Therapeuo for Emotional Health (Claim Your Freedom #12)

By now, you know my bias: I prop on Scripture and do my best to lean into the Spirit. No problem here if you don’t- we can disagree, still interact with each other, and learn a lot together. 

That said, let me show you something else from the Bible. This will apply to you, too, even if that’s not your chosen belief system...

There are multiple words we find in the New Testament for healing. In this chapter I want to teach you two of them, as they have everything to do not only with physical health + healing but also emotional health + healing.

Understanding why we find different are words in the Biblical text is important, as they each refer to different things. Let me explain…

One word for healing, iaomai, means “miraculous” or "instant change." It's abrupt. It's cataclysmic. It changes things immediately.

We see iaomai throughout the New Testament: 

  • Jesus iaomai the blind man who had never, ever seen anything from the moment he was born (John 9:1f.)
  • Jesus iaomai the paralytic who was lowered through the roof by four friends (Mark 2:1f.)
  • Jesus iaomai the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1f.)
  • Jesus iaomai the leper (Mark 1:40f.)

No one debates the fact that Jesus healed with miracles. Not even people from other faith traditions. In fact, when we think about how Jesus healed people, we all most often exclusively envision Him performing miracles.

Turns out, He still does miracles today. I've seen iaomai firsthand. In other books I’ve described my sister’s heart murmur (completely healed), my brother’s gouged eye (perfect vision) and my uncle’s death at UAB (he’s still alive, 20 years later). These are each examples of iaomai. Clearly, I believe Jesus healed in the past, and I believe He still heals in the present.

I tell you that because I want you to understand that I emphatically don’t have an anti-miracle bias when I relay this next concept to you. (I’ve taught this info in a few charismatic churches who clearly think I do have anti-miracle bias.)

Here it is: Whereas He performed miracles for some, Jesus also taught others to be well, to live a lifestyle of health and wholeness. That is, Jesus instructed people how to choose wellness. 

The second word we see in the New Testament for “healing” is therapeuo. It means to “teach how to be well, to wait on, to heal over time.” You might recognize its resemblance to our word therapy.

The word iaomai (instant healing) is used 30 times in the New Testament- and the word therapeuo (healing over time) is used 40 times. In other words, there may actually be a slight emphasis on the "walk it out over time" method of healing.

 

They work together

We actually see both of these words working together in Matthew 8, a passage in which the former tax collector strings together a series of healing events as a commentary on Isaiah 53- the passage that prophesied that the Messiah would be a healer.

Matthew tells us Jesus healed several people instantly:

  • A leper approached Him and was instantly made whole ( 8:3).
  • A centurion’s servant who’d contracted a disease that inflicted immediate paralysis on his body was healed (8:13).
  • Peter’s mother-in-law, who had been on her deathbed with an extreme fever, rose and began serving them as soon as Jesus touched her (8:15). 

Clearly, Jesus iaomai people.

Matthew tells us that this series of three miracles created such a pleasant commotion that the entire village gathered together at Peter’s mother-in-law’s house after learning she was well. Anyone who was sick or demon possessed was immediately brought to Him for attention. 

Matthew then tells us, “He healed them with a word” (8:16).

I used to read that passage and emphasize the “with a word” part- as if Jesus simply spoke and something supernaturally magical happened.

“Here, you be healed!”

Then, “You, too. Go your way and be merry.”

And, “Also, you… right there. In the back. You, as well.”

Obviously, Jesus did that kind of thing. Matthew just showed us a series of three encounters where that type of thing happened. 

Yet here, in this verse (8:16), Matthew reports that something else occurred altogether. Yes, Jesus healed them, but the word Matthew uses to denote that He did isn’t the word iaomai. Rather, it’s the word therapeuo. 

Matthew literally tells us that, when the crowds rallied together at Peter’s MIL’s house, Jesus “healed” them by “teaching them how to live well.” Furthermore, Matthew includes this in his treatise on the Isaiah 53 passage! 

He concludes this series of healing events by penning (Matthew 8:17):

This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

In other words, healing people instantly and healing people over time by teaching them to live well are both aspects of what Jesus came to do.

Sometimes, Jesus heals instantly. Other times, He teaches people how to be well. Sometimes, Jesus touches us and we are dramatically changed in that moment. Other times, He imparts His wisdom to us so that we can “walk out” the freedom.

Now, think about what this really means, practically. Let’s move it from theory to real life: 

  • Jesus can heal lung cancer, but He can also teach us about the ills of smoking.
  • He can cure diabetes. He also shows us how to eat better.
  • He can heal sexually transmitted diseases. He also provides us with directions on how to live whole and healthy lives, as well as experience the joy of true intimacy with one person.
  • He can heal us of the dozens of physical nuisances that we’ve grown to tolerate. Or, we can take His directions and experience what it really means to be alive!

Let me show you another example and then we’ll apply it to emotional and mental health.

 

And yet again

The story begins in Acts 27. Paul, Luke, and 274 other travelers find themselves shipwrecked on the island of Malta. 

Luke, the traveler reporting the story, was a well-known physician. Furthermore, he’s the New Testament author that communicates the most thoroughly about the Holy Spirit and God’s supernatural power to perform miracles. This is an important detail, because it shows us he’ll be balanced and honest with the data- 

  • As a physician, he’ll tell us if healthy lifestyle choices were involved
  • As a miracle-worker, he’ll tell us if God intervened and did something we can’t humanly explain

Both sides of the equation are important. Remember, Jesus did both.

The shipwrecked crew made their way to the shore and built a fire to warm themselves. In the hustle, they stirred a snake pit. After surviving a viper bite that should have killed him instantly, the islanders concluded Paul had a supernatural reason for being there. In fact, they perceived him to be a god (see Acts 28:6, and remember that entire perception-reality tango we discussed in chapter 2).

Luke writes that, because of this, Paul was taken to the local chief, who was confined to this deathbed, most likely with a dreaded illness like dysentery (Acts 28:7-9). Luke details that Paul iaomai him. To use language we're familiar with, this was a miracle. 

The remainder of the islanders gathered to the hut after this encounter, much in the same way that the crowds flocked to Jesus after He healed Peter’s MIL. Luke, who would know exactly what happened from the vantage point of being both an eyewitness and a skilled medical professional (as well as a man who understood the powerful potential of the Holy Spirit), explains that Paul then healed every diseased person on the island (Acts 28:9). To be clear, Paul therapeuo the entire island. That is, he taught them how to live well.

Or, to say it another way, those were not miracles. 

 

What God does, what you do

When I teach the concepts above, I most often define my terms at the beginning of the class, talk, or lecture. It keeps everyone on the same page and eliminates the guesswork.

I usually say something like, “When I say the word healing, I’m referring to miracles, to iaomai, to something God does. We might pray and ask Him to do it, but it’s something that- unless He does it- doesn’t happen.”

I often add, “In fact, He has to do it. I can’t. So, I’m not going to take the credit if He does it, and I won’t take the blame if He doesn’t. I’ll ask Him, but that’s where it sits…”

Most people instantly understand that definition. And they realize that, “Yes, this is something God does.”

So, I move to the next concept: “When I say the word health, I’m referring to choices you make that support wholeness and wellbeing. This is therapeuo. This is something you do.”

Most people understand that, too. 

What many people have not understood before is that they don’t have to choose between one or the other. In fact, both are important. Each on enhances the other. Jesus did both. Paul did both. We can, too.

Control what you can control

A few years ago I read that cancer is 90-95% connected to environmental factors and only 5-10% related to genetics. I read it on a government website- not an obscure site about “all things natural health only.” Look- 

Only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle.

In other words, we may have far more control over that dreaded disease than we once thought. We’re not victims of genetics, helpless and hopeless apart from a miracle. Turns out, we have far more control over most health issues than we’ve previously thought. 

When I teach these concepts, I usually tell people, “Yes, let’s pray for a miracle. Let’s hope that happens. I have faith that it can.”

We pray, and often miracles come.

I always tell them, too, "Even if a miracle doesn’t happen, we’re going to start walking in health right now, though.”

That is, we’re going to immediately make lifestyle adjustments that stand in line with overall health and wholeness. Miracles, it seems, are needed for the 5% of things we can’t control. Our choices can radically influence the other 95%. If you begin making wise decisions, the odds are radically in your favor. 

I conclude, “Miracle or no miracle, healing starts now.”

By that, I mean this: If God does the thing that only He can do and we see a supernatural breakthrough, we receive it and celebrate. If, on the other hand, He doesn’t, we still make healthy choices in alignment with what we want our bodies to do. 

In fact, I encourage people to make those choices, anyway. I tell them that we want our lifestyle to always reflect our goals. If, for instance, cancer is 95% environmental and 5% genetic, we don’t want to receive a miracle that heals the 5% and then not adjust the 95% of factors which we can control. We want all of our decisions to support what we’ve received. 

Make sense?

 

What that has to do with this

Jesus commanded His disciples- and empowered them- to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom when He sent them out. He told them to heal people as they did (Luke 9:2, for example). Healing was clearly part of their message, part of the “total package” they carried wherever they went. 

