By Susan E. Richardson

For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. —Psalm 22:24, ESV

About three years ago I noticed a strange pattern cropping up physically. I started running low-grade fever. Never enough to make me worry, but enough to notice. Since I have allergies and always have some congestion, I thought I probably had developed a mild sinus infection.

When I started waking up with severe night sweats, I didn’t connect the two. After all, I had to accept that I’d come to a certain age where such things happen. After a couple of episodes, I reminded myself to get back on my herbals and went on with life.

Finally I came to a Thursday morning when I felt too bad to get ready for an appointment. I managed to get out of bed, but couldn’t push myself any further. I took an antihistamine and went back to bed, hoping to sleep off whatever was brewing.

By that evening, I could tell I was sick and should have called the doctor. First thing Friday morning I called and was able to get in that afternoon. The verdict was pneumonia. My doctor immediately put me on medication and told me to come back Monday to see how I was doing.

Pneumonia isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, and I wasn’t pleased with having it, but then came the phone call from my doctor after the radiologist had checked my chest x-rays. I didn’t just have pneumonia. I had a lung abscess. The pneumonia was probably a complication of the abscess.

What I’m learning about living with spiritual wounding brought my bout with pneumonia and the lung abscess back to mind. In some ways, spiritual wounds are like physical ills. A problem raises its head and we think we know what’s going on. We may try treatment of some kind and things get a little better. Then one day, everything comes together and we see that we’ve got a big problem.

With my illness, when I went back for another checkup, I was shocked to end up in the hospital. The pneumonia had responded to the drugs, but the abscess had not. I needed stronger treatment with different antibiotics to get rid of the root cause. My doctor knew that from the beginning, but she also knew I could only tolerate so much medication at a time. She chose to treat the pneumonia first, since that was the closest to killing me.

Spiritual wounds can be the same. Back when I was in counseling, I’d noticed that we seemed to come back to the same issues on a different level. I had done the work before, but each time we cleared out a layer of “infection” we found more I needed to do.

The more we found, the more I saw how most approaches to recovery address the outer level, whether it’s depression or another challenge. Recognizing my self-centered defenses or acknowledging how false beliefs had become idols was important, but removing those things still did not touch the wound creating all the issues. I needed to allow God in more deeply.

Over time, the Lord has cleared a lot of spiritual and emotional infection from my life, but I’m still asking questions about how to get rid of the deepest wound. I haven’t found answers yet. God knows what the wounds are and how to heal them, but like my doctor He also knows how much treatment I can stand at any point in time. He works with gentle persistence to bring me to wholeness, as He does anyone living with woundedness.

Eventually I may see and understand. Until then I grumble, complain, and fight, but keep moving forward, wanting to know. When I come face to face with my human lack and can’t understand, “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:11-12, ESV).

Lord, give us the courage to keep moving forward despite what we can or can’t see. Hold tightly to us when we can’t hold onto You. Help us allow You to lead us more deeply into healing, seeking to face the deepest wounds.


Susan E. Richardson has a passion for meeting people’s needs through the written word.You can reach her by email at or check either of her two websites: or

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