Earlier today, I read Michael’s post “On Leaving My First Love” and found similarities between where he was years ago and where I find myself now. In it, he speaks of his life’s difficulties, arguing with God, and finally coming to a place of surrender. I am somewhere between pulling myself up by my bootstraps while trying to kinda sorta trust God and giving up completely on everything.

This is the comment I left on his blog (unedited):

“Damn dude. I’ve been sitting trying to figure out why I felt tempted to leave God again; this may be part of the reason why. I fell out of love with God when my heart turned bitter. Like you, I still believe in Him, still throw myself into the throes of theology to ease my weary heart, but I don’t trust Him. I haven’t done what Peter told us to do: “set apart the Messiah as Lord in your heart…” 4 years of trauma-induced C-PTSD, mental illness, life stresses… “Trust me,” God says. How can I when my life isn’t going anywhere? I’m trying and praying and hoping for His Word to match my life and… silence. Struggle after struggle, night terror after night terror. What’s the point?”

It is so easy to chalk this up to just “a lack of faith” and go on about my day, but there is so much more to it than that. Or, that’s what I like to think.

I just got off the phone with Michael; we talked for an hour and a half about the depression and doubt he experienced when his sister died by suicide several years ago. We also discussed my own spiritual walk and why I feel so disconnected from everything, especially God.

Faith used to be so simple. God says something, I believe it, and that’s it. Any uncertainties I had about the Bible (why would God destroy everything with water?) or the world (why would a good God send people to hell?) was brushed under the rug with the unspoken understanding that God was wiser than I was and in control of everything, so surely, there was no logical reason to question Him…

And then, trauma hit. And with it, an ocean of doubts and questions:

Why didn’t you stop it from happening?

Did you let me go through this just to teach me a lesson or as a medium for someone else’s healing? What kind of sick bastard are you?

Am I damaged goods because of this?

How are you going to heal me from this tragedy? Is healing even possible?

~

As the months went on and I started experiencing symptoms of PTSD, more questions and doubts emerged, especially after rounds of dealing with well-meaning Christians:

They tell me to “speak those things that be not as though they were” and “God will use this for your good” but I just had the worst panic attack of my life so far. Are you punishing me?

Is my faith weak or nonexistent for not believing you’ll heal me when the hallucinations of my abuser are more real, more constant than your supposedly loving touch?

Are you listening? Do you even care?

~

It got to the point where my heart just broke because I couldn’t see how a good God could not only allow this to happen but then just sit back and watch the aftermath unfold with not even so much as a whisper of recognition in response. “So, this is who you truly are,” my heart concluded.

My anger turned to silent apathy.

~

I told Michael tonight that my heart was dead and that I missed the days of my youth when faith was blind, easy, and I repressed my intellectual side, as it is way easier to relax on the back of Christian theology and apologetics than sit in the lap of God and let Him hold me or whatever. I told him that in looking at God through the lenses of trauma, I was having trouble trusting God’s love, sovereignty, and ultimate plan. His response shook me.

“…Of course, you don’t believe God loves you. Your heart’s broken.”

I interjected. “My heart is dead, Michael.”

He responded. “Your heart’s not dead. Your heart is broken. If your heart was dead, you wouldn’t feel the pain you currently do… God has to be in control of everything, otherwise suffering would make no sense… I know a lot of people think that God created them for a specific purpose, to fill some ministry or evangelical hole, or to use them and their suffering for someone else’s benefit, but that’s not why we were created. God created you because He wanted to have a relationship with you—and He was excited about it!—that’s the sole reason…”

I contemplated what he said. “The sole reason God created you was for a relationship, just you and Him.” Somehow that made me feel one thing: betrayed.

~

For the majority of my life, it’s been said to me, either directly or indirectly, that the reason for my existence was to bring God glory AND… There was always something attached to that whether it was “bring God glory AND be a light for someone else” “…AND be involved in ministry” “…AND learn lessons through pain without complaining or losing your faith…” the list goes on. I feel like if someone had sat me down and told me this earlier in my life, I could have saved years of legalistic behavior and religious performance and jumping through hoops in vain attempts to make people like me or appear “spiritually strong” when I was dead inside.

