Traumatic Stress Will End!
PERHAPS you are a war veteran and you suffer from nightmares and flashbacks that make it seem as though the war has still not ended for you. Perhaps you are a victim of heartless violence such as rape and feel that a part of you died in the horror of the experience. Or it may be that a loved one died in a natural disaster or accident and continuing without that one is extremely painful.
Do you wonder if such feelings can be changed? We can answer with confidence: Yes, they can! In the meantime, all who suffer trauma can find comfort in God's Word, the Bible.
Helped to Endure Trauma
Nearly two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul underwent terrifying, life-threatening experiences. His descriptions of some of these are preserved in the Bible. "We do not wish you to be ignorant," Paul wrote, "about the tribulation that happened to us in the district of Asia, that we were under extreme pressure beyond our strength, so that we were very uncertain even of our lives. In fact, we felt within ourselves that we had received the sentence of death."2 Corinthians 1:8, 9.
While it is not known exactly what happened on that occasion, it was certainly traumatic. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) How did Paul cope?
Reflecting on his ordeal in Asia, he wrote: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those in any sort of tribulation through the comfort with which we ourselves are being comforted by God."2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.
Yes, help for trauma survivors is available from "the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort." How can you obtain such comfort?
How to Receive Help
Firstask for help. If you feel emotionally paralyzed, remember that others have felt that way too. Those who have overcome such feelings are usually glad to assist others. Like the apostle Paul, they often feel that the comfort they received from God during their trial needs to be shared with "those in any sort of tribulation." Do not hesitate to approach one of Jehovah's Witnessesany one of them with whom you feel comfortableand request assistance in obtaining help from Jehovah, "the God of all comfort."
Persevere in prayer. If prayer is difficult because you have feelings of anger, ask someone spiritually qualified to pray with you. (James 5:14-16) When you speak to Jehovah God, remember to "throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) Over and over the Scriptures emphasize the personal concern that God has for each of his servants.
The writer of Psalm 94 may well have experienced something very traumatic, for he wrote: "Unless Jehovah had been of assistance to me, in a little while my soul would have resided in silence. When I said: 'My foot will certainly move unsteadily,' your own loving-kindness, O Jehovah, kept sustaining me. When my disquieting thoughts became many inside of me, your own consolations began to fondle my soul."Psalm 94:17-19.
Some sufferers of traumatic stress are especially troubled by "disquieting thoughts," which can become at times an overwhelming torrent of panic or rage. However, heartfelt prayer can help "sustain" you until those feelings pass. Think of Jehovah as a loving parent and of yourself as a small child whom he lovingly protects. Remember the Bible's promise that "the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus."Philippians 4:7.
Healingwhether physical, mental, or spiritualis a gradual process. So it would be unrealistic to expect that prayer will bring instant peace to those seriously damaged by traumatic experiences. Yet, persistent prayer is vital. It will help keep the sufferer from being overwhelmed and driven to despair by post-traumatic emotions.
Read and meditate on God's Word. If concentration is difficult, ask someone to read comforting Bible accounts with you. You might choose passages that reveal the depth of Jehovah's tender concern for his faithful ones, no matter how depressed or despairing they may feel.
Jane, mentioned in the preceding articles, drew comfort from many Bible passages in the Psalms. They include Psalm 3:1-8; 6:6-8; 9:9, 10; 11:1-7; 18:5, 6; 23:1-6; 27:7-9; 30:11, 12; 31:12, 19-22; 32:7, 8; 34:18, 19; 36:7-10; 55:5-9, 22; 56:8-11; 63:6-8; 84:8-10; 130:1-6. Do not try to read too many Bible passages at one time. Rather, take time to meditate on them and pray.
Unprecedented Distress Now
Sadly, it should be no surprise that rapes, murders, wars, and needless violence abound today. Why? Because Jesus Christ characterized our time as one in which there would be an "increasing of lawlessness." He added: "The love of the greater number will cool off."Matthew 24:7, 12.
In recent years traumatic stress has become all too commonoften as a result of the very events that Jesus foretold. As recorded in the Bible in Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21, Jesus said that in this world's time of the end, there would be international wars, natural disasters, and increased lawlessness and lovelessness. Yet, as Jesus also observed, relief is not far off.
After describing a worldwide epidemic of trauma and the start of "great tribulation" to follow, note what Jesus said people should do: "Raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near." (Matthew 24:21-31; Luke 21:28) Yes, as world conditions worsen, we can be sure that great tribulation upon this distress-causing system of things will culminate in the end of all wickedness and the ushering in of a righteous new system.1 John 2:17; Revelation 21:3, 4.
We should not be surprised that our deliverance will come only after wickedness and violence have reached their zenith. God's judgments in the past against the world of Noah's day and the vile inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah followed a similar pattern. Those past executions of divine judgment show what will happen in the future.2 Peter 2:5, 6.
The End of Traumatic Stress
If you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you may wonder if your painful memories will ever be laid to rest. Yet, the answer surely is: Yes, they will be! At Isaiah 65:17, Jehovah God declares: "I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart." Although the psychological scars of past trauma may seem permanent, this scripture assures us that someday their power to disturb will be entirely gone.
Today, over one year after the attempted rape, Jane is serving as a pioneer minister (full-time evangelizer) of Jehovah's Witnesses. "It was not until the trial was over and my attacker had been convictedmore than eight months after the attackthat I really felt like myself again," she said recently. "This time last year, I could not have imagined the peace and happiness I now enjoy. I thank Jehovah for the beautiful hope of everlasting life and the chance to share that hope with others."Psalm 27:14.
If you are struggling with the despair and paralyzing emotional numbness of PTSD, that hope can help sustain you as well.
|Appeared in Awake! August 22, 2001|
Picture Credit: Army scene: U.S. Signal Corps photo
Copyright © 2001 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.