Emotional and Spiritual Growth – Social Workers


Social Workers – Potchefstroom – 28 Nov 08

For many to eventually experience emotional and spiritual growth, they first need to work through a piece of emotional pain.

… for many it initially implied intense emotional low and despondency before the graph could start moving upwards – quite often after the necessary assistance and guidance had been received

Seen against this background, I wish to take you along with me on a journey for the next hour where we will stop at a couple of people’s narratives

… stories that illustrate pain and despondency on the one hand, but on the other hand, in many cases eventually freedom and healing and triumph and growth in Jesus Christ once the blockades have been removed!

… stories that eventually have become the witness of the intense lengths God has gone with people who were totally devastated > new sense in life and joy – purified people

In an article, a review of the book titled Brando: Songs my mother taught me, the famous film star, Marlon Brando, tells how his ‘tragic family formed his life, as he puts it

… he describes his father as a promiscuous travelling salesman – “An alcoholic who martyred me emotionally and made my mother’s life hell”

… he describes his mother as someone who also had an alcohol problem – “Somebody I loved but who ignored me”

Regarding his love life, he says: “I have always been lucky with women. There were many in my life, although I never actually spent more than only a few minutes with each one. I’ve had far too many affairs to think of myself as a normal, rational man.”

… he says he was always near to his sisters “… because we were all scorched by the experience of growing up in the furnace that was my family.”

The article concludes with the words of the 70-year old film star: “If I had been loved and cared for differently, I would have been a different person.”

Despite all his fame, this man missed out on true spiritual and emotional growth

… at this late stage of his life he realises the huge hole in his inner self that actually should have been filled with love and caring about and providing

From a career you will know just as well as I do of the hundreds and thousands who struggle with this same type of pain in the innermost self – actually in pieces and broken down

But as opposed to this, the message of the Bible echoes over and over again that God cares intensely for people who are in pieces and despondent and devastated by life

Ps 34:19: “The Lord is near to those who are despondent…”Die Here is naby mense wat moedeloos is…”

Ps 113:7-8 (Message): “He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash, seats them among the honoured guests, a place of honour among the brightest and best.”

… recently again had the innermost experience with a little gr 1 girl who had been raped: God has a plan with her life – she tells how she has an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ – when she closes her eyes to pray, she sees Him and He talks to her – after praying together for the shock surrounding her rape she said that He took her on His lap and comforted her and took away all the sore and pain

… to her mother, afterwards, I could only say that God definitely has a special plan with this child and that the future will show why she had to go through this pain and sore.

He is the God who always starts anew and brings about growth, even there where we never though it possible – we will even see in the life of someone who has already turned 92

However, the ideal is that we should unload all the emotional baggage already early in our lives so that growth can take place so much easier.

… Marlon Brando’s life could have taken a much different course had he been able to unload his pain early in life!

Now let us take a look at a number of factors that have a decisive influence on these growth processes in our innermost selves.

  • Emotional decisions are occasionally driven by pain that go back to the years of childhood
  • A minister tells how he once realised with a shock that it is not actually God’s love that is in command in his life.

… on the contrary. He discovered that it was a negative life motto/slogan that was ingrained engraved in his infancy that had driven him the past 49 years

… this slogan says: Prove yourself!

          He says: “All these years I thought Christ controls my life, but now I have come to the rude awakening that it actually was this slogan that has driven my course all along

          … he says, “I am sure that my parents probably did not mean it in this way, but the message I received from it was: ‘We definitely love you, but we will love you even more if you prove yourself!’”

However, at this stage the Holy Spirit pointed out to him this actual deep motivation for his total attitude to life

… he realised that he had carried along with him these two words (prove yourself!) all these years and that it eventually influenced all his present relationships, including his relationship with God

… however, for 49 years he never felt that he could prove himself

… but now he has reached the point in his life where the Lord is increasingly freeing him from that slogan from his childhood days and where the freedom in the Holy Spirit is breaking through ever stronger in his life > that he can at last truly start growing

Is there perhaps a similar slogan/judgement that has also burnt in deeply into you and me and by which out lives are actually controlled and through which genuine growth is blocked?

