Are There Some Things That Can’t Be Cured?
by Jennifer Roach, LMHC
Jeremiah, true to his nickname of “The Weeping Prophet,” wants to talk to us about some hard things this week. And it’s a little uncomfortable.
In my day-job as a mental health therapist I sit with people in pain every week. They’re tired of their pain and therapy is a great place to start. And as a society we’ve done better in recent years at giving people the message that sometimes really bad things happen to them that are not their fault. And it’s true. But both modern-therapy, and the prophet Jeremiah, know that we can’t stop there.
One of the most helpful therapies to be created in the last few decades is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. In the 1970’s it was becoming obvious that the standard therapies at the time were providing no relief to chronically suicidal clients. People who were in so much distress that it didn’t seem like life was worth living on an almost daily basis. The idea behind this therapy is that a person has to be able to hold 2 opposite things to be true – a dialectic where two contradictory things both must be accepted. Truth 1 is that what happened to them is not their fault. Truth 2 is that they must take responsibility for fixing the damage caused by the initial event, as well as the damaged caused by their poor response to the event. And, somewhat surprisingly, this leads to relief for some of the most suicidal clients because they can stop feeling like victims who are waiting for someone else to fix their situation. They become empowered to fix it themselves.
Here’s an example….If I hit you with my car while you’re crossing the street, I am responsible for the accident. The law will hold me accountable in several different ways. It is my fault. However, you are the one who will be required to go to physical therapy and do the hard work of repairing your injuries. My insurance will be paying for the treatments because I’m responsible for the damage, but you will have to do the work because you’re responsible for the healing. Another way to say the same thing is that if a tree on my property falls on your house, I will be held accountable for the damage, as it should be. But you will be the one repairing the damage. And so it is in our lives. Other may cause damage, but we are responsible for healing. Sometimes, in our very normal struggles to figure out how to do that, we make our own suffering worse because of our reactions.
And we see Jeremiah on about the same thing. Something has happened in your life, and you’re rightly upset about it. We humans hurt each other in all kinds of ways- ironically we do it the most to the people we love best. Jeremiah has a word for us…
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you. I have struck you as an enemy would and punished you as would the cruel, because your guilt is so great and your sins so many. Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure? Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you.” Jeremiah 30”12-15 (New International Version)
Wait. Isn’t Jeremiah victim-blaming here? Some really bad things have happened to these people and he’s trying to get THEM to repent of their sin? Yes, he is. Because he knows that when terrible things happen to you, you have to do 2 things…1) Take responsibility for your own healing which is different than taking responsibility for the damage being done. 2) You have to find a way to be that doesn’t cause more damage to yourself through your own sinful reactions to what happened to you.
So, are there some things that can’t be cured?
Yes and no.
Yes, if you refuse to take responsibility for fixing the damage done, then things will never be cured. You will wait in victim-status forever. At least according to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and our friend Jeremiah. You will not be cured if you wait for someone else to do it for you.
And no. When you take responsibility for your healing, and for repenting from your own sinful reactions to hurt, you have taken back the agency in your own life to shape yourself into who you want to be – despite what other people did to you. It might not be fair that you have to do this, but it is reality.
Jeremiah ends chapter 30 by telling us that this process is worth it, “You will be my people and I will be your God….in days to come you will understand this.”
Let it be so for us.
More Come, Follow Me resources here.
Jennifer Roach earned a Master of Divinity from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, and a Master of Counseling from Argosy University. Before her conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she was an ordained minister in the Anglican church. Her own experience of sexual abuse from a pastor during her teen years led her to care deeply about issues of abuse in faith communities.