Dr. Maria D. Reyes
“We need God’s gospel to suffer well. We need it every day, and never more than when life hurts. The better we know it, and the more we remind ourselves of it, the more precious we will realize it is. Without it, suffering makes no sense – with it, suffering is transformed.” – Kristen Wetherell, Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your SufferingSuffering and trauma are not strangers to most of us. Every day we hear stories of your pain, trauma, suffering, and hurts. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to walk alongside people as they work through the difficulties of life.
Trauma never fully leaves us. As we heal from trauma, we still will carry parts of it with us. Trauma transforms every aspect of our lives and this can be a challenging journey to walk through.
We often hear from people that their relationship with God changes because of trauma. This can be confusing for many people to navigate. Oftentimes in the trauma journey, we see a different facet of God we never knew before.
Or we wrestle with our faith and wrestle with why God allows such horrible things to happen in the world. Engaging with God becomes different than it ever did before when processing and working through trauma.
In this article, we will look at different ways to engage with God amid trauma recovery. We will suggest some spiritual practices that have been helpful to others recovering from trauma, share scripture, and look forward in hope at how God makes beautiful things out of the dust.
Before we dive in, let’s acknowledge something difficult here. It is common for people to go through a deep “crisis of faith” when faced with, or processing through, trauma. It’s ok if this is where you find yourself. It is okay to ask questions or even wrestle with God as long as you are led to greater faith.
Spiritual Practices Helpful for Trauma Recovery
Prayer and Lament Anne Lamott says three of the best prayers we can offer are “Help, Thanks, Wow.” Sometimes when we’re in the middle of trauma, pain, or suffering – we can only find the strength to mutter a single word prayer.
This is ok. God sees our prayers and the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. Prayer is an integral spiritual practice for trauma healing and recovery. Even if you can only get out one word or one sentence, it can be holy and pleasing to God.
Throughout the Scriptures, especially in the Psalms, we see examples of lament. These are prayers that come out of grief, trauma, tragedy, and sorrow. A lament asks God questions like “How long?” “Why?” “When?” and “Where are you?”
Lament provides the opportunity to pour out our pain before the Lord and express our honest confusion, hurt, and anguish. This is a prayer form that is often uncomfortable for modern Christians but was widely used in the past.
The traditional structure of a lament is to address God, bring your complaint, ask for help, declare trust in God, and praise God. You might write your own lament or pray a lament from the Bible.
Movement can also be quite healing. Some people choose to have intentional quiet walks with God in a safe place. They may pray or walk quietly and listen to God.
Engaging with God through mindfulness is often suggested to people recovering from trauma. This may be a practice that is initially best to explore alongside a counselor or a trained Christian mindfulness practitioner, however, it can sometimes “stir up” emotions and can be best to explore with someone else first.
In mindfulness, we focus our minds on the present. There are many ways to practice mindfulness and it can be a good way to focus on Christ and what is going on in our present moment.
Journaling is another practice that we can integrate into our lives as a way to engage with God. You may choose to do free-form journaling where you jot down whatever comes to your mind. This can be a form of mindfulness as well and can be a good way to get things out of your head and onto paper. Some people prefer specific journal prompts, which your counselor can help you to generate, and others like to journal prayers to God.Another form of writing that’s often helpful in trauma is the therapeutic letter. This is a letter that you write but never send to someone. It can be a letter to someone involved in the trauma, a letter telling someone about the trauma whom you may never tell in person, or a letter to your past or future self. Some people also use this practice to write a letter to God or combine it with lament to write a letter of lament to God.
Hopefully, within these spiritual practices, you have found something that resonates with you. You certainly do not have to do them all. Choose one that feels like it would be most meaningful to you and start with it. You may want to explore it in your counselor’s office so that you have a guide available to help work through feelings that come up.
Or you may want to talk to your counselor about the experience after you are done. These are practices that can be done daily, weekly, monthly, or on a sporadic basis – whatever works best for your healing and your walk with God.
Scripture for Processing Trauma
As mentioned above, lament is found throughout scripture and often comes out of times of trauma and suffering.
The following is a list of some of the laments found in the Bible:
- The Book of Lamentations
- Psalm 12
- Psalm 13
- Psalm 25
- Psalm 40
- Psalm 44
- Psalm 88
- Psalm 94
There are many more examples and we encourage you to explore more on your own.
Here are a few more Scriptures to hide away in your heart during this trauma recovery journey-
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8
Christian Counseling for Trauma RecoveryA great way to process and heal from trauma, as well as engage with God, is Christian trauma counseling. Your counselor can act as a guide to help you navigate not only your emotions and healing of the trauma but how it is impacting your faith as well. They will act as a neutral guide to help you find words and identify emotions, wrestle with God, grieve, find hope, and heal.
Through Christian trauma counseling you have someone who will continually remind you of the hope of Christ. Someone who will help you to remember that the gospel allows you to suffer well and that Jesus understands your hurts and pain.
Your counselor can help you engage with God when you don’t feel like you know how to, or you are not sure if you want to. Counseling can help you remember your identity as Christ’s beloved child and to work towards the fullness of life in Christ.
“Praying at Sunset”, Courtesy of Nega, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Grief Observed”, Courtesy of Milada Vigerova, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Journaling”, Courtesy of My Life Journal, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Footprints on the Beach”, Courtesy of 30daysreplay, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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