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Understanding Your Friends Who Have Experienced Trauma

Do you know anyone who has experienced trauma at some point – such as having been abused or shamed as a child, utterly rejected by a loved one, or faced extreme trials or loss? And if all is well now, you may be wondering why such intense emotionality remains.

Read in her own words how someone with past trauma describes how it still impacts her decades later:

“People with trauma in their background need to allow time in their schedule to cry-out to the Lord. There is a deep part of oneself that cannot be explained except to say it needs permission and validation for sobbing over the heart’s pain, and has a need for comfort and continued healing. I don’t do it every day; there is a season for more or less of it. But for me, I can have a much more balanced life emotionally when I allow myself this time of crying-out. Otherwise, everything builds up and becomes an emotional explosion.”

Now that you understand better the lingering presence of emotion and trauma, how can you continue to provide support?

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

Invite your traumatized friend to use the Bible as a security blanket. If it gets all torn up, offer to have it rebound.

Don’t try to fix every feeling with logic. It doesn’t have to make sense to you when and why some of the scars open back up. Just be there with gentle, patient bandaging when they do.

Pray Scripture over your loved one. The Word gives endurance. (2 Tim. 2:9b-10a)

Don’t underestimate the power of your friendship. The Lord does some of His most significant healing through safe, secure relationships.

Have acceptance for the small habits the formerly abused person has held onto. Those coping behaviors are precious because at one time they meant survival.

When something triggers the pain of the past, point the victim to God’s sovereign purposes, goodness, and presence (Ps. 34:17-22), and together celebrate your loved one’s ability to overcome.

Have lifelong kindness like David to Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9). Someone who has greatly suffered is no different than someone who is crippled. Offer up a place of highest honor at your table and make it permanent.

Help your friend laugh hard and have fun with you. Being relaxed and playful helps regain what was lost. And you will be blessed by loving and serving others in this way.

What’s In Your Emergency Survival Kit?

You’ve got your flashlight should you lose power, and your water bottles should the stores run out, but what do you have at the ready when you are struck with a serious emotional situation? There’s a good chance you may never find yourself trapped or stranded without water or a flashlight, but if you interact with people, being hurt is a sure thing. Therefore, you need an emotional survival kit even more than you need supplies for physical survival.

When you’re nursing an emotional wound, the world encourages you to drown your sorrows in wine, or eat a pint of ice cream and watch Netflix around the clock. But that “solution” can not only be destructive to your health, but teaches your brain to escape in order to cope with hardship, and misses an opportunity to learn and grow from your suffering.

A far better plan is to have self-care gear that provides true recovery for you; and a commitment to use it.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

1.Prepare your supplies.

  • Bible. Know what comforts you most in His Word. Maybe it’s Psalms or other favorite passages, but make sure you know how to get to these places quickly. Or make a reference list. Listening to an audio Bible can be especially beneficial to quiet any loud, negative thoughts.
  • Shoes & Jacket. Already have the place in nature picked out where you will go to feel God’s closeness. Consider the weather year-round since you never know when your next heart rupture will come.
  • Playlist. Don’t underestimate the therapeutic properties of the right kind of music when you’re in emotional pain. Take your time making God-honoring selections because they will bring you the most peace. Singing or playing an instrument can take it to another level.
  • Notebook. Getting your thoughts and feelings to paper can help you process them. But bashing the one who hurt you is not going to feel as good for you as you might think. Making tables and charts comparing how you feel to what you know is true is a powerful exercise that can make this a much better use of your time. Turning your writing into a prayer for the one who hurt you is also very productive. Finally, any journaling that focuses on Christ more than on the wrongdoer or yourself will stabilize you more than you can imagine.
  • Kleenex. Sometimes you have to cry before you can laugh again.
  • Wise Counsel. If needed, have someone in mind who will not want to gossip about it, but instead will point you to Christ through it all.
  • A Soothing Space. Your body and soul will need rest and quiet. Maybe it’s your favorite chair, a nap on your day bed, or special place to go. Everything else on your schedule may need to wait so that you can be there for a time. You may also need to stay away from others until your mood has stabilized.
  • Sanctuary. Identify your first-choice method to meet up with the Lord to feel His love, receive His guidance, and worship Him.
  • Beauty. Since God Himself is the epitome of beauty, then reflections of that on earth can move you towards Him in a nourishing way. This can include the obvious such as picking some fresh flowers or doing some painting, but it can even include organizing a closet or rearranging a space to be more pleasing to your eye, etc.
  • Exercise Equipment. Emotions love to tighten up your body. Shake them out so you can feel light again.
  • Debriefing Materials. After you’ve allowed the Lord to comfort you, it’s appropriate for you to make sense of everything that has happened, such as your role in the situation…how to prevent having a victim mentality…the need for forgiveness…whether to confront the person or not…how to respond with grace, etc. Choosing a Scripture to be praying especially in the first weeks can help you stay rooted in truth and not slide off into a bad emotional place.

