In my work as a mental health counselor, I have come to realize that trauma is not just an isolated event or a series of events that people have to deal with but that there are spiritual dimensions of trauma. Some facts that inform this concept are:
• The well known and widely accepted notion that we are not just human beings having brief moments of spiritual experiences; we are spiritual beings having brief moments of human experience.
• The notion that we have an enemy, and like any enemy his goal is our downfall.
First, a definition of trauma: The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth ed.; DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) describes trauma as “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence, involving direct exposure,… experiencing repeated or extreme indirect exposure to aversive details of the event(s). Such trauma often forces individuals to face the uncertainty and instability underlying human existence and reconsider their sense of identity as well as their deepest beliefs regarding control, responsibility, justice, trust, guilt, suffering, and forgiveness. While such a definition makes it appear that trauma refers to things that happen to us, trauma can also manifest as spiritual warfare in the following ways by
i) Attack on our thoughts and feelings
• Feeling and thoughts of inadequacy
• Thoughts of futility – am I doing enough
• Doubts and uncertainty manifested in questions such as “am I good enough? Do I belong here? Does what I do really matter?”
ii) Attack on our family members and loved ones
• Children get sick or have academic problems
• The spouse feels neglected or abandoned
• Friends feel distant and loneliness sets in
These various forms of attack can easily be used by our enemy, to gain a foothold in our lives by causing increased fear and anxiety and making us look inward and take our gaze off the One who loves us.
The Good News is that, according to scripture, We have been given weapons of warfare and it is The Lord Himself who trains our hands for war and our fingers for battle (Psalms 144:1)
So how do we fight? Permit me to share 3 strategies from a spiritual lens and from the lens of therapeutic interventions:
1. We need to stay In The Word: Christians are aware of the power of the word, knowing that it is sharper than a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12) and so it does not come as a surprise that the first strategy for dealing with trauma is to stay in the word of God. In addition to reading the word, it is important to find innovative ways of weaving God’s word into all we do (from writing it in the different rooms in our homes to having it playing as we go to bed at night). There will be no way for satan’s lies to enter our minds when our minds are filled with God’s word.
2. Through Music and Praise: Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits our praise and where God is, the enemy cannot function. One strategy for overcoming the attacks of the evil one is to sing praises, not just when things are going well, but especially when we are dealing with difficult situations. Various musicians, scientists and psychological studies show the power of music in dealing with depression, lift moods and relieve anxiety. The effect of music and songs on releasing feel good neurotransmitters like dopamine have been well documented, meaning that forming a habit of singing praises can serve to fortify us and keep our minds clear.
3. By forming connections with others: One of the devil’s strategy is to ‘divide and conquer’ and that might explain why he often isolates us and makes us feel alone as we deal with trauma. Jesus gave us an example of living in community by choosing twelve disciples to do life with and then choosing an inner circle (Peter, James and John) that He could be vulnerable with in deep moments of grief. So the question is “who are are you giving permission to walk alongside you?” Who are you intentionally doing life with?
The above strategies are aimed at frustrating the attempts of the enemy to derail us as we deal with trauma. By recognizing the spiritual dimensions of trauma and using the above strategies, we can stand strong and fight from a position of victory.