… negative words that are repeatedly uttered to us…

According to Paul in Romans 8:9, the true sons and daughters of God are controlled and led by the Holy Spirit and not by sinful human nature (which can also include negative judgements of people in the past).

… however, occasionally it demands a trip back into the past to allow the Holy Spirit to identify such negative judgements and then to cancel it out and replace it with the truth

  • Our concept of God is already formed/created in our infancy

The creation that took place here is decisive regarding the future

… it usually largely determines how you and I will deal with crises and trauma later in life and whether we will really be capable of growing emotionally and spiritually

The earliest perceptions and ideas concerning God are founded on how we had experienced out parents – eventually it gives us an idea of how His character and personality is (positive or negative)

Occasionally people have been hurt so much that it is practically impossible for them to separate God and their parents from one another > often it is only after guidance that they are capable of forming a new picture of God, a God they can love

  • The well-known Corrie ten Boom tells of the decisive role her father played in her life

… she says every evening at bedtime she would stand in her bedroom door and then call: “Daddy, I am ready for bed!”

… he would then come to her room and pray along with her before she falls asleep

… she says, “I can always remember how he spent time carefully tucking in the blankets around my shoulders with his characteristic preciseness.  And then he would tenderly touch my face with his hand and say, ‘Sleep peacefully Corrie… I love you’

“And then I would lie very, very quietly for a long while because I was afraid that if I would move I would lose some of his touch – I wanted to hold onto that feeling until I fall asleep.”

“Many years later in a concentration camp in Germany, I would remember the touch of my father’s hand on my face. While lying alongside my sister Betsie on a dirty worn out mattress in those critical conditions, I occasionally prayed: ‘O God, let me feel Your hand on me…just let me crawl in under the shadow of Your protection.’ In the midst of the suffering and ordeal I could then time and again experience the inner security of my Heavenly Father.”

But you know, she could only experience it in such a concrete way because she had already experienced it repeatedly as a child from her earthly father

… it had laid the foundation for dramatic emotional and spiritual growth in the years to come

Prof David Seamands describes the wounded child in the innermost core of the emotionally wounded person as one of four possible categories: hurting child, hating child, humiliated child en horrified child

… those negative memories from the past occasionally have a hypnotic iron grip on us that still keep chafing and scoring after years, and block all possible growth:

  • Hurting child: deep emotional pain of disappointments and disillusionments
  • Hating child: bitterness and hate that has settled very deeply after immense unrighteousness
  • Humiliated child: embarrassment and emotional breaking down – humiliation – rejection
  • Horrified child: occasionally exposed to such destructive and devastating disintegration that fear and anxiety eventually totally control this person

The very worst is when it occasionally is a terrible mixture of all four areas the same person was exposed to

… In this respect Prof Seamands refers to an emotional lack of Vitamin A: Acceptance, Affection and Affirmation

  • Acceptance:  you are accepted just as you are – we care for you as a person
  • Affection:  feeling – emotion – we acknowledge your emotions, we respect it, and at a deep emotional level we try to make contact with you
  • Affirmation: confirmation – acknowledgment – you are someone very special – every person yearns for it

All three these things (vitamins) promote growth in a dramatic manner – however, when it is lacking something dies in the innermost core of each child

  • The power of this is strikingly illustrated by a project an American professor in sociology undertook with one of his class groups

… he sent them into one of the backward slum quarters of New York to do case studies on 200 young boys in a specific school

… following this, the students had to write an evaluation on each boy’s future

… after the investigation, literally each boy’s report ended with something like: “This chap stands no chance in life and will probably not achieve much…”

… 25 years later another professor discovered this study and then gave his students the assignment to try to follow up all 200 case studies as far as possible > result astonishing!

