If you clicked on this because of the title, I want to be clear before you read on … this is about the benefits of long-term trauma IF we handle it in a good way.
FOR SURE there is a bad way to handle it. I tried that for a while. From experience I can tell you that it’s not a path you want to be on.
Trauma and pain have a way of revealing deeper issues within ourselves. Unhealthy ongoing anger, frustration, isolation or hiding won’t be beneficial for us in the long run.
After the initial “recoil” reaction we all have to a traumatic situation, we enter a bewildering period of loss and chaos trying to figure out what life looks like from now on. Caring people in our lives who aren’t the ones carrying the weight of a difficult situation sometimes have ideas or advice about what we should do, adding to the confusion. At some point we decide how we will handle it all, and have the opportunity to submit to a greater process being built in us. (Please understand I am not talking about incidental tragedy here as much as perpetual trauma that defies resolution for a long period of time.)
DISCLAIMER: It’s NOT FUN.
Nevertheless, there are some hard fought benefits of long-term trauma that we have found. There is something deep that happens when we live through painful dark circumstances. We feel that we are barely surviving and all the while something profound is happening within.
When your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2)
What does that even mean? Perfect, complete, needing nothing? Allowing the refinement of trials results in these benefits:
- No longer do we need the approval of people in any aspect. Not even family or spousal approval is needed to validate us in our relationship with God. It’s nice to have it, but it isn’t necessary. This is not a pride thing at all, but instead an inner knowing that we are one with God and His heart. We can be sure in His goodness and sure in His love. We each live for His approval only.
This doesn’t come easy…. it happens when we endure a time where no earthly person is there to give validation, and we have to figure out how to live through it.
- No longer is there any place in us that fear has a foothold. It’s simply not possible … we have weathered too much to be lured back into it’s grasp. This comes after facing down your worst fears and surviving them. Once fear is conquered in every form in your life and that depth of freedom is experienced, you won’t easily give up that freedom when a new scary proposition comes along. New scary propositions will try, but the “fear feeling” will be so foreign and repulsive that you will not accept it again.
- No natural possessions or pursuits control us, because the trial is so painful and so long that we gain perspective on what really matters. It comes from relentless financial blows that are beyond our control or a stripping away of possessions and/or normal activities. What’s left after discarding the hobbies, sports, politics, workaholism, mindless attempts at numbing pain and other life distractions are only three things: faith, hope and love. I am terribly aware of how cliche that sounds, but it’s the truth. (There is a time and a place for relaxation and hobbies as long as they aren’t a crutch and don’t distract from what really matters.)
- We live keeping short accounts with God and with others. This usually comes after working through any/all unforgiveness, resentment, relational pain and rejection — until all that is left is love for others, because God in us loves others.
- We learn to live by the Word of God, both the written words and the words He speaks. This occurs during a time when you have nothing else to cling to — not people, not human effort, not logical reasoning. (I’ve described some of my own process of that here.) I need to be reminded of His promises so much that last year I designed wallpaper for our home, so it would be continuously in my face.
- We live with no agenda, and instead live for God’s agenda. It comes during a painful process where our attempts at personal plans get continually derailed or cancelled until what’s left is complete surrender to any of our own aspirations for spending our time. Maybe for you “spontaneous” types this isn’t a struggle, but for “planner” type personalities like mine, complete relinquishing of plans is hard. However, there is a great deal of freedom on the other side. I once had my controlled life all planned out with calendars and lists… but I have since morphed into a different person who rarely knows what day or even month it is.
- We develop an ability to see victory through spiritual eyes even before anything that resembles a physical manifestation of victory. This comes by spending time with God until we see everything through His eyes instead of our own. It defies explanation in natural terms, but we know when we get to the place where we live out of another world over simply the world and situation we see.
We don’t go looking for trauma, it happens to us. However, we can choose how to respond. I hope in time you see traumatic situations not only for the jarring painful circumstances but also for the positive spiritual benefits.
Living “perfect and complete, needing nothing” is to have walked through the worst life has to offer and come through in victory, even if you’re still waiting.
We’re right there with you.