Monday, August 8, 2011



The Wounded Healer
Henri J.M. Nouwen
New York:Image, 1972.
100 pp.

The Wounded Healer, by the Dutch priest Henri Nouwen (1932-1996), has been a great source of inspiration for me in the ministry of Restoration and Encouragement.

This slim book is for all believers who desire to minister to the body of Christ, “but who find the familiar ways crumbling and themselves stripped of their traditional protections.” (from the introduction)

The front cover reads “In our own woundedness, we can become a source of life for others.” This almost appears to be a contradiction in terms. Woundedness and life don't seem to fit in the same sentence in a positive way. But Nouwen shows otherwise throughout the book.

...the minister is called to recognize the sufferings of his time in his own heart and make that recognition the starting point of his service...his service will not be perceived as authentic unless it comes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which he speaks...nothing can be written about ministry without a deeper understanding of the ways in which the minister can make his own wounds available as a source of healing.(p.xvi)

The body of Christ has had so many wounds inflicted on them in one way or another, and through these wounds we can be a source of strength to our brothers and sisters in the faith. Our suffering and wounds have a purpose in them. As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:

Just as we have a share in Christ's many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God's great help. If we suffer, it is for your help and salvation; if we are helped, then you too are helped and given the strength to endure with patience the same sufferings that we also endure. So our hope in you is never shaken; we know that just as you share in our sufferings, you also share in the help we receive.
2 Corinthians 1:5-7

Nouwen writes:

But what are our wounds? They may have been spoken about in many ways by many voices. Words such as "alienation," "separation," "isolation," and "loneliness" have been used as the names of are wounded condition. Maybe the word loneliness best expresses our immediate experience and therefore most fittingly enables us to understand our brokenness.(p.83)

Walking with Lord for so many years, I have come to see that you can't take someone somewhere unless you have been there yourself. It would be of no help to you if I tried to soothe your wounds if I have no wounds of my own. Nouwen makes this very clear, “Who can take away suffering without entering it? The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there...we have forgotten that no God can save us except a suffering God, and that no man can lead his people except the man who is crushed by its sins.”(p.72-73)

As a pastor of restoration and encouragement, I like what Nouwen says about the one who desires to show compassion to the wounded (Compassion a title of one of his many books), that person must "not be'up there' far away or secretly hidden from people, but in the midst of his people, with the utmost visibility."(p.40) (Which is where the Lord ministered). This brought to mind the saying that shepherds need to smell like sheep. Mingling with them, rejoicing with those that rejoice, laughing with those filled with joy, and crying with those who are grieving.

Compassion is something that all who desire to restore, encourage, and minister must possess if we truly want to help people. Compassion is a virtue that, for the most part, is missing in the body of Christ. To have compassion is to be Christ-like.

One cannot help but be moved by Nouwen's writings. They will have an effect on you that will inspire you to be more like Jesus, ministering in love and compassion, not ashamed of your wounds, but using them as instruments of healing.

For more about Henri Nouwen and his ministry and books visit


City streets, country roads, and highways are lined with many signs telling us to stop, yield, and slow down. Signs warn us that we are approaching railroad tracks, dangerous curves, and hidden driveways. Others are demanding: “Keep Out!” “No Trespassing!” Some convey a message with a warning: “Police Take Notice!” “Proceed at your own risk!”

A sign outside the controversial military base known as Area 51 reads, “Use of Deadly Force is Authorized.”

Some signs are ignored by people. We drive down one-way streets, pretend that we didn't see that stop sign, and risk our lives driving above the speed limit.

In our travels, we need to obey the local and state police, and in some cases the U.S. Military. They have the power and authority to ticket, arrest, and even, as noted above, shoot at us. The authorities tell us and enforce what we can or cannot do as we drive on the streets and highways of America.

Many of these signs, of course, are for our safety and well-being. They can save lives and prevent injuries, if we obey them. Ignoring them can bring harm to us and others.

The Lord, however, levies no restrictions as far as entering into a certain place. A place far greater than any place on earth, or the universe, for that matter. The Holy of Holies! Where the Lord is high and lifted up! The Lord God invites us to come to the throne of grace! There we will find grace, mercy, and help in our time our need.

We have seen TV programs or movies where someone will post a sign that reads “Detour:Road Work Up Ahead” even though there is no work taking place. It was done to trick and deceive someone to travel where their enemy can do them harm.

The enemy of our souls is like that. The deceiver posts signs so that we can take a detour off the road heading to the throne of God. “Turn Back, God is Angry With You!” “Road To God Is Closed Up Ahead!” “Danger:Bridge That Leads To Jesus Is Out!”

These signs posted by the devil are to be ignored and we must continue ahead on the straight and narrow road that leads to life in Jesus Christ our Lord!

There are no warning or threatening signs to scare us away as we proceed to the throne of grace. There are no signs that say “Do Not Enter, This Means You Sinner” or “Proceed At Your Own Risk, Loser” or “Keep Out, Archangels Take Notice.”

Under the old covenant, a person could not personally come into God's presence.

If a person had sinned, he or she could not go before the Lord and confess and be forgiven. The guilty one needed to go to the High Priest.

However, under the New Covenant, which is established on better promises (Hebrews 8), even though guilty of sin, a child of God can humbly and boldly (with confidence) enter into His presence. There is no need for an intercessor, for Jesus now intercedes on our behalf.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5 (NIV) Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus, our High Priest, is always interceding for his people.

Unlike the High Priests, who entered the Most Holy Place year after year with blood that is not their own (Hebrews 9:25), Jesus, our High Priest, entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood thus obtaining eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12).

Hebrews 9:9 also tells us that these gifts and offerings by the High Priests were not able to clear the consciences of the worshipers. So matter how hard we try and what good works we perform, they will not take away our sins. It's only through Jesus' shed blood—nothing else.

I want to encourage you that in your time of need go boldly and directly to the throne of grace. There the Lord waits to receive us and embrace us because we belong to Him, and nobody and nothing can separate us from His eternal love!