Trauma Is Not a Life Sentence

“Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive;
and let your widows trust in me.” (Jeremiah 49:11)

But orphans die. Widows die. What good does God holding them really do? Forces of protection that once gave us a sense of stability and love are ripped out of our arms. The traumatized are slapped with the realization of humanity’s dire situation: The God who can do anything promises us no circumstantial prosperity in this life. The Bible doesn’t shy away from the cruelty of the world: “Let everyone beware of his neighbor,” for “every neighbor goes about as a slanderer” (Jeremiah 9:4).

Hold Jeremiah 49:11 and Jeremiah 9.4″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>9:4 in tension. Trust your sanctified gut, but get to the bottom of your triggers—when are they telling you a tall tale about danger? Anxiety is often a prophet of doom from a future of half-truths. The traumatized must feel their way through spiritual warfare like every one else, but with a peculiar handicap.

Trust, and beware. Step out, and watch your step. Don’t submit to the prison of your fear, but accept the edge it gives you: “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Know that it wasn’t your fault, and don’t start blaming everyone else for everything else. The gospel really can provide the impossible feelings of joy, hope and love for those willing to bravely embrace the impossibility with faith.

5. God gives us permission to feel with faith.

We may feel insulted by that—“I don’t need God’s permission”—but the Bible creates space for us to feel and process our pain, if we will do it with faith, believing the promises of God even when they feel too distant or unreliable. John Calvin wrote about his pain, “I leave these wounds untouched, because they appear to me incurable until the Lord apply his hand” (Letters, Vol. 2, 57). The isolation of trauma may seem even harder when we know there is a God who could bring resolution but doesn’t.

The Christian life often welcomes suffering, or makes our experiences of suffering more intense. God gives us permission to say, “This life is harder.” It certainly was for the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23–27). Many things would be easier without Christ. Perhaps even healing from trauma could be expedited if we didn’t have to juggle our own recovery with questions about divine sovereignty and evil.