I thought I’d share more thoughts on trauma. I hope it informs and inspires you.
Trauma can affect you in many ways, many of which came to light in the academic research and study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES). You can read more about qthe research by reading the Harvard Health Publishing article on ACES here.
The ACES Study has become well known in behavioral health care. My experience with using ACES comes from my work as a Chaplain in a behavioral healthcare environment. It’s a self-scoring questionnaire that ranks your level of trauma by scoring it. It then serves as a diagnostic tool, thus instructing you to reach the level of therapeutic support you need.
The Harvard article I linked to this blog post undeniably connects adverse childhood experiences with a disease that manifests later in life. You can observe Dr. Gabor Mate as he elucidates the empirical link between ACES and the emergence of medical problems later in life by clicking here.
The rationale for a person working through trauma takes on a greater significance when you realize that it can affect your health later in life.
I like what the late Theologian and Philosopher Dallas Willard wrote about the body and the mind in his book “Life Without Lack: Living In the Fullness of Psalm 23.”
The body is important, but the mind is all-important. And the most important thing about your mind is what it is fixed upon.”
As a Ragamuffin Saint and follower of Christ, searching the scriptures and seeking solace in their wisdom aligns well with my values and desire to heal from the trauma I’ve experienced in my life so far.
Here is my favorite translation of Psalm 23, where King David proclaims God’s goodness in poetic praise. It’s a spiritual approach to trauma that compliments other therapeutic approaches.
Yahweh is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough. He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace near the quiet brook of bliss. That’s where he restores and revives my life. He opens before me the right path and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to his name. Even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for you are near. You become my delicious feast even when my enemies dare to fight. You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit; you give me all I can drink of you until my cup overflows. So why would I fear the future? Only goodness and tender love pursue me all the days of my life. Then afterward, when my life is through, I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!”
Here's my hermeneutical approach in exegeting these verses in a way that helps me find peace when dealing with anxiety or traumatic thoughts and memories triggered by internal/external stimuli.
Verse 1. “Yahweh is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough.”
My Response: This verse reminds me that I am accepted by God as I am, not as I think I should be. He meets me where I’m at emotionally in his love, but in his wisdom, he doesn’t leave me there. Entering into friendship with God, or even better, sonship, is the ultimate acceptance. No greater love can be found. For me, this is a truly transformative revelation.
Verse 2. “He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace near the quiet brook of bliss.”
My Response: To be offered a safe place to rest, free from trauma, and other people's drama, inspires my soul to imagine that I can be alone with God, hidden safe and secure from anything and anyone who would try to destroy that peace. The Bible says, “Blessed are the peacemakers” in Matthew 5:9. And be encountered true peacemakers, but have also met true peacetakers. When I am at rest with God, the striving for acceptance, the hustling for significance, and the people-pleasing are put in check. I can walk in God’s footsteps and find an oasis in him, reserved just for me, free the prying eyes and or prawning hands of the peacetakers.
Verse 3. “That’s where he restores and revives my life. He opens before me the right path and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to his name.”
My Response: I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me through this verse that when I am with God, he continuously breathes new life into my soul, especially when feelings of grief, depression, or anxiety have tried to overwhelm me. God helps me to walk the path he has set before me by creating a clear road through the wilderness of my traumatic experiences. He doesn’t offer detours or bailouts; he simply says, “here is the path I have for you. Remember, you’re not alone; I will be with you the whole time. I am the way, the truth, and the life.” God is honored and glorified when I graciously receive everything he has given me to help me through my pain and trauma.
Verse 4. “Even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.”
My Response: I’m reminded in this verse that God never promised me an easy life, but he did promise to be with me through the peaks and valleys. I’m reminded that God is trustworthy, that he is in control, and that he is not indifferent to my suffering. He cares deeply about every aspect of my life. God’s love for me is the most remarkable non-pharmaceutical intervention I will ever experience, so I am welcomed by God to let down my guard, to be completely vulnerable, non-defensive, and noninvasive in my interactions with him or others. I never have to entertain feelings of loneliness or isolation ever again. Even if I relapse into old ways of thinking, the grace of God carries me back to the revelation of his love for me. I’m reminded that there is no shame or condemnation in his game.
Verse 5. “You become my delicious feast even when my enemies dare to fight. You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit; you give me all I can drink of you until my cup overflows.”
My Response: God promises that when we metaphorically feast on his goodness, rather than binging on the negativity and conflict created by our trauma or the drama others try to bring into our lives, that God offers a better meal. And this is a meal that is healthy, satisfying, and good for the soul. The to-be anointed analogy means that the presence and the approval of God have worked themselves deep inside of my soul. I’m sealed by his sign and off-limits to the work of the enemy. I am welcome to drink all of God that I can handle. To encounter God in his love and grace is like putting a coffee cup in the stream of a fire hydrant to draw a drink. It’s overwhelming in a great way. Everything of God that fills you will overflow on those around you! That’s how contagious his goodness and grace are.
Verse 6: “So why would I fear the future? Only goodness and tender love pursue me all the days of my life. Then afterward, when my life is through, I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!”
My Response: Fear of the future isn’t unusual for most people who have experienced trauma and taken their trust off of God and put it back on themselves. We like to feel like we’re in control, even when we make a mess of things by insisting on doing it our broken way. It helps me to remember that my past, present, and future in God is secure, even if certain aspects of it remain uncertain. Religion may instruct us to pursue God, which isn’t a bad thing, but genuine faith teaches us that God has always been pursuing us. He is not only interested in our lives but longs to be a part of our lives. When I reach the end of my days, I have an assurance that I will be with God in this bliss of the afterlife, reunited with loved ones, family, and friends who were privileged to go before me.
As a pastor and chaplain, I incorporate scripture into every counseling session, including prayer, meditation, and sacred scripture reading. I trust the Holy Spirit, who is the best Counselor and Comforter of all, is leading me and the counselee to truth, revelation, knowledge and giving us the keys to unlock the door of our pain and suffering so we can walk through it together.
Though new, my journey through trauma has had many prior attempts to be treated, only to be set back by new and recurring trauma that only recently ended with a tragic change in my life. But, if it hadn’t been for my faith and the ekklesia of God, I don’t know if I would’ve made it this far. So, I am thankful. But, I know I have much more work to do.
I think it’s important to have conversations about trauma, whether it’s from the pulpit to the pew, or around the family dinner table; it’s a conversation we all need to have with our loved ones. We need to make it a subject that is safe to talk about with our loved ones. I’ve had to push through feelings of guilt, shame, remorse, and regret to the place of peace I’m currently enjoying. But, without God being with me, I don't know where I’d be or what I’d be doing.
I pray that you find the courage to talk about your trauma and seek the help you need to find healing. After all, you can’t heal it if you don’t reveal it.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Jeremy E.
*Please forgive my brevity, I am blogging from my iPhone.