2.Know how to use your equipment.

  • Observe the swirling. No matter what weapon is used to strike the blow against you, it hurts. And your thoughts and emotions will start to spin fast. It’s important to recognize the sound of this alarm and remember it’s time to properly respond with your self-care equipment.
  • Acknowledge the temptations to self-medicate, escape, or lash out, and instead reach for your packing list of healthier options.
  • Know the warning signs. If you determine your toolkit is not adequately helping you deal with depression or other effects of this ordeal, seek outside help.
  • Know when it’s time to pack up your supplies, and restock for next time.

“The Lord stood by me and strengthened me…I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Tim. 4:17-18)

Are You as Responsible as You Think You Are?

You know the obvious traits of a responsible person, such as keeping up with your belongings, showing up to work or school on time, paying your bills, and prioritizing your daily activities. Those skills are taught from an early age and are somewhat reinforced in this culture.

However, there is a deeper layer of personal responsibility – socially and relationally – that modern American society no longer encourages. Yet, unchanging Scripture commands you to take ownership anyway.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

Taking Responsibility in a Social Context:

For example: Let’s say you are the first female employee to ever be hired at your company. You go out to dinner with all of your male colleagues and feel left out of their conversation. The world would tell you to be offended if these men don’t have immediate acceptance of you as their new female colleague. God’s Word would lead you to engage them in conversation so that you could earn their respect. Do you think you would feel more competent if the men were forced to accept you, or if you were able to earn your place in their circle?

The world wants to make you irresponsible; but live by Biblical principles of personal responsibility and watch your confidence and self-worth increase.

“After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” Lk. 2:46

Taking Responsibility in an Interpersonal Context:

For example: What if you feel like your husband isn’t meeting your needs. He isn’t that great of a listener, doesn’t predict what would make you feel special, and seems to care more about his interests than what matters to you. The world would say he isn’t being a good husband. God’s Word would ask you if you are thinking of your husband as greater than yourself. Do you think your husband will be more drawn to you if you are focused on making him a better husband, or making yourself a better wife?

The world wants to make you irresponsible; but live by Biblical principles of personal responsibility and watch your relationships prosper.

“For each will have to bear his own load.” Gal. 6:5

 

An Example of a Christian’s Therapeutic Playlist

Whether you referred to it as a “mix-tape” or a playlist, at some point you’ve possibly compiled a list of songs that reflected a season of your life such as a painful break-up or a fantastic summer camp experience. In those situations, the songs can tend to be all sad or completely celebratory.

With a little purposeful planning, a more varied and specifically arranged list of songs can be assembled in order to productively process a painful journey from sorrow to joy. Here’s one sample, along with some explanations behind the choices:

You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban – From the first mellow notes to the very end, this prologue sets forth a two-part theme for this Christian woman’s playlist: sorrow and faith in God.

Rose from the Titanic Soundtrack (James Horner) – This instrumental represents the wounded party’s discovery of a changing identity…as she learns how to respond to her circumstances in the way she believes the Lord is asking of her.

