Ministering to PTSD The horrors of war, traumatic events, and the evil in this world produce fear, anxiety, and a desire to fight or flight. These God-given responses are designed to help protect us from danger or harm. Yet occasionally, when the danger subsides and the threat no longer exists, some people continue to relive the devastation. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can affect men and women who have served in the military, but it may also touch the life of anyone who has endured a shocking or frightening experience. How does the Bible speak to this overwhelming condition? Tue, 30 Oct 2018 17:42:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The horrors of war, traumatic events, and the evil in this world produce fear, anxiety, and a desire to fight or flight. These God-given responses are designed to help protect us from danger or harm. Yet occasionally, when the danger subsides and the threat no longer exists, some people continue to relive the devastation. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can affect men and women who have served in the military, but it may also touch the life of anyone who has endured a shocking or frightening experience. How does the Bible speak to this overwhelming condition? IBCD clean serial IBCD (IBCD) ℗ & © 2018 IBCD - Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship The Care & Discipleship Podcast discusses common topics in biblical counseling to help believers grow in their ability to care for one another with the word of God. Ministering to PTSD Helping the Family Through PTSD {Transcript} Fri, 26 Oct 2018 14:33:09 +0000 Go ahead and turn with me in your Scripture to 2 Peter, chapter 1, I am the last session.  This is the last session rather for our pre-conference.  I am not a session.  I realized that and I’m trying to figure out what in the world these metal boxes are on the back of these chairs.  Have you heard those go off.  Some pastor thought of that inevitably, how to keep people awake in the service or keep you still.  That’s what they’re trying to do to us.  We’re all afraid to move because the metal box is going to go off here.  Go with me to 2 Peter, we’re going to be in Chapter 1 here in a second, down in verse number 16.  I have the privilege of speaking to you in this last session in regard to helping the family through PTSD.

For those of you who weren’t here, perhaps, just a brief snapshot, so I had the privilege of teaching at masters up in Santa Clarita.  Also, I’m an associate pastors there and get to do counseling, but then the final thing is that I too have been able to help minister in this area of PTSD experientially from being a veteran and also being a biblical counselor.  Just to share with you a brief story, one of the reasons that couples often come to counseling is not because of PTSD, I don’t know if you’ve had a similar experience, but PTSD is something that comes up within counseling especially marital counseling.  I remember meeting with one couple and the husband was a former Special Operations Army Ranger.

They were going through great marital difficulty and it was getting to the point to where it was the compilation of PTSD, marital conflict, woes with children, he had had three children and an ex-wife.  He was now at the point to where in response to all of these things that he would take his prescribed medication in excess so that he would just pass out on the floor, and that in the middle of great difficulty his wife would come back into the living room and see him there zonked out on the couch, because he had taken so many of his prescribed medications.  They didn’t come to counseling because of PTSD, but PTSD was a huge, I would say significant contributor to the conflict that they were facing.

What you find often is that the family members are really the ones that kind of bear the brunt of those who are going through PTSD, especially when we talk about immediate family members.  I think of the wife, particularly, in this case, that would come back into the living room and she would find her husband zonked out on medication.  She was the one that had to care for their young child, but oftentimes, it’s the families that are the ones who are providing the most consistent and direct care for those who are struggling with PTSD.

For those of you who have family members with PTSD, you can identify with them.  That you have bore brunt in many occasions.  That you have served in ways that are greater than most counselors ever have with your loved one.  That the family member is going to be there more than the pastor is.  I don’t mean that because that’s the best or I’m not trying to make a case for how the family should be.  I’m saying that, that’s the way it is that the wife is there, the husband is there, the kids are there.  The parents are there.  It’s the loved ones that minister most to those struggling with PTSD, so my goal has been to help angle ministry toward the family and helping equip the family with how they can respond and minister to their loved one who’s going through PTSD.

I’m not saying that my family or your family or their families can change them, it’s not biblical, but they can help create environments that cultivate change.  I’m not saying that their families can change for them.  God doesn’t expect that as a family, but God does expect that your family is an environment that is conducive for biblical change.  If you remember from my first session this morning, even some of what Curtis talked about in this last session in regard to helping the individual.

One of the things that I’ve tried to say is that PTSD has a highly interpretative component to it, meaning the way that you interpret that original trauma influences the way that you respond towards that trauma, but one of the ways that we help equip those with PTSD, is we do that equipping with a biblical world view.  We want them to think about things the way God would think about them.  We want them to be able to think about their response in a way that God would want them to think about them.  I want to share with you just an experience within the Army and it’s not totally unique to the army, I’m sure other branches have their own version of this.  One of the things that we were regularly tested on was the ability to do land navigation.

