Relational Landmines: Hurts by John Burke

At Gateway Church in Austin, we are looking at Relational Landmines. Week one at our North Campus, John Burke dealt with “Hurts.”

Next Steps

Discussion questions for your family, running partners, or life group.

Watch the message John shared here:

Here are notes from the message John shared:

Hurts cause reaction.

This is not just true physically, it’s true emotionally and relationally as well.

We’re doing this series, Relational Landmines, to help us see those hidden things that most often destroy our relationships. And today I want to look at those unseen emotional or relational wounds that blow up relationships.

Unhealed wounds are like landmines. You don’t see it coming, the wound gets triggered, and Kaboom—an explosion or over-reaction or sudden withdrawal happens. It can come from an unhealed wound of childhood, from unhealed relational hurts of the past, or from unhealed traumatic events, but the over-reaction is usually the same no matter the source.

When we deny the signs and symptoms of a wounded heart then if someone does something that pokes the unhealed wounded heart, we rage, we fight, we push away, or we attack back; we defend, we accuse. Or we just stay withdrawn to protect our hearts. We avoid people to protect ourselves because an open wound gets easily hurt again.

This is exactly how evil spreads—hurt people hurt people hurt people because we’ve never healed. So we stay vulnerable to evil’s lies, we get manipulated to hurt people because our wounded hearts never truly healed.

The scriptures talk about the heart a lot—Not the heart as in the physical muscle pumping blood, but the heart as in the Spiritual Center or Core of who you are.

“People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
– 1 Samuel 16:7

The heart is the center of our being—what God cares about most. Why Jesus said the greatest commandment:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart” – Matt. 22:37

The heart is where we relate to God. So if our hearts are wounded, it’ll affect how we experience God.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Prov. 4:23

So what does that mean if you have unhealed wounded hearts? It affects EVERYTHING you do.

The words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. – Matt. 15:18

When wounds of the heart go unhealed, it’s like infection that gets us saying things out of those wounds that corrupt and defile and destroy relationship. The condition of our heart determines whether we have spiritual ears that can hear and eyes that can see. Jesus said:

For the hearts of these people are hardened…so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them. – Matt. 13:15 

This last one is so critical—because so many of us got wounded as children, or early on, and that’s not your fault. Getting wounded is not wrong, but staying wounded makes us vulnerable to lies and agreements that cause us to harden our hearts against God—if our hearts stay hard and calloused, God cannot heal us, even though he wants to.

So the first thing to realize is hearts get broken. Just like bones can be broken, minds can be broken and hearts can be broken. And I’m not just talking about a romantic heartbreak. 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.


Loss of joy

I used to experience so much joy from the Lord, but it seemed much harder to experience that sense of wonder, awe, and beauty, celebrating the goodness of life. If you lack joy in your life, it could be a sign of unhealed wounds.

Protecting myself

I found I didn’t have much to give, so I found myself not wanting to initiate with people. Telling you guys to love your neighbors, but I wanted to avoid my neighbors. Dreading being with people because they might drain me of the little emotional resources I had left. My desire to love people became a desire to avoid people. Do you find yourself emotionally protecting—there’s probably a wound there.

Deep emotion

For a while, I couldn’t spend time alone with the Lord, really opening my heart to Him without feeling a deep sadness, like grief. When a memory still feels sad, painful, terrifying…it’s a sure sign it’s still not healed. If it’s not healed, it will affect all your other relationships. Are there memories you just “can’t go there” without overwhelming sadness, fear, hurt anger? That’s a sign of an unhealed wound.


I found myself more easily hurt, defensive, reactive because I didn’t have a reservoir of a full heart to draw from. If you’re defensive—trying to prove your point, you’re not complete. In Christ, you don’t need to prove, argue your case, or defend yourself. Jesus is your defense lawyer—you stand blameless before God, that’s his promise—you don’t need to defend yourself. Defensiveness is the sure sign of an unhealed wound

Easily Offended or Frustrated

When you carry unhealed wounds, it doesn’t take much of a jab to feel a lot of pain or anger or frustration. Whenever you see people who over-react, road rage, blow up over nothing—unhealed wound. Find you lose it with your kids though you want to be patient? Can’t help it when your spouse sets you off—or you blame them—if you just wouldn’t do that thing, I would blow up the house. We blame others.

Agreeing with Lies

Making agreements with lies that are not true is a huge one, because I realized I started believing lies because my wounds made the lies feel true. This is how evil manipulates us—using hurt people to react and hurt us, sowing lies into those wounds until we agree with the lie, then manipulating us to react out of that lie to keep hurting others.

So a little girl watches 3 father-figures come and go through one divorce after another. Each time it hurts. Into those wounds, evil lies, “It’s your fault. You’re flawed—unlovable. All men will abandon you eventually.” That’s a lie, God wants her to hear what’s true, but if no one protects, guides, or helps her know His truth, she will “Feel” like it’s true because the wound makes the lie feel true. 3 men have come and gone. If she agrees with those lies, she may even make childhood vows “I will never let a man hurt me like that again.” But that agreement, those vows, made in order to protect her heart, callouses her heart. In that protective, guarded place, one boyfriend, one husband after another eventually pokes that wound, triggers that fear of abandonment, and she pushes them away before they can hurt her—but it’s a self-fulfilling curse. She now has a little girl whose been through 3 father-figures, and evil passes on.

