcome evil and we can’t fight evil if we don’t let him heal us. Healing was part of Jesus mission. Jesus stood up in the synagogue and read from the Prophet Isaiah who foretold the coming Messiah. God’s self-revelation came to set things right. Jesus reads it and says today that I’m fulfilling this prophecy. Jesus said:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives….” Isaiah 61:1

Jesus came to heal our broken hearts. He didn’t come only to forgive us all our sins and set us free from all our addictions, but to get to the root and heal us, so we could experience His joy and life to the full in our hearts.

This is who God is.

David in the Psalms says, “He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 

The prophet Jeremiah says “Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; 
save me and I will be saved.” Jeremiah 17:14

Time does not always heal. Denial does not heal. Medicating does not heal. God heals, but not against our will. Just sucking it up and toughening up—that doesn’t heal—that hardens.  A hardened heart is dangerous.

You may say, “Well why doesn’t he just do it? The law of God is the law of love, and love MUST respect the free will of the person. You see this when Jesus is going through Jericho, and two blind men are crying out for him to have mercy on them. The people rebuke them and say, Leave him alone, he’s busy.

Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. – Matthew 20:32

This seems like a kind of obvious answer. They are blind! Why would Jesus ask?  Because some people don’t really want to be healed—they’ve gotten very comfortable using their past wounds as an excuse to play the victim, or as an excuse to stay addicted, or to not deal with admitting the sin patterns that they’ve gotten caught up in.

33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” 34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.  Matthew 20:32-34 

Those last two words are critical for why God waits for us to let him heal us—because he ultimately wants us to follow him.  That’s the way we become healing agents—not just avoiding spreading evil—but actually healing and restoring others.

This is God’s promise: when we turn back to him, he will heal us.

I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20

We must humble ourselves, and let him heal us.  Well, why wouldn’t everyone do that? Three reasons Pride, Fear, and Guilt.

We need to learn what Paul learned [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses. 2 Corinthians 12:9

God opposes our pride, but when we can admit our weaknesses, and seek his strength and his healing, God can make us strong with a humble inner strength that can actually heal others.

Fear is another reason we don’t let God deal with our past wounds.  For some of us, what happened to us was so traumatic, so painful, every time we go there—it feels like opening a door to an abyss we’re going to fall into and never come out of.  All those old feelings terrify us—do you find that’s what happens?  Look, that’s a sure sign it’s not yet healed.  But that’s a lie that you can’t face it—you don’t have to face it alone.  Maybe you tried to go there in the past alone, and it was too much.  But God’s promise is He will go with you.  He will show you not only what He saw, but what He did about it, and he will heal it.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

If you’ll let him take you there, He will turn on the Light in the darkness, and the darkness will flee.

One other reason we don’t let God in to heal the wounds—because usually we did rebellious, sinful things motivated by those wounds.  And to let him shine his light on the places others sinned against us, we have to let him shine his light on our own sin. God says to Ezekiel:

“Turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! 31 Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit…I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live! Ezekiel 18:30-32

Jesus died to forgive all of us—to forgive, heal, and restore us and those who sinned against us.  But we have to confess—or admit—let him see it, turn from it, and let him remove it along with healing the wound.  Are you staying stuck because of the guilt and shame that wound drove you to? Let it go, let Him remove it all—let him give you a clean, healed, whole heart.

So here’s an assignment for the next week. If you will do it, I believe God will begin the healing process.  It may take time—maybe months, maybe years, but now is the time to begin.

1. Spend time in solitude

Carve out 1-2 hours to just be quiet, alone, and uninterrupted praying and talking to God. Pray the prayer of David, Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 Ask God to search your heart and show you if there’s any unhealed wound from the past, or if there’s something you’ve done relationally that needs mending.  Ask, and sit quietly calming your mind and listening.

In your solitude time, answer Jesus’ question: “What do you want me to do for you?”

2. Do the Grocery Store Test.

If you turned down the aisle in the store, and there in front of you was someone, but he/she didn’t see you and your fist inclination would be to turn around before you had to meet eyes with them.  Don’t evaluate why, just write down that name. There’s a wound there—something that needs healing.  Just write down their name—what they did to you or what you did to them–next week we’ll talk through what to do with it.

3. List every person or event that might possibly have wounded you.

Our tendency is to over-spiritualize and say “I forgave that” or “that didn’t really hurt me” and so we ignore the cumulative effect of all the “paper cuts” still oozing. No spiritual editing. Just put them all down. “People leaving and not telling me.” “Hearing from a 3rd party what someone said about me.” “When my spouse said or did…” “What my dad said…”

Let God speak to you and let Him heal you!



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