How to Heal from Trauma
- Friday, October 17, 2008
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of H. Norman Wright, Matt Woodley, & Julie Woodley's new book, Surviving the Storms of Life: Finding Hope and Healing When Life Goes Wrong, (Regal Books, 2008).
Trauma will hit you in our fallen world – whether it’s something that makes headlines, like a disaster or terrorist attack, or something more personal, like abuse, a loved one’s death, or an accident.
But no matter what kind of trauma you suffer or how it affects you, there’s hope in Christ. He knows what trauma is like; He suffered it while dying on the cross. Jesus cares about what you’re going through, and He’ll help you heal.
Here’s how you can heal from trauma:
Recognize the possibilities. Your story doesn’t end with the trauma you’ve suffered. A better future is possible for you. You’re much more than just a person who suffered traumatic events. You can be a survivor. You can recover with God’s help. And God can even turn your trauma into a redemptive source of blessing in your life and the lives of other people.
Deal with your anger. Admit the anger you feel as a result of the trauma you experienced. Ask God to help you stop expressing it in destructive ways and start expressing it in healthy ways. Use the energy in your anger to accomplish something constructive, like working to help solve the problem that caused your trauma (for example, if you were abused, reach out to others who have gone through the same type of abuse, or if a drunk driver killed someone you loved, support organizations that fight drunk driving). Release your anger by writing about it in a journal, or in a letter to the person or people who traumatized you (but don’t mail the letter). Be honest with God about the anger you feel; doing so releases its power over you, giving you the freedom to pursue healing.
Deal with your guilt. Evaluate your guilt and ask God to help you discern whether or not it’s legitimate. Legitimate guilt has a purpose, showing you where you’ve gone wrong and what you need to change. If the guilt you’re suffering from is legitimate, you can do something about it. Admit what you’ve done, confess it, make restitution if possible, and embrace God’s forgiveness. If you’re suffering from guilt that doesn’t have a redemptive purpose, recognize that it doesn’t come from God and ask God to free you from that guilt and move on with your life. Remember that what’s past is past. Don’t blame yourself for not being able to react or respond in the best way when you were traumatized; trauma impacts your judgment. If you did the best you could at the time, that’s enough.
Deal with your fear. Confront your fears, identify them, and notice how often they occur. Remember what you used to fear, and how you overcame it. Put your fears in perspective by studying and memorizing Bible passages that describe God’s power to handle all that scares you, as well as those that mention His promises. Ask God to give you His peace.
Deal with your depression. Realize that no one is immune to depression, and that it’s not a sin for a Christian to be depressed. Evaluate your thoughts by: recognizing and identifying what you express to yourself, understanding that many of your thoughts are involuntary and automatic, distinguishing between ideas and facts (keeping in mind that just because you think something doesn’t mean those thoughts are true), and whenever you discover that a particular thought is not true, state exactly why it is inaccurate or invalid. Admit your feelings to another person who can help you. Cling to God’s promises and choose to be faithful to Him, even when you don’t feel like it. Trust that He will reveal His strength through your weakness.
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