Experiencing trauma as a child–whether a one-time event or an ongoing experience you had to endure–makes you feel powerless, vulnerable, and alone.
As a child, you often don’t have power over the situation but instead are a recipient of other people’s decisions–indirectly affected by the thoughts, feelings, actions, and behaviors of those around you.
For me, it was my parents–and their trauma–that caused my trauma. My dad’s mental illness and drug use, my mom’s breast cancer diagnosis, my parents’ divorce and the fear and uncertainty that came along with it.
When you’re a child, the trauma chooses you. Similarly, so does your response to that trauma. As children, we don’t have the emotional intelligence to choose the best way to work through the situation so it doesn’t harm our wellbeing and relationships in the future.
Oftentimes, that healing process comes much later on in life.
At some point in your adult life, if you haven’t already, you will have the opportunity to make a choice. You will get to choose how you will let your childhood trauma impact your life and what power you will allow it to have over your future.
The choice you make is imperative.
But traumatic experiences aren’t just reserved for childhoods. An abusive relationship, the death of a parent, an unfaithful spouse, a miscarriage–these deeply distressing experiences can happen to any of us at any age. And, as an adult, we have the ability—the responsibility—to choose wisely how we will let them affect us.
We still don’t get to choose the trauma, but we do get to choose how we handle it.
And no matter if you are trying to work through childhood trauma or heal from an experience you’ve had as an adult, there is only one choice that really matters: where you turn after the trauma.
You can either turn toward God or turn away.
And which way you choose to turn after you go through a traumatic experience will determine everything about your mental and emotional wellbeing, your growth, and your healing.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NIV).
Before, during, and after a trauma, the Lord is with you. The question is, are you close to him? Are you going to allow him to save you, or are you going to turn away and try to save yourself (or find someone else to try to save you)?
Which way you choose to turn after you go through a traumatic experience will determine everything about your mental and emotional wellbeing, your growth, and your healing.
When we are stubborn and proud, we think we can handle the situation ourselves. But the truth is, we are only so strong in our own strength. And eventually, our own strength will fail us.
Do you know who else will let us down? Other people. Without a single doubt, people will always let you down. I know this from experience.
After ending an extremely unhealthy relationship, instead of turning to God to find wholeness, I turned to another relationship to make me feel better about myself, hoping this new person would mend my broken heart and make my wounds hurt less.
The problem is people can’t save you; they will only let you down.
There is no self-help book, meditation routine, exercise regiment, man, woman, or child who can heal you after a trauma. Sure, these things can help–I found therapy and exercise extremely helpful during my healing process, but it wasn’t what made me whole.
So, What’s the Difference, Really?
What can turning toward God after a trauma–or while you’re trying to deal with past trauma–really do?
Will it make the healing process faster? Maybe, but maybe not.
Will it change the circumstances? No, what happened, happened.
Will it fix everything? Not necessarily.
So, what? What’s the difference?
It comes down to one main thing: peace.
And peace in the midst of trauma, while dealing with past trauma, and when moving out of trauma is everything.
There is still pain, heartache, and healing that needs to take place, but it comes alongside peace. It comes alongside hope and faith that God can see the bigger picture, and that he is still in control. And when God is in control, he will restore what was broken. He will restore you, your heart, your family, your relationships.
If you choose to turn toward God after a traumatic experience, you will experience the peace that surpasses all understanding. And it will not fail you.
For whatever reason, this isn’t always the easiest choice. Oftentimes instinct tells us to turn the other way, that we can handle it on our own. I’ve been there, too. I’ve turned away. But one of the best things about God is that he is always there when you are ready to turn toward him.
And the peace you receive is the same. He never runs out. You are never too late. Wherever you are right now, I encourage you to make the choice to turn to Him today.
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Photo by Lachlan Donald on Unsplash