~

Looking at life, and God, through the lens of trauma is hard. Even when sunshine greets you in the early morning like a long-forgotten friend, you still hold, in the back of your mind, thoughts of escape and every day becomes a survival game where you’re just waiting for the next bad thing to happen. When every day is survival of the fittest and you’re trying to do what you can to move forward, while secretly hoping for a sign that God is actually for you, making the concept of “God is in control” into the background music of a chaotic soundtrack of life is daunting.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even with God being in control and aware of everything that happens, and allowing certain experiences to be had as a part of His unknown will, some things just don’t work out. Death still happens. Toxic environments still exist. People still silently suffer from debilitating depression and anxiety. God owes no one anything and that’s a hard reality to come to terms with, whether you’ve been traumatized or not.

I want to believe. Help my unbelief, Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


    15 replies to "Viewing God Through the Lens of Trauma"

    • Erin

      I’m very sorry to hear of your struggles. I think almost every Christian has had issues or anger or felt disconnect from God sometime during struggles. I told my mother that when my fiance was killed in a motorcycle accident (we had broken up a month before it happened), that I was so desperate in grief that I turned to God immediately, needing something to soothe me, but for the first time in a long while it felt like He wasn’t there. It took days before I didn’t feel the disconnect. It made me realize, after being able to calm down and stop panicking, that what happened wasn’t that I left, but the disconnect was I was so overwhelmed that I was numbed and shutting myself down. I needed and reached and didn’t even realize, but it was like my heart was numb and my soul was coated with a grief that kept me cut off in a way. This passed, but it is hard. It’s hard to understand and when we ache and have dark times, that is when we seek God the most for relief, for help, for soothing. Sometimes I have found immediate and the only relief from God during these dark times, and other times there seems to be a delay or a wait.

      I don’t have many wise words or powerful insights that will suddenly light a lightbulb in your mind or provide unexpected comfort. I just wanted to say I sympathize, God really is always there and does love you, that the walk in life is hard (but harder by far without our Creator). I also hope that just the act of writing this blog post down and going into detail was therapeutic for you.

      • Dylan Whittler

        Thank you, Erin. I appreciate your comment. This struggle is one that is ongoing and maybe it’ll never end this side of Heaven. Sigh. The struggle is real. I don’t know how to stop being numb. But you’re right, writing this blog post was therapeutic for me. Blessings dear! XO

        • Erin

          I’m so glad it helps you with this blog. I have found, as have many, that God uses people in our lives in all sorts of ways as another connection and as one of the main ways to draw us to Him, provide insights and comforts. I pray that your struggle lessens and do hope it goes away. If it does not, I hope it becomes easier to bear and that it at least lifts. (Hugs)

    • Glory

      Hi! Reading this post made me feel as though I had written it myself because I could relate to it so much.The questions,the sorrow ect.Ive been on a bad season that has lasted so long and Ive seen people go through dark valleys around me but right now almost all of them are in happier seasons.I have lost my first love for God and bitterness feels like an old friend.

      I want to thank you for your honesty in sharing this. When I fnished reading it I paused and thought about it for a moment then I felt like reading psalm 40. I reccomend it.The psalms are my go to book in the bible. Its sometimes the only book that brings comfort. While reading them Im reminded that God loves me even though its sometimes hard to believe. But Ive earned that in tough seasons remembering the truth is a lifeline. I pray your numbness lessens over time and things get better.Lastly I want to share a resource that has helped me focus a bit during this frustrating season. Its the encouraging writings of Ashley Morgan Jackson https://instagram.co/ashley.morgan.jackson .She speaks with raw honesty about her trials and grief and her faith and its helped me soften my heart when I just feel like giving up.She reminds me of His love.I hope it helps. Blessings

      • Dylan Whittler

        I’m glad that what I wrote resonated with you. And thank you for your thoughtful comment!

        I’m still in this weird place, can’t break free seemingly but one step at a time, right? We’ll see what happens. The dark night of my soul can’t last forever.

    • Rachel

      It’s like I wrote this myself. You asked all the same questions of God that i have been asking. I’m feeling the same way too, just bitter and dead inside. I’ve just finally gotten separated from my abusive husband. I pretty much either feel numb or angry. Everything hurts if I allow myself to think about it but i don’t know how to heal from any of it. I’m so hopelessly angry at God. Where the hell was he? It’s not as if I didn’t scream for help for years? How can I possibly trust him after his silence in such evil for so long? How can I believe he gives a damn about me after sitting back and watching all the abuse and never stepping in? No one seems to have any real answers to any of these questions. I dont see a way for anything to be repaired. I feel like I’ve been walking this whole thing out alone and risking more abuse and trauma trying to get out of it. Where the fuck is God and why won’t he stand up for what’s right? Or maybe he doesn’t cause he doesn’t owe me anything? I’m so massively confused and heartbroken beyond belief.

