These past few months have involved many dark nights. We are constantly confronted with changes. Some of them we plan and hope for; others come unexpectedly, often leaving us uncertain as to what we should do next.
During the past year I experienced several traumatic moments, and consequently I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I am not the only one—you may know someone in your life who has experienced trauma recently.
These events or losses can shift many things, and we have to readjust to new realities. These new realities are often associated with unpleasant symptoms, such as nightmares and flashbacks, among others. That’s just the way our brains process things.
The Bible is full of stories of people whose anger, tears, fears, disappointments, and shortcomings made them turn to God for healing and understanding. The stories of Job, Joseph, David, Elijah, Mary and Martha, and Jesus Himself show us that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes. All of these people were desperately longing for God’s presence—even in the midst of their varied crises. We can learn from their lives that we can rejoice and trust in the Lord even if we don’t feel like jumping for joy. These stories have been a source of courage for me as I walk through this valley.
Not long ago I shared in church the story of the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda. One simple question by Jesus (“Do you want to get well?”) and a little faith by the man was enough to result in a miracle.
But what if God has a different timing and way for every person’s healing process? What if Jesus’ question finds us in different situations? Can we still be healed?
The miracle of the paralytic resulted in the man walking again.
Jacob’s story, however, is very different. One of the most important encounters he had with God, one of the moments of greatest spiritual healing, resulted in his hip being critically injured.
Jacob had deceived his father, escaped his brother, lost his home, endured the schemes of his uncle, lost his mother, and was now returning to everything he had managed to avoid for many years.
He was terrified of retracing his steps to his native land. However, despite the reproaches of his own conscience and the memory of his sin, each step of the way God reminded him of His company and His promise.
Sometimes, remembering the traumatic events I faced seems more than I can bear. However, going to church, receiving love, support, and encouraging words from church members and friends, has been a constant reminder of the promise God made to Jacob many years ago, on a very dark night: “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen. 28:15, NIV).
In Isaiah 43:2 we read: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”
It says, “when you pass,” not “if you pass.” We all must pass through dark valleys, but He promises to be with us.
After Jacob passed through the waters of the river Jabbok, his hip still hurt, but his face reflected peace. Mental health professionals have helped me understand and navigate PTSD, but above all, I thank God for this beautiful and invaluable reminder in the Bible: there is a post-traumatic blessing phenomenon—and it’s available to us all.