Overcoming Traumatic Events
According to the national center for post-traumatic stress disorder web site, 60.7% of men and 51.2% of women report at least one traumatic event in their life.
We live in a world that is wrecked with the effects of sin. Just being a Christian is not a free pass from the consequences that sin has brought into our world.
Jesus reminded us in Matthew 5:45 “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
In my own life, I have had several traumatic events, from an auto accident, to standing over my daughter in the emergency room not knowing what was wrong. Some traumatic events pass quickly, while some, however, have devastating lingering effects. Maybe you are reading this and you have experienced something much more devastating than me. I have counseled with people who have been molested, and with those who have lost loved ones in unfortunate ways. I have found that the Bible answer works no matter what the cause of trauma in life. So how are we to respond when we face a traumatic event in life? The Bible gives us a great insight into what we need to do through David.
Psalm 109 was a passage written as David was in flight from Saul. Three separate attempts were made on David’s life while he was in Saul’s palace, then he was hunted like an animal. David was a man who certainly knew about traumatic events in life. His message to us in Psalms gives us a great wealth of help.
Overcoming Traumatic Events
There are five prominent things in this passage that we will look at. The first section is in verses 1-5, “Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise; For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause. For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.”
In this passage we find out three things the victim of trauma feels.
1. We see first that David feels that the peace of God has been withheld from him. Have you felt the same way, that there is no peace in your life since your traumatic event? John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” God desires you to have peace beyond human understanding. He says so in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” It is not God that has taken your peace; it is only when we let the Devil distort the truth that we lose peace. As we come to the end of this chapter, we are going to see two things that will restore peace.
2. The next thing that David felt was that others were talking about what had happened to him. The feeling of paranoia, that everyone else is watching and talking about you, is expressed several times in this chapter. David did not always succumb to these feelings, and as a matter of fact, in Psalm 56:8-11 “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me. In God will I praise his word: in the LORD will I praise his word. In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.” This passage shows us not only that God is actively involved in every tear that you cry, but is also ready to deliver you from all your enemies. There is no need to fear man when God is for you.
3. The third feeling that David had was that he was innocent of any wrong doing and that he received hatred for his love. Many times in cases of violence and sexual offences, it is done by someone known to you. The travesty of molestation has increased dramatically in our society, and is most often committed by a family member. Many times the victims blame themselves and it affects the rest of their lives. It can cause marital trouble because of fear of intimacy or lack of trust. The victims very often become bitter, and not always at the offender. Sometimes it is at those they thought should have protected them, and even sometimes at themselves.
Overcoming Traumatic Events
The next section of verses are called imprecatory, which means that the author is telling God what he wishes would happen to the offender.
Verses 6-20 say, “Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth. Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart. As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him. As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones. Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually. Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the LORD, and of them that speak evil against my soul.”
Now you may be inclined to reprimand David for expressing those things, but if you are honest with yourself, you have felt the same way.
The Devil has a way of using those things to accuse you. He may have said to you that a Christian wouldn’t feel that way. You may have even convinced yourself that it was sin to even have those feelings.
Let’s take a reality check.
David was a man after God’s own heart; there was no one closer to God. Reading the Psalms, you see a man who was very yielded to God, and even David had those feelings. He even wrote a song about them. He told God about how he felt.
Did you know that it is OK to tell God how you feel? He knows anyway, so you are not hiding it from Him. God created you with feelings. It is not OK to react to life based on your feelings, but you are going to have feelings. The wonderful thing about feelings is that they can be changed. David begins that change in the next verse as he declares what he wants God to do for him.
Verse 21 says, “But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name’s sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.”
David wanted what everyone who has experienced traumatic events in life wants: mercy and deliverance. David has been honest with God. In the same way, it is important to bear your heart to God.
Psalm 51:6 “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.”
God will not save someone until they confess their sin in repentance. Understand that David was not coming to force God to do his own will; he was simply confessing to God that he has had these feelings toward someone else. Then saying in effect, “But God, I don’t want these feelings, what I really want is mercy and deliverance. I want to be delivered from the pain that is in my heart right now. I want you to show mercy on me and give me peace instead of hurt.”
Be careful that you do your confessing to God and not to other people. It can become sin if you let it become gossip. God is not glorified in the bad feelings themselves, He is glorified in the fact that you bring them to Him recognizing that He is the only one that can deliver you from them.
Overcoming Traumatic Events
Verses 22-25 examine four of the emotional consequences that accompany trauma. “For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust. My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness. I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads.”
1. You may have a wounded heart. You may feel a deep hurt that you are unsure whether you can ever recover from. You may have fallen prey to the feeling that you can never feel “normal” again. Beware of the extreme thinking of “never” and “always”. Few things in life are this way, and by following the Scriptures you can overcome this trial, too. Remember Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
2. The second emotional consequence is that of withdrawing. The Psalmist says that he is gone like the shadow when it declineth. Have you withdrawn from others? Do you desire to be alone instead of facing people? Have you had an emotional withdraw, building up walls so that people cannot get close enough to hurt you? You may have thought something was wrong with you, when the truth is that you are responding just as a normal person does, just like David did. Hold on! God has an answer coming for you; He has deliverance for you.
