Trauma, Fear, and Faith

I had the opportunity to attend a training event where one of the topics was how trauma impacts our lives. It got me to thinking about issues of faith, trust, the ability to live beyond the damaging consequences of our past experiences.
One of the TV shows my sons introduced me to is Arrow. There is a lot of violence and glorying in violence, force, and death as the path to accomplish justice. It is a theme the show wrestles with over and over again. At one point, however, one of the characters makes the following comment: “We are afraid of things we don’t know. Especially when we have been living in pain this long, it’s hard to even accept the idea of being happy” (Thea Queen, Arrow S5, E7).
That is a very fitting response to repeated trauma. It has to do with the way trauma teaches us to respond to the world around us. It has to do with our struggle to learn to trust others. It has to do with the way trauma interferes with that trust and our need to trust and live with the vulnerability of being in community with others who do not always measure up, even as we also are wont to be found lacking.
Our church has suffered a lot of trauma in remembered history. The sanctuary burned down in a fire. Gibson Mill began a series of layoffs resulting in the plant shutting down. Membership moved out of the community seeking employment. The community changed in character and composition. Five neighbor churches closed their doors or moved out of the community. A pastor committed suicide. There was a major disaster with the sewage system at a cost of $400K. The church received a proposal that included closing its doors. The church sold its parsonage to help pay down debt. Our long-time organist moved to a nursing home without a replacement.
That is a lot for any church to process. The accumulation of the trauma makes it hard to return to a life of trust in the future. It makes it hard to accept that God is truly faithful and present with us in all the turmoil of life we experience.
And yet, that is the good news. Despite overwhelming odds, God remains faithful. That is the story of Abraham and Sarah’s barrenness. It is the story of the Hebrew bondage and exodus. It is the story of Joshua, Gideon, David, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Lazarus, Peter, John, Paul, and so many others. It is the story of the crucifixion and the resurrection. It is the faith we proclaim in the midst of our trauma, fears, doubts, and uncertainties.
Faith requires courage. It requires facing down the traumas of our past. It requires denying them the power to control our future. It requires that we learn to trust God to be faithful in the midst of our pain, suffering, and sense of loss. The last word will be the word of God, after all. We can live in the hope of Christ despite the traumas of our past because Christ Jesus travels that road with us.
©Copyright 2018, Christopher B. Harbin 


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