I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but when it comes to topics like insecurity, or shame, or low self-esteem, there is a certain way to approach them.
Do you know what I’m talking about? Both inside and outside the church, there is a script for these topics, and that script is affirmation. Piles and PILES of affirmation: affirmation about God’s love, about who you are in Christ, about your worth, your purpose, your God-given beauty.
Now, these are GOOD messages. They matter, because they are true.
But here’s the thing. That heaping on of affirmation? That is actually not how Jesus did it. Here are a few examples of what I mean…
When Jesus meets the woman caught in adultery (John 8), he doesn’t shower her with truth about her identity. He doesn’t remind her that “what she does with her body isn’t who she is.” Instead he simply says, “Go, and leave your life of sin.”
When Jesus heals the paralyzed man (Matt 9), he doesn’t discuss the man’s faith, or his life, or how he is more than his limitations. He only says, “Get up and go.”
When Jesus heals a man with leprosy (Luke 5), he says nothing to the man that is personal. He only tells him to go and show others.
When Jesus appears to Mary after the resurrection (John 20), he only speaks Mary’s name, before instructing her to go and tell others.
It’s almost funny how NOT warm and fuzzy Jesus can be. It’s not that he’s cold or uncaring, because he pays close attention to everyone he meets. He goes to people on the margins, he touches the untouchable, and he communicates how deeply he cares for them. No one comes away from Jesus feeling overlooked, or ignored. Jesus loves well.
But, he doesn’t communicate love the way you would expect. He doesn’t sing praises over people. He doesn’t encourage them, or tell them they’re perfect just the way they are.
Instead, his interactions are plain and simple. He heals them, and then he sends them out.
This is Jesus’ pattern. It’s not quite a formula, because sometimes the healing is physical healing, while other times it is spiritual. Sometimes he doesn’t tell them to “go” because they do it on their own. But the pattern is there. Mend and send. Heal and go tell. That’s the pattern. That is what Jesus did, and that is what the gospel does, which means it’s a pattern we’re called to repeat.
The question is, do we?
When it comes to topics like insecurity or body image or shame or pain, we focus on healing because it’s necessary. People need healing. They need to hear the truth of God, and what it means for their life. It’s a step we cannot skip over.
But sometimes I wonder if we stop there. Or get stuck there. Sometimes I’m afraid our messages are heavy on MEND and light–or not at all–on send. We tell women their bodies are beautiful, that they are special, that they are daughters of the King. And then we stop. Like that is the end of the story.
In contrast, Jesus’ ministry reminds us that healing is only the first step, and that he came for something much bigger than helping us to feel better about ourselves. Jesus came to heal us from, but he also came to heal us for. That is to say, Jesus has a purpose for our healing.
In fact, the purpose is PART OF the healing. When Jesus tells people to “go,” it’s not so that he can escape them, or avoid dealing with their complex issues, but because obedience IS healing. Following Jesus is not something we do after we become whole. It is HOW we become whole.
In John 10:10, Jesus said that he came to give us life, and life to the full. Now, that fullness is one we live into as we follow him in the world, loving God and loving others. That’s why we shortchange women when our message stops at mending. When we’re addressing struggles like insecurity or poor self-image or shame, we need to take it a step further than the normal script and ask ourselves:
What are we healing people FOR? How can they turn their pain into purpose? How can they transform their struggle into an act of love for God, and others?
Healing is so important, and I don’t want to downplay that at all. There are leaders who have devoted their entire lives to seeing people healed through their identity in Christ, and we need to honor them and praise God for them. But, the fullness of freedom, of healing, of joy–it comes from going and telling and serving and loving. It is what we are healed for, and it is how we continue heal.
So zoom out. Increase your vision. Get on mission. Whatever has hurt you, whatever has shamed you, whatever has left you fearful or insecure, healing is only the beginning. God has big plans to redeem your struggles, and they are MUCH bigger than you could ever imagine.