By using this title, I in no way want to diminish the anguish that comes with Post Traumatic Stress. These words just go together in a way that is too good to resist.
As well, I know that a lot of people have suffered in life far, far more than I have. Regardless of the degree to which we’ve been pummelled by life, a common thread that runs through the lives of us all is the decision to “move on” or wallow in self-pity, anger and bitterness. We can either allow a natural process of healing to take place or we can obsessively pick at our scabs to morbidly watch ourselves bleed. One decision leads to greater stress while the other leads to success.
If the Gospel Message is The Gateway to Salvation, what I’m about to post could be called The Gateway to Spiritual and Emotional Freedom. I have used it as a handout over the years for several dozen people. In each and every case (well, almost) people have used it to allow Jesus to lead them from potential defeat to assured victory. Last week was the first time that I was chastised by someone who was obviously not ready to quit picking the scab. “What if a holocaust survivor should come across this” was her reasoning for rejecting the message contained in the hand-out. My response is, “Well, what if a holocaust survivor DOES read it?” Small suffering or great, the recovery process for all of us is the same and that’s why it has been “indiscriminately” distributed through God’s Word all around the globe. For better or for worse, I present it here.
God brings / allows difficult events and people to come into our lives to highlight areas of needed change in our character. If our motive for living is to become like Jesus, this push for change is what we’ll notice. If our motive is anything else, if we want to ruminate on the pain, then the pain / betrayal / disappointment will push character change out of the picture. For God to bring a difficult person into your life is no accident. What satan would love to use to destroy you, God wants to use to transform your heart into one like Jesus. When our goal becomes one with God’s goal for us, then suffering becomes so much easier. When our goal goes from trying to change others so that they begin to treat us right, to allowing God to change us into someone who can and does love others, well then we’re on the way to greater peace and joy. To that end God purposely puts us into situations where we are forced to admit our powerlessness. “Only s/he who is helpless can truly pray.”
Jesus said, “They will know you are My disciples because you love one another.” Why would loving one another mean anything special regarding our relationship with Jesus? Because without Him we are not capable of loving the difficult to love. “Even the pagans love those who love them.”
I don’t know how to motivate you to go down this road other than to promise you - PROMISE YOU that this is the road to recovery. Jesus has promised us that if we obey His command to “Follow Me - Become like Me - Do what I did in my relationship with others” - THEN you will come to know a life of peace.
Paul says in Philippians 3:10 “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him . . .,”
And how did Jesus suffer? He accepted injustice and cruelty and contempt with patience. It is sooo empowering to just let people do wrong to us and realise that it takes nothing of value or worth from us. “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1st Cor. 6:7). Jesus, our character example overcame evil with good. He did not complain when He was insulted. Jesus and His followers bore injury with patience and even joy because they knew that absorbing hurt for the sake of God brought a payoff that was more than worth it. I know that it sounds completely counterintuitive, but I can tell you from experience that this is absolutely the road to peace and joy. And there are so many chances to practise! :-)
This manner of relating to others forces us to take ourselves off the Throne and depend totally on Jesus for our safety and security, for our value and worth. Taking ourselves off the Throne allows us to stop punishing others for being who they are. We quit punishing others for not giving us what only God can give. That is what love is; absorbing pain and loving in return.
The more that we do this, the more that our personality becomes reorganised around God and His eternal life, and self-denial moves to a settled disposition and character. When we die to self the fact that I do not get what I want does not surprise or offend me. In fact such circumstances lose their control over me. George Mueller writes - “There was a day when I died: died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of the brethren or friends, and since then, I have studied only to show myself “approved unto God.” Small wonder that someone said of Mueller, “He had the twenty-third psalm written in his face.”
The reason that I keep pushing this “dying to self” paradigm with you is because there is no hope of anything less being able to save your sanity in the midst of insanity. This is exactly what the Sermon on the Mount is all about. Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are the most desperate because it is THEY and not those who seem to be doing alright who will cry out for God.
. The world says we are to enter relationships and see to it that our friends (relatives) treat us properly.
. Jesus says that we are to enter relationships and see to it that we serve God.
The former often leads to broken relationships. That latter leads to honesty and openness.
Those who have learned to die to self; those who actually want to obey God by wanting to die to self will be largely indifferent to the fulfilment of their own desires. They will find life by losing it. They have matured to the point that getting their way no longer has significance for them. Not getting their way no longer disturbs them because their focus has shifted from the love of self to the love of others. They know at a fundamental level that God causes all things to work together for good and the good that is worked towards is a heart that is transformed and conformed to the likeness of Jesus. They don’t have to look out for themselves because they accept that God is in charge of their life. How their spouse / friend is behaving no longer has the power to derail their spiritual journey because their lifelong goal is solely to learn to love; even to love their enemies which sadly sometimes includes one’s spouse / family / “friends.”
That is why Paul directed the Christians in Thessalonica to “see that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another” (1st Thessalonians 5:15). Notice this is not in spite of evil, but especially in the presence of evil that has been directed toward us.
Jesus commanded, “do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39) and Peter calls us to follow Jesus in “not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for that very purpose . . .” (1st Peter 3:9). The evil that comes to us is no accident. It was known about since before the founding of the universe. It was allowed so that we might be transformed into the likeness of Jesus.
These teachings are commands as surely as Do Not Murder! You can’t begin to even understand them, much less follow them, except from the posture of self-denial firmly supported upon a confidence that is firmly based upon the strong experience of God’s all-sufficient presence in your life.
To step with Jesus into the path of self-denial immediately breaks the grip of sin in our lives and opens the way to a fuller restoration and amazing transformation of goodness to the soul. This obedience gives access to incredible, supernatural strength for life.
God brings / allows difficult events and people to come into our lives to highlight areas of needed change. What satan would love to use to destroy you, God wants to use to transform your heart into one like Jesus. God purposely puts us into situations where we are forced to admit our powerlessness. “Only s/he who is helpless can truly pray.”
Like experiencing a flat tire on a lonely stretch of highway, we are left with two choices. We either fix the tire or we sit by the side of the road while the rest of life passes us by. In our natural state we are tempted to deal with tragedy and betrayal in a way that leads to greater stress. God’s method leads to success.