Give Yourself Time to Heal (But Don't Stay in Camp Too Long)
Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved,
for you are the one I praise.
— Jeremiah 17:14 NIV
Letting go essentially means giving up on getting your own way in life—loosening your grip on the way you thought it was supposed to be. If you insist on dictating the terms of your comfort and your restoration, you may be missing the God Who sees you and comes to you in unexpected forms.
Letting go also means accepting the reality that, you don’t really “get over” a severe loss. Your life really won’t be the same. What you have lost through your hard times really can’t be replaced—not if it was truly important to you. You can be restored. Life can be good again, even if it won’t be the same.
Bill Ritter, a Methodist minister whose grown son committed suicide, expresses this reality poignantly:
“Some people go through a crisis and say, “I’ve got to get back to my old self.” But that’s a fruitless quest. You will never get back to your “old self.” For the crisis has taken your “old self” with it. You can never get it back, ever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come out with something. For one of the strangest, yet most sublime, facts of human existence is that something beneficial can often be harvested from life’s most devastating experiences. Bill Ritter, Take the Dimness of My Soul Away: Healing After a Loved One’s Suicide” (Harrisburg, Pa.: Morehouse, 2004), 62.
My sister Twyla brought this truth vividly home to me when she compared the experience of trauma to living in a war zone. In war, everything you do is geared to survival. You are constantly in crisis, constantly running on adrenaline, slogging through rice paddies or deserts with your meager belongings in little carts or strapped to your back, dodging bullets, crawling on your belly, doing whatever you must to survive.
Then comes the time when you’ve finally escaped, and you find yourself in a refugee camp. You’re not home, you’re not in your final destination, and your problems are far from resolved. At least you have a place to lay down your burdens for a little while. The primary trauma is over. When you reach that point, you face both great grace and a great danger, because this place of respite is just what you need to begin to heal. You can breathe a little easier. You can smile again (sometimes) and organize your thoughts.
When you reach that point—when the all-consuming tasks of dealing with trauma are behind you, even for a while, it’s important to take the time to rest. You need the chance to breathe, and the God Who sees you will provide you that time. That’s the grace. But what’s the danger? The danger is that you could get too comfortable in camp and miss out on God’s full restoration.
Once you find a little bit of safety, a little bit of comfort, a little taste of normal, you can find yourself hesitant to risk any more. So you stay in the refugee camp and refuse to budge. You become like the Jews who stayed in Babylon instead of returning to Jerusalem or the leaders who became distracted in building God’s temple. You’ve been traumatized once, and you just can’t bear the thought that it could happen again. Everything in you tells you to hunker down, to cut your losses, to settle for a little bit of happiness. So that’s when you need to act counter intuitively. You need to pick up your life again and move on down the road. You need to choose the discipline of restoration.
Accept the Discipline of Restoration
The truth is, there are times when I’d rather do almost anything than discipline myself to do the work of recovery from a hard time in my life. The nature of the work required for recovery can be surprising. We may not even think of them as disciplines until we begin to try them in the wake of a trauma.
Tomorrow I will suggest nine disciplines that help me walk a steady path when the earth shifts beneath my feet. Each one is rooted in Scripture. Sometimes I feel double grief for a broken hearted person who wants to know as my friend, Mona, did, “When will this horrific pain go away?” I wish I could pick her up and move her past the hard work ahead of her. I know that as she accepts the discipline of restoration, slowly, very slowly but surely, she will not only experience a break in the horrific pain but she will grow deeply in her intimacy with Jesus. Is the earth shifting beneath your feet? Ask the Lord to prepare you to hear only His truth in these disciplines and direct each of your steps as He redeems your pain His way.
As a maid waits on her mistress, we wait on You, serving You with full expectation that You will provide for our every need. Show us how to live redemptively in this broken world, especially when it is our own world that is broken.
Adapted from: The God Who Sees You: Look to Him When You Feel Discouraged, Forgotten, or Invisible by Tammy Maltby; David C. Cook, 2012