Shannon was raised by a mother who constantly put her down. Growing up, she was told she was stupid, lazy, and worthless. She internalized these words and accepted them as truth. As a result, she struggled with poor self-esteem for most of her adult life.
She dealt with the pain by moving from one romantic relationship to the next. She kept waiting for a man to tell her she was worthy, to give her value. But as each relationship would end, she only felt lower.
It wasn’t until Shannon went on a Christian retreat with her best friend that she had the insight that she’d spent years waiting for others to set her free from her mother’s cruel words. That was the day Shannon asked God what words He spoke over her.
To her delight, she discovered God describes her as…
- His Beloved Child (John 1:12
- An Overcomer (Romans 8:37
- Forgiven (Ephesians 1:7
- Chosen (John 15:16
- Wonderfully Made (Psalm 139:14
- Set Apart (John 15:16
- His Masterpiece (Ephesian 2:10
- Friend of God (John 15:15
Everyone carries baggage. Like Shannon, it might be because of an emotionally abusive parent, or maybe it is a friend’s betrayal or an addiction that you can’t seem to let go of.
Waiting for someone else to set you free can be exhausting and painful. But God is eager to heal you from every hurt, wound, and heartache that you have experienced in your life.
Where Does Your Baggage Come From?
Baggage is the emotional, mental, or spiritual pain you carry from a previous experience. Often, baggage stems from a deep wound. This wound can be something such as discovering your spouse was unfaithful. This can lead you to not only question future relationships, but your own judgment as well.
Maybe you found out that you were adopted. Suddenly, the life that you thought was yours seems like it was a lie. You might feel that you weren’t wanted or weren’t good enough for your birth parents.
If you’re struggling with baggage and wondering if you can ever live free, here are four things you should know about baggage today…
Your Past Can Be a Source of Baggage
Your childhood can create baggage. If you had an abusive parent, you might struggle to trust others. Perhaps you overreact with anger as a way of protecting yourself. Maybe you’re afraid to stand up for yourself today because of what happened.
Part of living in a fallen world means that we’re frequently hurt by the mistakes, sins, and failures of those around us. Often, we live in the overflow of their poor choices and if we’re not careful, we can continue the cycle of hurt to those around us.
You May Be Unaware of Your Baggage
Your baggage may leave you feeling weighed down by what happened. But for some people, they’re unaware of their baggage entirely. It lies dormant until something happens that causes that baggage to spill open and impact the present. Only then do you realize that what happened is still affecting you.
This happened to Wyatt. His first wife cheated on him, but he didn’t realize it was still affecting him until his wife began having to stay late at work to finish up a project. Suddenly, he was certain that she was cheating.
Your Baggage Creeps into the Present
A sign you have baggage is that you become defensive in a situation or you experience an emotional response to the current moment that has nothing to do with the present.
For example, a friend makes a remark questioning a decision you made, and it triggers your past baggage because your parent made you feel you could do nothing right as a child.
So, you react to that friend now with the emotions the child felt back then. This reaction can be one of defensiveness and anger that’s elevated beyond what you would normally feel when your baggage isn’t in play.
You Can Let Baggage Become Your Default
Often, baggage can be so ingrained that it becomes your default reaction. When you have a default reaction, it means that you’re not dealing with the person or situation at hand.
You’re struggling against what already happened. You can’t change that past event. But you can change how the past leaks into today. You can do this by examining the thoughts and behaviors that stem from your baggage.
Think about what happened that caused you to develop that belief or thought pattern. For example, maybe you’re afraid to celebrate a certain holiday because it reminds you of when your parents would get drunk and neglect you.
Once you make the connection between your past, you can ask God to show you how to release it and create fresh memories in the present.
What Will Freedom Look Like for You?
Carrying around baggage slows you down and robs you of the freedom that God intended for you to walk in. Instead of experiencing the abundant joy and overwhelming peace you’re meant to have, you walk around feeling drained.
Everyone Has Baggage
The first thing to understand about baggage is that everyone has it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Every person on earth experiences hurt because we’re all in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23).
Sadly, there are people who never deal with the baggage because it’s hard work and they don’t know the freedom that Christ longs to give them. They don’t envision a future without it.
You Need a Vision
To be free from your past baggage, you must face your baggage and be willing to do the hard work. But you also need to ask God to give you a picture of what walking in freedom will look like.
Whatever your baggage is, it will always leave a scar from the wound that you lived out. This scar can be what leads you to a life of growth so that you release your pain and embrace a new life.
Sasha was often angry. Little things like getting cut off in traffic would set her off. Other times, there would be no apparent reason. Something constantly irritated her for no apparent reason that others could see.
She was angry with her coworkers to where they didn’t like to bother her on the job. She was impatient with her family members over minor things. When she was around her friends, she often couldn’t see what they were dealing with because her focus didn’t allow her to see beyond her own anger.
Sasha wasn’t truly angry with her coworkers, her family, or her friends. She didn’t even realize how she came across to others.
You Can Be Free
It wasn’t until the day she saw her toddler cower in the face of her anger that she realized she had a problem. Seeing her toddler terrified was the wake-up call Sasha desperately needed.
The moment showed her that anger had become her default. She wasn’t truly angry at the situations she encountered. She was just struggling with her feelings of helplessness over growing up in a rough situation. That feeling of being powerless had haunted her even as an adult.
That growth moment changed everything for Sasha and made her determined to ask God’s help in finding healing and wholeness. She wanted to learn how to cope with the present without the past tagging along.
As she prayed, God showed her a picture of a happy toddler that didn’t have to grow up tiptoeing around a mother’s anger.
Once she determined that this was what God intended for her, Sasha faced her wounds so that she wouldn’t pass down those hurts to her daughter or anyone else around her.
Determine What Your Freedom Will Look Like
Your picture of freedom may look very different from Sasha’s. Maybe you have a drinking problem to get under control and your vision looks like finding a sponsor and attending meetings weekly.
Perhaps you need to forgive someone who betrayed you. Your freedom might look like talking it through with a Christian therapist, writing a letter to the person who wounded you, or seeking reconciliation for that relationship.
Regardless of what your baggage is, spend time today praying that God will reveal a vision of freedom to you. Ask him to show you what steps you need to take to see it happen.
Who Do You Need to Forgive?
Forgiveness means showing compassion or mercy when someone else has wronged you. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple process. After all, when you get hurt, it’s natural to want justice and or even vengeance. Since it’s such a complicated topic, let’s start by looking at it more in-depth.
What Forgiveness Is Not
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re saying what happened is acceptable. It doesn’t mean that you ignore the hurt or that the offender gets away without consequences.
Many times, the person who wronged you must still experience the fallout from their choices. For example, Cindy’s mother was killed by a drunk driver. Although she forgave the man, he still had to face the legal consequences of his actions.
Forgiveness Is a Process
Sometimes people think that forgiveness is a one and done deal. It’s not. Forgiveness is the deliberate act of choosing to let go of what the offending party did.
Often, you’ll find that you have to choose repeatedly for the same offense because it might come to mind repeatedly. This is because Satan likes to use our wounds to torment us. He knows the places where we’re weak, so he likes to bring up our injuries and delay our healing by keeping us mired in bitterness.
In Hebrews 8:10 and 12, God says of His children, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
God makes the intentional choice to remember our sins no more. This is exactly what He longs for us to do to those who have wounded us.
Forgiveness Sets You Free
When you hold on to unforgiveness, it means that you tie yourself emotionally to that person or situation. You may feel hatred or anger. You may grow bitter about what happened.
Unforgiveness steals your inner peace and keeps painful emotions at the surface, which can lead you to react to the present using past baggage. Not forgiving causes you pain piled on top of the pain you’ve already experienced.
God doesn’t want this for you. He wants you to experience the peace that comes from Him. But it’s difficult to hold on to peace when you’re busy being bitter.
Forgiveness Isn’t Easy
It’s difficult to forgive, especially when there are deep hurts, but the benefit isn’t for the other party. It’s for you. When you forgive someone, you gain peace and strength over what happened.
You’ll be able to let go of the cord that’s binding you to that other person or that situation. For example, if you had a partner that cheated on you, you might have developed a belief stemming from an inner lie. You might believe that you weren’t good enough, and that’s why your partner cheated.
Forgiveness Brings Relief
Forgiveness allows you to let go of that other person’s action as well as let go of the self-lie you may have believed.
When you forgive, you’ll notice that you feel lighter. That’s because forgiveness allows you to release baggage and start healing. That other person or situation won’t have any more space in your thoughts or own your emotions.
Start with a List
Prayerfully, make a list of what you need to forgive. This list might begin with the people who’ve hurt you. It might be a spouse who said something unkind or a friend who betrayed your trust.
Forgive those people by making the decision that what they did to you will no longer have any power over you. As you pray over the situation and ask God’s help in forgiveness, envision Christ cutting the rope that keeps your emotions tethered to that person.
You Might Need Forgiveness, Too
As you’re dealing with forgiveness, you may realize that you need forgiveness, too. Maybe you made mistakes that hurt your life, such as divorcing a loving partner or choosing a destructive addiction. You feel shame or guilt because of this.