… with the exception of 20 boys who could not be traced, the students discovered that 176 of the remaining 180 had achieved above average success as attorneys, doctors, businessmen, etc > excelled to exceptional positions in society

… the professor was extremely surprised and decided to investigate the matter further > this led to a next project

… eventually every one of these persons was contacted individually:  “What do you attribute your success to?”

… in each case the answer came tenderly and with compassion:

  There was a teacher!”

… this teacher was still alive and the professor eventually traced her

… he asked this elderly woman what her success recipe was that she applied so that all these boys eventually succeeded in totally rising above their critical conditions/circumstances

… there was a twinkle in her eyes, and with a soft smile around her mouth she said: “It’s really simple, I just loved those boys!”

… what an enormous strength! – she gave these boys an overdose of emotional Vitamin A: acceptance, affection and affirmation! [this simply goes to confirm the message of Ps 113:7-8: “… God who raises the insignificant from the dust and the needy from the ash-heap” “…God wat die geringe uit die stof oprig en die behoeftige van die ashoop af verhef.]

When we receive acceptance, affection and affirmation, it promotes emotional and spiritual growth!

  • Pain that already started in infancy and never disappears
  • On occasion, a well-known columnist, Bob Greene, described in his column the heart-rending story of a 12-year old boy who had received a cruel card from his classmates

… the card was part of a series that had been marketed and distributed by a large company in the USA

… the caption of this card read: ‘Award to the most unpopular scholar’

…  > his schoolmates had written his name on the card and left it on his school bench

… Bob Greene originally wrote about this because he strongly felt that it is unethical for a company to market something to this effect

… However, the company brushed his criticism aside by saying that it simply was a form of satire and innocent humour.

… However, this boy’s teacher as well as his principal gave evidence to the contrary when they described the emotional damage it had caused to this boy

… however, what was also afterwards astonishing to Bob Greene was the overwhelming reaction he received from his adult readers

… a torrent of letters in which one after the other had told about the permanent wounds they carried along with them due to such supposed “innocent humour” during their childhood years

… most of them still struggled with a poor self-image – even where some of them already were elderly

… the title of this article series was: “The pain that never disappears” – thousands of people still sit with similar pain years later

… pain that blocks emotional and spiritual growth

Events that result in the same damage many years later are those during which people are bullied at school – in our schools this has become an ever increasing problem

… research shows that about all dangerous criminals were regularly threatened or punished at an early age

… there is heart-rending evidence of adults who say that they are currently, as adults, ill and depressed because they were too ashamed to ever talk about the practice of bullying

… some still have nightmares years later and believe that they will have a poor self-image for ever

  • A Man in his 40s, who also suffered from depression and zigzagged from one job to the next ascribes his behaviour to years of bullying at school – he says:

“Today I believe that no one really loves me. I still see the faces of the boys who bullied me and I hear their voices – and I hate them for what they had done to me.”

[boy who kills another one at school with a sword: newspaper report: often bullied]

When pain is not dealt with and we have only gone and buried it deep down, it manifests, even if it is many years later, in one way or another

… eventually it becomes a cancer that devours you from inside!

… it is related to the rule that traumatic memory never fades away, unless I arrive at healing and recovery somewhere, some day

  • Last year at a counselling conference in the USA someone related a discussion he had with a woman of 92 years of age

… amongst others, she had told him of her experience when crossing from England to the USA by boat as a 13-year old girl

… she was a brilliant young violinist in the making and would be performing at different concerts

… but she then said that she never played violin again after the boat trip

The other person then started questioning her on what the reasons could have been

… this woman then told him that her music teacher had accompanied her on this boat trip and that he did things to her on the boat that may not be done to a 13-year old girl

… > and this silenced the music in her life

… at this stage she had become very uncomfortable in the discussion because she had said that no-one had ever spoken to her about it

… the end was that this counsellor could help her to rid herself of that panging pain and to deliver the package > she could open up to the healing and liberating power of the Holy Spirit

… for 80 years she bore the pain that had extinguished the music in her innermost core, had smothered her God-given talent and had blocked all growth

