Why are you downcast, oh my soul? Why are you in turmoil within me?

Psalm 42:5

When we get hurt or go through traumatic events, we are often left with wounds. Physical wounds can be seen, sometimes in gruesome ways, normally treated by medical professionals. Mental and emotional wounds, though unseen, can be just as pervasive in our lives. Ideally, these wounds are treated by counselors and therapists.

There is, however, another type of wound that is frequently overlooked. It too is unseen, but no human specialist is capable of curing or healing it.

These unseen wounds are called soul wounds.

Woundings of the soul affect us on a fundamental level, impacting us for years and decades, even our entire lives, if left untreated. They hinder our ability to interact healthily with other people. Anxiety, internalized fears, distrust in others, depression, and trauma responses are but a few ways that soul wounds can manifest in our lives.

Soul wounds can result from a host of situations, leaving our souls damaged and fractured. Some common, deeply hurtful woundings come from grief and death, especially that of a loved one.

Other woundings form from abuse. They cause us not to trust the people closest to us, lest they also hurt us how we’ve already been harmed — perhaps by verbal abuse or bullying.

People who have been torn down by others don’t believe that they have any dignity and value, and they internalize this belief as part of their personhood. They feel like they do not deserve any sort of good, and thus they continue to live in that mindset.

It’s no secret that the LGBT+ community has a complicated history with the Christian church; all you need to do is look at mainstream culture and see the antagonism between the two. This culture war has bled into the church for decades, resulting in those who experience same-sex attraction in their congregations to feel uncared for, unloved, and at worst, excommunicated from the church community.

These experiences create soul wounds.

I have heard and read countless stories from people in the queer community about how the church was unloving to them and failed them — sometimes, even downright hostile to them as they wrestled out loud with the difficulties of their experience. It is not uncommon to hear horror stories of Christian-professing families kicking their kids out of the house purely because they admitted being gay.

The destruction from that type of treatment would crush the soul of anyone, especially children struggling to understand what is happening to them.

I am no stranger to these types of wounds. Throughout my life I have had to process some of my own soul wounds, bringing each one to the only person who can heal them — Jesus.

Obviously, this is not my first instinct, as part of me feels justified remaining hurt by what others have done to me. However, holding onto that pain has only resulted in bitterness, unforgiveness, and anger against my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, whether they hurt me or not.

Allow me to be clear with this point: I am not saying that we simply ignore the hurt and pain that others have inflicted, sweeping those things under the rug. “Forgive and forget,” right?

If you, dear reader, are a human being like me, then you and I both know that it is nearly impossible to “forgive and forget” when you are in the heat of the moment, the pain still fresh. All we want to do is retreat from the source of our hurt, protecting ourselves however we can as a form of self-preservation.

It is entirely human and normal for us to acknowledge our pain. Only by acknowledging and processing what has happened can we address how we move forward.

So, how do we move forward? The answer can be found in the one called the Healer:

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17

Jesus, the Son of God, was known in his ministry as a healer, traveling throughout the region and into neighboring nations to heal the sick and destitute. The Gospels are full of stories of his healings. Many of these stories are well-known for those of us who have spent even some time in the church; as such, we often overlook these stories, thinking we’ve understood everything they have to offer.

But I think these healing stories in the Gospels have even more to teach us about the character and power of Jesus, especially when it comes to healing our souls.

To start my new blog series, “Soul Wounds of the Queer Christian,” I want to look at one specific story of how Jesus not only healed someone’s physical wounds, but also their soul wound:

And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Mark 5:25-34

What we have here is the story of a woman who has suffered not only from a physical wound, but also several soul wounds. Beyond her already being lower in the social hierarchy of that day, she was further considered “unclean” for her illness, making her unable to participate in temple worship. She couldn’t even be present in her community.

The bleeding woman was considered an outcast among her people, deemed unclean by the Mosaic Law. According to Matthew’s account, she had been dealing with this illness for twelve years, meaning she had been without community or the ability to worship for that long. She also suffered under the care of many doctors, only getting worse as time passed.

Imagine her pain and frustration!

We don’t know whether this woman had a family, but the implication from Scripture was that she was alone when she sought Jesus. She had no one, and no one wanted to be near her due to her “unclean” status.

Receiving constant side-eyed glances as she walked down the street; noticing people walk completely away from her; being disallowed from worshipping the God of her people, along with receiving forgiveness of her sins through the ritual sacrifices — these aspects of daily living must have taken their toll after twelve years.

As Side B Christians, we have a familiarity with isolation and loneliness. We know how deep such wounds can be, just as this woman was afflicted with the soul wound of exclusion from community. She also suffered the soul wounds of despair over her continual illness, rejection, and dehumanization, believing her inherent value was tarnished, worthless.

Any one of these soul wounds would be difficult enough on its own. You can imagine how devastating all of these, together, would be.

So, imagine this woman’s desperation upon hearing this great healer whom everyone has been talking about, Jesus of Nazareth, is in town. She has heard the stories of his miraculous healings. She must have thought many times over that she was unworthy of such healing.

But after every human effort to cure her had failed, she had one option left. One chance left to try and be healed.

For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

As the crowd pressed around Jesus, she saw her opening for healing rapidly closing. Struggling to reach him through the crowd, she managed to touch the hem of his garment, which instantly healed her.

The overwhelming rush of relief she must have felt was probably earth-shattering. This illness and pain she had suffered for over a decade was finally gone, and it was all thanks to this Jesus. I am curious if she was even brought to tears in that moment.

But then, interestingly, as the crowds continued to push in around Jesus, he felt his power go out from him. Out of everyone in the crowd who wanted to see him, and were probably touching him, it was only the one hidden person in the crowd who’d touched the hem of his robe who received the healing. Jesus looked for her, knowing his power had gone out and healed her.

This woman, having been taught nothing but shame and guilt for simply existing with this illness, feared greatly that she had angered Jesus. Instead of continuing to hide, she came forward and fell at Jesus’ feet, explaining everything to him.

With everyone’s eyes on her, she must have been preparing for the ridicule and judgment to come. She knew she wasn’t supposed to be there, let alone touch the garment of a man, especially a man of Jesus’ standing. I’d imagine that she greatly feared the punishment that would be given to her.

Instead, Jesus looked at her and called her “Daughter,” telling her that her faith in him had made her well. He told her to go in peace and be healed of her disease.

After this, we do not hear of this brave woman again.

Without stating the obvious, Jesus healed something deeper in this woman than the bleeding. By calling her “Daughter,” he restored her place in the family of God, including the community of her people.

He healed her wound of rejection by seeing her for who she was, not being repulsed by her, warmly welcoming her with love and compassion. Her value as a person was restored. Jesus healed the woman’s soul wound of despair, her illness gone forever by his power.

This radical healing of her soul was only possible because of Jesus, and especially with her faith that he would heal her disease. It was because she sought him for healing, because she wanted to be healed. And he lovingly granted her request.

As I share several different stories of soul wounds from my own life in this series, I want us to keep in mind this story of Jesus and the bleeding woman . . .

How have you sought Jesus for healing of your own soul wounds? Where do we struggle to believe that he will restore us?

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