“Let’s go around the table and share a childhood memory.”
The person asking this had no idea what incredibly profound panic that question evoked in one of the ladies sitting at the table. I knew because I had felt that panic once myself.
This dear friend sitting across the table from me, processing that question, had started telling me her story. We had sat in her house the week before, and she discussed certain times of the day and certain things people did that triggered her because they reminded her of the things she had experienced as a child. I knew, from the look of terror that instantly filled her eyes, and her demeanor, that had become very stiff and carefully controlled; she had been transported to a dark place by that question. She needed time to think of an answer that would not cause shock. I immediately jumped in with one of my fun childhood stories so that she would have the time it would take for every other person sharing around the table before she had to say anything. Her childhood had NOT been safe or ideal, unlike the other ladies there. She experienced abuse from those who should have been her protectors. How could she say anything to this group who just would not understand or have any idea?
Before she shared her story with me, she had learned to trust me. No one can demand trust; we earn it! She heard some of my story and knew I worked in a home for girls like her for seven years. We can learn to trust others to a certain extent, who demonstrate particular characteristics and approaches. For those who are not familiar with this trauma, picture this, we are dealing with a trauma patient coming in from an accident scene. We must make an initial assessment of the overall damage. We stop the worst bleeding first, set broken bones, then repair other areas. For this trauma, the harm has to be restored with life-giving hope and truth. We must not try to put a bandaid on the gaping wounds.
When addressing this young lady, I needed to consider her needs and not my plan. My agenda easily could have been to fix her, but I needed to gain an understanding of what she needed to start her healing process. I couldn’t come in with pride, speed, and a “quick fix” plan. A wise Proverb(18:13) in the Bible tells us that we would look like fools if we try to answer grief without hearing the story first. I had to understand weakness and healing takes place slowly on God’s schedule for her, not mine!
It does seem like it takes a long time before God gets us to the point of healing sometimes. Something to note is that specific dynamics need to take place with the sufferer and with the one offering comfort. The sufferer needs to process the agony, the questions, and the hard things. From the book in the Bible, Job, we learn what not to say, how not to point to the person, their weaknesses, and even possible sin. We instead learn about the God of love, mercy, and comfort as we teach them to look back to God. We learn a great deal of patience as that person deals with the healing process of grief. We cannot offer quick remedies for deep wounds. We who are strong must bear with those who are weak (right now) instead of rushing the process to ease our burdens.
The ultimate goal of any counsel offered is always to enable you to find full restoration of your hope in God, through Jesus Christ first, and then in others. We often are confused when we suffer (especially this way), and in the initial stages, we are so crushed, we cannot do anything but hang on to God and survive as the mind, emotions, and body seek to heal. Just like you would not expect someone who had open-heart surgery to jump off the operating table and walk out, so healing is a process with this deadly assault on your physical body but also on your mind, will, and emotions. Current medical research has shown that emotional trauma causes the same kinds of damage to the nerves, organs, and other body functions, as does a physical wound. The same brain centers are activated, and the same kinds of healing mechanisms are needed to heal emotional trauma as are used to treat bodily injury. Just like no one would ever tell someone to make a physical scar go away, we will not ask you to “just get over it and get on with life.” Healing must take place on God’s schedule for you.
We want to validate your suffering as the Lord does. Jesus said, “I am a faithful high priest touched with the feeling of human pain.” (Hebrews 4:15) He sees it, and He feels it, and He cares! A counselor or sufferer does not dictate the time table for healing; God dictates it. Our role in both positions is to submit to how God chooses to teach and heal your heart.
Therefore, our goal is to offer a look at God concerning this trauma. As 2 Corinthians 1:3 tells us that He is “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.” We seek to offer you hope, comfort for your fainting heart, and support for your weakness as we exercise patience, kindness, and gentleness while instilling confidence for the healing that can take place.
Ruth E. Meed BA, MAT, MS, as an author, speaker, and musician, was born the first of twin girls in Ethiopia, and at age 9 moved with her family to Ontario, Canada, and then on to New Brunswick. She earned a Diploma of Biblical and Theological Studies from New Brunswick Bible Institute, a BA in Counseling from Washington Bible College, an MAT in Special Education, and an MEd in Biblical Counseling from Bob Jones University. Ruth is a “Highly Qualified” certified Special Educator, with 27 years of experience including working for 7 years in a home for abused and neglected girls as well as teaching in public and private schools and most recently as a university assistant professor. With her wealth of leadership, teaching, and counseling experience, she offers her services through consulting, speaking, podcast interviews, and publishing. She has published a Bible study: Is God There? 34 ways God Says That He Is Faithful (Dec 2018), a biography of a Pastor, My life Story (Feb, 2019) through T. E. A. M., 3 Ministries, and a Christ-honoring music CD through Stringenberg Music Studio releasing Beside Gentle Streams: Hope for Hurting Hearts in March of 2018.