    • Angela

      I feel this too and I do know that God is not a bad God…He did what He did because it was a part of His plan but that doesn’t stop the bitterness in my heart for still being there. Lost my mother and wondered why He let that happen and because I don’t understand, I haven’t let it go even though it’s been like 6 years now. Everybody else seems to have either his or or moved on or healed or whatever and I’ve just got this part of me that’s not yet and I hope that God understands that I am not trying to be this way but that I am and it took a while to admit it. The grief is still strong but I know in some part of me that God still has my back because He is still providing for me. If I could say any advice because I’m still going through this…I would say to thank Him. I know it sounds weird but the more you thank Him for your blessings, the more you remember that He does indeed care for you and that He is working things out and that you definitely won’t stay like this forever. Can’t lie and say I don’t doubt that or that I’m not totally secure with that statement but somehow I know. Because I’ve seen people make it through trauma and loss so I know it’s possible. The fact that we’re struggling says that we haven’t given up just yet and if we pray about it and hang on, there’s no telling what God could do. If loss is possible, so is blessings beyond our wildest imaginations. God provides both. Job lost his whole family and everything he had, didn’t he? But God gave Job back double and I hope He does the same for us. I know He’s gonna do the same for us. Hang in there my friend! All of you, hang in there! God bless!

    • Diane

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and heart, thank you. My heart aches deeply as I relate immediately to what you expressed… your words are as if mine, too. It’s 2022, as I found this in my continual search for more healing and answers, including … where were You for us, for me as a mom, where are You? It’s been 11 years, I still ask. I want to be of encouragement, you won’t regret every moment you find yourself clinging to God, cry out to Him, go to Him, don’t stop, ever. Footprints in the Sand… it’s real, it’s true, whether it feels like it, or not. My ex-husband, father of my child, once emailed to me, “How’s your God thing working for you now?”.
      If I find myself unable to live and do one day at a time, a moment at a time is what it is. Listen and watch for God along the way, He is in your heart if you’ve invited Him. And, He’s in the sound of every songbird and morning dove, in the sky with whatever starts a new day, in the breeze that touches your face, He’s walking with you, or carrying you when you can’t even crawl and it’s hard to breathe. Don’t stop going to Him♡.

    • Anna

      Thank you so much for putting this into words. For the first time in a long long while i finally read something i can so deeply relate to. This struggle has been so isolating for me. I can’t relate to christians, but also can’t relate tot non-believers. I have suffered so many different traumatic experiences that I don’t know how to open myself to love, to God, to life anymore. My whole nervous system is focused on detecting threat. I want to, but i don’t trust God at all anymore. The subject how to learn to trust God when suffering from (complex) PTSD should be addressed way way more. But i think in the religious world there is such a stigma on it, and so long people don’t open up everyone will suffer in silence. David didn’t though, he was so honest in the psalms he wrote.

      It’s been a while since you wrote this — i truly hope you are doing better. <3

      • Dylan Whittler

        Anna,

        Thank you for your heartfelt comment! I’m glad you could resonate with my words. I agree with you, trusting God when dealing with trauma is hard—and should be talked about more!—but lots of people don’t talk it, for whatever reason they have. I wish they would. It would help others feel less alone so they’re not struggling in silence. That’s why I’m grateful for the Psalms (check out Psalm 25!)

        I’m glad this post could do that for you. ❤️ If you ever need an ear, I’m here, but most importantly, God is too. Reach to Him.

        Blessings dear!

        *my email is always open

        • Jodi

          How can I email you

    • Joanna

      Hello Dylan,
      I first read pastor Michael’s post and then yours. Had a good cry and felt comforted that others suffer in the same way.
      Best to you,
      Joanna

    • MsRhuby Star-Diamond

      When you’re dreaming with a broken heart, waking up is the hardest part. Know that Song?

      • Rulonda JaBrey

        I do not. Did my post remind you of that song?

        • MsRhuby Star-Diamond

          Yes, trauma motivates us to find Source.

          John Mayer Sings it.

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