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Dealing with tragedy and trauma

When a terrible tragedy occurs, we all go through a lot of questioning, grieving and trying to understand this terrible situation. The issues and needs that are brought to the surface by a tragedy are far-reaching and can dredge up old hurts and traumas that were not adequately dealt with at the time. These fragments of old memories then mix together with fragments of new memories, cause confusion and inability of cope, depression and a whole range of emotional problems.  Sometimes it is only with the help of a professional christian grief-cousellor and a long period of therapy sessions that all these problems can be dealt with adequately and the healing process can begin. But there are things that we should do to cooperate with God in our own healing process.

The main thing to keep in mind is that God allowed this to happen , for reasons only He really knows. If we can focus in this perspective, it will help us to keep from despairing, as if the world is out of control and we are all helpless victims waiting for the ship to sink. So let's take a look at some things to keep in mind when we are faced with an otherwise overwhelming tragedy...

For some scriptural insight on this matter, we can investigate what happened in the life of Job. If you look in the first chapter of Job, God is bragging on Job before all the assembled "sons of God" including Satan, who apparently gets to sit in on these meetings....

Then the Lord asked Satan, "Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth--a good man who fears God and will have nothing to do with evil." Job 1:8 (TLB) 

Then Satan begins to bring hypothetical accusations against Job, and desires to have evil things happen to Him, so that Job's character will be defaced. Notice here, that God, in His wisdom and for His Own Purposes, allows Satan to do certain of these things to Job that he desired to do, to verify Job's character, but sets a limit as to how far he can go to bring evil into his life. In this instance we may replace our name with the person of Job. For as bad as it may seem at first, it is the ultimate character and the presence of Christ in each one of us, that is being "verifed" by this tragedy.

And so we must understand that things that happen to us dont happen in a vacuum, in an an out-of-control universe, willy-nilly, completely by accident, unsupervised, with no-one to care or stop them... 


We may not like what is happening, it may be hurtful, harmful, traumatic, disgusting, tragic, destructive...all these things and more, but God always puts a limit on them, and has a purpose for allowing them to happen. And that purpose always is that ultimately as we go through the trauma and learn how to deal with it, we will come out the other side stronger and more Christ-like, having a new desire for purity and Godliness, and having new equipment to minister to the needs of others who are going through the same problems.

{3} What a wonderful God we have--
 He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, 
{4} and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us 
in our hardships and trials. 
And why does he do this? 
So that when others are troubled, 
needing our sympathy and encouragement,
 we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. 
{5} You can be sure that the more we undergo sufferings for Christ, 
the more he will shower us with his comfort and encouragement. 
2 Cor 1:3-5 (TLB) 


Let me emphasize for a moment, the statement I made before, 
"as we go through the trauma and learn how to deal with it". 
Unfortunately, as with any traumatic experience, we have to go through it...  we have to experience it and to feel the pain, to have our lives and our minds scrambled...we have to cry, pray, ask why, get angry, feel abused, feel confused, experience loss and lostness...lose sleep, feel like the heavens are as brass, mistakenly feel that God has abandoned us or doesn't care about us, or that we could have done more, or "if only i had done such and such", or "I am inadequate"...and a million possible other feelings and terrors might go through our minds during times like this...

But it is this harsh refining process that ultimately creates new riches in our tearing away the veneer of human self-confidence, worldliness, pride, secret unconfessed sins, arrogance, complacency, misdirected life-goals, materialism...all of which our flesh enjoys. These habits and attitudes tend to accumulate secretly and un-noticed in our hearts when everything is going well...but God hates all of them and wants to remove them from our lives, because they are obscuring the inner light of Christ from shining through our lives to those around us. 

God wants us to recognize how much these things obscure the life of Christ within us, and to crumble into a heap of self-abhorance, one of complete dependence on the mercy and grace of God, realizing that inside each one of us is the ability to commit  any disgusting sin that we abhor in others, that it is true that when we point a finger at someone else, 3 fingers are pointing back at ourselves...but one finger is left, to point up to God, the way of escape, the refuge from sin and source of all holiness.

As it is recorded in Job, after all the suffering and self-examination that Job went through, he finally turns to God and admits...