When Jesus sent out the 70, He said: “Heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near…’” (Luke 10:9). 

I want you to notice the “kind” of healing He sent them to demonstrate and teach, though. This is revelatory. 

The word He used, the word we translate as “heal,” is therapeuo. Not iaomai.

They weren’t sent to only instantly heal people with miracles (which we know they did from other places throughout the New Testament). They were also told to teach a Kingdom way of life. That is, they were sent to show people how to live well, how to be whole.

Here’s what all of that has to do with this talk...

First, I want to empower you- as much as I possibly can- to live emotionally whole, to be well “from the inside-out.” Earlier in the book we even discussed how sometimes getting the stuff “on the inside” right leaks to the outside and transforms it. It’s highly likely that any issues you may have in your body will follow the condition of your soul.

Second, emotional healing isn’t just an instant-iaomai-miracle proposition; it’s a lifestyle. Sure, I believe the Father often heals people in a moment- even of emotional wounds. 

But, it’s possible- and even highly probable- you’ll find healing through the process of walking it out. Too many people wait to get struck by lightning, that is, for a supernatural event to occur that suddenly becomes their breakthrough. 

What if that doesn’t happen? Is all hope vanquished? 

Of course not. We can still therapeuo our way there. We can claim our freedom and begin the process of sorting life and fighting for wholeness.

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. We celebrate that day every year with fireworks, swimming, long days at the beach, and more. That is the day our Founding Fathers claimed our freedom.

But we weren’t yet free. 

They claimed freedom before anyone saw the finality of it. You see, the military campaigns of the Revolutionary War lasted from 1775 until 1783. It took seven years of walking in a freedom that didn’t yet exist in order to truly be free.

Don’t miss the parallel. You might have to stake a claim and begin your freedom march before there’s evidence, as well. 

And, even if the miracle does happen, you’re going to want to walk the lifestyle anyway, right?

 

Tools for  Mental + Emotional Wholeness

I want to outline four things you can do right now- three of which are free- to walk in emotional health.

  1. Eat better
  2. Move more
  3. Write it out
  4. Seek professional help

As we placed a video on our website (login and watch it at www.OilyApp.com/Freedom) where we discuss these in more detail, I’ll keep this brief.

First, eat better. 

Scientists regularly refer to the gut “the second brain.” Shaped much like your brain, your stomach features millions of neurons and possesses its own nervous system (which mirrors the system in your brain). Anything that happens “down there” impacts everything everywhere else in your body.

If you have kids, you’ve known this for years, haven’t you?

Toss the little ones some broccoli and they remain calm. Sure, they may complain, but it’s a docile whine at worst.

Toss them a bag of Sour Patch Kids (and a Capri Sun juice bag) and you’ll see a different level of fury altogether. It’s akin to unleashing the Kraken.

Why? 

Because anything that goes in the stomach radically affects the brain.

Let me offer you another tidbit about the gut: Your stomach actually “thinks” on some level. I know, that sounds weird, so hear me out.

You’ve probably had insight- or intuition- before and just known that something was really, really right or that something was a bit “off.” If asked how you knew it,  you might reply, “I just knew in my gut.” In fact, you might not even be able to put it into words.

Another example… 

You probably stepped into the unknown before- into a hard situation in which you had to be brave. You knew it was a stretch for you, marching through uncharted territory where you didn’t know the outcome. But you pressed on. You may have even felt “butterflies” in your stomach, alerting you to something that you- again- couldn’t quite explain with words.

When dealing with hard things, it makes sense to give your body the best fuel you can. In fact, it makes sense to do that all of the time, because when you get “gut health” right, many of the health issues we regularly juggle tend to actually sort themselves and resolve. 

So…

  • Eat more “live” foods (i.e., it grows in a garden or on a tree).
  • Eat more protein (a lot of vegetables have protein, by the way, so you can achieve this even if you’re a vegetarian). 
  • Stop eating processed foods, as well as anything that has any ingredient on the label that you can’t pronounce.

Second, move more.

The next step you can take to walking in emotional therapeuo is to exercise. It sounds obvious, but many people- when feeling down- tend to slow way down physically and occupy themselves with other things (i.e., scrolling social media, binging Netflix, etc.). Enjoy a movie, sure, but don’t stop moving. 

Here are a three reasons why you need to move more- 

Reason #1 = remember that tiredness mimics depression and depression mimics tiredness. Exercise, though, actually generates its own energy. So, when you move- even if it’s just a 20-30 minute walk, you send your body sparking in the opposite direction. 

