Faith Identity

When The Pain is Unbearable

Recently, I attended a Wild at Heart Men’s Boot Camp up in the Colorado Rockies. Hosted by Ransomed Heart Ministries, over 450 men gathered to hear John Eldredge and others speak about the Gospel restoration of a man’s soul. How Jesus is about not just saving you but transforming you in your manhood.

Your Search for Validation

It was the session on Father Wounds that hit me hard. John explained how in every man, since boyhood, is this God-given insatiable search for validation. We want to know that our lives matter. In fact, there are two questions that every boy needs answered from his dad:  “Daddy, do you delight in me?”  and “Daddy, do I have what it takes to be a man?” For tons of reasons, dads either don’t answer their sons or the message gets circumvented by absence or silence.

Truth is, regardless of your age, you have wounds. Some, you’ve worked through, others are still unresolved. Some, you can’t even articulate. The pain is horrendous. Instead of walking towards the pain, you run from it. This is why we guys search for validation in a variety of ways, often sordid. It’s why guys jump into porn and masturbation. It’s why they pose, being someone they really aren’t. Why some guys turn into bullies and why others hide behind their studies or work. It’s why some of us experiment with substances while others try to find it in alternative lifestyles.  Whether it’s an endless pursuit of women or engaging in same-sex attraction, your soul is crying for validation. The problem is all that searching won’t satisfy, ultimately. 

Agreements with the Enemy

As John walked us through how father wounds impact us, I recalled some boyhood experiences that I have struggled with even now as an adult. Not that anyone should expect their life to be perfect, but when those key questions are not answered in a way that fills your soul, the pain can be excruciating. Along the way, the Enemy of your soul is bound and determined to get you to make agreements with him; lies that limit/hinder your progress into manhood.  The Enemy knows that if you were to be fully restored by God through Christ, you’d be a supernatural force to be reckoned with! Agreements are things like: “I’m not good enough.”  “I’m always in the way.”  “An inconvenience.” One young man, I mentor commented on how he always broke things at home and was dubbed “the breaker”.

It became obvious that some of my efforts in life have been striving after that validation in ways that God didn’t intend.  My long struggle with sexual self-control in my teens and twenties, being unrelentlessly hard on myself whenever I came up short. My hesitation to try new adventures. To avoid being known for fear of rejection. You probably have your own list.

Pulling off the Scab

As I sat there in that Wild at Heart session, it’s like God took me to the mat, held me down and pulled the scab off my wound. I won’t lie. It hurt! I cried like a baby. I didn’t care if 450 other men saw me. God had me and I needed this. What was amazing was that just as God pulled that scab off the wound, He was also there, kneeling with me. Spiritually, I sensed His arm on my back; His assurance of His unfailing presence and promise to walk through this restoration process with me.  

Redemptive Remembering

It’s one thing to finally admit there’s a wound you’ve been evading and compensating for such a long time. It’s a totally different thing to realize that in Christ, you can actually be restored! The Gospel is about forgiveness of your sin, absolutely! The Gospel is also about fully restoring you as a man. Granted, full restoration won’t happen this side of eternity, but dealing with the wounds now, makes life this side of heaven much better and fuller of joy. To get that restoration started, admitting father wounds, giving God permission to address them knowing full well that He is the best one to restore you is where things start to change.

You won’t find the phrase “Redemptive Remembering” in the Bible, yet it’s woven throughout scripture. 

I will restore to you the years

    that the swarming locust has eaten,

the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,

    my great army, which I sent among you. Joel 2:25 ESV

 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:10-11 ESV

God Does Not Rewrite History

God doesn’t go back and change the past. History is what it is. When I was 9 and tore up my knee riding my friend’s stingray bike, my white sock turned deep red. It hurt a lot to pull gravel out of my knee. The scar is still there. When my friend Kevin was killed at age 16; his body is still in a country grave in the Flint Hills of Kansas decades later. When a gang at my junior high slammed my head up against the lockers, my mouth bled. Redemptive remembering doesn’t negate the pain, but it does bring healing.  Tearing up my knee wasn’t proof I didn’t have what it takes to ride a bike. When my friend Kevin was killed, it wasn’t proof that I was a bad friend to him. When that gang beat me up, I wasn’t the trash they said I was. No one is claiming sinlessness. We all sin and desperately need Jesus. Redemptive remembering is about letting God clarify, confirm, strengthen and restore you through what happened. He brings validation that we didn’t get growing up.

Older You and Younger You

John Eldredge spoke of one way God can redeem your memory is by older you going back to the younger you.  What would older you say to younger you? As two men at the Wild at Heart Boot Camp came and prayed with me, one asked what I’d say to younger David?  Would I run away from younger me? “Hardly!” I responded. “I’d run so fast to younger me, wrap my arms around him and as confidently and assuredly as I can affirm and validate him as a boy and as a teen!” 

One of the ways I’ve been working through this aspect of redemptive remembering is writing letters to younger me, recalling certain events or struggles at various boyhood and young man stages of life. Honestly, it’s been amazing to see how God is restoring things; lifting a heavy weight off my shoulders!

You Have Wounds-What are You Going to Do About Them?

Here are some helpful steps to addressing the dark clouds that loom over your soul.

  1. Realize that His every purpose is to restore you through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. Admit you have unresolved wounds, many from your formative growing up years.
  3. Give God permission to show them to you and pull off the scab.
  4. Break any agreements you’ve made with the Enemy.
  5. Trust that He will be with you in the restoration process.
  6. Ask God to father you; to give you validation as a man.
  7. Find a trusted friend in Christ with whom you can be gut-level honest regarding your wounds and the healing God wants to do.  Ask him to walk with you. 

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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