3. Next, the Psalmist says that he is tossed up and down like the locust. We may express this by saying, “I’m on an emotional roller coaster. I can’t seem to control my emotions.” Remember this was the same response King David had before he applied the cure that God gave him.
4. The last emotional consequence David experienced was that he had a sudden health change. He lost weight, a noticeable altering of his physical appearance. Those around him could see the change. You may have experienced the opposite, gaining weight instead of losing it. You may have become trapped in a cycle of eating disorders. If you have fallen into an eating disorder since your traumatic event, you need to be cautious that you are not giving heed to doctrines of Devils as it says in I Timothy 4:1-3.
So what’s the answer?
How did David go on and overcome this traumatic event? More specifically, how can you overcome the trauma that you have experienced?
Overcoming Traumatic Events
The answer is two parts and is found in the last few verses of the chapter. Verses 26-30, “Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy: That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it. Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice. Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle. I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude.”
The first step that David took was to acknowledge that everything that happened to him, happened by the will of God.
Wait a minute!
I didn’t say God did it. What I did say is that the Scripture teaches us that God prohibits or allows ALL things that happen to us in life. The Biblical example of this is Job.
In Job 1:6-12 it says, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence, comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.”
Here we find that Satan was not able to attack Job due to the hedge of thorns that God had placed around him and all that he had. Even when God allowed Satan access to Job, he was still limited in what he could do.
You may ask the same question that many have: Why would God allow the Devil access to me? Job’s friends had all sorts of reasons why, and none of them were right.
The conclusion of Job seems to be that God is God, and He does not have to answer to you nor me. We look at life in a finite manner; we do not see the whole picture. God sees not only where we are now, but also where we are going. He knows that there are things we will never learn without trauma.
Overcoming Traumatic Events
I had a friend die at a young age several years ago. I began to ask the question, why did You have to take someone so young? Then God directed me to I Kings 14:12-13 “Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.”
God was preparing to judge the house of Jeroboam. This child of Jeroboam was taken to keep him from the judgment that was going to befall his father’s house. God was being merciful to him. God’s mercy is sometimes seen by us as a catastrophe.
Job found a truth in chapter 19:6 “Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net.”
It is God that allowed the trauma in Job’s life.
Acknowledging this takes power away from your enemy.
Those who have traumatized you have no power over you if you acknowledge that God is in control of all things that happen in your life.
You may remember Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
The Scripture does not tell us that all things that happen to those who love God will be good. Many things that happen are bad. God did not promise to keep all bad things from happening to us, but He did promise that if we will allow Him to work His will in our lives, that all things good and bad would work together for good.
I believe that the two verses prior to this verse give us an indication of the fact that bad things happen in life when they say, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
God is saying that when you cannot understand why things have happened in your life, when you do not even know how to pray, He knows what you need.
Traumatic events bring us to an end of our abilities. They bring us to the place that we have to turn to God, when there are no other options. It is at those times that God says, turn to me and I will make these bad things in life work together for good. Your enemy has power over you as long as you believe that they control what they did to you. When you change that belief and acknowledge that they could do nothing to you except what God allowed, then they are powerless. No longer do you need to fear them. No longer do they have the power; now all things are as they should be. All power belongs to God. He is in control and we are yielded to His authority.
Overcoming Traumatic Events
The next thing that David did was to praise God for what had happened to him.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
It is not just God’s will for you to give thanks when things get worked out for good, but to give thanks for the traumatic events that happen to you as well. This is a very difficult thing to do, to actually thank God for the bad thing that happened to you. This is a foreign concept to us, but is exactly what the Scripture requires for us to do. Ephesians 5:20 “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;”
Praising God for the traumatic event that happened in your life takes power away from the adversary, the Devil.
Do you remember what the Devil said Job would do if God removed the hedge of protection from him? He said that Job would curse God to his face. What do you suppose it does to the Devil, when instead of causing you to curse God, you begin to praise God for the trauma in life? The last thing that the Devil wants is to see God praised. Praising God for trauma is a sure way to get the Devil to flee.
Praising God also begins to remove the cloud of depression that often shrouds those who have been burdened down with trauma.
Isaiah 61:3 “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”
Praising God takes your mind off of you and puts it on Him. It also trains your mind to think on things that are profitable to you.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Praising God is the essence of thinking on these things. It may help you to make lists of things that you are thankful to God for. You can use a notebook or 3×5 cards. Make it a habit to list more things every day.
Daniel did this three times each day: Daniel 6:10 “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”
David praised God seven times a day: Psalm 119:164 “Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.”
You would be surprised how many things that you have to thank God for. You should thank Him for everything you can see. If you have an enemy, you should look for things about them to thank God for. Even in the worst circumstances we are to thank God.
Once you have done these two things, acknowledging God’s control in your life and praising Him for the trauma in your life, then you will have given all the power back to God. That is when He will take all things and work them together to good.
David ended Psalm 109 with verse 31, “For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.” You see, God stands ready to deliver and save you from condemnation. It may be from the condemnation of others, or it may be from yourself. When you give to God the position and praise He is due, it opens the door to Him to deliver you.
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