Trauma is a popular topic these days. Sometimes we talk about it jokingly, “Dinner with my in-laws was so traumatizing.” But typically, when people talk about trauma, it’s not a joke. They’re referring to an experience that was not only painful in the moment but continues to hurt and impair them on a daily basis.
It’s difficult to care for someone who has experienced something traumatic. If you read or listen to people discuss trauma care, it seems like only professionals can help. Is effective trauma care reserved only for professionals trained in modern therapies? Are pastors, friends, and small group members able to help those who have experienced trauma?
Please don’t misunderstand me—I’m thankful for the help of professionals. Knowing trusted professionals is a gift, and we must develop wisdom and discernment to ask for help when we are out of our depth. But if trauma care is reserved only for professionals, we are left with an important question: Does the Bible understand trauma?
I believe the answer is a resounding “yes.” Psalm 55 is one passage among many that gives us confidence in God’s understanding of trauma and his ability to bring help and hope through his Word, Spirit, and people.
The Bible Speaks the Language of Trauma
Notice the language David uses as he processes his situation: “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me” (Ps. 55:4–5).
David describes his experience as anguish. He sounds as if the “terrors of death” have completely overwhelmed him. I’ve heard similar things from people I’ve counseled. The Bible understands the language of trauma. If you have experienced something traumatic, you can find encouragement in knowing God hears you. The Bible understands the language of trauma. If you have experienced something traumatic, you can find encouragement in knowing God hears you. Click To Tweet
The Bible Recognizes the Impact of Trauma
Notice the impact trauma has on David: “And I would say, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest’” (Psalm 55:6–8).
Research has revealed categories of reactions to trauma, referred to as “trauma responses.” Some of the most common responses are fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. These observations are helpful, but when we engage with God through his Word, we see that he has an awareness and understanding of the impact of trauma long before our ability to identify and label it.
How does David want to respond? He wants to fly away and be at peace. He wants to escape and find shelter. To use the research from above, David displays the trauma response of flight. The Scriptures make it clear—God understands the impact of trauma. The Scriptures make it clear—God understands the impact of trauma. Click To Tweet
Trauma Throughout the Bible
The Bible reminds us that trauma is not a new phenomenon. Consider the trauma found in these stories in Scripture.
Isaac: He was tied to a pile of wood and almost killed by his own father. Even though Abraham was seeking to be faithful to God, that experience surely left a lasting impact. Imagine how Isaac must have felt the next time Abraham asked him to gather wood for a sacrifice.
Joseph: He was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused of sexual assault, imprisoned, and all alone in a foreign land. Imagine how he must have felt the first time he saw his betrayers.
Bathsheba: She was beckoned by King David, objectified, and used to satisfy his desires. She walked through an unwanted pregnancy as a widow. She suffered the loss of a child because of the sin of another. Imagine the weight of shame and grief she must have carried.
We could talk about the traumatic experiences of Sarah, Ruth, and Tamar. We could explore the trauma of Daniel, Elijah, and Paul. But there’s one example that surpasses them all—Jesus. He emptied himself and took on the form of his creation. He was despised and rejected, abandoned by his friends, falsely accused, ridiculed, mocked, and scorned. He was beaten, stripped naked, scourged, and publicly humiliated as he willingly marched toward his death. Then, as he hung on a cross, he absorbed the wrath of God for the punishment of sin.
The most traumatized person in the history of the world knows the pain you feel. By his wounds, you are healed. By his wounds, you are being healed. And by his wounds, you will one day be healed forever. Your trauma will not outlast eternity. The most traumatized person in the history of the world knows the pain you feel. By his wounds, you are healed. By his wounds, you are being healed. And by his wounds, you will one day be healed forever. Click To Tweet
To those who have experienced trauma: God understands your pain. He’s been drawing near and binding up the wounds of trauma from the beginning. His Word is power, his hand is gentle, and his intentions are for your good.
To pastors and those providing care: We have the privilege and responsibility of bringing the light of the gospel into the darkness of trauma. God equips us by his Word and Spirit to bring help and hope to the weary and wounded.