by Alice Ovando-Lopez
Traumatic events take place every single second of the day around the world. Whether it is a debilitating event such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, death, or a global pandemic, these things have a distinct way of making us feel small, insignificant, and voiceless. The long term impact can be complex and disorienting.
It can almost feel like traumatic events have robbed your sense of safety and ability to feel God. It pushes you to doubt your worth and hinders your ability to build emotionally healthy relationships. It even goes as far as leaving you with anxiety and depression for years long after it occurred.
So what does it mean to live with the scars of a traumatic event?
How do you carry on after something so invasive pierces your heart and mind?
What does it mean to be a survivor of trauma, as a daughter of God?
Asking these questions is the beginning of finding hope in a raw journey of healing and restoration. You see, your body and mind were never created to be violated. Abuse was never meant to be part of your story. You were created to be loved well, honored, and respected. Although these unforeseen events take place, they do not define you entirely.They may temporarily feel violating but they cannot take away the identity that God gave you when He created you in His image. They don’t replace the good plans God has for you nor do they claim your purpose.
As a survivor, you have the right to feel and mourn. We see in John 11 that Jesus wept and was moved with compassion when He saw Lazarus’ sister and other loved ones mourning over his death. Instead of stopping their natural response to a traumatic event, He joined them and was moved by their tears.
Jesus didn’t rush through the moment, but allowed Himself to feel their pain. The fact that Jesus knew the Father was going to be glorified at the end through Lazarus’ death and resurrection did not stop him from allowing himself and his friends from feeling.
Jesus is a high priest that is able to empathize with our pain and intercedes on our behalf. His heart is moved by the matters and aching of our hearts. He knows your pain and he wants to sit with you and mourn together.
Denying a traumatic event can actually aggravate the symptoms and even make us physically sick. Through prayer and counseling, we can accept the situation and the reality that our hearts and minds were violated. You can accept that it happened and that it was not your fault. However, accepting the reality does not rob your power to heal and declare God’s promises over you. Considering the death of Lazarus again, after Jesus mourned with everyone, he proceeded to carry out the purpose that the Father had. Jesus wanted to show Mary and Martha that it is not situations or timing that dictate the purpose of God in our lives, it is Jesus himself who is sovereign over our purpose.
As he so powerfully revealed to Martha, he is the resurrection and the life. Despite how much our traumatic experiences have taken from us, Jesus is the never-ending source of life and resurrection. He will continue to walk with us and—through His Spirit—provide life and resurrection whenever the effects of trauma keep rising to the surface.
Accepting the traumatic event and continuing to embrace God’s sovereignty and promises in our lives is not easy. It does not make the impact and potential long-term effects disappear.
However, we have a gift and reassurance in Christ. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit to counsel, comfort, and guide us in our times of trouble. Healing from such a situation is a journey that continuously takes us to a place of surrender again and again. In this place of surrender we meet and discover God as the comforter of our pain.
As you live with the memories and impact, you have the right to feel, you can accept the situation but hold onto your power, and you can choose to walk the healing processes alongside your beloved.
Surviving a traumatic event can be daunting and overwhelming. But you also realize that it makes you a warrior and an overcomer with a powerful story to share. A story of pain, surrender, and intimacy with Jesus. And as we wait for the full redemption of our bodies, the resurrection from the death, we can rest in this promise Jesus made to us: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Alice Ovando-Lopez is an Associate Clinical Social Worker with a focus on sexual trauma and domestic violence. She’s also deeply passionate about mental health within the Hispanic Christian community. She is a wife and mother, currently residing in Southern California. In her free time, she enjoys making clay earrings with the purpose of sharing God's love through @wholeheartsclay. A percentage of the proceeds of the earrings go to street vendors working under the sun and to different organizations fighting human trafficking, and terrorized women/children.