Troublesome Topic: The Importance of the Cross for Those Struggling with Emotional Hurts

By Audry Eberhard

Often times when we are dealing with emotional hurts in our lives, it seems we deal with them over and over again. The question comes to mind, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I live in victory? How many times do I need to deal with this weakness that I have? I must be a bad person.” Have similar questions come to your mind? Do you feel weak, tired and defeated?

I invite you to come on a journey with me. Together I hope we will discover some tools that will help you navigate the valleys of emotional hurts. It will not be easy, but it will be worthwhile. It may make you uncomfortable, but it will result in peace that passes understanding that will renew your heart and your thinking. Our primary navigation tool will be God’s Word. Get ready to discover life as it was truly meant to be lived!

First of all, I want to make a clear statement that I remind myself of often, you are not defined by your emotional hurts from the past or past experiences. There was One who had a purpose and plan for your life before your life even began. Psalm 139:16 says, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (NIV). God is the One who defines who you are, not anything from your past. Ephesians is a book that gives a good picture of how God sees us.

We are blessed Eph. 1:3

We are chosen Eph. 1:4

We are adopted as His children Eph. 1:5

We are redeemed by His blood Eph.1:7

We are forgiven of sins Eph. 1:7

We are recipients of God’s lavish grace Eph. 1:7, 8

We are chosen Eph. 1: 11

We are loved Eph. 2:4

We are God’s workmanship equipped for kingdom tasks Eph. 2:10

We are members of God’s household Eph, 2:19

We are a dwelling place of the Spirit Eph. 2:22

If any of these statements cause you discomfort, I encourage you to write up the verses that go with those statements and any time you sense discouragement, doubt or your past is thrown up before you yet again, read through and even memorize those verses. There is great power in the Word of God to destroy wrong patterns of thinking but you must be intentional about turning your mind to those passages immediately for as long as needed to replace that wrong pattern of thinking that past experiences have ingrained in your thinking patterns.

For more depth on this topic, I encourage you to read the book Defined by Stephen and Alex Kendrick. This book is written by the creators of the movie Overcomer which I would highly recommend as well. It has been one of a number of key books for me in my journey with emotional baggage from the past.

In order to begin our journey we must get in the car. All of us are sinners, we fall short of the plans and purposes that God has for us (Rom. 3:23). God is a holy being and cannot stand sin, so for the sake of this word picture, we are unable to enter the car of God’s plans and purposes for our lives. God offers us redemption through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross (Eph. 1:7). When we repent (say I’m sorry and resolve to live differently) of the sin in our lives, I John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (NIV). I love this quote from Corrie ten Boom, “God throws our sins in the sea of forgetfulness and posts a no fishing sign.” It is because of Jesus’ taking the punishment for our sin, and shedding His blood on the cross that we can now freely get in the car and fasten that seat belt. “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4, 5) (NIV).

As we take this journey, it will be important to have a good seatbelt that will keep us safe, protect and help us to feel secure. The best seatbelt we can have is that important truth that we are designed for a specific purpose by God. Keep the truths from Ephesians 1 and 2 close for your safety, protection and security.

Now you are in the car, seatbelt is fastened, you are ready to discover all the plans and purposes that God has for you. Just like any journey, there will be bumps, detours, breakdowns, and frequent stops but the important thing is to keep moving forward even if at times it seems very slow. There is excitement as you begin the journey, but also maybe a bit of trepidation. What do God’s purposes look like for my life? Will I be able to fulfill them? God’s Word and prayer are important guidance systems that you must use along the journey. Without them you will make wrong turns and end up in places that may be pleasant at the time but you will soon discover that they are not truly helping you in your journey.

In order to truly benefit from these guidance systems, you must be making use of them constantly. How can a person make that happen? We have busy lives; we can’t spend all day reading our Bibles and praying. Because of that no one can say how much time you should be spending in God’s Word and in prayer daily. We need to spend enough time practicing these disciplines that it begins to reshape how we look at life (renew your mind, Romans 12:2). Psalm 119 is full of verses about the importance of God’s Word in guiding our lives. “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path” (vs. 97-99, 101, 104) (NIV). I would encourage you to memorize as much scripture as you can, post verses in key places where you will see them often. In these ways you can meditate on God’s Word all day long. Prayer is our communication line to God. We need to honestly share with Him personal struggles, but also pray for other’s needs, and then we should also just have some silent periods where God can fill our minds with His thoughts and desires. These are very valuable systems that God has given to help us along the journey. If we follow them we will save ourselves a lot of wrong turns and unnecessary stops to take care of problems.

The beauty of walking with God is that He treats us as individuals and therefore all of our journeys are going to look a little different. The importance of getting in the car (asking forgiveness of sins and turning away from them), fastening the seatbelt (knowing and reminding yourself of God’s plans and purposes and who He says you are), and using the guidance systems (God’s Word, and prayer) that we are given are the same for everyone. As you make use of your guidance systems, God, through His Spirit, will lead and guide you.

You must be aware that there are many wanna-be guidance systems along the roadway that you travel. God’s Word tells us that there is a constant battle going on in a spiritual sense. Romans 7:21-23 says, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (NIV). Our world is full of false messages. That is why it is so important to commit major blocks of time to being in His Word and seeking Him through prayer. You will hear and see false messages all around but the seatbelt of truth of who you are in Christ will keep you in the car of God’s purposes and plans.

One huge key in making the journey successfully is obedience. As you read God’s Word and spend time connecting with Him in prayer, new principles will be revealed to you regarding how you should live. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (NIV). Some of these things will be challenging to live out in your life, but it is important to obey completely and immediately. Partial obedience will open the door to other guidance systems that will take you on a dangerous detour away from God’s plans and purposes for your life.

