Last night on the way home and today on the way to work, I was listening to Focus on the Family. They were talking about our military personnel and how those coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are facing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. (They had two broadcasts on the subject and maybe another tomorrow.)
Basically, our soldiers have been exposed to harsh conditions, violence, and unspeakable horrors. There was a couple on the show, Mark and Michelle Waddell. Mark was a commander in the Navy Seals. He described it as haunting sights, smells and sounds of death and destruction. These sights, sounds, and smells become triggers to the memories of what they experienced. Soldiers come home and they have bottled all the emotions up inside and refuse to talk about their experiences.
What happens? As with all wounds (emotional or physical) these things come to the surface; it manifest in some way. In the case of military personnel, this syndrome is taking a toll on the family.
Michelle described her normally caring husband as volatile and short fused. Everyone handles stress differently. Some individuals may withdraw completely from family and friends. Others may self-medicate, turning to alcohol, drugs, or food. Still others find themselves abusing those closest to them; their family.
Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is very real. Ideally, the church should be addressing the spiritual needs of our soldiers. I’m not sure the church is a position to minister to our veterans. Here is why…
All of this made me think about Spiritual warfare and our reaction to what we have experienced spiritually. Have our Spiritual Warriors experienced a form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome? Do we hold all of experiences and emotions in only to lash out on those closest to us? Are our marriages in crisis because of spiritual battles? Are our families at risk?
At first I thought about this as it applies to those serving as pastors, then I realized in the past few months Dennis and I have had opportunities to minister to people who have experienced serious spiritual fallout as a result of situation in the church. It isn’t just pastors and leaders who are experience stress as a result of things they have seen or dealt with spiritually. We are all susceptible.
One of the problem they mentioned on the show is that no one wants to talk about it. Or they simple do not know who to talk to. Our soldiers do not want to seek help because they do not want to be considered weak.
Wow, that can definitely be applied to the body of Christ. How many pastors have someone to talk to? How many Christians go through their life hurting because they are afraid to share their feeling with other believers. How many of us do not want to be considered weak? Add to this that as Christians we are taught that our lives should be perfect; we shouldnt’ have problem. Even more troubling is the fact that if someone in the church hurts us, we are not suppose to talk about it. Sometimes the lie isn’t we aren’t allowed to talk about it but that we should not have any emotions about it.
Here’s the deal. If your baby is born with a birth defect, it is okay to cry about it, even if you love them with your whole heart…it hurts. If your house burns down, it is okay to show emotion. If you find out you have cancer, it is okay to be a little upset with God. God can handle our anger. If other Christians abuse you, it is okay to ask God why it happened? It is okay to hurt. We are human beings and this is life, things are going to hurt us, that is life. If nothing ever hurt, we wouldn’t be human. Our response, is key to our healing.
Untreated spiritual and emotional woundedness will manifest. It may not be now but eventually it will. The manifestation may not immediately reveal the deep wound it is linked to. You may have to investigate to find the source.
So what can be done about it? First and foremost we need to pray about it. God can bring healing when there seems no hope. Another aspect of this situation is God created everything and the only things He said wasn’t good was for man to alone. My thoughts are, it cannot be good for us to be alone in our wounds; never sharing those hurts with anyone. A prayer partner or in some circumstances, a certified Christian counselor (Proverbs 1:5b says, “And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel”) could be just what is needed. This person should be someone you can be totally transparent with. It is not so helpful to say “This happened to me” or “This is what I did”. Times of healing come when we bear our soul; saying “This is what happened and this is how I felt/feel about it.” As Christians we must learn to be transparent with God, with ourselves and with other Christians.