One of the most appropriate words that describe the experience of 2020 is TRAUMA. Though symptoms of trauma can vary from person to person, here some common evidences
Your body is turning on you, your mind is turning on you, and your emotions are turning on you. “I’m not sure how to pay my bills. Can my kids handle online education? Will I get a job? Will I keep my job?”
Marriage tensions, family tensions, political tensions, unmet expectations – “I can’t believe… what our country has come to! …The decisions they are making! …They way they are responding!”
Conspiracy theories abound (some of which will prove to be true), not knowing who to trust, fake news, and so on.
“Will I die? Will I kill others if I give them the virus? Are my parents ok? Can I see my grandparents? Can my grandparents or parents survive in a care facility without me? Can America survive this? Should I get a gun?
The human mind and heart does not naturally deal with small and large traumas well. We need help. This short article is not intended to solve your problems, make traumas better, mitigate larger traumas, make small traumas larger, or make your life harder in any way.
This is more of a 101 level course to help guide each of us as we seek to thrive spiritually in 2021 and beyond, and the first step is to grieve.
For many of us, we have never learned how to grieve Biblically. First, know that Christians can grieve because Jesus grieved.
John 11:35 – Jesus wept
Matthew 5:4 – Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Grieving is Christ-like. Even the son of God grieved loss and trauma. And no one, I mean no one, in all of human history experienced trauma like Jesus (read the account of the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22:39-22).
To bypass grieving is not mature, but utterly foolish. To not grieve traumas and losses will only steal your future.
Here are 3 key strategies of recovery we have learned from the millenia-old Judeo-Christian tradition of grieving traumas and losses:
1. Christians grieve specific losses
The Psalms are replete with grieving loss and trauma. A hallmark of Biblical grief is the specificity of their grief. Some great examples are Psalm 6, 10, 38, 42-43, and 130. Take a few minutes and read these. As you do, notice the authors leave no doubt as to what specifically is breaking their hearts.
Many Christ-followers are sad but can’t give specific vocabulary to or identify the loss. The art and discipline of giving vocabulary to the “why” takes time, but is worth it. Know specifically what you are grieving. Write it down. Be detailed.
2. Christians grieve with a trajectory.
Of the Psalms listed above, notice each one of them has a specific trajectory. They do not leave you, the reader, hopeless or wondering what they expect Yahweh to do in the right time.
We grieve in the direction of hope, justice, and healing, confident as we bring our cares, burdens, losses, and traumas to Jesus that this will indeed be the result. We do not grieve wondering IF the Lord will bring renewal, but with the confident expectation OF renewal.
3. Christians grieve with a plan
Here are 5 specifics that should be in your planned grieving.
- Get advice from godly leaders. Depending on the severity of the loss, a solid Christian counselor trained in grief counseling will be a true gift to your soul.
- Set a time limit. Grief is for a time, but perpetual grief will stall our kingdom impact and unnecessarily increase the chances of long-term depression. By the way, just because you choose to stop grieving, does not mean you stop being sad. It just means you are choosing to continue to live your life.
- Document your process. Journal. Write out your prayers. We often forget what our mindset was truly like when we were grieving. Sadness blinds us to how we might appear to others, gives us amnesia to the sometimes extreme things we actually said and felt, and is often remembered as less significant than it actually was in retrospect. Journaling allows us to look back with a more truthful perspective.
- Read Scripture and books on biblical grieving. As I said above, the human mind and heart do not naturally deal with small and large traumas well. We need help. The Psalms are an incredible place to dwell. There are few traumas we experience that the Psalmists can’t emotionally understand. There are also wonderful books written on grief. The follower of Jesus would do well to delve into the rich Christian heritage on dealing with loss in a way that brings glory to God.
- Give God glory! God will move in your pain as you cast your burdens onto him. As you emerge from your sadness, as you experience the comfort and healing of the Holy Spirit, tell people how good and kind your God truly is. He is a healer, comforter, and redeemer.