Chapter Three: The Aftermath
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
It’s impossible to know the full effects of a tragedy, hardship, or a traumatic event until after it’s left you standing there seemingly empty-handed. Perhaps your trauma is so fresh that you wake up every day just anticipating the ways that people will inevitably remind you about it, and they don't even realize it. Perhaps they are old wounds that never received proper treatment. Perhaps you didn’t even know you were wounded. Perhaps you were unaware of the depths of the situation until now, with new and perplexing realizations settling in each morning. Sometimes the emotions flood in, but sometimes you may get stuck in one for while. At times you may go into seclusion, but sometimes you want to be distracted by socializing. Other times you will cry for hours. Other times you will find joy in the ordinary and small aspects of life. Grief and trauma are experienced uniquely and at various times. Unfortunately, most of us have felt all of what I just described.
I think about various ways the past, present, and future could have panned out. I wonder if anyone else has this trouble. It’s like a bad movie playing in my mind and I cannot, for the life of me, find the remote. Living post-trauma is exhausting…you are tired and wide awake at the same time. You feel like the world around you is on fast forward and you struggle to keep up with every thought passing by in your mind at 100 mph. Since trauma is unique to everyone, where to go next can be a difficult concept to grasp. Move forward? But how do I even move when I am ridden with sadness? Shame? How do I stop the flashbacks? The obsessive thoughts? How do you move on when you feel like half of you is missing?
The true answers to those questions will come out of His word and your prayer life. When trauma occurs, I believe a part of our heart freezes. Freezes in time with that person, event, or circumstance. We can become stuck in the nightmare or nightmares that occurred. It seems impossible to think about facing aftermath of what’s happened, let alone to overcome it. To really sit and let your mind sink into the reality of it all: the person, what happened, why it happened, and how it happened. It’s overwhelming, tiring, and frustrating. Sometimes I beg God to wipe it away. To just sweep His hand over the situation and make my mistakes, heartache, and agony disappear. Truthfully, that wouldn’t be the best for me. The Lord uses these trials to build us and mold us into the people He will later send into battle. Sometimes crushing is necessary for rebuilding.
Recently, the Lord has specifically set out to remind me to guard my heart. Not from people, but mainly from myself. I have to guard my heart from vengeful, shameful, and depressive thoughts. The Lord is just. The Lord loves and forgives me. And the Lord wants me to focus on His truth and light. But what happens when the trauma bubbles up the surface? What happens when someone mentions a name? What if I see something that sets off a memory? What about the nightmares? What is the narrative other people have heard? I have to tell the truth. I have to get justice. I have to advocate for myself. This is all opposite of what we are told to do. First of all, the Holy Spirit is my Advocate (John 14:26). He is just (Job 36:6). He leads with truth (Psalm 86:11). So why do I feel entitled to take matters into my own hands? I call it chronic-backseat-driving disease. But really it is because I am human. And to be human is to be broken.
There’s the trouble. Having the human condition is not easy or fun. Being in pain sucks. It honestly sucks. There’s no fluffy or eloquent way to sum up what it feels like to have your heart ripped out of your chest. You feel zombified…a shell of a person. Sometimes we feel like someone robbed us of our future and sense of normalcy. It is painful to watch your life implode right in front of you. You may ask yourself what you did to deserve this, what you did wrong, or why this is even happening. You may already know why it is. Maybe you feel like it is your fault. It can be seemingly undetectable when our hurt creeps into the deepest parts of our hearts and sets up camp. No one really wants hurt to live there forever, but sometimes we can’t seem to get the uninvited guest to leave. Pain can leave us cynical and jaded. It can be the breeding grounds for lies, unforgiveness, spitefulness, and pride. Without healing, it can wreak havoc in your soul. But good can come out of this. Whether your pain was caused by you or someone else, has nothing to do with how God can use it for His glory. Feeling defeated and wronged by someone can invoke pride within us, which will only hinder our healing. I am not suggesting that forgiveness is always easy and that the wrongdoings be swept into the person’s skeleton closet. The truth will always be revealed. The light will outshine the darkness.
I know. I know. It seems impossible to think that the pain we are feeling now can be used for or turned into good. Humanly, it is impossible. God works in the impossible, with Him, impossibility doesn't exist. Jesus humbly and willingly took our place on the cross, so we would have salvation through Him. He was humiliated, mocked, and beaten. Talk about trauma. What did God do with that? He used it for all of us (John 3:16). Jesus’ pain was used for my salvation. The greatest gift. The ultimate sacrifice. He suffered like that so I didn’t have to. It all begins with forgiveness. Forgiveness from God, forgiveness for those that caused deep wounds, and forgiveness of yourself. Through the worst situations, through soul crushings, and through broken hearts, He relentlessly pursues us. With sacrificial and everlasting love, He forgives. It doesn’t stop there. His great love extends so wide and is so deep that He gives us the strength, and desire, to forgive others.
It’s difficult to comprehend why we go through some of the trials we do, but it all falls down to: we live in a broken world with broken people. We are all shattered in one way or another, and when not careful, our edges pierce others. We make others bleed and often times pierce very deep. Some of us hide our edges and some of us take pride in being jaded. My prayer is that we all, myself included, run to God with our edges and ask the greatest potter, the King of kings, to remold us. If your trauma stems from another person’s choices, you could be thinking: why do I need to be remade? Maybe someone stole something from you? They harmed you in ways you didn’t know were possible. Well, in that case, my friend, you still need healing. You can be remade new, with separation from the person that harmed you. Totally new from the scars and wounds they once afflicted you with. You may wonder if those scars could ever heal. I empathize deeply with you on this. You may be writhing over the loss you feel every second. You may feel like your life is over. Maybe you feel like you will never be the same. I hear you and understand your worries. Once you invite God in, there is such a covering over your situation. When you feel like it’s the end, it’s just the beginning for Him. He is the God of the deep waters, valleys, and wilderness too. He will walk with you through all seasons. I have faith that God’s comfort will sweep in and make you feel whole, at peace, and loved like never before.
