Vale of TearsRemoving Trauma
Lord, take away, melt away, rend away grief,
hide away, steer our days through,
healing dagger wounds and every jab and gash.
Fire away, every way
steer our days through.
After our ministry team broke up in 1985, the Lord confirmed to Ros that I was going to find this hard to handle because I had “never experienced failure before.” How right He was! Not only was I profoundly shocked by seeing the ministry team going their separate ways, I felt traumatized that I had let the Lord down by getting a central part of our vision wrong, and by the fact that God had chosen not to restore the team once we had woken up to where we had been going wrong.
So far as I was concerned, confessing our mistakes to God and each other, and learning from them, was all it should have taken to retrieve the situation. But that was not how the Lord allowed events to turn out.
I was familiar with the idea that the Lord might, if need be, do what shepherds occasionally did in biblical days to sheep who insisted on going their own way. First they would break their leg, and then they would carry them around with them until they were healed. Not only were such sheep “cured” of their tendency to run wild – they often became trustworthy leaders of the flock.
Even though I had always assumed my trust in God’s sovereignty was unshakable, it had never occurred to me that the Lord would allow me to go through anything quite so turbulent as this. It would have saved me a great deal of anxiety had I known then what I do now about the need to lift off the effects of shock and trauma from the soul. For whereas grief is a process that takes as long as it takes to recover from, (and very often rather longer than people expect!) trauma and shock need to be actively resisted and taken off us through prayers of faith and authority.
Trauma comes as the result of intense emotional shocks and woundings. It can induce an overwhelming sense of fear and powerlessness that leads to immense psychological distress, overpowering people’s ability to cope with the relentless and seemingly never ending grief symptoms. If we find our thoughts constantly returning vividly and intrusively to the event that triggered the trauma, this can make us feel that our role and place in life is under threat. As a result, we may find ourselves responding with alarm to almost any fresh challenge. As always, once anxiety obtains a foothold, it can spread in all directions like cracks in a windscreen.
When we are grieving, it is entriely normal to wish that such and such an event had never happened. When we are traumatized, however, we may well be inclined to feel that everything is our fault – and that things are bound to go on getting worse. Thus, having gnawed away at our trust levels, and our senses of self worth, trauma now attacks our central identity. That it is why it is important to lift it off as quickly as possible through prayer and counsel.
Throughout his long pastoral ministry, David Woodhouse prayed with many people to set them free from the effects of fear, shock and trauma. His wife often prayed in the same way for him to be protected from post-operative trauma whenever he came round from one of the numerous and lengthy operations his state of health required him to undergo. Sometimes the medical staff heard her praying, and, realising that such trauma can be life threatening, commended the practice highly. It also led to some of them identifying themselves as Christians.
There are many routes by which trauma can assail the soul: the sudden onset of illness (or its prolonged continuation); accidents of whatever kind; intimidation at work; abuse at home; contact with evil in any of its many manifestations (especially violent crime); as well as unexpected demands and unfair constraints. No wonder the emotionally sensitive sometimes wonder if they are going crazy, and experience panic attacks in the aftermath of a grief episode!19
Some of you may also be experiencing “secondary” traumatization, as the result of working in situations of extreme poverty or danger, of the kind that members of the Fire, Police and Ambulance Services regularly face, not to mention social workers in our own country and aid workers in developing countries. If this is true for you, it is important to be disciplined about asking the Lord to lift off you the shock of each such traumatic episode, to enable you to continue the work that God has called you to do.
Road accidents are particularly shock inducing because of the suddenness of the impact, and the fact that there is nothing we can do to prepare ourselves. May the Lord grant special grace to lift the trauma from those who have friends and family members who have been killed or injured in this way – as well as those who are fighting the fear of ever getting back into a car again.
For many of us, however, the roots of our trauma lie in cumulative pressures rather than in single episodes. It is when further grief episodes come our way that the underlying grief risks exploding into total trauma.
Telling the truth about traumatic events is crucial for full healing to occur, but this is complicated by the fact that trauma is a seedbed that fosters secrets. When we deliberately suppress all reference to certain events or vital facts, we develop “walls” in our hearts. This in turn is likely to have a negative impact on other key relationships, as our trust levels swing and dip.
It is not that we are to replay unpleasant episodes from the past endlessly, let alone to drag in others who perhaps lack either the inner resources or the compassion to be able to respond to the issues involved. We are blessed, however, if we can find someone trustworthy to share our traumas with. If they are not trustworthy, the consequences can be far-reaching. As Sir Thomas Browne wrote, “Let him have the key to thy heart who hath the lock to his own.”
If we find our concentration levels and our decision making capabilities seriously impaired, it may be a sign that trauma is pushing us beyond the boundaries of “normal” grief into a major depressive disorder. In these instances, we almost certainly ought to consider seeking professional help from doctors, pastors or counsellors. Many have found CBT counselling helpful beyond words. As these people provide us with a secure environment to talk and pray issues through, trauma is often minimised, or even removed altogether. We shall also be sharing a particularly effective way of helping to remove trauma from the soul in the “The Power of Writing to Heal.”
Reflect and Pray
It is a blessing beyond words when the ground underfoot begins to feel “solid,” and we are again able to sense the Lord’s peace and presence! Like all the “starter” prayers in this book, the following is intended purely as a launch pad for going deeper into the Lord’s presence in order to find His strength and comfort.
Father of Comfort,
cleanse and release my soul now
from all the damaging effects of shock and trauma.
Restore whatever has wilted or withered,
and remove each shaft and shard,
so that nothing may remain trapped inside
that would hold me back.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.