This I Know by Crowder – The listener wants to take a little break from her first two sad songs with an anthem that reminds her of the early days when she got to know Jesus and He put life in her bones. She might need to feel sad a little longer, but she also longs to know vitality isn’t far away.

I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe – Oftentimes, trials can be very isolating. People don’t always understand, and sometimes they say and do very unhelpful things. These lyrics that focus on the Lord, Who He is, and how He cares – will draw the hurting towards Him so her needs can be divinely met.

You Know Me by Bethel Music & Steffany Gretzinger – Hard times can cause insecurity, shame, and/or a desire to be understood. There is One who knows every detail about His daughter, and He would desire that such a melody be sung over her during times of self-doubt.

Nearness by Bethel Music & Jenn Johnson – The hurting listener struggles over what she doesn’t understand, but this ballad helps her to steady her heart on His comfort and goodness, and prepares her for a turning point in her healing.

Great Are You Lord by All Sons & Daughters – Eventually the victim has played the sad songs enough and she’s ready to spend more time praising and less time lamenting.

Make a Way by I am They – With a focus remaining on the Lord and what He can do, she recalls the ways He has always been there for her and how this time will be no different.

Roar by Katie Perry – There is an enemy who doesn’t want healing. This selection is fun to sing in his face as this process moves along.

One Thing Remains by Passion featuring Kristian Stanfill – This praise number is great for singing along in a loud voice, reminding her emotions to believe what really matters.

Made to Love by TobyMac – A fabulous, dance-inducing finale, TobyMac’s song announces that the time has come to move forward – with a renewed focus on her life’s purpose.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

If you decide to use a music playlist as a tool to help you heal or recover from a trial:

  • Put together a balanced list of songs so that you can experience a variety of emotions as you journey through the music. The key is not to have all sad or only upbeat songs, but to use a progression of songs to join up with you as you transition from emotional pain to stability.
  • Turn the songs into your personal prayers and anthems, always including the Lord in this process for best results.
  • Allow yourself to put certain songs “on repeat” to give yourself time to feel and face all your emotions before listening to selections that are more focused on moving forward.
  • If you find yourself “sitting” in a certain area of the playlist for a long time without being able to advance through it, consider why you are stuck and determine if you need more outside support.
  • Consider titling your playlist and even after you’re done, go back to it from time to time so that you can acknowledge the way the Lord brought you through a hard time.

I will sing and make music to the Lord. Psalm 27:6

Switchback When You’re Rejected

You’ve probably been betrayed or rejected at some point in your life, and it hurts. Jesus gets it. He’s been treated the same way. Notice the switchback pattern He used to deal with it:

Just before the Passover Feast, He was giving the disciples the “full extent of His love.” That means they could not be more loved. There was no holding back. (He was in a place of feeling and giving love completely.)

At the same time, He knew one of them would betray Him. (He was thinking of the rejection He was about to experience.)

But He did not self-protect. He was willing to risk getting hurt so that He could love them fully. He was also willing to go so close as to lovingly wash the feet of His disciples, including His betrayer. (Even with betrayal on His mind, He made a switchback to full love.)

Then when He finished washing their feet, He was again troubled over the imminent betrayal. (He felt the sting of betrayal, but His comment to Judas, “What you’re about to do, do quickly” was not passive aggressive or hurtful. Instead, He faced His emotions without sinning.)

Once Judas left, Jesus didn’t turn to his other disciples aghast that one of His very own disciples rejected Him. Instead, he imparted to his faithful disciples some final teachings, and then He prayed for them, and even prayed for future disciples. (In keeping with His Father’s will, Jesus made another switchback to selfless love for all.)

Keeping Room Tips: 

The next time you face hurt and rejection, turn to Jesus and follow His switchback pattern. Allow yourself to feel your feelings without sinning. Then also make a switchback to letting His love flow in and through you. His love flowing through you is enough to heal you, strengthen you, and enable you to receive and to give more of His love and joy. (Gospel of John, chapters 13-17)