Reason #2 = exercise is a neurological process that fires the left side of the brain. Whereas the right side of your brain is emotive and creative, the left side of the brain is the logical, rational hemisphere. Exercise, then, awakens the part of your mind that, by default, deals more with logic and reason rather than emotion. 

For sure, both sides of the brain are important. But, when you’re dealing with hard things it’s important to not only feel them but to also work through them in an ordered way. “Waking” the left side of the brain helps you sort, file, and review as you move forward. 

Reason #3 = exercise awakens your parasympathetic nervous system (as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system). Here’s the difference: 

Sympathetic is responsible for the response commonly referred to as "fight or flight," while parasympathetic is referred to as "rest and digest.”

 ... The sympathetic nervous system is the part of the autonomic nervous system that prepares the body to react to stresses such as threat or injury.

In other words, the sympathetic nervous system- by default- generates the survival instincts commonly exhibited in cases of PTSD.  The sympathetic nervous system can make you feel like you’re dealing with stress- even if you’re not. 

The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is the opposite of stress. It puts your body at rest which- as you might remember- places us back in rhythm. 

Like I mentioned earlier, most of my best ideas emerge while I’m exercising- when my body and mind are free to just “be.” My thoughts organize themselves, the chaos evaporates, and things begin making sense. 

Plus, let’s be honest, exercise makes you look better. And, often, just looking better automatically makes you feel better.

That said, let’s discuss the next tool for walking in emotional wholeness.

Third, write it out.

This third one always trips people up.

“I’m not a writer,” they say. 

No worries. You don’t have to be. You’re not writing to publish, and you’re not writing to leave a legacy journal behind for your kids. You’re writing for you.

And by “writing” I mean actually writing with a pen (or pencil) and paper. Not typing.

Here’s why: writing by hand is a neurological process that helps your mind do more of that sorting. Think about it for a moment. As I write this sentence, I’m mentally required to connect it to the previous sentence as well as the next one. My brain makes connections and builds relationships among various strands of thought on auto-pilot as I do. 

(It sounds like this should work when you type, but it doesn’t. It's completely different. As a writer, trust me. It is.)

Now, sorting a non-sense sentence like the one I just wrote isn’t that important in the grand scheme of life. But, sorting past hurts, current problems, and future potential is incredibly important. 

Plus, there are different kinds of writing- 

  • You can simply “mind-dump” and “bullet point” things onto paper, effectively off-loading them from your brain. 
  • You can journal your story like I did over the past year, effectively mapping your life in order to understand the patterns and gain perspective on the bigger picture. 
  • You can make a list of things you feel. Then, with some time and space, look at them objectively. Circle the ideas that are truths, thoughts you need to cling to. Scratch through ideas that are false beliefs, things where you’ve had the wrong perspective and need to let something go. 

(JB is noted for doing the third, and then tossing the paper in the trash!)

In her book Switch On Your Brain, Dr. Caroline Leaf coaches her readers through a “21 Day Detox,” in which they learn to recognize harmful thinking patterns from helpful ones, all while dealing with past hurts so that they might move forward full of hope. 

Since it takes 60 days to create a new habit (even a mental habit, such as constructing a new thinking pattern), she suggests people complete the detox 3 times and then evaluate where they are. Her goal is to automate right thinking so that people can walk forward in emotional and mental health. In other words, in the same way we can find ourselves triggered in destructive ways, we can also train ourselves to trigger our thoughts in helpful ways.

How’s that for neuro-hacking?

Every day we’re bombarded with multiple mental and emotional grenades. Leaf reminds us, “You need to choose and decide whether or not these incoming thoughts will become part of who you are.” 

She refers making right thinking the automatic “go to” as automatization.

She says, “If you don’t practicing using it, it will not be properly automatized.”

And, 

… Automatization means that particular way of thinking or reacting embedded in the new thought tree has become  an automatic part of you; you do it driven by the non-conscious mind, not the conscious mind.

The best way to automatize right thinking is… grasp this…by writing your thoughts on paper so that you can see them.

Fourth, seek professional help. 

A few years ago I watched pastor Rick Warren, the iconic pastor responsible for penning The Purpose Driven Life, stand before an audience and talk openly about some of his family’s struggles. 

“A few years into our marriage, we went to marital counseling,” he said. “We didn’t see a way forward, so we sought outside help.”

He said people always ask him how he afforded it. The first time (of many times) he sought counseling was well before his church was established, two decades before his books became best-sellers. He had a meager salary and no book deals or royalties. 

