Healing from Trauma, Part 2: Where is God in my Trauma?

In our last article about trauma, I discussed how we are all affected, sometimes in very harsh ways, by pain, suffering, and sin. We also discussed about how we choose to think and cope with our circumstances makes all the difference. Sometimes, extremely hard trials can lead us into religious or spiritual struggles. Afterall, how can God be a so-called God of love when such terrible things happen?

Traumas occur in a large number of ways, such as medical disease and hospitalizations. Life-threatening events that land a person in the hospital may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. For example, those hospitalized with a respiratory infection due to coronavirus developed PTSD in 39% of cases (1). A religious struggle as a result of significant illness may further complicate the struggle. Harold Koenig, a physician from Duke University, collaborated with Bowling Green University to perform a study on nearly 600 men and women who were dealing with significant illness. They followed these folks for two years and found that those who had a religious struggle with illness had an increased risk of death (2). Such a religious struggle was reflected by affirmative answers to one or more of the following:

  • “Wondered whether God had abandoned me”
  • “Questioned God’s love for me”
  • “Decided the devil made this happen”
Believing even one of those questions increased their risk of death over 24 months by about 20-30%. On the other hand, the study also found that “those who found positive methods of religious coping…were associated with improvements in health.” (2). Other studies, such as those with PTSD, have noted similar findings. For example, in one systematic review, spiritual interventions in veterans with PTSD reported significant improvements (3).

So how we relate to God affects how we cope with trauma. If we see God’s answer to severe trauma as God also willing to experience severe trauma in the person of Jesus Christ for our sakes, then our view of God will be more positive. If we believe God understands what we are going through, we may be more likely to hold onto faith during our difficult experience(s).

Indeed, Jesus, while on earth, went through incredibly traumatic situations. He grew up in poverty with his family fleeing, when He was a child, to Egypt as refugees, due to the threat of death by a state government. As an adult, he was rejected and abused (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) by religious leaders. He was unjustly sentenced to death and crucified on a cross. Remarkably, before he died Jesus famously cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Somehow, God the Father let Jesus, who many call the Son of God, go through torture and death without stopping it. Apparently, there was something extremely necessary about it.

Healing spiritually from trauma can be described in four steps:

1) Face the trauma. Acknowledge the fact. This does not mean that one has to like what happened. But it is only by acknowledging the truth of the trauma that healing can then begin. Denial only produces more pain and suffering.

2) Trust that God still loves you and wants the best for you. Give Him the unexplainable part of it and trust that He will explain why it happened at the right time. Remember, God let His own Son die for a greater purpose as stated in the Scriptures, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

3) Trust that God is with you and working through you to heal you from the trauma. We are reminded in Scripture, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10. 

4) Live as if the promises in steps 2) and 3) are true. When faith meets your trauma, the transformation begins.

To Your Best Health,

Gabriela Garcia

(1) Ahmed H, et al. Long-term clinical outcomes in survivors of severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus outbreaks after hospitalisation or ICU admission: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Rehabil Med. 2020 May 31;52(5):jrm00063.

(2) Pargament KI, Koenig HG, Tarakeshwar N, Hahn J. Religious coping methods as predictors of psychological, physical and spiritual outcomes among medically ill elderly patients: a two-year longitudinal study. J Health Psychol. 2004 Nov;9(6):713-30. doi: 10.1177/1359105304045366. PMID: 15367751.

(3) Smothers ZPW, Koenig HG. Spiritual Interventions in Veterans with PTSD: A Systematic Review. J Relig Health. 2018 Oct;57(5):2033-2048. doi: 10.1007/s10943-018-0680-5. PMID: 30056486.


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