{5}"(But now I say,) 'I had heard about you before, 
but now I have seen you, 
{6} and I loathe myself 
and repent in dust and ashes.'"
Job 42:5-6 (TLB) 

Job confesses that the experience of God that he had previously, was superficial...even though it was enough for God to proclaim him as "a good man who fears God and will have nothing to do with evil". After going through all the trauma and suffering and pain , he describes it as if he only had heard about God before. His was a second-hand experience, based on the teachings and testimonies of others...but now his experinece of God is real, as if face to face, person to person. 

And now his estimation of his own self has also changed...he sees the Holiness of God, and his own loathesome sinfulness by comparison..much like Isaiah's experience, when he was confronted with the Holiness of God..

{1}The year King Uzziah died I saw the Lord! 
He was sitting on a lofty throne, 
and the Temple was filled with his glory. 
{2} Hovering about him were mighty, six-winged angels of fire. 
With two of their wings they covered their faces 
with two others they covered their feet, 
and with two they flew. 
{3} In a great antiphonal chorus they sang, 
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; 
the whole earth is filled with his glory." 
{4} Such singing it was! It shook the Temple to its foundations,
 and suddenly the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke. 
{5} Then I said, "My doom is sealed, 
for I am a foul-mouthed sinner, 
a member of a sinful, foul-mouthed race; 
and I have looked upon the King, 
the Lord of heaven's armies."
Isa 6:1-5 (TLB) 


First of all, don't blame, criticise, accuse, other people or ourselves. Rather view this situation as a "wake-up call" for yourself, and for all of those involved.  Even though we may have been growing in prosperity or worldly maturity, God may be calling us to start growing inwardly, spiritually, in dimensions of holiness, committment and service. 

{20}Then Job stood up and tore his robe in grief 
and fell down upon the ground before God. 
{21} "I came naked from my mother's womb," he said, 
"and I shall have nothing when I die. 
The Lord gave me everything I had, 
and they were his to take away. 
Blessed be the name of the Lord." 
{22} In all of this Job did not sin or revile God.
Job 1:20-22 (TLB) 


Job's first response was to cry out in grief, but then to immediately fall down on the ground in worship, and focus his attention on God, and to take an attitude of submission to the sovereign will of God. He sat in silence for 7 days, saying nothing, meditating and rehearsing all the traumatic events that had just befallen him. I suggest that in the midst of a traumatic experience or tragedy, we, each of us, focus our attention as never before on the Person of repentence, and humble submission, seeking a new relationship of closeness to Jesus Christ. 


Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; 
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; 
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Job 7:11 (KJV) 

Job's next set of responses was to talk and reminisce within a circle of his trusted friends his feelings, doubts, loss, sadness. Even though his friends didnt really "get it", and they accused him falsely of sins he never committed, He talked over everything. He complained about everything, cursed his own existence, and his own troubles. He expressed all the deep despair and hopelessness that was in his heart...verse after verse, chapter upon chapter...putting into words the pain and anguish that was inside his own heart...not hiding it or bottling it up, but formulating it into words and sentences where he could look at it and evaluate it, where others could share in the pain of his trauma.

 This is another suggestion to everyone affected by a terrible out a trusted friend or a very few friends, or cousellors at church or other professionals..and ventilate all your pent up pain, frustration, anger...all of it. Go to a private place and talk outloud and verbally to God. Try to concentrate on your own reaction to all of this rather than on the tragedy itself. You cannot find any verse in all of the Book of Job where Job says, "O, my little children, killed by a mighty wind from God", or any other reference to the actual losses he suffered...but everything was a ventilation of his own emotional response to it..good and bad; because that is apparently where the real injury lies, in the thoughts and doubts and responses of the heart to a tragedy. And apparently that is where the healing lies also, and not in concentrating on or remembering the traumatic event itself, but in dealing with the response that you had to it.


Eventually Job got back to focussing on God, and recognizing the sovereignty of God from His creation and His goodness. It is then that the real healing and re- ordering of his life took place. Having talked to himself, his friends, his wife, he eventually got to talking TO God, not just ABOUT God. It is this place that God wants us to arrive...face to face with God, in submission and worship. 

And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, 
as a man speaketh unto his friend. 
Exo 33:11 (KJV) 

And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.
Judg 6:22 (KJV) 

For now we see through a glass, darkly; 
but then face to face:
 now I know in part;
 but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Cor 13:12 (KJV) 

May you never have to go through a deep spirit-wrenching tragedy..but if you must, may your focus be on the Living God who says..

Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavily laden
and i will give you rest.
Matt 11:18

In bob......<><

For more information about dealing with grief and trauma, see:
The Grief and Loss Resource Center


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