The Beginner’s Guide to Inner Healing
The Beginner’s Guide to Inner Healing
By Alice Clarke
Inner Healing is an important part of our Christian walk - when we deal with the hurts of the past then we’re more able to live life as God designed it. Gordon Harris, director of the School of Ministry in Toronto, leads people in inner healing on a day-to-day basis as part of his role with students and interns at the school, and with other staff at Catch The Fire Toronto.
I spoke to Gordon about the basics of inner healing.
Q: What is inner healing?
Gordon: It’s the process of dealing with the sinful reactions and false beliefs that get lodged in our hearts during the painful episodes of life. Those sinful reactions can be to anything that happens, but mostly it has to do with our parents. Our reactions are often not good, mostly because we don’t know how to react at an early stage of life. We don’t know how to handle the things that hurt us, so we end up making ungodly statements or judgements.
In my own life, I was experiencing disconnection with my own father as well as God. My dad and I have very different personalities, but the barrier between us seemed really massive. I had someone help me pray through this, and when we began praying, God showed me as an “unopened Christmas present.” I felt just like that. Then it became clear that I had judged my dad as “not wanting to know me.” Of course, in a practical sense, I had not shared some of my deeply treasured values. I repented of my judgement and forgave my dad.
Immediately things turned upside down. My dad called before I got home that night and spoke to my wife, Cathy. They ended up talking about things that were close to my heart that my dad never knew about. Within two weeks he called again, which was unusual, and he began to talk about some literature that he knew I really loved as a teenager, which I thought he didn’t know about or would have thought was stupid.
Within a year of this, I probably had the most significant conversation I've ever had with my dad where he apologized for certain things and began to unfold what his childhood was like. There was a real bonding in that. We were still completely different people, but those moments, coming out of God’s work on my heart, connected me to my dad in a way that hadn’t happened before. I become much more a “son” of my father (emotionally) than I had been since I’d been a teenager. And my felt connection to God increased seriously.
Q: Who needs inner healing? And why?
Gordon: Everyone needs inner healing because everyone has been hurt in life. Unless you process your hurts quickly and properly, then you end up having pain. That pain gets locked into our memories, even if we forget it’s there. It hinders our earthly relationships, but it also hinders our relationship with God. It stops us loving God and others as we should. You can think that God is loving and know the theology, but actually deep down, if you unconsciously believe something else, and you act out of that instead.
If in a family, the dad went away to work because it was the only way to support the family, the children might not fully understand what’s going on even if it’s been explained. They might think “Dad loves money more than me.” Or they might make some kind of inner vow: “I will never be poor.” Fast forward twenty years, and a typical result might be that one of the children will be poor, or driven to accumulate money, or divorced several times because of that. There are multiple possible outcomes of that. When it comes to God, the grown-up children will likely have trouble trusting God with taking care of their lives.
Q: I’ve heard believers say that everything was done at the cross. Does that make inner healing an issue for some people?
Gordon: Yes, some people do have trouble with inner healing because they believe everything has been accomplished on the Cross. The thing is, that they are both right and wrong. Paul does say that: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB). Of course, I think that in Paul’s argument he is mainly trying to say that we shouldn’t look at people in the way we did according to cultural standards. Instead, we should interact with them through the prism of what Jesus has done in making people new.
The reality is that there is a certain accomplished nature to what Jesus did. But on the other hand, it won’t be completed until we hit heaven. We are still in the process of maturing or becoming like Jesus. We call this “sanctification.” If we are honest with ourselves, I doubt any of us feel like we are fully like Jesus in every way. We all have a sense that we aren’t quite living up to our best selves. There are days and moments when that happens, but then we fail to reach those heights in the next stretch of time.
There are certainly scriptures that tell us we haven’t arrived yet. For instance, in Romans 12, Paul says that we shouldn’t conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind. How can he say we need to be transformed if we are “already there”? He tells the Ephesian church to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32 NIV). How can he tell Christians to get rid of things if they are not present since their salvation? We all need some work.
Q: How do we know we need inner healing?
Gordon: We know something isn’t working in our heart by one of three things:
We have fresh feelings whenever we think about people or events that occurred a long time in the past
When we have a strong over-reaction to something
When we keep encountering similar negative situations or events in our lives.
These are all signs that something needs attention on the inside of our hearts. As John and Paula Sandford, founders of Elijah House ministries said, “If you’ve got the fruit, you’ve got the root.”
Q: How does someone start the process of inner healing?
It when you recognize that something is consistently not going well in your life. For example, “Why do I end up yelling at my husband every week?” Or “How come I fight with every boss I’ve ever had?”. Once you know something isn’t working right, then ask God to show you what is going on and perhaps where it started.
The process is never the same because you're generally following God who knows everything and is not always going to be contained to a method or formula.
When I’m doing inner healing with someone, I usually talk to them to find out what’s going on: “How does this happen? Where do you notice it? Did you ever notice this happening in your family life?”
Then we ask Jesus, “what do you want to say about this? What do you want to show? What do you want to do?” And it doesn't necessarily have to be the originating event, but sometimes God shows the person something symbolic or representative.”
Honesty is important. Often we want to not dishonour people, especially our parents, so we don’t get down to how we actually felt in the moment about the event or events. The process can only really work if we express the ugly truth of the moment, how it felt to us.
Then we can finally move on to forgiveness and repentance. You’d say something like “God when X did Y, I felt so Z! (It’s ok to yell, cry, scream, etc… at this point.) Then, eventually, you’d move on to “I forgive X for Y and release them. Lord, please forgive me for (how you reacted in an ungodly way)…”
I'm a firm believer that just needs to be simple. It's all about forgiveness and repentance.
After a while, Jesus usually indicates a point of solution. Sometimes it ends with this incredible revelation and healing of the heart, with weeping and snot. It’s often great to leave the person to soak in the moment, in the love of God and the presence of the Spirit.
Once you've learned the process you can do that on your own. Sometimes things are too big for us to get a grip on, and as soon as you get into a room with two other people and they start asking God to reveal things, things change. God often responds more powerfully when we are together and being more vulnerable.
If you’re interested in digging deeper with inner healing, we recommend attending a Catch The Fire School of Ministry or seeing a minister with Restoring The Foundations, Elijah House, HeartSync, or Bethel Sozo. All of these ministries also offer books and other useful resources.