But remember that God does not condemn His beloved children. John 3:17 assures of this truth, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
What’s more, God forgives your every sin the very moment that you confess it to Him. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”–1 John 1:9
Remember that no matter what the situation, there can be no growth or redemption without forgiveness. Let go of the past so that you can move into the glorious freedom and healing that Christ longs for you to experience!
How Will You Find Healing After Heartache?
There are many ways to find healing after pain, heartache, and loss. Understand that as you read, your path to healing might look different from someone else’s journey and that’s OK.
There is no one right way to find healing. God might send you one resource or even multiple resources to help you heal. Here are a few ways you might find healing from past wounds…
Heal Through Art
Some people have found healing through art. You don’t have to have any artistic ability to use art as a healing source. Art has long been used to help people discover how to release the emotions they experience after pain.
Releasing these emotions helps you to process them and take steps toward healing. There are different methods you can choose under the umbrella of art. You can choose to engage in journaling about art.
For example, you can look at photos of paintings or visit a museum and then journal about the emotions that you felt when you viewed them. You might talk about how a picture reminded you of an emotional storm that you experienced and how it felt to live through that event.
Using art to help you find healing can mean that you take up drawing, even if you’ve never done so before. The idea behind this type of therapy isn’t about perfection or even becoming good at art. It’s done simply to let go of the emotional ties to what wounded you.
Some people use sculpting as their art choice. Working to create shapes from clay and other substances can relieve the stress associated with baggage and allows the mind to process the emotions you feel. By using art, you’re able to connect with what you’ve been through and uncover emotions that are keeping you tied to whatever you’ve experienced.
As a carpenter, Jesus understands the beauty and comfort that can come from working with your hands to create something new.
Heal through Therapy
Sometimes people need therapy in order to find healing. The type of therapy that you choose should be based on the type of issue that you want to work through.
A trained Christian therapist can show you techniques to help you deal with your wounds and teach you how to walk in the freedom that God intends for you to find.
Talking to a therapist can help give you an emotional outlet that validates your feelings and experience, and this can be the first step toward healing.
Heal through Journaling
Maybe you prefer to heal on your own, and therefore some people choose to use journaling. When you write about your pain, it allows you to see your situation safely because you can be open about what you’re dealing with.
This step can help you understand what you’re afraid of or what makes you angry. It can allow you to see what’s going on in your life now that may be tied to the pain you’ve experienced.
Another way of finding healing after pain can be to talk about it with someone that you trust and create an accountability relationship. This should be with someone who will empathize with your pain but will help you move toward healing. This person could be a mentor, pastor, or even a member of a support group.
Healing can happen in many ways. What’s important isn’t which method you choose to use. Rather, what’s important is that you pursue healing so you can live free from your baggage.
Do You Want to Live Free?
Baggage is a by-product of a wound. It’s only by getting to the root cause that you can live completely free. Identify what your baggage is. But uncovering that and facing it in order to heal is something that can change your life.
One of the most important things you can do is to be patient with yourself as you begin your healing journey. Give yourself a safe space to explore what caused your wound. Be gentle and speak kindly to yourself, just as Christ would.
You need to understand that when you release baggage, there’s usually more to it than you realized. That means that there may be deeper wounds and more trauma than you first thought.
Accept that Healing Is a Process
Understand that healing doesn’t involve a quick fix. You might discover that you’ve begun a journey that’s going to take a lot longer than you first expected. But know that if you do put in the work, it will be worth it in the end.
Healing is a messy process. It may be deeply emotional for you. You might find that your emotions seem to get worse as you deal with your past hurts. You might become angrier or more anxious. This is a normal reaction when dealing with things that wounded you.
Expect the Ups and Downs
Be aware that some days, it might feel you haven’t made any progress at all toward healing, but that’s not true. Wounds that are poked at are painful.
If you keep seeking God’s healing, you will eventually find the past no longer has a hold over you. But in the meantime, prepare to have many bad days, especially at the beginning of your journey. Understand that this is part of the process and give yourself permission and space to heal.
On the hard days, it’s helpful to recall the freedom vision that God gave you. While it may be difficult to see it right now, you are getting closer to it every single day. Hang in there!
God Longs for You to Live Free
Sometimes, in the middle of your wounded place, Satan whispers the lie of God’s disappointment with you. But this is not true.
Just as a father runs to comfort the child who scraped his knee, God is running to you. He is scooping you up in His strong Father’s arms and whispering, “Daddy’s here. Daddy’s here.”
It is with great tenderness and affection that God sees all of your broken pieces. He doesn’t turn away in disgust or anger when He sees your wounds. Instead, He patiently begins the work of stitching you back together again.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”–Psalm 147:3.
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