Our guest blog is provided today by Leslie Zavala. Leslie is a theology student and speaker with over seven years of experience leading and teaching in the mega-church, youth-ministry sphere. She lives in North Texas with her husband and two dogs. Her main passions are helping people apply the gospel to their mental health, how correct theology can transform our experience of God, and removing social/religious barriers that keep people from receiving the grace of Jesus for themselves.
Where was God in my trauma?
“If God is good, why did he let ______ happen to me?” For anyone who has gone through trauma, you have to be able to reconcile the sovereignty and goodness of God with something terrible that might have happened to you.
For a long time my theology of God stood in opposition to my life experiences. I had a theology of God’s fatherly love and I had a theology of God being in control of everything, however, it lived in a completely different world than the one where my pain existed. This was a problem because that meant that none of my spirituality was able to touch my inner-world in a way that changed things.
But our understanding of God was never supposed to remain cognitive. In Jesus, the reality of the fullness of God entered the world of pain. When under the Old Covenant, humanity’s experience of God had to be separated from its experience of sin, Jesus came to bridge that gap. In Jesus, there could be real pain, but there could also be real joy. There could be real suffering and there could be real redemption all in the same world.
One of the most impactful exercises a counselor lead me through in order to bridge the gap was to “place” Jesus in the scene of my trauma (or greatest hurt). They had me picture the moment of trauma. Where was I? What was I feeling? What was happening? Then they asked me: where was Jesus in this scene? Where was he in the room? What was he feeling? What was he saying? I recommend doing this supervised with a professional or trusted friend in case the memory is triggering for you but also so that if you believe that Jesus is far away and that he was indifferent to your suffering, they can lovingly correct you.
They then walked me through some key verses such as God being close to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18), Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ tomb, and the promise in Revelation 21:4 about God wiping every tear from our eyes and asked me to apply that truth to the scene. This absolutely changed my perspective of the event because now Jesus was not this indifferent figure that “let” these things happen to me, but instead he too was broken-hearted and angry on my behalf. He was rising up in justice to redeem me from the effects of sin in the world and in myself. Now when I picture the event, it tells me a story of a God who desperately wanted to break into my world, and who wants to right every wrong that I have experienced.
Whether you use that exercise or not, reconciling the character of God that you read about in the Bible with your own experiences is one of the best things that you can do. I felt spiritually stunted for years, unsure of why I wasn’t seeing any result of all of my church-going and Bible-reading. And I actually think it was the goodness of God in my life, because before he wanted to talk to me about relationships or finances, he wanted to make sure that my knowledge of his love was able to touch, heal, and transform the greatest areas of pain in my life. And today, he wants to do the same thing for you.