This is not to say that He will always carry you through with no work, or faith, of your own. In saying this, I am referring to someone being defiant in the obedience and love we are called to do. Your walk will have trials and suffering. That’s what being a disciple is about. We walk with Jesus and invite Him into the suffering. I realize this is easier said than done. I fail at this often. Our Creator factored in that we would fail, and the best part is: He will still use us. Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to realize how much you need His rescuing and saving. When I laid down my life, I truly found Him. I let the old Rachel die and He gave me a new life. In the darkness, He brought light, picked me up, brushed off the debris of my messiness, and said “I love you. Now, let’s start walking.” He is the reason I write this. The reason I am alive. He has rescued me from the depths of sorrow and hopelessness. He has walked with me every step of the way. He has clothed me with dignity and strength, while I walk on the toughest path I have yet to face. Today, I am thankful that even in the aftermath, I am not alone. And neither are you. Regardless of how you are suffering, God is with you. Your trauma does not have to be the end. It can be the beginning of something beautiful. He is a God that makes beauty of ashes.There is hope that comes from what was once hopeless. There is joy that comes from what was deep sorrow. And there is peace that comes from restlessness. It’s difficult to have no idea what God’s plans are, but that is the point. He is in control so we don’t have to be.
At one point or another, in various ways, we will all experience times where it seems our life is ablaze. It can seem like, in the blink of an eye, our lives catch on fire. We are engulfed in the flames and swarmed by the heat. It can be all-consuming and terrifying. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell into the flames because they knew God was bigger. They would not be alone. Their faith was increased through the flames, and those that watched them walk out of the fire, not harmed, were amazed and they came to believe. Our faith goes beyond us. “Here I am, send me!” Isaiah 6:8.
The aftermath of your fire can be the increasing of your faith. It can be the miraculous story of how the Lord brought you out of the flames unscathed. I recognize that having to walk through the flames is uncomfortable, worrisome, and difficult. Once you realize that enduring the suffering has powerful purpose, the fire doesn’t seem so bad. Any mother that has gone through the pain of childbirth will say it was worth just being able to hold their precious baby at the end. It doesn’t minimize the pain, which is real. It doesn’t minimize the scars, which will remain to remind you of the battle. BUT, it makes it all worth it.
In the first part of my journey, it felt like someone pushed a refrigerator over on my chest and just left me there. Now, I float between having seemingly normal days, awestruck of God’s glory and goodness days, and emotional days. I take it one day at a time. Very early on, I made a choice to confront my experiences, hurt, and baggage with boldness. I knew that if I didn’t lay my situation and hurt at His feet, I would be in chains forever. In His presence, I have been blessed with more hopeful days, rather than hopeless ones. There are still times I feel like the Lord isn’t acknowledging my pain, but other times, I can feel His comfort. I know He is working on His time, which is particularly difficult on me. One of the many lessons He is teaching me at the moment. There were aspects of me that needed to be broken, to be completely destroyed, before I walked fully in my purpose. I pray that He never stops challenging me to grow in Him. This trial has crushed the spiritual baggage I had been clinging onto for years. It crushed the old Rachel. It crushed the chains of sin. It crushed strongholds. It crushed the lies I believed about myself and Him. It left me vulnerable to His truth, to His ways. He tore down the walls of depression, fear, hopelessness, and anger. And replaced my walls with pillars of love, forgiveness, hope, and truth. The hope He has restored in me is nothing short of a miracle, but so was the crushing. It can feel strange to be hopeful and also crushed.
My main flotation device during this “brave the wild seas” type of season has been knowing His sovereignty and grace over me. Not for one second has He forsaken me or taken His love away. Now, the enemy still attempts to persuade me that God has abandoned me and I am isolated on my own island of sadness. But I know the truth. It is written on my heart. We all have “why God???” moments. We all have moments where we ask how this could possibly be part of His plan, and especially how said plan could be working for our good. In my last post, I linked a video of a song called “Another In The Fire” by Hillsong United. One night I wept to God about feeling alone and just wanting to feel His presence. Shortly after, I heard that song for the first time. The lyrics were a divine message from Him. I am not alone in the waters, the valley, or the fire. I hope you realize that you are not alone either. The aftermath of your tragedy can be the start of your testimony. Your hurt can be the turning point in your life. If you are skeptical, I understand. I have wrestled with that too, but I am a walking testimony of cynicism to faith. It has everything to do with His love and work through me. I just threw my hands up and said, “ok, I surrender” and He changed everything. He can and WILL change everything for you.
I write this still knowing what it feels like to be in the valley, feeling the flames, and gasping for air at times. I also write this knowing what it feels like to be delivered from those moments and wrapped in His comfort. I can write to you because I know I have been made new. He has given me the opportunity to have a new life, through Him, the most fulfilling one you can have! He will bless me with new: seasons, memories, people, and a stronger relationship with Him. I am unsure of what your current situation involves, but I do know there is purpose in it. I know that every season shall pass but His goodness endures. I stand with you in prayer, in community, and in faith. We will be brought out of it with His great victory and glory. The past has its place, as a point of reference to the person I am today, but it does not hold any power over my future. I have faith that when you look at the rubble of your trauma, you will be encouraged and take joy in knowing you are not alone. You are not forsaken. I hope you will soon realize that the building of your faith was for the building of another person’s and so on. It never stops with us. His love and grace are ripples across the Earth.
A Daughter of the King