Spiritual injury is caused by a contradiction that stems from a belief that did not accurately capture what was happening in our lives at the time the event happened. – Victor Scott “Spiritual Injuries: A definition” victorscott.org
Psalms 69:1-4; 16-20 NLT
Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Those who hate me without cause outnumber the hairs on my head many enemies try to destroy me with lies, demanding that I give back what I didn’t steal.
Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful. Don’t hide from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in deep trouble! Come and redeem me; free me from my enemies. You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace. You see all that my enemies are doing. Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me. I am suffering and in pain.
In these verses we see David struggling with a broad sense of despair. He is overwhelmed in his circumstances and is on the verge of total despondency. He is so overwhelmed that he describes his emotional state as sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, of being consumed with the floodwaters. He cries out for help only to become exhausted in his effort. He literally cries as he waits for help from God. Yet God’s support does not come. In Verses 16-20 David is convinced that God love is unfailing, His mercy is plentiful and He is able to redeem David from his misery. Yet he cries out to God and reveals his brokenness, he calls out that he is in deep trouble and is suffering emotional pain. He wishes there was just one person who would show some type of pity upon him. In these verses, David is revealing to us the extent of his spiritual injury, which has taken over his life.
What is Spiritual Injury?
A spiritual injury is a conflict we face between what I believe to be true of God and what the Scriptures teach to be true of God. It is how I express my understanding of God and the Scriptures compared to what I have experienced or perceived to be true of God. Often what we believe to be true of God, is not what we experience in our daily lives. Just as David understood God’s unfailing love is lovely and his mercy is plentiful, David at this point in his life is not experiencing the unwavering love and compassion of God. What he is experiencing is the deep pain, despair, and hopelessness. What he believes is true of God, is going against what he is experiencing, thus causing a conflict between his belief and his reality. This is Spiritual Injury. Spiritual injuries are personal injuries and are unique to each person based upon their understanding of God, the Scripture, religious doctrine, and traditions. What may be a significant spiritual contradiction for one person may not be a spiritual contradiction for another, i.e., killing is always wrong vs. killing in war is permissible. It must be remembered that another person’s lack of spiritual injury in one area does not invalidate the spiritual injury of another person. Our spiritual injuries are not based on someone else’s religious belief or faith; it is based upon our own personal knowledge and faith in God. During the summer of 2007, I found myself questioning the truth of Psalms 91. I became bitter and angry with God; no matter how much I prayed or taught about God’s protection, Soldiers kept dying. I came to a point where I could no longer reconcile what I saw and what I believed God promised. I harbored bitterness towards God; I struggled with spiritual resentment with God for letting so many people die. This was my spiritual injury.
Recovering from Spiritual Injury
Recovering from spiritual injury begins when we confront the spiritual contradictions that have caused us injury. For me, my spiritual injury came down to this contradiction, God always protects vs people keep dying despite God’s promise of protection. Spiritual healing begins when we reevaluate our understanding of God and the Scriptures to what is true of God and the Scriptures. When I began to look closely at Psalms 91, I realized it is not a magical formula that guarantees no harm will ever come upon a person. As I reevaluated psalms 91, I noticed there are very specific requirements that are tied to God’s promises of protection. There are specific actions we must take in order to experience the fullness of the promises found in the Psalm. Once I realized this truth, I was able to begin the journey of spiritual healing. Spiritual healing begins when we are honest with ourselves and with God. When we honestly admit that we are angry with God, we feel abandoned by God or we even question the existence of God. These are the feelings and struggles David admits to in Psalms 69. We must address the reality of our spiritual injury, we cannot hide it, stuff it down, ignore it or self-medicate. Spiritual healing is only resolved when we became honest with God about our spiritual injury. In doing so, we must approach God on His terms, not ours. We must lay aside our bitterness, anger, and resentment towards God and accept the love, forgiveness, and acceptance of God. David’s healing began when he admitted his pain and focused on the reality that God does indeed hear the cries of the needy. Once he took his eyes off his emotional feelings and placed them upon the reality of God’s unfailing love, he found the spiritual peace he longed for.
“I am suffering and in pain. Rescue me, O God, by your saving power. Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves. The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged. For the Lord hears the cries of the needy; he does not despise his imprisoned people.” Psalms 69:29-33 NLT.