Trauma Is Not a Life Sentence

Judah and Tamar interrupt the Joseph narrative. The Levite and his concubine interrupt the final cycle of Judges. Judah and Tamar interrupt David’s saga with Bathsheba and Absalom. God interrupts the stories of redemption with short stories of lives interrupted by trauma, some that are never resolved for us.

3. God speaks specifically to the depths of our suffering.

God gives us words for abuse. Massive portions of the Bible were written in poetry, because mere prose cannot communicate the pain and struggle and emotion that poetry can.

Not all prayers have to end in a major key, despite what many simplistic blogs and books and sermons may suggest. The book of Lamentations—of sorrows—ends in a whimper: in God’s arms, yet still fragile and vulnerable, still anxiously awaiting the next jab from his sword. After trust seems to have been betrayed—trust in a God who could have prevented the pain, trust in a friend who was supposed to protect, trust in a system that was supposed to defend us—the pain and trauma run much deeper. As in David’s poem,

My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. (Psalm 55:20–21)

God gives us better words. More accurate words. He gives us the poetic voice of reality.

Truth can feel like a heavy burden for the hurting, but it is ultimately the only relief for the oppressed. Truthful and beautiful words cut through deceitful uses of Scripture and their accompanying half-truths. Lamentations. Jeremiah. Isaiah 1–40. Psalms 3–12. When the abuse begins to isolate us, God shows up next to us in the foxhole, with words meant for the foxhole, words we never could have fully understood anywhere else.

4. God gives us himself, even in the midst of triggers.

A “trigger” is when the past interrupts the present without apology, and often without warning. We may not even know we are being triggered until much later on (we may not ever know in this life). Have you ever felt an unexplained surge of anxiety or anger? Is that feeling consistently experienced with one person or in a particular place? How does that relate to your past experience? Our triggers are neither good nor evil. They are adaptive tools our body gives us to protect us from future harm, but they are often overactive in telling us that there is danger where there is none. How do we navigate? The Bible gives us powerful words in defense: