Trauma. The word that carries weight that can feel like a backpack full of bricks. I’m sure some of you have experienced something traumatic in your life. Traumatic moments leave lasting impact on your life. Not only does trauma come with a heavy dose of fear, it’s riddled with webs of depression that can capture you without you seeing what’s coming. Let me pause and say that you aren’t alone in whatever you are going through. I pray that in this chaotic season you are in, that you draw close to the heart of God and that you do not isolate yourself, but press into community.
2017 turned my life upside down. In twelve months, I watched my best friend admit herself into rehab, witnessed my other best friend have a psychotic break with reality which included multiple manic episodes, our family lost our home to a hurricane, and I got assaulted. All of this happened at the ripe young age of 22 years old. As these things were happening, I felt like I was drowning in the seas of sorrow. The phrase I remember using often was “I just can’t catch a break”. However, I encountered Jesus as the Man of Sorrows and the Person of Joy. A biblical dichotomy I got to know well was how to experience sorrow and joy together. They hold hands, waffle-style, and for a long time I saw the two as separate entities. As I would weep over these events, he would give me joy to fight against fear of the worst outcome. Scripture became my lifeline. Isaiah 54 was the banner scripture for the year but in the thick of the trauma I looked to the book of Job.
It was one thing after another and the only story I had heard like this was the book of Job. I was living in that book of the Bible. The sad book that we avoid because we don’t want to kill the vIbEs~*~. It’s super easy to skip to the end of this book too, where everything works out. But in the middle is where we find God meeting with Job and being present with him. During the mess, I found myself focusing on Job rather than where God was in it. I was like “oh man, I’m just like Job, what a guy blah blah blah #relatable” but I was missing the key piece of this book which is God’s unwavering presence. Job would lament with God, ask Him questions, and wonder what the heck was happening; the whole time, God remained steadfast. He does not take his eyes off Job. Hebrews 4:15 says that He is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses, when we feel broken. Jesus knew sorrow well and you will discover that as you read the four gospels. The ministry of presence is incredibly powerful with anyone going through trauma (for more details on how to help a close friend going through a tough situation, see the Resources at the bottom of this post). God’s stability was enough to get Job through the storm and it was enough sustain me in the dark nights.
Jesus made himself so present by giving me promises of rebuilding. The restoration that was to come would fan the flames of my heart and regenerate joy that was sucked out of me. Isaiah 54 is a page in my Bible that is crinkled with tear stains. Night after night I would stay up and declare this scripture over my circumstances. It speaks to barrenness and emptiness and says “Sing loud O childless woman [you who are in ‘lack’]” (v1) and “Make space for what is coming” (v2). AKA areas where you feel like you are lacking now, I will REPLACE with abundance. But in the spirit of rebuilding, verses 11 and 12 spoke loudest to my soul.11“O storm-battered city, troubled and desolate! I will rebuild you with precious jewels and make your foundations from lapis lazuli. 12 I will make your towers of sparkling rubies, your gates of shining gems, and your walls of precious stones.”
Storm battered city! Hey that was me! My life felt desolate and my heart was troubled. This speaks directly into it. He says I will rebuild you. I will make your foundations high quality, strong, and dazzling. Over and over you see God speaking abundance into places of lack. He promises that “blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4), “I will turn your night into day and your morning into joy” (Psalm 30:11 and Jeremiah 31), “I will make a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19), “those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” (Psalm 126:5). It was in these types of scriptures (and also in Psalm 23) that I could fuel myself with joy that Jesus is going to be faithful and good to me. The man of joy that I knew from the Bible became the person I would 110% need to even get through the day. He was kind in providing me with community that would stay with me those fear-filled nights. And instead of fear, God gave me laughter.
These two – joy and sadness – can be experienced together. Let us not separate the joy of the Lord from the sorrow that he has experienced. He will meet you in your sadness and will also give you joy.
Tips + Resources:
Consider seeing a therapist - I go to one through a church but it’s helpful to receive professional helpGet physical activity – I dove into pilates. I exhort you to take care of your body when you’re under a lot of stress.Go to events and do not isolate yourself Sermon about Job’s friends https://antiochwaco.com/sermons/unlikely-ones-part-five-jobs-friends/“Fight Back with Joy” by Margaret Feinberg (I’m linking the book but the workbook is so helpful as well) https://www.amazon.com/Fight-Back-Joy-Celebrate-Greatest/dp/1617950890
Hallie is a new Austin resident who is passionate about technology and gets the joy of working in the IT field. You can find her doing pilates, sitting on coffee shop patios, or spending quality time with community. She writes on her blog Leaning on Her Beloved or occasionally she posts on her Instagram.