PTSD wants you to give up on God. It tells you you will never have peace. That way you will also give up on yourself and others. Many succumb to the PTSD-Identity and may deny God or think that they are unworthy of God. What if I don’t want to be in relationship with God?
Can I become so disappointed in God, in life, in others, and my own actions as to deny the possibility of ever being in God’s Presence again, ever being at Peace again?
Even if I choose to deny God or lack any desire to be in a relationship with God, I still remain in a relationship with God. Even the professional angry atheists are in relationship with God. Their disbelief in the supernatural is in itself a supernatural belief.
(This essay can be read alone or in conjunction with the other Essays on PTSD and Peace collected in the PTSD Spirituality blog.)
Relationships Are Permanent, Their Quality Shifts
I am fortunate to have a good relationship with my parents. But if they ever disowned me, I would still remain their son. If I ever disowned my parents, they would still remain my parents. I cannot rewrite history; I cannot alter what fundamentally is.
I am created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1). Even if I try to disown God or choose to not believe in God, I am still in relationship with God. No matter how much I kick and scream and try to alienate God and people of faith, I remain in relationship with God.
Recall that human beings have been blessed by God. There was no asterisk in the original Hebrew that said, except for people with PTSD. Even people with PTSD are blessed by God. That means we all have inherent, unchangeable, value. The PTSD-Identity does not want you to heal your soul by knowing that information.
I cannot sever the relationship with God. I can create a very poor relationship with God.
But I cannot change the basis of humanity’s relationship with God. Humanity is:
seen as “very good” by God.
in God’s image and likeness (the Imago Dei),
blessed by God,
You know what I am going to say, don’t you?! Based on the above: YOU HAVE VALUE. YOUR LIFE MATTERS. (Really, it does!)
But What about the Fall in Genesis 3?
Genesis 3 tells the tale of how Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent, sinned, and fell from grace with God. Some of the consequences of the Fall are that Adam and Eve are evicted from the Garden of Eden, required to get day jobs, start sweating, and deal with the pain of child birth. Yet, the worst consequence of the Fall is being separated from the immediate Presence of God.
Feeling Tainted, Being Tainted
The consequences of our actions and actions done to us often make us feel separated from the Presence of God. Those actions do taint us. They make it harder to perceive God.
The more harm we inflict, the more harm that is inflicted on us, is like mud thrown on our glasses. Soon we cannot properly see through them, we can’t fully see God. Then PTSD tries to tell us that God does not exist or does not care for us.
The soul afflicted with PTSD feels sorely alone and bereft of God. PTSD ejects us from our former life into a cold world where we feel alone and God is simply an empty word.
The feeling of being too tainted to acknowledge God is a normal feeling when you have PTSD. The School of Hard Knocks wants to knock you out of God’s Presence. It wants to knock God from your consciousness.
PTSD Seeks to Deceive and Alienate Us
The Genesis 3 account makes a nice metaphor for the PTSD experience. Adam and Eve were deceived. They also made poor decisions with important consequences. Thus they have been harmed just as many PTSD sufferers have been harmed. And, they also made decisions that caused harm, just as has happened to many PTSD sufferers. PTSD seeks to alienate us from the presence of God. Like the serpent, PTSD seeks to induce us to make wrong choices that alienate us from God. This alienation unravels and we begin to alienate everyone and everything around us – including ourselves.
We Are Welcome In God’s Presence
It would be terrible if our PTSD producing trauma permanently alienated us from the presence of God. Involvement with trauma can certainly make us feel that way. But that feeling is deceptive, it’s a trap. That feeling comes from the PTSD-Identity that wants you to give up on God and everything else. The more you give up, the more isolated you become until you die. That would make PTSD happy.
We are not permanently alienated from God’s Presence.
Hope Beyond the Fall, Hope Beyond PTSD Trauma
If God permanently denied us because of our PTSD actions or PTSD trauma done to our souls, then why does the Bible have chapters and books beyond Genesis 3? True, the mayhem even continues on into Genesis 4 with Cain and Abel. But if our suffering and sins have kept us permanently barred from God, then why have the rest of the Bible?
The rest of the Bible is meant to help us understand our situations and learn how to regain the presence of God. The Bible is a roadmap to discovering and living the right relationships which bring us back to God’s presence.
If you are Jewish, the Hebrew Bible, the TaNaK, teaches you how to live in a properly ordered relationship with God, fellow human beings, and the Creation. The Torah, the first five books of the Bible, traditionally ascribed to Moses (who did not look like Charlton Heston and was not part of the NRA), especially teach an observant Jew how to be in right relationship with God.
If you are Christian, the Old Testament and the New Testament both help you to understand your situation and your reunification with God’s Presence. (Perhaps Christians like myself are not as smart as my elder Jewish sisters and brothers, so we need extra books – remedial education. Yikes!) Christians are also taught how to come into right relationship with God, others, and the Creation (and based on the Christian I know, we need to study this better). Moreover, the person of Jesus does this for you.
What if I am not a Christian or Jew? You are not without hope. Other religions’ scriptures can certainly help us to restore our right relationships. God loves you, in spite of what some of my selfish (and noisy) co-religionists may claim.
God Seeks to Restore Our Relationships
The fact that scripture continues past the Fall in Genesis 3 indicates that God has not permanently exiled us from the Divine Presence. For if we were exiled with no chance of redemption, no chance of reconciliation, then there would be no reason to have inspired the rest of the Bible.
The human story of our PTSD wounded souls only begins with Genesis 3 and the Fall. The remainder of the story lies in the following books and, for this Roman Catholic, the New Testament. The continuing story is how we can be reconciled to God, to be returned to the Divine Presence, a state of purity and restoration.
The Road So Far to Peace and PTSD
We have been investigating PTSD and Peace at the PTSD Spirituality blog. In particular we have examined how one needs to be at peace with one’s own self. We need to know that we have real, permanent, value. We discovered our inherent value is rooted in the creative acts of God in Genesis 1.
Equally important, we discovered that no matter how we got our PTSD. No matter whom we have hurt in the past, or who has hurt us, that we can never lose our relationship with God. We can certainly foul it up and make it unattractive. But we can never fully destroy our relationship with God – even if we purposely try to do so.
The PTSD-Identity seeks to alienate you from all of your relationships. PTSD symptoms often cause us to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, porn, fighting, screaming, reckless sex, and reckless behaviors. In this, we try to feel alive again, even though it deadens us even further. This deadening spirals us into further isolation and death.
Yet in spite of all that PTSD can throw at our souls, we remain in relationship to God. The soul wounds of PTSD can be healed, nourished, and restored to proper relationships. Knowing that we have value and that we can never totally lose God is one of the steps to that healing. Semper Pax, Dr. Z