Fear, depression, anger, horror, desperation, and sleeplessness have been companions on my journey over the past 15+ years. I have a wonderful, blessed life, but a series of events made such deep impacts on my heart and mind that it has sometimes clouded my ability to focus on the goodness around me.
Two fires in close proximity to our home led to paranoia and sleeplessness. Being burglarized twice produced a new level of anxiety. A frantic drive to the emergency room, the arrest of my best friend in a foreign country, a rollover car accident―these are all situations that God has miraculously healed, delivered, or saved us from; but the imprint of each trauma was stamped on my passport of life.
When I was introduced to Trauma Healing, I knew it was something I needed. I psyched myself up to participate in a healing group and figured I’d spend time processing the most recent major trauma my family had experienced—a car crash that easily could have killed both of our daughters. However, after the group broke into pairs to have private discussion, I was shocked by the tears and frustration that spilled out of me over (dramatic pause) job instability. What? Really? Why in the world did job instability evoke such strong emotion when there are bigger issues to deal with?
I have been learning that not all trauma in my life involves flashing red-and-blue lights. Some of the quiet, lingering issues have spread beneath the surface without dramatic flair, causing deep wounds of their own. The wounds from these silent creepers need just as much healing as a broken, bruised body. Dismissing or ignoring pain because it doesn’t seem big enough to mention simply allows it to take root and grow a stronghold until one day, it bursts forth, producing a very unwanted harvest.
I am a firm believer in biblical truth. Yet, for followers of Jesus, there are sometimes mantras that go through our minds, shaming us into silence or convincing us that we don’t need anyone’s (aside from God’s) help to heal. I’ve said many of these things to myself:
- God works all things together for good.
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
- Suffering is part of life. We should expect to suffer, especially as Christians.
- Be anxious for nothing. . . .
So, since I’m a Christian and pray for God’s protection and healing, why am I still having so much difficulty healing from the past and finding the stability and emotional health that I desperately desire? As I’ve come to learn, until we deal with trauma, there can be a barrier in the heart/head connection. We can fire Scripture at the target, but it can’t reach the mark until the blockage of trauma has been removed.
Image used with permission
Let me turn the “microphone” over to Steve Moses, a Master Facilitator with the Trauma Healing program. Steve, can you please talk about dealing with trauma and give us a deeper understanding of the need for healing groups?
First, let me share a quote and some facts about trauma:
“Trauma is perhaps the greatest mission field of the 21st century.” ―Dr. Diane Langberg. Even before the pandemic, one in five adults in the U.S. had experienced the effects of trauma in the past 10 years. Trauma affects at least one in seven people worldwide. At a minimum, 39% of refugees experience PTSD, compared to just 1% of the general population.
Trauma happens when a person is overwhelmed with intense fear, helplessness, and horror. It affects psychological, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Trauma plays no favorites―not for rich or poor, young or old, men or women, or “those” people.
I was originally approached about trauma healing while serving as the director of a refugee resettlement agency. The thought was that we as an organization were seeking to meet the physical needs of refugees but needed to address their emotional and psychological needs as well.
Honestly, I thought and even said that I was too busy to get trained. So, I sent two of my staff members to attend the upcoming training, with hopes of implementing the information upon their return. Sadly, we did very little after they came back. I did not fully grasp what they experienced. What I didn’t understand then was that trauma was following me and I was soon to experience the heavy weight of it, both personally and professionally.
In December 2015, my wife and I were in Jordan for a gathering related to refugees. We saw heartache and pain and loss―families separated forever, children without fathers, grown men weeping over loss and pain. We saw despair in their eyes. We cried with them, hugged them, prayed with them, and listened to their stories. Tears fill my eyes now as I remember a little 5-year-old girl who experienced horrible things. She cuts herself, breaks glass in her hand, and takes cold showers yet shows no emotion. Her uncle also sits incapacitated and in a deep depression. Oh, the things they have seen! Healing is needed―emotional, spiritual, physical, and psychological.
In the fall of that same year, a young woman who was a part of our community knocked at our front door. As my wife and I welcomed her into our house, her brother, who accompanied her, told us that she was contemplating harming herself and they needed assistance. My trauma eyes were beginning to open. Trauma healing and processing pain, loss, and suffering was not a mere program or “add-on” for an organization or church. There is a critical need for it to be integrated into the very fabric of the culture, thus creating a truly trauma-informed environment.
Consider these quotes that reinforce the value of trauma healing and healing groups:
- Michael, a South Sudanese leader, said, “You cannot have church planting without trauma healing.”
- Ommani, a Kenyan leader, who helped develop the trauma healing materials that I use, said, “We were presenting trauma healing incorrectly to churches in Africa. We started communicating trauma healing as discipleship and pastors understood it more.”
As a domestic abuse survivor, I find hope in this curriculum. In my own experience as well as that of many of my friends who are domestic abuse survivors, the Church’s handling of abuse can be just as damaging as the original abuse, if not more so. This curriculum is an encouraging resource to help churches start to do a better job of dealing with a complex and very often dangerous situation.
My initial intent was to gather information to take to a specific group in the mission field. However, I find this training is extremely valuable in everyday life. We all know people with “heart wounds” who can benefit from this model and curriculum.
Instead of just coming to learn and hear information, we were allowed to experience the training through personal application. This encounter would translate into our knowing the information provided in the course deep in our souls.
In summary, trauma is everywhere and can impact anyone. Both the Church and the individual Christian need to be aware of the staggering statistics surrounding trauma. But though it is pervasive, we are not a people without hope. Many organizations are working together and have formed the Trauma Healing Institute. As their promotional literature says, their “unique method of trauma healing unites proven mental health practices and engagement with God through the Bible.” To date, more than 130,000 people have participated in healing groups. I am one of them, and I have benefited tremendously. To learn more, please visit https://traumahealinginstitute.org/about .