Providing Biblical Assistance During Crisis and Trauma

Trauma began in the Garden of Eden and, as is often the case, had a ripple effect upon other members of the family, such as Cain and Abel (Genesis 3-4).  Biblical figures such as Job, David, Jonah, and Paul experienced trauma.  Of course, even Christ was crucified after suffering betrayal, abandonment, and ridicule.  Trauma is no stranger in modern times.  A survey in 1994 assessed that seventy-five percent of the American population was exposed to an event that met the criteria for trauma.[1]  Exposure to traumatic crises can take many forms ranging in scope and severity such as through severe physical or sexual abuse and violence or even in the form of loss and bereavement.  Emergency service providers in the helping professions such as police officers and EMTs are routinely exposed to trauma by the very nature of their occupation.  Deployed military service members experience trauma of many varieties including combat exposure or prolonged saturation in and incongruence with a host-nation’s culture.  Domestic abuse, child neglect, family abandonment, substance abuse, terrorism, criminal misconduct, immorality, cultural deprivation, natural disasters, and a plethora of other arenas are the breeding grounds of trauma, post-traumatic stress, and potential disorders.

Trauma is more than a state of crisis; it is “a normal reaction to abnormal events that overwhelm a person’s ability to adapt to life,” creating a sense of powerlessness.[2]  People strive to maintain balance, cope with stressors, and restore order.  Resistance comes through denial, avoidance, or aggression against real or perceived threats.  In the hours and days following a crisis that leads to trauma it is common for people to experience shock, numbing, and blocking.  Some people may completely shut down if their stress is maximized and their coping skills are ineffective.  A prolonged state of trauma results in a “surge of stress and adrenaline frequently result[ing] in a condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”[3]

God is sensitive to the fact and effect of trauma, and He has a heart for those who suffer because of it.  One of the fundamental axioms of psychology is that growth occurs by working through resistance. A second axiom is that the self actively strives to maintain the highest level of meaning, significance, competence, organization, stability, balance, and integration possible under existing conditions.[4]  Not everyone who is exposed to trauma becomes traumatized; therefore, one must question what causes a a major crisis to become a restrictive, crippling, eternal tragedy rather than a growth-producing experience in spite of the pain? Wright answered emphatically: it’s “our attitude.”[5]  A Christian perspective on crisis and trauma will help those exposed to regain a sense of balance that, over time, can restore equilibrium.  There are five key elements to gain and maintain such a perspective: 1) crisis events are a part of God’s sovereign plan (1 Peter 4:19), 2) crises have a purpose and redemptive value in time (Pro 16:9, Rom 8:28), 3) The crisis can cause resistance or acceptance to change (Rom 8:31), 4) spiritual resources are available for dealing with the crisis (Heb 4:16), and 5) eventually Christians may be able to accept the existence and purpose of the crisis (Rom 8:28, 37).  Through the support of the local church, competent counselors, and compassionate Christians, those who have experienced trauma and its enduring effects may be able to learn to cope and find relief from their pain.

[1] H. N. Wright, The Complete Guide to Crisis & Trauma Counseling: What To Do and Say When It Matters Most! (Ventura, CA: 2011), 190.

[2] Wright, The Complete Guide to Crisis & Trauma Counseling, 189.

[3] G. W. Reece, Trauma, Loss & Bereavement: A Survivor’s Handbook (Eugene, OR: 1999), 27

[4] Reece, Trauma, Loss & Bereavement: A Survivor’s Handbook, 27.

[5] Wright, The Complete Guide to Crisis & Trauma Counseling, 158.

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