…however, as far as God is concerned, it is never too late – even if you are 92 years old, He can still bring about healing and growth and bring about new sense in life and joy

  • Certain repetitive incidents time and again stir up the pain a person has not come to terms with

Along with the years situations, events, dates, smells, sounds, visual images, etc occur on a regular basis that stir up the pain time and again

… occasionally it is difficult for us to then align our reactions with the actual cause and eventually everything simply becomes a struggle for survival to keep our heads above water

  • After a weekend seminar someone wrote the following letter: “When I was 7 years old, my mother told me how she hated me and wished that I would die the moment she established that she was pregnant with me – later she hoped that I would die at birth – even later she hoped that I would die as a baby. She had seen me as a monster and also believed that I would look like a monster and act as one – because I was the monster who had destroyed her song career. For a 7-year old girl this was too much to come to terms with and I started denying it all – and then I forgot about it all. Until one day, I was about 40 years old, when my mother phoned and said: “I ask your forgiveness for not ever wanting you.” This was two shocks in one and it felt as if my brain divided in two within one second. On the one hand, the shock of remembering, and on the other, my mother never really wanted me! I said that I forgave her, but from that moment onwards I hated my mother and totally lost all faith in God. Until one day (I was about 54 years old) when the Lord enabled me to forgive – and a new life opened up for me. The depression I had suffered from all these years, immediately cleared up.

Yet there was still a problem: every year with my birthday and at Christmas I became depressive again. One day I had heard my mother talking about “aborting the baby”   by lying in a bath of hot water with mustard in it. My mother had discovered that she possibly was pregnant on more or less the 10th of December, and from then on tried to “aborting” the baby. When Christmas neared, I usually experienced stomach ache and an inner anxiety. I now realize that it most probably was the emotions and feelings I had experienced as an unborn baby during such hot baths. Up until yesterday evening I never realised that my mother could perhaps have tried to abort me. Yesterday morning still I saw Christmas trees and presents in Game and the old anxiety once more took hold of me regarding the nearing Christmas Season. However, after having been able to also forgive my mother for this matter last night (lecture on pre-birth shocks), I today feel like embracing the Christmas Season for the first time in my life.

I phoned her 2 months later (3 days prior to Christmas) and her words to me were as follows: “I experience my peace in abundance!”

… she then once again told how, in the years that had passed, anything connected to the Christmas Season (even something like baking cookies, holiday and Christmas joy, etc) immediately gave lead to stomach aches and depression

… hence, for 70 years, she struggled with a piece of emotional baggage that practically destroyed her at times – and eventually dramatic growth could break through!

Jes 66:2:    “But this is the man to whom I will look and have regard: he who is humble and of a broken or wounded spirit…”

This is why we say God has a tender spot in his heart for those who are broken, are devastated, are bruised through life, those who have a wounded spirit – He is very near to you! – those on the ash heap so often precisely have a broken and wounded spirit!

The role of the subconscious

Research says that only 12% of knowledge and memories is stored in the conscious – hence 88% in the subconscious

… regarding emotional pain it is usually our largest problem because one does not always understand why one reacts physically or emotionally as one does to certain triggers

… however, all this pain that one has stored lies in the subconscious, raw and unprocessed, and from time to time it reacts – like a living corpse you try to bury!

  • A women tells that right through her entire life she had an unnatural aversion to any citrus fruit – she could never explain it, but it was literally as if it nauseated her

… later in her life, during a counselling session, the puzzle started coming together for her

… At a certain stage her mother, who had been a worker on a huge citrus farm, told her that when she was pregnant with this child, it was not planned for and she was also not married

… after her birth this baby simply was too great a burden and embarrassment to this unmarried girl who was already struggling with many other emotional and financial problems

… in sheer despondency, she one night put this newly-born baby in an orange box and put this box on the counter of the bar, also on the farm

… eventually other people raised this child > later she joined her mother again

… the pain of this mother linked to a citrus farm and an orange box had cut deeply into this baby’s spirit and went to lie deep in the subconscious

