Accept the Discipline of Restoration


I’d rather do almost anything than discipline myself to do the work of recovery from a hard time in my life. But the nature of the work required for recovery can be surprising.


Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 

— Ephesians 6:10-13 NSV


The truth is, there are times when I’d rather do almost anything than discipline myself to do the work of recovery from a hard time in my life. But the nature of the work required for recovery can be surprising. We may not even think of them as disciplines until we begin to try them in the wake of a trauma:


  • Discipline #1: Hope. The discipline of hope involves saying yes to your restoration and actually asking for what you need. It also involves choosing hope as an attitude when it’s far removed from what you’re actually feeling.
  • Discipline #2: Trust. It’s always a conscious choice, a true discipline, to remember what you know of God’s character and to hold on to the reality that God sees you. During hard times, it’s even more of a challenge, but it’s the key to experiencing God’s comfort. The Psalms often speak of God as a refuge, a hiding place. But you can’t experience this great gift unless you choose to trust Him.
  • Discipline #3: Waiting and Watching. This involves listening in stillness, waiting on the Lord, trusting his timing, actively looking for the signs of His presence and His activity. (They’re there, but they can be subtle and easy to miss, especially when we’re hurting.) For me, this kind of watchful silence is sometimes the most strenuous discipline of all.
  • Discipline #4: Honesty and Transparency. In the aftermath of trauma, that could mean shouting at God and telling Him how you feel. It can mean refusing to put on a happy face and insisting that everything is all right when it isn’t. There are certainly times when you need to control your feelings for the sake of others. But your restoration absolutely depends on finding a place to confess your honest thoughts and feelings—at very least, in prayer, in a journal, or with a few friends who are close to you.
  • Discipline #5: “Controlling the Wild Horses.”  I love the way my friend Emily, who has endured more trauma than most people I know, describes this.  She’s referring to that tendency we all have, but trauma victims have more than most, to let our “vain imaginations” run away with us. If we give in just a little to fear and panic and worry, those emotions can quickly take control of our lives. So while we need to be honest with our feelings, we also need to be alert to the ways our thoughts can run away with us and learn to short-circuit the runaway thoughts.
  • Discipline #6: Obedience Instead of Instinct. Our instincts can serve us well in the early moments of trauma. A “fight or flight” response could actually save our lives in an accident. But as we move from survival toward restoration, our instincts can begin to get in the way of what God wants to do with our lives. Your instinct may be to pull away and withdraw when you need to press in to relationships…or to hang on too tightly when you need to let people make their own mistakes. Because I am an active “can do” type of person, I tend to rush in instead of waiting on God’s timing. But I’m learning (slowly!) that obedience sometimes has to trump instinct in this too. We have to act on the light we’re given, do what we know to do. And all this takes both courage and discipline.
  • Discipline #7: Forgiveness. This is perhaps the most difficult of the disciplines . . . and the most healing. It’s not something you can accomplish all at once or something you can do without God’s help. But the more you move toward forgiveness, the more you free yourself to move forward in your life.
  • Discipline #8: Gratitude. This means simply looking for signs of God’s presence in our lives and resolving, by an act of will, to “give thanks in all things.” Doing this even when it feels forced or artificial has a way of opening our eyes and shifting our perspective to see what God is doing in our lives.
  • Discipline #9: Modeling Faith and Integrity. This absolutely does not mean faking a faith, covering up our doubts, or sacrificing our integrity to our witness. In fact, it means the exact opposite. As God walks us toward restoration, it’s good to realize that how we live into our own restoration can have a powerful impact on other people’s relationship to God. The more honestly and trustingly we can walk, the more integrity we manage, the more we confess our mistakes but accept forgiveness…the more others will be blessed and helped.

Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the gifts that restoration can bring. In the meantime, I pray you will carefully consider these disciplines, ask the Lord if He has blessings you have not yet discovered. Pray with your “eyes wide open” to the many treasures He promises to send your way. 

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