The Twisted Tenacles of Trauma

"God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
Psalm 147:3

Christmas is almost here! There’s joy in the air for many. There’s fun in the homes for many. But at the same time there are hurts and hang-ups in the hearts of many at this time. For many, this is not "the most wonderful time of the year!"

Recently, I was sharing at our Celebrate Recovery leadership meeting about a time in my life when a hurt and a wound was deeply lodged in my heart. My mother was a horrible alcoholic for all the years that I can remember. Unfortunately, she died at 40 years old from cirrhosis of the liver. So at thirteen years old, you can imagine the many emotions and feelings I had to process. But at that age I had no way to deal with her death, and the anger I had because of her erratic behavior that affected me, the terrible memories attached to my mind, and the breakdown of my family.

It was not until my mid-twenties when I finally came to grips with my mother’s death. But before then, the twisted tentacles of trauma kept me trapped in my pain. But there was a powerful experience that I still remember to this day that began to untwist the grip of trauma from my life. And that was the power of forgiveness!

God has given us this powerful tool so we can slowly, through His power, untangle our twisted emotions, and release years of pain and guilt from our lives. I believe that the only one who should have a firm grip on our lives is God and His grace.

I thank God for the fact that I never went down the same dysfunctional path of addiction that my three brothers traveled. I am certainly no better than anyone, but I do know if it were not for an encounter with Jesus Christ at twenty years old, I can only imagine where I might have ended up. Sadly, my three brothers never could climb out of their drug and alcohol addictions, and all died very young in life.

The good news is that my brothers all found salvation at the end of their lives! And I firmly believe that I am a pastor today, for 30 years, because God healed my brokenness.

I can think of many people who came to Jesus with their tangled, twisted trauma. The woman at the well, the demon possessed men and women, which included Mary Magdalene, and the woman caught in adultery. Wicked wounds followed them everyday and everywhere they went.

Historians tell us that by the time of Jesus’ birth, shepherds were known to be the meanest, cruelest, dirtiest, men of Jewish society. In many cases, they were hardened criminals sentenced to a miserable life of tending sheep. It was a lonely job, and a thankless job. These were men who were rejected by their religion and by their relationships. The tangled twisted trauma of their lives followed them into the barren fields of Bethlehem. The first century historian Josephus wrote that the suicide rate for these soiled shepherds was seriously high because of the overwhelming isolation they experienced.

But I think of those shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem as they looked up into the dark night sky and all of the sudden the glory of God seemed to enthrone them. And from that moment, as they raced through the darkness and entered the barn to see the newborn Child lying in a manger, God began untwisting and untangling their years of personal trauma. I still get emotional thinking that the very first people to stand in the presence of Jesus in the messy manger, besides Mary and Joseph, were men who lived with years of shame and sorrow. And God had a message for them on that first Christmas, just as He does for us, “Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”

This is such an important point - crying out to God empties us so there's room in us for God. When King David wrote, "God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds", he was weeping before God because of his years of tangled trauma from being a shepherd abandoned, abused, and rejected as a teenager in the same shepherd's fields in Bethlehem. He found courage to face his fears and he found hope for his hurts through his relationship with God.

This Christmas why not celebrate your recovery by giving God your tangled, twisted trauma that has held you captive for too long? 

The messy manger, and soiled stable, should always remind us that Jesus is always approachable with our pain and shame. And remember too, He can be trusted with our trauma, and we will always find safety in His sovereignty.

Merry Christmas,

Pastor Dave

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