… and each orange or mandarins actually repeatedly reminded her of a wound that had still not healed

… and at last it was only the Spirit of God that could enter the deepest depth of a person that could bring her healing

… > and during the counselling process a return was needed, right back to the beginning when the mother fell pregnant and all the sad emotions started building up

… > following this, for the first time in her life, this woman could obtain true emotional and spiritual growth

  • The pressure cooker effect

Emotional pain that is not dealt with and that suppresses all forms of growth can also be compared with the pressure that, in course of time, builds up in a pressure cooker

… and somewhere, at a certain stage, everything is just too much and the lid pops off – I do not know how many of you have seen what the ceiling looks like when that lid has popped of

… normally it is chaotic – equally so in the lives of those where the emotional lid has popped off

  • A lady in her early sixties lives in a retirement village – cheerful and jovial nature, beautiful Christian and someone who regularly reaches out to and is involved in all the others and usually also heartens all the those around her who are despondent

But one day her entire life crumbled when she received a call from a family member saying: “Your 40-year old son is looking for you!” – nobody had known that she had a son!

… she withdrew in her home, cried all day long, became increasingly depressed and no-one could understand what was going on

… she herself also did not understand, because should this not actually have been the most wonderful day of her life?

… 40 years ago she, as unmarried mother, was forced by the family to give her child up for adoption – else they would put her out on the street – she was also unemployed

… all these years she had an intense yearning for this son – a pain that never seized

… after the call he visited her, and to her it was a wonderful experience – he also promised that he would always be there for her

But why this inexplicable depression and melancholy and darkness that have closed around her and that simply refuse to subside, in spite of the joy?

Her story brought the answer:

… At the age of 11 years she loses her mother to death – 10 months later her father remarries and chaos erupts between her and her stepmother

… 10 months later her father dies – it leads to a stormy puberty – eventually she marries an alcoholic simply to get out of the house

… 8 months pregnant with first child she catches her husband red-handed with another woman in the bed and she walks out on the wedlock that very same day – she is totally dependent on family and they refuse to accommodate her unless she gives up the baby for adoption

… unbelievably painful memories when social worker comes to fetch the baby and she is left on the veranda to watch them drive off

… a short while after this, her only sister dies – they were very close – she never came to terms with her sister’s death

… in the meantime she and her stepmother started building a better relationship > stepmother dies of a heart attack – no time to bade farewell (never came to terms with her stepmother’s death)

… remarries later and her husband dies without her being able to bade farewell

… she is forced to move in with his daughter – this leads to a chaotic situation, to such an extent that she no longer wanted to live – then she moved to a retirement village

Therefore a lifetime of pain and mourning she had not come to terms with, and the steam in the pressure cooker built up and built up

… the call that her son was looking for her eventually was the last straw that made the lid to pop up in relation to the previous pain she had not come to terms with

… at the counselling process we had to start from the very beginning when she was a girl of 11 years of age – as she allowed the Spirit of God to once again undertake this trip  trough the past, the peace of God, which goes beyond any comprehension gradually moved in

… for the first time in forty years this woman could start growing, emotionally and spiritually

  • Physical symptoms as manifestations of pain the person has not come to terms with

So often when we bury pain, we pay the price in our bodies until we are eventually prepared to remove the plasters – underneath usually a septic wound – our spirits and emotions can deal with pain up to a certain point

  • Someone who had attended a healing weekend told how her stomach time and again had contracted when an aspect, which is applicable to her past, was mentioned during the lectures

She says: “I must tell you that, through my entire life, I have had this pain at the pit of my stomach when I stress or experience any stressful situation. At times it is so sore that I cannot even drink water.

My mother died 26 years ago when I needed her most. I was in the process of divorcing my husband and was completely confused and simply just muddled. She took my divorce to heart and felt that it was her fault because she had not taught me how to be a wife and a mother. But, she was a good mother and ‘n wonderful wife. However, I never mourned her death – simply closed it off as would be the case with any everyday event. This is how I have dealt with a traumatic situation my whole life through. Conclude and store away and do not think about it again – or if I do think about it, it is clinically and analytically – emotionless.

