Friday, October 13, 2017

Present Healing for Past Trauma

Ever since I began walking with people through the trauma of childhood sexual abuse, and the corresponding eating disorders, dissociation, and other coping skills that were relied upon, people have accused me of teaching that we need to constantly dig up the past in order to experience freedom in Christ.

In fact, some have gone so far as to say that everything that has ever happened to us has been nailed to the cross, and Christians don’t have problems like that to deal with any longer, so stop picking at their wounds! OUCH!!! What a slap in the face to any child of God whose weak faith clings to the promises of their Savior that he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds!

Here’s what I really believe about the trauma of childhood abuse that is NOT a matter of digging up the past.[1] Let’s begin with an illustration.

Let’s say you’re hiking along a beautiful trail and you come across someone who is clearly bogged down and struggling with some heavy weight. As you look at the person you notice that his or her backpack seems exceptionally large, and it is sagging as though carrying something far heavier than anything that would be required for the hike. You also see that they are dragging broken chains along that are attached to shackles around their ankles.

From your viewpoint, it is easy to see what is wrong. The shackles and the heavy backpack are presenting an intolerable burden, and something has to be removed to lighten their load.

However, when you mention to the person that you would like to help them remove these burdens he or she says that they were told that because these were attached to their journey in the past there was nothing they could do about them in the present. “The past is the past,” they declare, “and there is nothing we can do to go back and change anything.”

“But they’re holding you back right now!” you gently exclaim the obvious.

Now, it would be fun to develop this into a story, and I’m sure some of you have a story that immediately comes to mind with such imagery. However, my point is simple: I have never met anyone who is handling childhood trauma with the coping skills of denial, or dissociation, or an eating disorder, or drugs, or alcohol, or technology, or whatever addictions anyone prefers, whose past is in the past.

In a sense, it doesn’t matter how long ago someone dropped a bunch of rocks in their backpack if the rocks are presently hindering their progress. The rocks in the backpack are a problem in the present no matter how long they have been there.

So too, if someone knows that they have a relationship with God that is based on nothing but the faith that he has taken hold of them through the gospel and will not let them go, but they are regularly hit with implicit-memory reactions to certain people they meet, or certain stories on the news, or certain circumstances, or places, or events, their wounds from the past are still the wounds of their present.

What should we do with such things? First, we begin by starting (or continuing) to pour out our hearts to Jesus Christ for whatever we still need of his healing for the brokenhearted and his binding up of our wounds.[2] It matters not how long ago a wound occurred; if it is still wounded, it still needs Jesus to heal it. Ask, seek, and knock, until you have received, found, and opened your heart to Jesus’ healing.[3]

Second, ask Jesus to give you help through other children of God so that you can benefit from whatever he is doing in his people. As what is good for the health of the whole body is good for the wounded members of the body, so we need to ask Jesus to unite us with healthy members of his body so we can benefit from their hope, and faith, and love for the increase of our own hope, and faith, and love.[4]

Third, if pulling the stinking, rotten, bandages off of old wounds means it hurts a bit more for a little while, endure the little while for the greater good of being healed and free in Jesus Christ. Our dissociative attempts at self-protection have not healed one little thing within us, and neither have they truly numbed the pain of our past and present wounds.

Go to the Great Physician with whatever he shows you and rest in the glorious promise that, “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”[5]. Mourn your wounds, and your self-dependent and sinful handling of your wounds, so that the God of all comfort can comfort you both now and forever.[6] He will comfort both in person, and through his body.

© 2017 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] People will often have issues from the past come to mind as they seek to know God with all their heart and soul, but our aim is not to deliberately go digging up past memories to get people reliving old trauma. If something does come up, it is simply incorporated in how we seek God for the healing that is required.
[2] Psalm 147:3
[3] Matthew 7:7-12
[4] All the letters to the churches in the New Testament are written to help God’s children know how to walk together as the one body of Christ. This includes using our spiritual gifts to serve one another in love. We band together as the church (which could be a group of people meeting in a home to seek God for such things) in order to see how Jesus as our head would mobilize his body to accomplish his will. See I Corinthians 12-14 for an indepth description of how spiritual gifts operate in the church, but keep the attention on Jesus as our head providing what we need through his body, even if we can’t ever describe what spiritual gifts he used to accomplish his work. We may only remember the people who helped, not anything specific they did!
[5] Matthew 5:4
[6] II Corinthians 1:3-5

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