The same could be said for a father’s wound. How many men have I seen, trying so hard to prove they deserve their father’s blessing (even successful 50 year olds still trying to prove themselves—cause they never got dad’s blessing). Maybe Evil used the unhealed hurt in your father to be critical and withhold his blessing, you heard lies “You’re weak. You’re not a real man. Prove yourself. You’ll never be good enough. You’ll never succeed.” Again, these are lies—not what God intended you to hear. But if those lies got attached to a wound your father gave you, and it’s never healed, it still feels like the truth. So you kill yourself working non-stop to prove you are a man, meanwhile, you’re workaholism and alcoholism is killing your marriage, wounding your kids—and on and on it passes.

These are real stories— I’ve heard them told 100s of times over in the last 20 years. This is how evil works.

And 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, many good people assume they haven’t any real brokenness because they haven’t endured severe trauma. 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. I realized I had taken 50 or so paper cuts over 4-5 years. None of them a big deal, but all together, they were robbing my joy, stealing my ability or desire to love people I love most, and I started believing lies that felt true—because the hurt reinforced the lie and vice versus. That’s how evil works.

What we must understand is God wants to heal our wounded hearts. It was part of Jesus mission—why he was sent to earth. He can’t overcome evil and we can’t fight evil if we don’t let him heal us. You know, Jesus stood up in the synagogue and read from the Prophet Isaiah who foretold the coming Messiah—God’s self-revelation who would come to set things right. Jesus reads it and says—today I’m fulfilling this prophecy. In other words—this is my mission—what I came to do. Most Christians ignore the middle one—look:

“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

Do you see this? 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

God wants to heal our wounded hearts, he wants to return to us life, joy, wholeness so that we have full hearts that can fully love and give to others. Even love our enemies. But here’s the deal—he won’t make us heal. And it’s not true that time heals, and moving on does not heal, and just sucking it up and toughening up—that doesn’t heal—that hardens. And a hardened heart is dangerous. You may say, “Well why doesn’t he just heal us?” Because the law of God is the law of love—and love MUST respect the free will of the person. So how do we let God heal us of relational wounds so we don’t keep blowing up other relationships?



Naming it is like digging up an IED to disarm it. If you can’t see it, you can’t disarm it. A Christian counselor I know said to me, What we can name we can own – what we can own, we can manage—including our wounds. We can bring it to God to heal, but If we can’t name it, it operates subconsciously – so first, what are our wounds? Some were Developmental – growing up things wounded you (no one gets out unscathed), some were Present Relational wounds – we all get hurt, friends betray us, people slander us, people cheat on us, or just verbally beat us down. Name relational wounds. Some may have been Trauma Wounds like grief from severe loss, sexual or physical abuse, loss of a baby, abortion, or other traumatic events totally unrelated can hurt you relationally.

Take time to be alone with God—several hours of solitude, and pray David’s prayer:

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

I set aside 30 minutes just list what came to mind—3 hours later! Ask God to show you the hidden landmine hurts and he will. 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—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—he take all the fear out of it. It will not have a hold of you any more. It’s helpful to have a Christian counselor who can guide you.


Shame and pride can keep us from owning where we’ve been hurt—and consequently—that blocks God from healing us. If you keep defending, making excuses, trying to justify your actions or prove yourself—sure sign you’re not Naming and Owning that you’re hurt. Pride says, “Man up–I’m not broken or wounded, I’m strong, I’m a man.” What’s ironic is we’ve all seen “tough Men” or “tough women” who act tough, but the insecurity, angst, and emotional immaturity bleeds through and everyone can see, except them.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.
– 1 Peter 5:5-6

Pride blinds us to the things other people can see. I remember the first time my Pride blinded me from an area where God wanted to heal me—I was in my 20’s. I had a good friend who had been like a spiritual mentor to me, and he had gotten married, and he and his spouse had all kinds of problems the first two years of their marriages—due to all the unhealed wounds of (her 5 dads, his sexual abuse) their past wounds getting projected on each other. And my friend was in Christian counseling going after some of those old unhealed areas and finding freedom, life, joy. And he was so excited, he was telling me I should get some counseling too. To which I replied (not outloud but in my head) “Hey don’t project your issues on me. I can see why you need help, I don’t. I just don’t have problems like you do.” I didn’t say that—I just thought it. I NOW realize that God and all the angels were rolling on heaven’s floor laughing, “did you hear that? He thinks he doesn’t need help? That’s funnier than Jimmy Falon—hilarious!” 7 years later, I would start to see the signs that something was wrong—I had relational habits and patterns that were not allowing me to love my wife and 3 year old daughter the way I wanted. I saw the signs, but then I had to seek God’s healing—it took 2 years in that area. But Friends, I’m SO glad I did. My son and I were having a conversation, he was telling me how grateful he was for me being so present and active as a dad—I told him, God healed me—that’s why. I was headed down a different path. Don’t let shame or pride tell you it’s bad to be hurt or you’re weak—God tells us the opposite:

[God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

And that leads to the last thing: Name it, Own it,


God did what he did through Jesus because we all need forgiveness, healing, and we all need to release and forgive (we’ll talk more about how to release and forgive in a few weeks). God redeems all the hurts and evils and makes something new and good out of them. So we can Shift our paradigm about woundedness—God uses us through our woundedness not in spite of it, through our woundedness we can be stronger—we discover our true need for God’s Grace, love, and His compassion leads to compassion for others – redemptive influence – he uses our wounded past to heal others. We become Wounded Healers. And that’s been the story of Gateway— that’s what Austin needs—courageous, wounded healers.





Free Consultation

If you're interested in a free 30-min consultation with me, simply fill out this form and I'll contact you!