Earlier today, I read through Michael Patton’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 worse 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 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 apart 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.

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

    • Lois Morgan

      Hear ya, sister!
      I know you have probably had bunches of people giving you recommendations for “fixes”, but I still feel I couldn’t be loving you if I keep to myself something that has helped me, and others I know, begin “making sense”. “The Cry of the Soul” by Dan Allender.

      Another is “The Healing Path”, by the same author. I just came from a study with a friend in that book, and we were on chapter 2, where he discusses how betrayal destroys faith. VERY thought provoking!

    • Dylan Whittler

      Thanks for the recommendation; I’ll check it out. I just finished his book “The Wounded Heart”. Took a while to get through… good stuff though.

    • Jon Hopkins

      I can relate deeply with this… and the comments after was quite unexpected as those are the books and the author that has helped my journey so much. My life changed so much when I read Dan Allenders book Bold Love. I have also read the other books mentioned. They are just as impactful. And their teaching always show up in themes of my writing about dark things on jonhopkins.org. If you have experienced trauma I highly recommend those books.

    • Steve

      I’m not sure exactly who wrote this. I think it is Dylan Whittler. I had an extremely traumatic experience in my life about 20yrs ago. I never really understood what being broken was all about until this event. I knew I was struggling with my faith and my life and family. I had sin in my life that I didn’t take lightly. I hated the sins I committed and I worked hard to stop them. I spent many years learning about the lord Jesus and falling in love with him. I knew my love for him was real and I knew that my sin was standing in the way of the intimacy I longed for. My relationship with God was not as I had hoped. I too knew the answers, had the doctrine and was pretty convinced that the lord would never leave me nor forsake me.

      I never considered that things could be worse than the struggle I already had. I started having seizures when I was 6yrs old. I lived a life of night terrors, bed wetting and being punished for having seizures for probably 3yrs until my diagnosis at 9yrs old. I’m the youngest of 4 boys and was raised in a extremely raging home. My dad was an intense rager who abused my oldest brother physically and everyone else emotionally and spiritually. My mom was basically on auto pilot. I grew up never hearing the words I love you. Never being touched. When we are raised in this way we don’t consider that it’s wrong. For me it was simply “my normal”.

      I married at 22 and have 2 beautiful adult children. When I was 11 God called my dad and dad believed and became a Christian. All 4 of his boys did too. My mom was already a believer but I never knew it and we never attended church. When the lord called me at 12 I remember hearing that there was a God in heaven that loved me and I almost ran down the isle to accept his invitation. As a 12yr old with a life of trauma and confusion my hopes were set high. I expected things to get better. In my experience they didn’t get better. My dad still raged as he learned from God what it meant to follow Jesus. It wasn’t easy for him. Fast forward to now….

      I’m 52. I’ve been married for 30yrs and have a 29 yr old son and a 27yr old daughter. I love them more than I’ll ever be able to convey in any manner in this life. 20yrs ago in the time of about 3 months my whole life would change. My son was being bullied at school, we found out we were losing our business lease to a large commercial company. In 60 days we almost lost everything.

      During this time we had decided to remove our children from public school and homeschool them. I’m not going to go into detail but during this time I was on the internet learning how to home school. It was a Christian thread I was participating in and a man hopped on and began to talk about the best way that people can learn. He was engaging, charismatic, charming. He spoke without clarity. The other Christians on the site were kinda mean to him. I remember posting that Jesus gave us one new commandment. We should love one another. This was exactly what the wolf in sheeps clothing was looking for. I would become his next victim.

      In the span of about 3 months I almost lost everything. My wife took our kids and left me because I was becoming unstable. I don’t understand why any of this happened. I was simply trying to show love and compassion for someone who pretended to be victimized. In the end I was verbally saying I was going to kill myself if I broke my promise to him. Thank God I broke that promise or I wouldn’t be alive today.

      There is a lot I am leaving out because it brings no profit to tell the story of just how evil, evil really is. After 20yrs it’s as if it all happened 5 minutes ago. My night terrors returned, my seizures never stopped, I spent a week in the mental hospital and have been diagnosed with every mental disorder. I’ve been on anti seizure meds my whole life. Trips to the er for psychotic breaks, mental health issues and medications abound. The confusion at that time was so extreme I was completely out of my mind. I was completely and utterly in despair. My mind was broken and my heart was shredded. I was too afraid to be angry with God so I turned on myself. I hated myself for everything. Every act, every thought. Everything I thought and did was exposed to the accuser and I “felt” completely abandoned by God. I have weeped uncontrollably hundreds upon hundreds of times in the last 20yrs. I still struggle each day to some degree.

      Now… I KNOW my redeemer lives! I no longer question him at all. I question myself. I understand God’s written word better than I ever desired to. I still don’t have a “good” reason why this happened. Did God allow this? Is my free will greater than God’s sovereignty? The questions can be endless. I begged to just allow me to not question anymore but they still come. I understand now the magnitude of how much God loves everyone. Not just me and my ideas. Not just Christians. God sent His beloved Son to the world to set us free. I hate what I’ve had to go through. I hate evil more now than ever before in my life but I also love people more than ever. The horror of what I’ve been through is nothing compared to what Perfect Love did for all of creation.

      God is a jealous God because we were stolen from Him. We belong to our Father in heaven and God forever sealed this by giving everything he had. Perfect love hung on a tree for you and me. ❤️

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