Sunday, May 24, 2009

HOW TO DEAL WITH TRAGEDY AND TRAUMA

Dealing with tragedy and trauma

When a terrible tragedy or prolonged suffering occurs in our lives, or to those around us, we all go through a lot of questioning, grieving and trying to understand this terrible situation. The issues and needs that are brought to the surface by a tragedy are far-reaching and can dredge up old hurts and traumas that were not adequately dealt with in our past history. These fragments of old memories then can mix together with fragments of new memories, cause confusion and inability of cope, depression and a whole range of emotional problems. Sometimes it is only with the help of a professional Christian grief-counsellor and a long period of therapy sessions that all these problems can be dealt with adequately, and the healing process can begin. But there are also things that we can do to cooperate with God in our own healing process.

The main thing to keep in mind is that...

GOD ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN, HE LIMITS THE PAIN, THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE IS FOR YOUR BENEFIT HIS GOAL IS TO MAKE YOU MORE LIKE CHRIST GOD IS ALWAYS IN CONTROL

His reasons only He really knows. If we can focus in this perspective, it will help us to keep from despairing, as if the world is out of control and we are all helpless victims waiting for the ship to sink.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

1 Pet 5:6-11 6: Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

So let's take a look at some things to keep in mind when we are faced with an otherwise overwhelming tragedy.

GOD ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN

For some scriptural insight on this matter, we can investigate what happened in the life of Job. If you look in the first chapter of Job, God is bragging on Job before all the assembled "sons of God" including Satan, who apparently gets to sit in on these meetings....

Job 1:8 8: And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth[H=withdraws from] evil?

At this point, Satan begins to bring hypothetical accusations against Job, and desires to have evil things happen to Him, so that Job's character will be defaced. Notice here, that God, in His wisdom and for His Own Purposes, allows Satan to do certain of these things to Job that he desired to do. Among the possible reasons God allows these things to happen to Job are to verify Job's character, help Job to deepen his faith, to force him to reconsider his priorities of life, and to help Job to know God in a personal way instead of just a shallow or religious way.

But even though God allows these things into Job's life to test him, The Lord sets limits on Satan as to how far he can go to bring evil into Job's life. It is here that we may replace our own name in the story of Job. For as bad as it may seem at first, it is the ultimate character and the presence of Christ in each one of us, that is being "verifed" by tragedies and times of suffering. As Paul has written,

1 Cor 10:13 KJV There hath no temptation[Grk=adversity, testing] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

And so we must understand that things that happen to us don't happen in a vacuum, in an an out-of-control universe, willy-nilly, completely by accident, unsupervised, with no-one to care or stop them...

GOD IS ALWAYS IN CONTROL!!!

WE MUST ALWAYS SEE THE LARGER PICTURE We may not like what is happening, it may be hurtful, harmful, traumatic, disgusting, tragic, destructive...all these things and more, but God always puts a limit on them, and has a purpose for allowing them to happen. And that purpose always is that ultimately as we go through the trauma and learn how to deal with it, we will come out the other side stronger and more Christ-like, having a new desire for purity and Godliness, and having new equipment to minister to the needs of others who are going through the same problems.

2 Cor 1:3-5 3:Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

WE ARE REQUIRED TO ENDURE IT Let me emphasize for a moment, a phrase in the previous verse:

4: Who comforteth us IN all our tribulation,

Unfortunately, as with any traumatic experience, we have to go through it. Since it is God's will that allowed this to happen to us in the first place, and God designed and limited the testing for His own purposes, we have to experience it and to feel the pain, to have our lives and our minds scrambled...we have to cry, pray, ask why, get angry, feel abused, feel confused, experience loss and lostness...lose sleep, feel like the heavens are as brass, mistakenly feel that God has abandoned us or doesn't care about us, or that we could have done more, or "if only I had done such and such", or "I am inadequate", and a million possible other feelings and terrors might go through our minds during times like this. And all this with the ultimate goal that we will be purified like gold is purified, in the fires that will burn away that which is impure and meaningless, so that the brightness of Christ will glisten in us that much more brightly.

Job 23:10 But God knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

It is this harsh refining process that ultimately creates new riches in our lives, by tearing away the veneer of human self-confidence, worldliness, pride, secret unconfessed sins, arrogance, complacency, misdirected life-goals, materialism, all of which our flesh enjoys. These habits and attitudes tend to accumulate secretly and un-noticed in our hearts when everything is going well. But God hates all of them and wants to remove them from our lives, because they are obscuring the inner light of Christ from shining through our lives to those around us.

God wants us to recognize how much these things obscure the life of Christ within us. He wants us to crumble into a heap of self-abhorance and humility, one of complete dependence on the mercy and grace of God. He wants us to realize that inside each one of us is the ability to commit any disgusting sin that we abhor in others, that it is true that when we point a finger at someone else, 3 fingers are pointing back at ourselves. But always remember, one finger is still left in this example, to point up to God, the way of escape, the refuge from sin and the source of all holiness.

As it is recorded in Job, after all the suffering and self-examination that Job went through, he finally turns to God and admits...

Job 42:1-6 1: Then Job answered the LORD, and said, 2 I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. 3 Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that which I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. 4 Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. 5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. 6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Job confesses that the experience of God that he had previously, was superficial...even though it was enough for God to proclaim him as "a good man who fears God and will have nothing to do with evil". After going through all the trauma and suffering and pain, he describes his former spiritual experience as if he only had second-hand knowledge about God before. His was a superficial experience, one based on the teachings and testimonies of others. But now his experinece of God is real, as if face to face, person to person.

And now his estimation of his own self has also changed...he sees the Holiness and Omnipotence of God, and his own loathesome sinfulness by comparison. Much like Isaiah's experience, when he was confronted with the Holiness of God..

Isa 6:1-5 1: In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

WHAT DO WE DO IN THE MEANTIME First of all, don't blame, criticise, accuse, other people, or even ourselves. Realize that just because bad things are happening to you or a loved one, it may NOT mean that there is some sin lurking in the person's life who is undergoing suffering. As in the story of Job, his so-called friends, rather than actually comforting him, end up accusing him of some hidden sin or flaw that brought on his suffering. The fact that God disapproved of these false accusations was clearly shown as God admonished them for their lack of understanding and compassion with these words:

Job 42:7 And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite(one of the false accusers), My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.

Rather view a time of tragedy or suffering as a "wake-up call" for yourself, and for all of those involved. Even though we may have been growing in prosperity or worldly maturity, God may be calling us to start growing inwardly, spiritually, in dimensions of holiness, committment and service. Oftentimes, the means of this growth is the pathway of suffering.

Job 1:20-22 20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

ALLOW YOURSELF TO GRIEVE Job's first response was to cry out in grief, but then to immediately fall down on the ground in worship, and focus his attention on God. He took an attitude of submission to the sovereign will of God. He sat in silence for 7 days, saying nothing, meditating and rehearsing all the traumatic events that had just befallen him. I suggest that in the midst of a traumatic experience or tragedy, we must focus our attention as never before on the Person of God...in repentence, and humble submission, seeking a new relationship of closeness to Jesus Christ, calling out to Him for mercy.

TALK IT OUT

Job 7:11 Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

Job's next set of responses was to talk and reminisce within a circle of his trusted friends his feelings, doubts, loss, sadness. Even though his friends didnt really "get it", and they accused him falsely of sins he never committed, He talked over everything. He complained about everything, cursed his own existence, and his own troubles. He expressed all the deep despair and hopelessness that was in his heart...verse after verse, chapter upon chapter...putting into words all the pain and anguish that was inside his own heart...not hiding it or bottling it up. He put it into words and sentences his pain and grief, where he could look at them and ventilate them, where others could share in the pain of his trauma.

Here is another suggestion to anyone affected by a terrible tragedy...seek out a trusted friend or a very few friends, or cousellors at church or other professionals, and ventilate all your pent up pain, frustration, anger...all of it. Or go to a private place and talk outloud and verbally to God. Try to concentrate on your own reaction to all of this rather than on the tragedy itself. You cannot find any verse in all of the Book of Job where Job says, "O, my little children, killed by a mighty wind from God", or any other reference to the actual losses he suffered, but everything was a ventilation of his own emotional response to it, good and bad; because that is apparently where the real injury lies, in the thoughts and doubts and responses of the heart to a tragedy. And apparently that is where the healing lies also, and not in concentrating on or remembering the traumatic event itself, but in dealing with the response that you had to it.

RE-FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION ON THE SOVEREIGNTY AND GOODNESS OF GOD

Eventually Job got back to focusing on God, and recognizing the sovereignty of God from His creation and His goodness. It is then that the real healing and re- ordering of his life took place. Having talked to himself, his friends, and his wife, he eventually got to talking TO God, not just ABOUT God. It is this place that God wants us to arrive...face to face with God, in submission and worship.

Exo 33:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.

Judg 6:22 And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.

1 Cor 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

May you never have to go through a deep spirit-wrenching tragedy. But if you must, may your focus be on the Living God who who gives this gracious invitation by Jesus Christ to all those who suffer tragedies or are worn out by the circumstances of life:

1 Pet 1:3-9 3; Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice , though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

Accept this kind and gracious invitation from the Lord Jesus Christ:

Mat 11:28-29 28: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. {29} Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Agape
Zelma

1 comment:

Kimberly Rose Carolan said...

These are definitely true things, and especially not quickly assuming that tragedy happens only when there is sin is important.

We do need to remember the bigger picture--that we are not in control--only God is and that He is working good in our lives.

My best,

Kim Carolan
http://walkingthroughthevalleyoftheshadow.blogspot.com