Any Boy Scouts out here?  No confessions, one.  One Boy Scout, okay, so there’s no street racers, one Boy Scout, nobody who wants to be forgotten, right, that’s what we’re learning about this.  The idea of orienteering is simply the concept of land navigation and if you’ve never done the land navigation what it essentially is, is that you’re dropped off in the middle of nowhere.  You’re given a compass.  You’re given a map.  You have to be able to count how many steps you’ve taken and you’re told to go and find different places in that environment.  If you’re in the woods, go find your place in the woods.  If you’re in the tundra, go find your place in the tundra.  If you’re in the desert, go find your place in the desert.

What you do is you use your map, you use your compass, you use your pace count to go find that specific grid location.  It’s not always that straightforward and that you can’t just look at the map and say, “Okay, there’s grid location.  I’m just going to walk directly to it.”  You’re interacting with terrain, but often that you’re going to think this is the quickest route and you’re going to find that there’s this big water feature that’s going to run in right in between you and where you want to go.  What often happens is that in the orientation process where you are seeking to find your destination, you get disoriented.

What you have to do is you have to learn to trust your compass, you have to learn to trust your pace count and you also have to learn to trust some terrain features that you’re seeing.  You don’t exactly know where that grid location is that you’re going to.  You don’t exactly know where it is, you know it’s roughly that direction and your compass is taking you there.  What you do is you start to look around and you start to see these terrain features that are either confirming that or showing you that you’re not on the right path.  There’s supposed to be a ridge line here, there’s not.  There’s supposed to be a body of water here, there’s not.

What takes place is that in order for you to be effective in land navigation; you have to be willing to trust some of those cues that are leading you towards your destination.  I use this illustration frequently with families and I try to remind them that they are often like those terrain features, but you’re just doing your best to help confirm that your loved one is on the right track.  They’re going in the right direction.  That their goal is in fact that way and that you as a family are just simply trying to point them that way, and that the one who is actually doing the orienteering, the one struggling with PTSD.  They’re willing to trust family, to trust their family’s say into their life, to trust what the family has to say about the direction they’re going or the direction that they should be going.

What takes place is that if we begin to ignore those terrain features when you’re out doing orienteering, well, that road, maybe it’s new, maybe the water body has moved or like you fill it in with whatever.  If you begin to just say, “No it’s that way.  I’m not going to pay attention to any of these indicators.”  What takes place is you get lost, you frankly get lost.  When we think about the family’s ministry, it’s a lot like that, to where the family has this wonderful privilege to say, “Yes, you are headed down the right track and if you continue down this track, God will be honored, we will be blessed, you will be strengthened or there’s this process of reorientation.”  We’re saying, “Hey, you can’t go down this path.”

If you continue to go down this path, it’s just going to get worse.  You’re lost.  There’s great destruction that waits for you.  You’re not heading in the direction that God would want you to go.  This is just simply the idea of reorientation that I wanted to communicate to you.  I want to show a passage in scripture that I think helps demonstrate this idea of reorientation to truth.  Go with me to 2 Peter if you’re not there already.  I want to read for you just a few verses and then we’ll flip back and forth between Matthew 17 to put this in context.  When Peter is talking here, he’s talking about an experience that he had.  This is verse number 17.

Let’s start in verse number 16 just by way of context.  We didn’t follow cleverly devised myths.  This is 2 Peter, Chapter 1, verse 16.  We didn’t follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was born in him by the Majestic Glory, “This is the beloved son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

Pause with me for a second, I want to try to put in context that Peter is talking about here.  Maybe you’re familiar with Matthew 17; you’re familiar with the transfiguration.  Peter is actually describing a really significant event of spiritual high, one could say.  What took place is that Jesus was transfigured before, he, and James and John.  In the transfiguration he sees Moses and Elijah there with them.  In the middle of Peter saying, “This is amazing.  We should build a tabernacle.  We should commemorate this forever.”  He hears the audible voice of God say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  Think of this grandiose experience for a second.

This is what Peter is talking about.  We were on the mountain whenever Jesus was transfigured.  I heard with my own ear the very voice of God.  This is very significant.  Now this is the way that the passage continues, verse number 19.  And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter reminds the readers here that he experienced something pretty spectacular.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have anything to come close to that, like kind of have a couple of camp moments of some professions in the counseling room where someone has become a believer.  I don’t have anything like that.  I can’t come close to touching this grandiose experience that Peter went through in.  Now he’s saying that not only did we see the transfiguration, but we heard it.  It’s like this multisensory experience.  Then what he says in verse 19, and so profound to me.  Profound experience, Matthew 17, taking place, now verse number 19.  And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed.  You could actually translate that more reliable or more sure.

