Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

How Do I Heal?

Perhaps one of the most common questions I am asked is, “How do I heal?”

Maybe it’s healing from adultery or divorce. Maybe it’s healing from another toxic relationship. Maybe it’s just healing from some pain you have experienced in your life.

I don’t pretend to be an expert or to know everything about healing or growth in the spiritual realm, but I can tell you some techniques that helped me tremendously in my journey toward wholeness. Perhaps you can take my tips and add your own.

Journaling. I don’t know what it is about writing out what you are feeling and thinking, but pouring it out on paper seems to help make sense of whatever it is going on inside you. Maybe it’s just that you have a safe place to express yourself. Maybe it helps provide clarity for you as you express yourself. Whatever it is, writing it out really helps.

There are a variety of ways to journal. Maybe you want to write out your thoughts as prayers to God. I’ve done that many times in my life. Maybe you want to write letters to other people, letters that you may or may not send to others. Maybe you find a way to write out stories.

I got on Facebook about the same time my marriage fell apart, and it’s very interesting to look back over my posts each day. I can look at the date and what I wrote, and I can often tell exactly what was going on at that time in my life. My real healing started, however, when I began blogging. Writing my story has been a very therapeutic thing for me as I pour out my heart and soul. I didn’t expect it, but somewhere along the way my heart began to heal as I told my story.

Music. There was a time where I could not pick up my Bible and read. There was a time when I was so broken I could not pray. But the one thing I could do was listen to Christian radio. In those days when I couldn’t even consider listening for God’s voice, I could hear it clearly in the lyrics on my favorite radio station.

I know there are people who love all kinds of music, and I understand that. My children are all very musically inclined, and they tend to listen a wide array of artists and genres. For me—especially at the most painful time of my life—I chose to listen only to Christian music. It was the one way God could get through my brokenness and touch my heart.

Exercise. This one way a life-saver! I’ve always enjoyed being physically active, but in those days of excruciating pain, exercise took on a new meaning to me. I would lace up my shoes, and go for a walk. One mile. Two miles. Three miles. There were days I was walking six to ten miles at a time. As I pounded the pavement, I listened to sermons. I prayed. I cried. So much emotion poured out as I walked through my frustrations.

I’m sure the endorphins kicked in to help elevate my mood. I know my body began to change as I got back into shape. As I learned to love running, I felt stronger, unstoppable. My mindset changed.

And God always met me there. Whether it was the reassuring words reminding me God knew my heart’s desires or just the comfort of His presence or the God-given idea for a blog post, God met me on those running trails time and time again. Exercise was my escape and my key to healing.

Helping others. This one is huge. When I found my voice, it was so exciting to be able to help others. And it’s a biblical concept! God calls us to comfort others with the comfort we have received (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Helping others does not have to be a huge, structured event. It might be as simple as praying for someone else. It might be a simple text that simply reminds them they are in your thoughts. It might be a well-timed card or encouraging word that touches the heart.

Or maybe your gift is hospitality. What are those things that meant the most to you during your time of need? Was it the home-cooked meal that alleviated your stress for the evening? Cook a simple meal. Was it a gift card that allowed you to buy shoes for the kids? Give a gift card. Was it the individual who mowed your yard? Just find a way to help others and give back. I guarantee God will bring people along your path who can benefit from your experience.

I was sitting in church one Sunday, and a lady next to me was struggling. I could see the tears rolling down her face, and I felt her pain. As the service ended, I put my arm around her and simply prayed with her. As we began to talk, it became obvious she was a single mom who was hurting. Isn’t that just like God to seat her in the service next to me? There are no coincidences.

Find a friend. Or a counselor. Or a life coach. God has gifted people with the ability to empathize and guide others. He has provided people who thrive on being available to help clarify issues and help you see the way forward.

When my ex-husband’s affair came out, I knew another pastoral couple who had walked the path of adultery. We reached out to them knowing they understood our pain. She was a lifesaver for me. She would meet me at McDonald’s and we would talk as Cassie would play on the playground. She answered my phone calls and texts whenever I called. She was there.

She (and her husband) were also some of the first to tell me it was time to walk away. Even though they had been able to repair their marriage, they saw with objective eyes that my marriage was not taking the same path. And they didn’t hide the truth from me. They provided gut-level honesty, even though it was painful to hear.

I know counseling can be expensive, but the cost is nothing compared to healing your life.

These are just a few of the things that helped me along the path to healing. I know there’s so much more. After I began to move beyond the shock of losing my marriage, I developed a voracious appetite for the word of God. I learned to pray circles around my life and my family (see The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson). I poured myself into my relationship with God. But that didn’t happen immediately. That happened slowly as I began to see God as a safe place, as the God who loved me and was mourning my losses with me.

There’s no one single way to healing, but there is one source of healing: Our Savior. As long as you are striving to draw near to Him, you will find healing.