Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the best-known psychiatric diagnosis of this decade. It essentially identifies a past traumatic event that refuses to stay in the past but intrudes into the present as if it just happened—or is happening. And, like so many psychiatric diagnoses, it seems to exist outside of Scripture’s reach.
The problem is that we tend to access Scripture by way of a concordance. For example, the words fear, anxiety, anger, and shame appear in Scripture, so we can quickly find relevant verses. But there is no concordance that lists PTSD. As such, we assume Scripture is interested in other matters and we look elsewhere for help. This should concern us because it looks like the most pressing matter in a person’s life is met by divine silence.
An alternative is to listen even more carefully to the person who is suffering. The diagnostic category of PTSD is not the final word that dictates a prescribed plan of help; it is an invitation to understand the actual experience of the person. In the hands of a relatively skilled helper, those personal descriptions can be linked to clear themes in Scripture. Then, hope comes to life as God speaks meaningfully.
Here are three themes that usually accompany PTSD.
Listen to someone’s description of PTSD and you hear a person who is emotionally overwhelmed now by an event that was overwhelming earlier. Scripture, of course, perks up to such matters. It describes many threatening and overwhelming life events. God has determined that his people will not be spared the tragedies of the world. So we, indeed, go through dangerous terrain and deep waters (Ps. 18:16, 23:4, 69:1,130:1). It’s the Old Testament wilderness being reenacted. But Jesus has been through this wilderness too (Matt. 4:1-11) and gives us his Spirit, so we can follow him through it.
Traumatic events come at us in different ways. What unites many of these experiences is that they are encounters with death. Either we came close to death or we watched death overtake someone else.
With this experience, it would be hard to find anything noteworthy apart from Scripture. Life and death are its dominating themes. Will death win? Will it have the last word? If it does, we are left with immoveable fear. Or will the God of life break through into his disordered creation and exert his rule of life and bring death to death? Here again we might have many questions, but the important point is that Scripture is dense with God’s words to those who have been in death’s shadow.
A less featured aspect of some PTSD, though very important, is the presence of immorality, wickedness and evil in the past events. You might discover it in a comment such as, “It shouldn’t have happened.” For those in the military, this could refer to what they witnessed or it could describe what they actually did. A moral code that a soldier once embraced has been violated. For others, it could be their experience of ungodly oppression and iniquitous victimization. This is certainly the case with sexual violence. Somebody has done something very wrong.
Here again, God speaks and speaks often. He opposes the arrogant persecutors and brings their evil to an end (Jer. 23:1-6). He assures us that there will be righteous judgment and we can trust him (1 Pet. 2:23). He invites us to respond to him through psalms that are constantly identifying enemies while we remember that things are not always as they seem—he hears the cries of the oppressed and will comfort them.
All this is not to say that our care for those who re-experience past horrors is as easy as quoting Scripture. It is to say that God says much to those who have experienced soul-crushing trauma. Our desire is to be the importunate friend (Luke 11:5-13) who persists in asking the Father for the Spirit who reveals to us the riches of his Word, so we can give it to others.
All Content. © 2018 Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation
Psalm 18:16-19 New International Version (NIV)
16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; (one of my favorites)
Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness
4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a]by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
23 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.
5 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will raise up for David[a] a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior.
1 Peter 2:23
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[a] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Copyright © 2018 Susan Walz | myloudbipolarwhispers.com | All Rights Reserved