Tip-toeing Around Trauma

Series: Voices. James Dewhurst February 7, 2021


Tip-toeing Through Trauma

Today, we continue in an 8-week series together, called – Voices! We are addressing a myriad of powerful “Voices” that are threatening our mental health and peace of mind! Today, I want to talk to us about one of the most shocking and unexpected Voices of mental un-health, as we talk today about – Tip-toeing Through Trauma!

The American Psychological Association (APA), defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, bullying, war, a tragic loss, or a natural disaster.” Research shows that 60-75% of American adults will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. And what most people fail to realize, is that there are triggers that come with every trauma. Smells, noises, objects, seasons, locations, just to name a few, can set off unpredicted emotional responses in an instant, from crippling events in a person’s life, that deeply damaged their soul. When you trigger someone’s trauma, you often see a tornado of external emotions, from a fury of internal flashbacks.

A “trigger” is when the past interrupts the present without any apology!

We live in a world where people tip-toe around triggers from each other’s trauma!

> She can’t handle the smell of roses, because of what happened…

> He can’t even go to a beach, because of who he lost years ago…

> She checks the locks every hour, because of that awful night…

> He never leaves his room, because of what he saw that day…

Wounds create walls that the world around us has to constantly worry about!

When the symptoms from a traumatic event persist and increase, they often develop into a mental health disorder known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD can become so distressing, that it begins to interfere with a person’s daily life, manifesting in anxiety attacks, flashbacks, avoidance, withdrawal, and struggling relationships!

People who have endured trauma don’t just have tormented minds, they have wounded souls!

A wise person once said – “Just because trauma is a fact of life, doesn’t mean it has to be a life sentence.”

Unknown – “When a trauma never heals, what happened yesterday keeps happening.”

Finally – “If you don’t heal from what hurt you, you’ll bleed on those who didn’t cut you.”

Isaiah 43:18-20

18 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, (ESV)

Trauma – The greatest trauma in our lives is not the event that happened. It’s continuing to live in the event that happened.

(Our trauma never ends until we exit our trauma!)

How many of you are not fans of moving? As stressful and traumatic as moving can be for many, could you imagine what it would be like if the entire city of Columbus was forced to pack up everything they owned, move out of Columbus simultaneously to a foreign destination, and all travel together at the same time? Well, that’s exactly what happened to the entire nation of Israel in the year 1446 B.C. Moses’s 10 plagues worked, and the pharaoh finally released the burgeoning nation of Israel from slavery, and they hightailed it out of Egypt, kids, cattle, clothes and all:

Exodus 12:31-41

31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!” 33 The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. 37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. 40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. (ESV)

God had just miraculously freed the nation of Israel from slavery to the Egyptians. He then released them to go inhabit their promised land,“ flowing with milk and honey”. There is no doubt that this transition from Egypt was traumatic for the people of Israel. From their rapid departure to the crossing of the Red Sea, to their daily desert manna, the 3 million mobile Israelites were upended and on edge. The good news was, they were only on a 30-40 day journey to their permanent promised land. All they had to do when they got there was scope the land, stake their claim, and move on in. But instead of embracing God’s promises, their 12 inspectors could only see more trauma, so instead of taking their territory, in:

Numbers 13:26-29

26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.” (ESV)

Numbers 32:13

13 And the LORD’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the LORD was gone. (ESV)

The Israelite’s biggest trauma wasn’t entering the desert. It was staying in the desert!

The term “Trauma”, which means“ wound”, traces all the way back to Greek antiquity, and can be categorized into 3 specific types of trauma:

-Acute Trauma – Usually results from a single tragic event that was life-altering, like an accident, an assault, or a disaster that threatens a person’s physical or emotional safety.

-Chronic Trauma -Results from repeated and prolonged exposure to damaging events like childhood abuse, verbal abuse, neglect, or domestic violence, that keeps happening.

-Complex Trauma – Results from exposure to multiple traumatic events, usually from inter-personal relationships, where one person often feels trapped by layers of abuse.

While there were many traumatic events throughout Israel’s Old Testament history, there was perhaps no greater traumatic event Israel endured than the Babylonian invasion and exile under King Nebuchadnezzar around 600B.C., not only was the entire city of Jerusalem burnt to the ground, but their coveted temple, built by King Solomon was destroyed as well. They had no place to worship! Babylon removed them from their homeland, where they would love Temple-less in a foreign land for the next 70 years. But God, in His grace, moved on King Cyrus around 530 B.C., and he released 40,000 exiles to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their altars and begin rebuilding the foundations of their former temple. Surprisingly, there was their mixed reaction in:

Ezra 3:10-13

10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away. (ESV)

While you would have expected all 40,000 exiles to be excited as they saw the temple foundations being rebuilt, the Bible tells us that some wept while others rejoiced! Where did their weeping come from? The Bible tells us the older ones when they saw the foundation from the former temple could only weep over their former trauma, while the younger ones, who never experienced that, shouted at their great victory!

40,000 people were weeping and shouting simultaneously over the same thing! The verses tell us there was so much conflicting noise, it could be heard far away!

Rebuilding the temple triggered a trauma that some had never gotten past!

The truth is, none of us can fully celebrate the future until we have healed from the trauma of our past. And sometimes the only way to heal is to weep all of it out!

If we are ever going to heal, we’ve got to get our trauma out! We need to share it with God, which we’re going to do in a moment and we need to share it with someone!

What makes a counselor so great isn’t always what they say, but what they hear!

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