All of us have numerous areas in our lives that are broken and out of place. This is the result of a chain reaction through multiple generations due to the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

Although all human beings have been confronted with the guilt of their own sin (whether they have heard the gospel or not, the Holy Spirit was sent to convict the world of sin; read John 16:7-8), those of us who are believers have responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

However, just because believers have received Christ in terms of the general principle of conviction of sin and subsequent salvation does not mean that we have necessarily continued to allow God to work His grace in our lives, to continue to uncover and heal all the broken places in our souls after the initial experience of salvation. (By “soul” in this article I am referring to the emotions and feelings of the heart.)

This is why it says in 2 Peter 3:18 to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” which shows us salvation is not the end of the journey but initiates a process of sanctification in which God makes us whole—spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Consequently, all of us have blind spots and undealt with areas in our hearts. But there is good news: there are some ways we can tell when there are still major issues in our hearts yet to be healed by God. It cannot be overstated how important it is to allow God to heal these areas, since these are the areas of our lives the enemy has a foothold in; these areas will continue to be full of spiritual warfare, temptation and conflict until we are fully restored in Christ.

(I have known people who have been saved for twenty years or longer but stopped growing as a believer after only a year or two because they settled for just the bare minimum of salvation. They never allowed God to take them on the full journey of abundant life as mentioned in John 10:10. Though they have been believers for twenty years they are really only infants emotionally and spiritually in Christ!)

The following are some of these ways to detect the broken places in our souls:

1. Notice what triggers extreme emotional responses

We all have triggers in our lives that the enemy and other people can ignite resulting in an extreme response from us. Chances are, behind these triggers are signs that show undealt with issues that need healing. It could be an image in a movie related to child abuse that causes you to cry uncontrollably (perhaps showing that you never received healing from God when you were physically or emotionally abused as a child), or perhaps it could be something you read, heard, felt or smelt that releases bad feelings. Don’t just gloss over it lightly the next time this happens; take note of it and bring it to the Lord so He can touch those deep undealt with places in your soul.

2. Be aware of how and when you have negative interactions with others

Whenever you are close to someone there will eventually be tension and even negative interaction. However, when you have the same kinds of negative interactions with various people then you need to be honest and admit that the problem is with you and not always the fault of others; all of those people can’t be wrong. Examine the nature of these negative interactions and allow the Lord as well as trusted confidantes to share with you how and why you react a certain way that causes tension in your relationships.

3. Be aware of what the Holy Spirit constantly convicts you of

There are some of us who are continually walking around with guilt in certain areas of our lives. Instead of walking around with guilt, take the time and ask the Lord what He may be convicting you of, and take a step of faith and begin to give these areas of sin over to God for forgiveness and healing.

4. Be aware of what conversations you don’t want to have with those close to you

At times during conversations some people have said to me “don’t go there!” In reality, there should never be a topic in which we say “don’t go there” to God or mature spiritual leaders over our lives.

Conversations you want to avoid reveal areas of undealt with pain, unforgiveness, bitterness, or denial. The enemy will tell us that being in denial or avoidance makes the pain or anger go away. But in reality it only pushes it down further resulting in planting a negative seed deep within our souls. Eventually that seed will become a huge tree that will reap havoc in our minds, bodies and other relationships!

5. Be aware of what Bible passages you tend to avoid

There are certain passages that are hard for us to read because they bring so much conviction! These are the passages we need to highlight in our bibles and meditate upon so that our minds and hearts are cleansed, renewed and transformed (Romans 12:1-2)!

6. Be aware of what sermon topics make you squirm

Are there certain sermons you hear that make you angry or offended? Instead of getting mad at the preacher you need to honestly assess whether or not the message is touching trigger points of pain, denial or rebellion in your life that makes you uncomfortable.

7. Be aware of what is holding you back from full surrender to the Lordship of Christ

Are there any areas of your life in which you are intentionally holding back from God? Are you not able to wake up in the morning with an attitude of full, unconditional surrender to God in which you are open to hearing and obeying anything He tells you? If so, this indicates resistance to God due either to rebellion regarding a love of a certain vice, or a lack of trust, or fear that He will not be able to take care of you because of a previous negative experience with other people including adults and authority figures who let you down.

8. Be honest regarding the feedback you receive from those close to you

Don’t be defensive and argumentative; be open to people who push back on you or attempt to give you input regarding areas of concern. Especially pay attention if different people are saying essentially the same things about you and to you.

9. Be aware of areas of resentment and unforgiveness you have towards others

Anytime we hold unforgiveness towards others it shows a broken place in our lives. We are instructed to walk in love and forgive others even as God in Christ forgave us (Ephesians 5:1-2). Unforgiveness causes us to lack confidence before God in prayer (Mark 11:24) and its resultant bitterness incites anger, grumpiness, depression and other harsh feelings that hurt us internally and cause innocent people (who never hurt us) to bear the brunt of our angst through bad interactions when they interface with us. Truly, “hurt people hurt people” and angry people lash out at innocent people in their lives.

10. Practice silence and solitude, and journal what wells up in your soul

We all need regular times of reflection and internal dialogue so we can know ourselves. Those of us who are constantly filled with activities, conversations, work, and entertainment without giving ourselves time for honest reflection will never give our souls a chance to speak to us, to let us know what is broken and in need of repair. Just practicing 10-15 minutes of silence and solitude per day can draw out of us amazing things that reveal who we truly are inside—what motivates us, what compels us, what inspires us, and what has hurt us. Writing will enable us to fully draw out from within the deep wells of our inner being and show us where God needs to intervene and bring healing in our lives.

About the author / Joseph Mattera

Joseph Mattera has been in full-time church ministry since 1980 and is currently the Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York. He is also serving as the United States Ambassador for the International Coalition of Apostles, and as one of the founding presiding bishops of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches.