None of us asked to experience trauma. It shows up and lets itself in like an unwanted guest, leaving a whirlwind of pain and unanswered questions in its wake. On the other side of trauma, we find ourselves marked or changed in ways that we never thought possible.
Like it or not, trauma is part of life. In the United States alone, 61% of men and 61% of women have experienced at least one traumatic event. When we look at those in the behavioral health system, the number of people who have experienced trauma skyrockets.
Trauma offers the individual no respect. It does not take into account race, religion or social status. It never calls and asks permission to invade our lives, nor does it check our calendar to see if we have time to deal with the chaos that it brings.
The psychological community has terrific resources to assess what classifies as trauma. I am so thankful for all the help that they give people. Yet, there are still people who attempt to ignore the trauma and pretend it never happened. Why do we hide?
—Rejection or fear of rejection.
—Don't know where to go to get help.
—Fear of being retraumatized.
Along with those listed above, I want to mention another reason. What is trauma to me may not be trauma to you. What is trauma to you may not be trauma to me. As we have ministered emotional healing to individuals, we see people who have gone through the same event but process the event differently. From an emotional healing perspective, we need to be able to see the individual and hear their story without assessing if the event classifies as trauma. Sometimes we just need to be that listening ear, a friend who says, "There is hope, and you can learn to live again."
If we find ourselves in a position to walk with someone through their trauma, we need to understand our limits. Some people need counseling, some emotional healing and others need both. Everyone needs a friend and people who can encourage them and speak life into them. God is so faithful to use any means necessary to bring healing and freedom to the individual.
So if you are walking with someone who has experienced trauma, or if you have experienced it yourself, know that there is hope!
We can do more than just learn to live again. It is possible to walk into a "but God" moment.
We desperately want to believe that when we walk with the Lord, everything will be fine. Trauma will not enter our lives. Wouldn't that be wonderful? However, if Scripture is our plumb line, we may have to change our belief system.
Who experienced trauma?
—Job: We tend to read the book of Job and see the blessing that God poured out on him in the second half of his life. However, Job lived through the trauma. He heard the reports of all his children dying and everything being taken away from him in a moment.
—Naomi: We meet her in the book of Ruth. Due to a famine, she and her family moved to a foreign land. While they were in the foreign land, her husband and both of her sons died. Again, we see God's redemption later in life. However, she still had to walk through the trauma.
—Tamar: We meet Tamar in 2 Samuel 13. She is raped and silenced. We don't see the "but God" moment in this one. We see a woman who ended up trapped in the trauma and the cultural stigma rather than experiencing healing and freedom.
—The man with leprosy: Leprosy was a dreaded disease, and due to the condition, this man would have been an outcast from society. However, he had an encounter with Jesus, and he was healed.
—Jesus: He was whipped and crucified. In His flesh, the human side, He experienced every one of those lashes. As He was nailed to the cross, He felt the pain of the nails piercing His hands and feet.
I go through all of this because one of the things we have to realize is that we are not alone. One of the first things you learn in critical incident stress management is allowing people to tell their stories so they know they are not alone.
So, before you read any further, I want you to know that you are not alone! You are not alone in experiencing trauma, but you are not isolated from a kingdom perspective either.
"Lord, You know everything there is to know about me. You perceive every movement of my heart and soul, and You understand my every thought before it even enters my mind. ... Where could I go from Your Spirit? Where could I run and hide from Your face?... Wherever I go, Your hand will guide me; Your strength will empower me. It's impossible to disappear from You or to ask the darkness to hide me, for Your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night" (Ps. 139:1-2, 7, 10-11, TPT).
I love that last section, "Bringing light into my night." Is it possible for God to bring light and healing into the trauma of my life? The answer is a resounding yes!
So, let's give a straightforward definition of trauma.
Trauma is the response to any event that shatters our safe world. Trauma invades our space and is more than just a state of crisis. Trauma is a normal reaction to an abnormal event.
Read that definition again. Note that it is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. We were not created to live in trauma. Nor were we designed to carry the pain of trauma through our lives.
In Isaiah 61, we have a prophetic word about Jesus. Isaiah is stating that Jesus will come to bind up the brokenhearted, set captives free and rebuild ancient ruins. That does not mean that the only time He was doing that was while He was physically walking on this earth. No, it means that today, Jesus is still binding up the brokenhearted, setting captives free and rebuilding ancient ruins.
In our pain, where do we run, or where do we hide?
We need to understand that healing from trauma does not come from denying the event happened. We cannot erase what has happened, but God can remove the pain. Remember, He came to bind up the brokenhearted and set the captives free.
Numerous models are used for walking people through trauma, both in the secular community and within the religious community. One concern I have is that I have spoken to many people who have relived the trauma, hence being retraumatized, as they have gone through counseling or emotional healing. As I have walked with many people through the trauma, I firmly believe that God's heart is never to retraumatize. As I have searched Scripture, I cannot find any account where the individual had to relive the trauma. What I see, instead, is God speaking life and healing into them.
"A thief has only one thing in mind—he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect—life in its fullness until you overflow" (John 10:10).
God desires to restore life so that we can live life in its fullness, overflowing fullness.
Quite often, with trauma, one of the potential barriers is forgiveness. When trauma rampages into our life, we often go looking for someone to blame. And many are victims who had no control over the situation.
The issue with not forgiving is that it holds us in bondage to the person and the situation. Beyond that, as we demand our "rights," we drag around a weighty anchor that prevents us from moving forward into the healing and wholeness that God has for us.
If you are having trouble beginning the process of forgiving, we have a significant first step for you to take in prayer.
Heavenly Father, You know everything I have been through. I give You permission to help me take a step towards being willing to forgive, and I choose to trust You to protect my heart in the process.
Earlier I mentioned that the way we process trauma also impacts the way we come through it. And remember, we were created to walk through trauma, not to become stuck in the event or the aftermath of the traumatic event. Trauma seeks to steal away our peace, security and our future. Psalm 23 reminds us that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. This passage immediately tells me that God intends that we do not stay in the place of death, pain and trauma. And that means that there is always a way out.
Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2 that we are not to copy the world. He makes it clear that we can allow God to change the way we think. We were initially wired to think from God's perspective, not from man's perspective.
How do we begin to change the way we think? We can ask God how He sees us and test what we see, sense or hear back through Scripture. As you spend time with the Lord, be sure that you don't discount Scripture that He may direct you to. There is power and healing in the Word of God.
Sometimes, especially working through the trauma, we can have trouble hearing God. In those moments, however long they last, we need to remember that God is with us, He is faithful, and we have His Word in Scripture. So dive into Scripture. My place to go is to the psalms, especially the ones that David penned. Why? Because David was comfortable expressing his emotions or feelings before God. He was able to tell God about life being unfair, about pain, anger and more. As I studied these psalms, I noticed that David also learned to refocus on God and God's goodness. When we can begin to refocus or realign our focus on God, everything shifts.
There are so many other areas trauma impacts and so many ways we could address this challenging topic. We only tackled a few and gave some little but powerful pointers that can potentially help us take a step toward healing and freedom.
Be assured, you have not been created to carry the trauma around in your life. We have an amazing God who is still in the business of healing.
To listen to more of Ruth Hendrickson's powerful teaching on the subject of healing from trauma, click here to listen to the entire podcast.
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