Have you ever heard someone recount a painful loss and not known how to respond? Instead of replying well, perhaps you avoided the person or offered religious platitudes, maybe both. In a day when we hear about traumatic, unexpected life events, God positions His people to care.
It is likely you have heard words like trauma or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the media. People, who suffer from PTSD, might have endured a car crash, physical attack, natural disaster, or abuse where there should have been love. After a traumatic event, victims often feel the impact in ways not always readily visible. As part of outreach and support, the local church body can walk alongside those who suffer with PTSD.
Indicators of PTSD include some or all of the following symptoms:
- persistent frightening thoughts/memories;
- emotional numbness, especially with close loved ones;
- reliving the trauma via nightmares or disturbing recollections;
- sleep problems;
- startling easily;
- avoidance behaviors, i.e. avoid person, location, activities associated with trauma.
Even ordinary occasions potentially trigger flashbacks or intrusive images, which lead to distressing emotions. For example, while grocery shopping, a common occurrence in the lives of most, a woman might be reminded of a traumatic event for seemingly no apparent reason.
There is hope both for the church and the PTSD victim. The support and comfort of a compassionate friend proves one of the most powerful aspects of healing. Consider what scripture teaches us: we do “not grieve as others who have no hope,” because our hope is found in Christ (1 Thess. 4:13). Unlike the comfort of the world, Jesus Christ comforts us in any trouble, so that we can comfort others with the comfort we have received. Just as suffering overflows into our lives, so too does Christ’s comfort overflow (2 Cor. 1:3-5). Indeed, the church provides comfort for others, who are struggling.
What does comfort look like for those suffering from PTSD?
- Prayer: Continually lift them up to the Father in prayer, petitioning the Lord to bring peace to their troubled souls.
- Presence: Providing a comforting presence proves more powerful than you can imagine. While life proceeds and the busyness resumes for everyone else, life can be at a stand-still for those suffering after a traumatic life event.
- Pay Attention: There is a great deal of healing found in simply listening to a person’s story.
What a privilege the church experiences helping others, especially those overcoming a traumatic experience. With the comfort we have received through Christ, we offer comfort to others.
Dr. Nic Natale provides counseling for individuals and couples at Palmetto Counseling Associates in Columbia, South Carolina. To learn more about the services he provides, go to nicnatale.com. To contact Nic directly via email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Shawna M. Gwin is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Palmetto Counseling Associates in Columbia, South Carolina. Contact her at email@example.com, learn more about her or read her blog at shawnagwin.com.