Woman after woman is accused of–or describes herself as–suffering from anxiety. Making decisions, moving through the day, talking to individuals, caring for children, going to bed. All are riddled with a sense of dread, fear, panic, unease. The words, “If only…” precede every other thought.
The Bible speaks to anxiety. Pastors and Bible study leaders address anxiety. So why is it so hard? Why do I feel like such a failure when I constantly battle a sour stomach, headache, and brain fog?
If I were to loosely define anxiety, it’s fear about things that haven’t happened.
But that’s only part of the problem. The other piece–the piece few church people know and talk about–is trauma. Trauma is what HAS happened.
Here are common indicators of trauma:
shock and denial
physical symptoms like headaches or nausea
A person experiencing these symptoms is not crazy or broken. She is not disobedient. She is not failing to take her cares and concerns to God in the sense of being anxious about what hasn’t happened. Instead, she is caught in the reality of what has already happened. She is responding normally to an abnormal situation. Her life was (is) in danger. Her mind and body are seeking to protect her from harm. This is God’s alarm system. It’s intended to keep her safe. Something is wrong, but it is not her. It is her environment–someone or something destructive has threatened or is threatening her well being.
Trauma is hard to define because it is not a specific event, it is a person’s response to that event. Two people may experience the same thing and respond differently. However, when you are sinned against as a person–as an individual created in the image of God–you will have a trauma response. We were not created to be misused and abused. We were created to reflect and image God. So when there is dissonance between what we know to be true and what we have experienced, we live in a state of confusion and fear.
Trauma is a combination of fear and loss. What happened was unexpected. I was unprepared. And there was no way for me to change or escape what was happening. Over and over and over, my brain fights to figure out what really happened and how I could change the outcome. That. Is. Normal.
You. Are. Normal.
Need more proof? Consider these normal responses to a traumatic experience:
difficulty with concentration,
There is a lot of information though little exists in the biblical/church world. Keep looking. Keep praying. Keep seeking. Keep asking questions. You are not the problem. Your body and mind may be driving you crazy. Give yourself grace. This is not anxiety. This is trauma. Being okay starts with safety. Real safety. And time. It will take time–a long time. A lot of time. And help. Relational trauma is healed with relational safety.
Grace. Patience. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Goodness. They do exist.
Church–Jesus people–it’s time to step up your game. Countless individuals in your congregation (as many as half your women, one third of your children/teens, ) suffer from trauma. Until we invest in loving the least of these, we will continue to damage, marginalize, and create stumbling blocks.
Pray. Look. Pray. Love. Pray. Listen. Pray. Engage. Pray. Protect. Repeat.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.’”
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you accursed people, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or as a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for Me, either.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”(Matthew 25:34-46)