“I put the counseling sessions on a credit card,” he confessed. “I didn’t have the money, and I knew we needed to go, so I just did what I would do if my car broke down and I had to get it fixed or if something at the house needed to be repaired and I couldn’t afford it. I basically financed my therapy.”

I’m not arguing you should go create a massive credit card bill- or even go into debt- to seek professional help. However, I do want to highlight two reasons you should consider professional help- from a financial perspective.

Reason #1 = we regularly seek professional help for just about everything except emotional and mental wounds. We hire professional trainers to rebuild our bodies, we hire CPAs to manage our money, and we pay architects to design our houses. 

Why are we averse to hiring professionals to help us rebuild our souls, manage our thoughts & feelings, and renovate the life we want?

Reason #2 = we accept debt as a “given” for numerous other things. Most people think nothing of financing a vehicle or a home. In fact, most people actually choose to do it that way. It’s the accepted norm. 

Why, then, are we averse to financing the cure of our souls?

Again, I’m not saying we should. I’m just, well… thinking out loud.

JB makes no bones about it. “After the dark stuff happened in my marriage, I went to counseling. Every day. For a long time. I wept, I learned things about me I needed to do, and we went deep. It was expensive, but it was worth it.”

When he and Cindy lost Evans, he went to more counseling.

After he exploded his knee wave-boarding and found himself confined to a wheelchair for a year, growing more desperate and depressed by the day, he went to even more counseling.

Today, he walks in freedom and joy. In fact, he’s so free that you’re likely surprised when I tell you that he has “a past” that’s chock full of pain.

How so? 

He’s confronted the skeletons- all of them. They’ve been revealed to have no muscle, no voice, no life left in them…

I’m still in process, but I’m learning we’ll only be as free as the past pain we’re willing to confront. Sometimes that requires help from an outside source, someone trained to do that heavy confrontation with us.

I know. 

Firsthand. 

Remember, I got that psych eval. And I had to be referred for it by a counselor. 

After navigating the wiles of a traumatic adoption, learning of abuse in our home, and being gaslighted and shunned by a once-close confidant, I confronted the past head on. 

I stormed the gates of hell with a water pistol.

Along the way, I experienced a few “miracles” and breakthroughs, sure. But, most of my freedom came as I therapeuo’d my way forward… 

  • I ate the right foods, avoiding binge eating and stress eating.
  • I started moving again, running a bit less than I normally did and lifting less than I could, but creating space where I could be alone. 
  • I journaled 700-plus pages- with pen and ink. That activity alone, sometimes done for 3 or 4 hours a day, was difficult (I often teared-up, even while sitting in coffee shops and other public places) yet more freeing than any other activity I did. By putting things on paper I was able to not only see them, but my mind was able to make connections and help me see more clearly.
  • I continued seeing a professional. His perspective helped me define terms and concepts and labels that are often misused in our culture, particularly by others who want to keep you down when you’re at your lowest. 

 

Choosing to live free

I learned… no, I’m learning… this, too: Freedom is a choice. You must, as the title of this book says, claim it. Sometimes, you claim it before you can even see it as a possibility. 

And then you remind yourself of what you’ve chosen, even surrounding yourself with others who will serve as that voice for you. In fact, though I haven’t addressed it in this chapter, walking in close community with others is paramount.

Every day you must claim your freedom- and the remind yourself that you’ve done so. As Caroline Leaf writes, “The hardest part about achieving peak happiness, thinking, and health is remembering that we can choose them.”

Choose it. If you intend to experience it, you must intentionally decide to live free. Freedom doesn’t appear by accident. And you often experience it a season after you first claim it and begin fighting for it.

That said, there is a tension here, something we’ve got to “own” about freedom and what it looks like. Many times when our bodies heal things go back to how they were. Not always, but often. A cut heals and the skin looks as good as new. A broken bone mends, often stronger than it ever was. Sometimes the wounds don’t completely heal, though. A “new normal” happens. We walk with a limp or we still bear a scar. The same thing often occurs in life. Sometimes, the scars remain, even as we walk forward in freedom. In the next talk we’ll discuss how those scars often become the finest gold in our lives.

 

 


Links for this talk

Claim Your Freedom- the book- (5.5x8.5, 264 pages)- https://amzn.to/2xwQcEY   

Emotional Wholeness Checklist- the book- https://amzn.to/2WXlMY5 (5.5x8.5, 92 pages) 

Switch on Your Brain (Dr. Caroline Leaf)- https://amzn.to/2IEZeWr 

Video course referenced on Emotional Freedom- go to www.OilyApp.com/Freedom 

 

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