Talk to God about what Hurts

When life is painful, God invites us to talk to Him about it. He wants us to cry out to him in humility–to talk to him about what hurts–that we might grow in our childlike trust in Him and His Word.

This article is the first of four on a topic that we hear about almost every day: trauma. What is it? What is it not? And how does God speak into the extreme suffering we may experience in this short life?

In his book, I Have a Psychiatric Diagnosis, licensed psychologist and biblical counselor, Ed Welch writes:

[Trauma] has become one of the most common psychological words for past misery that follows us into the present. … When you think of trauma [he writes] you might first imagine an especially serious injury. Car accidents come to mind. Traumatic head injuries. Trauma centers. From its home in medicine, it has been applied to soldiers who are traumatized from seeing life-threatening and life-taking events. These traumas don’t leave physical scars, but the pain and complex experiences last much longer than anything physical. … The diagnosis now extends beyond the effects of war to many other brushes with death or evil—child abuse, domestic violence, rape, and sexual abuse. The diagnosis has been housed in secular psychotherapy. We want to bring it into Scripture and listen to what God says. [1]

That is my chief aim in a new 4-week sermon series that I began last Sunday, entitled Redeeming Trauma. My goal for this series is to shine the light of Scripture on what is commonly referred to as trauma, so that we may discern reality and discover the hope, comfort, and soul-healing found ultimately in Jesus—the suffering Savior.

My Working Definition: Trauma may be defined as extreme suffering that affects the whole person—body and soul—which happened in the past but follows us into the present.

We Are Embodied Souls

Scripture teaches us that we are embodies souls. We are not merely a body. Neither are we merely a soul. But, together, we are embodied souls. God created us this way. As a result, bodily suffering affects our soul, and soul-suffering affects our body. Let us freely admit that the full understanding of this interaction escapes our puny minds. We are so amazingly designed by God that we praise Him—though the full interplay of our bodies and spirits, as well as the understanding of our beautiful and yet complicated emotions, remain mysterious to us. One thing is clear, however: we are always made up of body and soul . . . together . . . always.

Therefore, my goal is not to become your personal physician who addresses your bodily needs, but to serve as a soul doctor who applies the healing balm of Christ to your inner person. Scripture restores the soul (Ps. 19:7), which often has a positive effect on the body as well. When we experience extreme suffering, we have many needs. But one need is greater than all others. It is our soul-need—a need that can only be fully met by the one who is the Lover of our Souls. Our deepest need is to find rest and security in the One who created us in His image and redeems us in Jesus. He alone knows all our sufferings, and he cares more deeply for us than anyone else can.

We will never understand everything there is to know about trauma or the effects of extreme suffering on ourselves or another person who we want to help. But Scripture forms a framework for a theology of trauma, if you will, a theology of suffering through which we can see God’s redeeming grace.

Scripture Speaks into Trauma

Three basic acknowledgements include the following. There are more that apply, but here is where we will begin.

  • Scripture is brutally honest about the horrific evils that are part of this world because of man’s sin. We are not the first generation to suffer trauma. Therefore, we are never alone in our suffering (1 Cor. 10:13).

There is no trial or temptation that you face that is completely unique to you. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

  • Scripture is an overflowing pantry of soul-food, which restores us to fulness of life with God and others. The hinges on its doors are busting out with hope for the hurting (Ps. 19:7-11).

God’s Word is a balm of comfort and is like a precision surgical instrument that performs its soul-healing work deep within us by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Scripture restores our soul, makes us wise, and produces joy in our heart.

  • Scripture has one central theme: Our sovereign and gracious God has provided the hope of our redemption in the person and work of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:24-28).

All things–even extreme suffering–point us to the comfort found in Christ who will one day make all things new. After the final resurrection, the apostle says, “Then comes the end, when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.”

Scripture Stabilizes Our Souls

No matter what kinds of suffering may enter our lives, we can trust God. We can know foundational, stabilizing truths about God that are like concrete pilings sunk deep into the ocean floor. When the storms of life come out of nowhere, or the waves repeatedly pound us, there are truths we can anchor ourselves to. By the enduring grace of God in Christ we can weather the storm. We can come out on the other side with a faith that is more confident and refined in the furnace of affliction. We can know the victorious Savior in deep, heart-transforming ways.

Psalm 22 is one of those concrete piling Scriptures. It gives voice to indescribable pain, intermingled with faith and hope. Here we see four movements of the soul for times of extreme suffering.

  1. Ask God your hard, honest questions (vv. 1-2).
  2. Affirm that God is still holy and sovereign (vv. 3-5).
  3. Acknowledge your painful emotions and fears to God (vv. 6-8).
  4. Admit to God that you are utterly dependent (vv. 9-10).

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[1] Edward T. Welch, I Have a Psychiatric Diagnosis (New Growth Press), p. 33-34.

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