Closure: noun clo·sure \ˈklō-zhər\
a feeling that a problem has been solved
a feeling that a bad experience has ended and that you can start to live again in a calm and normal way.
Moving on. Leaving the pain behind. Getting rid of the baggage. When have you found yourself yearning for closure? When have, and when do you now, hear yourself saying or thinking this:
“If I could only be rid of this pain, this exhausting circumstance, this nagging memory, I’d be able to live again. I’d be able to really serve God. I’d be able to breathe.”
We, even in the church, believe that closure is the goal. And not only in relation to calamity, but in everyday small trials, we believe an open wound should be avoided at all costs. Open wounds should be healed: memories of a day’s failures or bad experiences, small or large, are problems to be put away. But the idea of closure crept into Christian thought and lingo with the teaching of Sigmund Freud. As Freud began his therapeutic work, he ushered in a new version of an age-old, wrong belief. It goes like this:
Don’t look to God (outward), but look to self (inward) to reach the central goal of life; which is to feel happy, to discover your true self, and to feel good about yourself.
Freud’s concept of closure seeped into the language of the church as he taught that humans should:
“…turn to the hidden recesses of a person’s inner being, rather than the outer influences of community and environment, in order to uncover the true self and determine what is necessary for emotional health and happiness. Second is the language either invented by or colored by Freudian psychoanalysis: denial, repression, sublimation…introversion, anal-retentive, neurotic…These are the terms that Americans — a perpetually self-diagnosing people — use to communicate with and understand our neighbors, and ourselves…
Consider the term “closure,” the idea that after trauma or loss, individuals have an innate need for a firm solution rather than enduring ambiguity. Closure is a concept…with no parallel in Scripture.” (Joe Carter, Deists Who Love Jesus (and Talk Like Freud))
God disagrees with Freud. He doesn’t say that an end to or putting away of pain is the goal. Rather, we’re to turn to Him, to know His sustaining power in the middle of both small and extreme weakness; thereby resting in and trusting Him in precious ways unavailable to our human souls in sunnier times. And from that experience emerges the true and ultimate human goal: we’re, by the power of His Spirit (remember, we’re not power-filled, but weak) conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. And that, through each God-allowed wound, is the goal. (Rom. 8:29, James 1:2-3, 12-14)
God’s way — so different
God’s way is upside-down from Freud’s. The open wound is often the gift. When we experience pain, and we don’t get a prettily packaged, neatly tied-up result; when all is not yet settled; when we didn’t perform perfectly; or haven’t gotten a wound of grievous sin cauterized and moved on from, this is when we experience our desperate need of our Savior, not our pleasure at our own self sufficiency.
So when the open wound of your heart throbs with fresh pain, or the memory of your hurt nags, do not fear. The experience of the heart-pain is not one of joy, but the outcome as we rest in our Father’s presence and perfect plan is:
- You don’t have to fear the severity of affliction (I Cor. 10:13)
- You don’t have to fear the length of your open wound. In the continued trial, rather than the closure you naturally seek, you’re daily re-reminded that turning to anything or anyone other than God will not satisfy. Just as God warned the Israelites when they left the wilderness to enter the Promised Land (that they would become fat and happy and full of worship for the idols of their new land), when we believe all pain has been eradicated from our current life, we quickly forget God who cared for us in the wilderness of suffering.
- It is His gift that the suffering last a while, as we are then able later to more readily recall the hatred we felt for our unable-to-sustain idols.
This is His mercy. Don’t fight frenziedly for the closure of your pain, believing all will be well if you can only be finished with that part of your life. A path of lengthy suffering is given as one of steadfast love and faithfulness. (Psalm 25:10)
So: What to do when we just want to sail over some distant mountain and drop our problems over the edge, never to be seen or dealt with again? What to do when we want freedom from all negatives and unhappiness, when we find ourselves yearning for closure?
- Don’t hide from or squelch your grief and pain. Instead, in the middle of it, cry out for your Lord’s true and steadfast love. Don’t run from Him, but to Him. Turn to the Lord. Talk to Him about it. When your heart-rate escalates from fear of an open wound, speak to the Lord.
- Write out the failures of your day, and nagging thoughts about more life-threatening open wounds (If you’re not a journal-er, write out simple bullet-pointed lists on scraps of paper — whatever works best for you.)
- And then pray, remembering that the Spirit prays for you when you don’t know how. Live in a posture that asks not only for daily bread, but momentary bread.
Pray, knowing that you’ll live in the tension of yearning for the day you’ll have full and final closure. This will drive you to your Lord — and that is good. At Jesus’ return, your individual life will be restored to the pain-less state you were meant to know. Until then, fear not your open wound. Grow and learn, instead. Throw yourself upon the mercy of God, who is only doing in your life exactly what you’d ask for yourself, if you knew all that He knows.