Let me give you an example from my life experience. I have always loved to read and once I was out of college, I discovered several great Christian novel writers. There were periods of time where any spare minute was spent finishing up a good book I had started. I knew this was not good so I would try to discipline myself to limit my reading to a certain amount of time a day. Some days I achieved it and other days I failed. At one point God revealed to me that the Christian novels I was spending time reading were impacting how I viewed life. If my life didn’t work out the way things did in the novels, I was disappointed. They were not necessarily bad, but they were beginning to take the place that God’s Word should have in my life. I felt the Spirit convicting me about the amount of time I was spending reading and my choice of material to read. The battle was on in my mind. I had a choice to make. They were technically Christian books so it shouldn’t be a problem. The revelation that they were beginning to control my thought life was the problem. I chose to get rid of all of my beloved novels, because I knew as long as they were on my shelves the temptation to pick one up would be huge. I began to spend more time in God’s Word and His truths began to alter the types of things that I desired to read.

After a period of time, I began to discover the richness of Christian biographies and Biblically grounded Christian life books. I will provide you with a rich reading list of wonderful books that I have read through the last 15 years since giving up reading novels. If I would not have obeyed completely and immediately, I would have been opening the door even wider for novels to become my replacement guidance system. I don’t even want to think of what my life would be like if I had not taken that step of obedience.

Your issues will be different than mine, but I guarantee you that there will be points along the way where you will sense that God is desiring you to make some kind of change in your life. Once you receive direction, a choice to ignore or not do it is considered disobedience.

Let’s add on another element to this car illustration that is key. The car of God’s plans and purposes for our life operates best when it is on Holy-Spirit-cruise-control. Romans 8:6 says, “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace (NLT).  He will set optimum speeds for the various terrains that you will encounter along your journey.

We have the ability to shut off the cruise or override it when we want to. When we choose to do that the car is no longer running at optimum performance. If we get to the point where we are shutting off or over riding the Holy-Spirit-cruise-control it is likely that there are also problems with our guidance systems. We are allowing another influence to dictate the decisions that we make.

It is a fact of life that when one thing gets out of balance in our lives, other things in our lives quickly follow. Back to my example of Christian novels from earlier. They were good Christian books that were supposedly safe for Christians to read. But when the Spirit revealed to me that they were influencing how I was looking at life, He was trying to slow my car down a bit so I could deal with garbage that had built up. If I had chosen to take over the control of the speed, continued to read the books that I wanted to read, it would have been because I was indeed allowing the books to be the guidance system for my life. My time spent in God’s Word was limited and was seen through the lens of the novels’ influence. You guessed it, my prayer time was spotty as well, I worked it in as I had time. I was in dangerous territory, allowing systems other than God and His Word to guide my life. I John 2: 15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (ESV).

I always know when my life is being controlled by other guidance systems. Everything is a mess. My emotions are out of control, for example I am impatient, I get angry easily, there is never enough of me to go around, I waste time doing things that I want to do and don’t get daily responsibilities taken care of. The list could go on but I think you get the picture. It is not a pretty scene when I take over the cruise control and allow other worldly influences to become my guidance system.

The Holy-Spirit-cruise-control is still present in the car, but it will only take back over when we relinquish our control and get rid of the outside influences that we have allowed to become our guidance system. How do we get to the point where we once again are running at optimum level as we journey through life? We need to go back to the cross. Jesus died to give us freedom from sin and my reading of Christian novels had become a sin for me. Anything that we allow to be our guidance system other than God’s Word and prayer is sin. It is those very things that caused Jesus’ pain on the cross. When we go to Him and confess that we allowed this bad influence to guide our lives instead of Him, it is forgiven. His blood cleanses us from all sin. That sin is now nailed to the cross. The cross is a place of death. If something is dead it no longer should have any influence in our lives.

We dare not stop there, because the Bible teaches us that something will occupy that space of the control system of our lives. We must be very purposeful about setting aside whatever we need to in order to make time to be in God’s Word and seeking Him in prayer. We need to replace the bad with the truth of God’s Word and influence in our lives. If you don’t seek to fill that space with God’s Word there are plenty of other influences that would love to take control of your life. You are at a very vulnerable crossroad, whatever you give your time to at this point will become the guidance system of your life. For this reason, I am saying you must be very purposeful.

You may want to speed through this span of time, but it is very important to let the Spirit control the speed at which you navigate through this important time of renewing your mind. Be ready to see things in God’s Word that may make you feel uncomfortable. Once again immediate and complete obedience are the keys to getting you through this process. Other influences will continue to vie for the guidance system of your life, but you must choose to turn to God’s Word and seek Him. Remember only He has the perfect purpose and plan for your life.

There will be times when you experience flash backs concerning the sin that was confessed at the cross and nailed there. That is a ploy of the enemy to get your focus off God and onto things that offered you a “better” trip. God’s desire is that you focus on His Word and seek Him in prayer, because only He knows what you were designed and created for. Do not entertain the thoughts about the confessed sin, it is forgotten by God. God will never remind you of forgiven sin, He simply says come, spend time with me so I can remind you who I created you to be.

Trips to the cross are not a sign of failure, but rather of strength. We are strongest when we humble ourselves before God and cry out to Him for forgiveness. I was plagued for years with the idea that trips to the cross were a sign of failure. This was a ploy of the enemy that I allowed to become a control system for my life. Satan can turn something positive into something negative if I allow that thought time and space in my thinking pattern. Instead, we should replace this thinking pattern immediately with the truths of God’s Word.

The next lesson is: Which Guidance System Are You Using?