What he’s trying to communicate is that even though he had this grandiose spiritual high of highs that we have something that’s more fully confirmed and more reliable.  Then that’s when he transitions on to say that knowing this that first of all that it came to us by our own doing.  We didn’t make this stuff up.  This is God’s very word.  I feel the weight of what he’s saying though.  This is one of the most significant events in redemptive history.  Jesus was transfigured before you.  Yet, we have God’s word that is more reliable than that most grandiose of experiences.  What’s important for you to hear is that Peter is saying even though we have grandiose experiences or spiritual highs, God’s word is more reliable more sure, more authoritative than our experience.

That’s important to hear.  God’s word is more authoritative than your experience and in my experience.  God’s word is more authoritative than my really good experiences.  I’ve got a few.  I’m sure you can think of those moments.  You think of the conversions of your children.  You think of the time in your life when you came to Christ.  Even though we’ve experienced some really wonderful things, God’s word is more authoritative than our experiences.  Let me say it in another way, even though some of us have experienced some really terrible things, really traumatic.  Just once, just like it was last week, but they have a lifestyle of trauma that they have faced on a regular basis.  If we get this text right, we understand that God’s word is still more authoritative than my experience.

The reason why I want to point this out to you is that in the process of reorientation with our family members, we want to get them to a place to where we have them comfortably sitting before the word of God as authoritative over their experiences.  We want to teach our family members what Peter is teaching us here.  It’s simply this, your experience is important.  It is.  “Your experience is important,” please write that down.  Greg is saying, “Your experience is important.”  We do not want to minimize the experiences that others have faced.  How rude of us.  How crass that would be.  We are not minimizing anyone’s experiences.  They are important and I’m including the good ones.  The good ones are important.

I’m including the bad ones.  The bad ones are important, but here’s the caveat, your experience is important, but it’s not authoritative.  God’s word is authoritative.  It’s what Peter is getting at here.  God’s word is authoritative over your experience.  Let’s just scrap experience, it doesn’t matter.  No, that’s a totally wrong unkind, unwise, unloving response to experience.  It’s still important.  What we’re saying is that your experience is not authoritative, God’s word is authoritative.  As we minister to those who are loving family members with PTSD, we are prompting them to put God’s word as being authoritative over experience.

Great experience and bad experience, but God’s word is authoritative.  God’s word doesn’t minimize my experiences, it doesn’t maximize my experiences.  It simply is authoritative over them.  We want to help those who are ministering their loved ones see that the most effective thing they can do is subordinate the experiences of their loved one to the authority of God’s word.  It doesn’t mean they can’t trust their experiences.  It doesn’t mean they have to forget their experiences.  I don’t think that’s necessary and in some cases, I don’t even think it’s possible.

What it means is that in those experiences, we are seeking to help loved ones reorient themselves to the truth of God’s word, what it says about them, and their response in this difficult time, so that’s why you see this little phrase here, this is point 1a in your notes.  Being truth led is this first idea.  Being truth led versus being feelings led.  Just to be candid with you, Curtis has spoke about the idea of isolation.  When you’ve gone through significant difficulties, it’s really hard to feel like someone else knows what you’re talking about.  You just be candid.  When you’ve gone through some tragedies that those among us have gone through, it’s really difficult to truly believe that they know what you’re talking about that they can identify with you.

What can take place is that we slowly isolate ourselves, we slowly remove biblical wisdom, biblical truth from our life because now we don’t think that others can know what we have experienced or can identify with us.  One of the things that I’m hoping to teach families and minister to families then is by saying, “Hey, will you show your loved one that they must be truth led or were being feelings led.”  What do I mean by that?  Truth enters the world of emotions and it helps to organize thoughts.  We start to wrestle through what if I had done this, if I just done that, if only they had not have done this to me.  We can talk about guilt.  We’ve been talking about regret, rehashing flashbacks here in a second.

We want to start first of all at this 30,000 foot big picture premise that truth is the beacon of light that will shine into our interpretation.  That truth must lead us during this time against what my feelings are telling me.  That my feelings may not line up with the truth right now.  What my emotions are telling me may not line up to what God’s word says, but will I walk by the truth or will I walk by my emotions or my feelings in this time.  You see an illustration here in your notes and it’s simply the idea of being truth led versus feelings led.  I’ve used that with the links of a chain.  Seeing it expressed in different ways and the reason I use the chain is just candidly because I stole a chain from my children’s nunchucks and it just stuck around for counseling purposes.

