Understanding God’s heart for the traumatizedWritten by Wendy Kittlitz
What's inside this article
Since the concept of trauma and the specific word “trauma” is not to be found in the Bible, many people may conclude that God does not address – or even care – about those who experience trauma. This could not be further from the truth. In fact there are countless stories of trauma contained in the pages of Scripture. The story of God’s people is permeated with examples of traumatic experiences, both on the community level (murder, flood, famine, slavery, homelessness, exile, war, etc.) as well as the individual level (abuse, rape, adultery, losses of many kinds, persecution, betrayal, etc.).
In his book Holy Resilience, David Carr observes, “The Jewish and Christian scriptures arose out of and speak to catastrophic human trauma.”
So while the concept may not be defined or specifically addressed in the Bible, throughout are stories of how God has walked with his people through their experiences of trauma. And from story to story, person to person, heartache to heartache, we see a single thread running through it all. At its heart, we see the story of redemption.
As always, it begins in the Garden of Eden with the Fall. Creation was not designed to harbour trauma or even experience it. It was only when sin entered the world that trauma came with it. When we observe or experience trauma, an appropriate response is grief, sadness and regret that any of this had to occur because this is not how we were designed to live. God grieves over the brokenness in the world he made. The shortest verse in the Bible reads: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
God’s will for people is to “execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart” (Zechariah 7:8-10).
However, even though sin, and with it trauma, has entered the world, God has not abandoned us to it. Instead he “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). He comforts those who mourn (Matthew 5:4). He “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). And finally he “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
God’s ultimate plan was to become flesh himself and join us in the experience. Jesus entered into the human state and faced tremendous trauma of his own. The prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming Messiah: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was betrayed by his closest friends, falsely accused, mocked, beaten, condemned to the death of a criminal, crucified, and even felt abandoned by his Heavenly Father (Matthew 27:46).
We serve a unique God who understands on a profound level the trauma that we experience in this life. When we invite him into our painful memories and experiences, he will join us there. He will weep with us. And he will help us find ways to rewrite our stories with more redemptive outcomes, just as Joseph recognized: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
Sharing God’s heart
As we respond to people who have experienced trauma, we must remember a few important things.
First, trauma is a result of sin. A traumatized person has been sinned against and we must grieve that and never minimize it. Acknowledge it, take it seriously, validate their painful feelings about it. God does all of that and we should too.
Second, offer comfort and understanding. Every victim of trauma needs to encounter compassion, from themselves and from others. Healing takes time but it is a worthwhile pursuit. God wants to restore what has been taken from us. “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me from the depths of the earth. You will restore me to even greater honour and comfort me once again” (Psalm 71:20-21).
Finally, encourage them to seek God, who understands the pain and offers to come alongside them to write a new story of healing.
If you or someone you know is struggling with trauma, we encourage you to contact our care and counselling team at 1.800.661.9800. Our office hours are Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT.
Wendy Kittlitz is vice-president of counselling and care ministries at Focus on the Family Canada.
© 2023 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.
If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.Our recommended resources
Free advice on marriage, parenting and Christian living delivered straight to your inbox