Following our seminar weekend my mother’s death started haunting me and I felt that something was compelling me to make peace. Later the voice was so strong that I eventually gave in. The pain on my stomach was so bad that I could not pray, I could not lie down and could not stand upright. I took pills, but no relief. Eventually I left off praying because the more I prayed, the more my stomach pained. During the night I woke up because I was crying, and the pain in my stomach had subsided. I just asked the Lord to take the pain away if He wishes me to make peace. I could do nothing else – later felt as if I was having a heart attack. I then also realized that I had to forgive God because he had taken her away when I needed her most – I also needed to forgive her because she had left me in the lurch – this is how I had felt.

After immense struggling to and fro and Satan also in between, I eventually found peace. Now, for the first time, I am heartbroken as I should have been 26 years ago. But I obtained acquiescence and I am progressing through a process of mourning.

Later I spoke to this woman again: wonderful breakthrough and freedom – pain on the stomach something of the past – pressure cooker’s lid is off

… by venting her emotions as well as the necessary confession and forgiveness, heavenly healing stepped in and the true growth process could begin in her life

… currently she is conducting counselling courses, is involved in a counselling centre and is someone with a passion for others’ sore and pain

  • Dreams

Just as different red lights appear on the panel board of a motor vehicle that start flickering when a problem arises, so also regarding our spirits, our emotions and our bodies

… it is, so to speak, a safety system built in by God

… and if we give attention to the red lights timeously, the damage usually is minimal

Often dreams are one of these red lights that say: stop and investigate before you speed on – somewhere there is a problem that requires attention

  • Someone told me that, as a young boy, he often had a specific dream

… it is as if he swifts forwards over a smooth cement surface

… but the further he goes, the nearer he gets to the stones on the surface of the road

… and then further on in the road a huge amount of rocks start advancing nearer and time and again just before he hits the rocks he wakes up with a start and with a bundle of anxiety and fear

… over and over this dream repeated itself

… we then prayed together about this experience and when I said amen he said to me that the Holy Spirit had reminded him of what his mother had told him years ago

… when she was pregnant with him, their family was involved in a motor vehicle accident

… she was lying asleep on the backseat during the crash – the two older brothers were flung out of the vehicle due to the impact of the accident

… under prayer this incident clearly came to the fore in his mind out of the distant past

… then we prayed for the shock of the accident on this unborn child (quite an amount of research confirms it) because obviously it was the deeper root of the repeated dream > anxiety and fear of mother, projected onto unborn baby

… > wonderful peace had moved into his innermost core > the dream had vanished and growth could take place in an area in his personality that had already been blocked before his birth

God is the great Healer – He is so unique and so creative!

… He knows exactly how He had delicately pieced us together

Ps 139 says: already there in the mother’s womb He “wove” us together with his own hands’

… hence He is pre-eminently the One who will know where exactly the pain had gone to hide – however deep it may lie in the subconscious

… and if I allow Him, He occasionally comes in such a surprising manner and He heals and He eventually makes the puzzle fit

… and then perhaps you hear his voice for the very firs time in a totally new way – something Ps 81:4 (Message) so strikingly points out:

 “I hear this most gentle whisper from one I never guessed would speak to me.”

He comes and He slightly draws open the curtain for you

He overwhelms you and you simply stand amazed at His greatness!

And then He goes further in Jes 30:21: “…and behind you, you will hear a voice say: This is the road, follow it!”

“… en jy sal agter jou ’n stem hoor sê: Hier is die pad, loop hierlangs!”

May He make us so sensitive that we will hear that whispering and that voice when He speaks to us

… in particular also regarding our involvement in the sore and pain of others

… yes, that we will hear His voice sounding ever clearer and that it will empower us more and more to be facilitators of emotional and spiritual growth in so many that He sends to cross our paths