In my desk, I have this chain that’s been hijacked from my kid’s nunchucks.  What I do is in the counseling room, when I’m sitting with a person and I’m trying to explain this process.  I grab the chain and I bring it out before them.  I begin to explain what it’s like to walk by truth versus walking by your feelings.  You see the first link in the chain as you see here in your notes is truth.  That if I’m willing to let truth lead my life and what takes place is that feelings, they’re ultimate aligned, they’ll ultimately get there.  Think of the link of a chain that sometimes it doesn’t always match up.  Maybe I’m in that phase of life where my feelings do not match what the truth says.  The truth says God is with me and I will never be separate from his love, but it doesn’t feel that way right now.

It’s okay.  That doesn’t have to ultimately be what’s going to lead me, because what’s going to lead me is the truth during this moment.  I try and describe this process with the links of a chain.  In the same way that if I’m going to push this chain, what’s going to take place is I’m going to run into great difficulty.  Everything is going to get messed up.  Life is going to get out of whack.  Here, you see the second figure.  When I’m feelings led, what takes place is that I try and push forward with my feelings and everything gets discombobulated.  If I’m a feelings led individual during this struggle with PTSD, what happens is I only make matters worse.  I have to be willing to walk by truth to walk by faith, not by feelings.

One of the things that we do as family members is that we seek to minister to our loved one’s by saying, “You can’t walk by your feelings right now.”  This is what you’re feeling, but this is what God’s word says.  Will you believe God’s word is being authoritative over what you feel in this moment?  Will you believe God’s truth over your truth right now?  What is that truth that you’re struggling with?  What’s that emotion that’s counter to what God’s saying?  Will you believe what God says over what you say right now?  2nd Peter tells me that his word is ultimately authoritative.

It doesn’t mean that everyone struggling with PTSD is going through this, but what we’re wanting to do is to see that those who are in PTSD must be willing to subject themselves to walking by faith and not by feelings.  I mentioned this just passing in my first lecture today that 2 Corinthians 5:7.  It characterizes our Christian life as one that walks by faith not by sight.  That will change.  The way the passage continues is it says that there will be a point where you walk by sight, because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  During this life, we are to walk by our faith not by our sight.  Our truth must interpret and direct our feelings, not vice versa.

We can’t let our loved one’s feelings direct them during this time, because, ultimately, they’re not authoritative, God’s word is.  God’s word is authoritative over what they’re feeling right now and maybe its good feelings.  God’s word is authoritative over those.  We want them to see that even if those feelings never aligned this side of heaven that God has still called them to walk by faith.  Even if you feel like you struggle with wayward emotions, would you still commit to doing what God’s calling you to do?  You don’t want to minimize the difficulty of that, but will you act out of your faith over your feelings?  We call them to do that.

One of the most effective ways that we call them to do that is through some form of taking what they’re thinking and subjecting it to the lordship of Christ.  That’s 2nd Corinthians 10:5.  The context that Paul is referencing is that any thought that would raise up against the lordship of Christ is the thought that I am willing to take in subjection to Christ to his lordship, so I use this idea of taking your thoughts captive.  When you’re going through this old family member, are you willing to take that thought and subject it to the lordship of Christ, to take it captive, to submit it to him?

The way that Paul is suggesting it here is that literally you’re to force your thoughts into subjection or use the idea of a fence, because it often connotes what I’m trying to get at in the counseling process.  Will you force them over there?  Will you pin and fence them in?  That you’re struggling with this thought.  It isn’t truthful, will you be willing to subject that thought to the lordship of Christ?  The way that Philippians 4:8 words that is that there are multiple criteria to discern if those are thoughts that I should be meditating on to the glory of God.  Imagine that there are individual slots for this fence.

Family member, is your thought truthful, is that true?  Are you in danger right now?  Is that thought honorable to you, to God?  Is that thought just?  Does it represent justice?  We use Philippians 4:8 as a means of helping define the way that they should be thinking during this time with that same principle at mind.  Will you subject yourself to truth over what you may be feeling?  Will you trust what God has to say over what you have to say in this moment?  If we help our friends, if we help our family members get there, then what takes place is that slowly we back off and we say are you doing this?  Are you taking your thoughts captive?  What are some of those thoughts that you’ve been struggling with?

They begin enumerate what’s taking place and then we say, “Okay, now, what would Philippians 4:8 have you to do or what 2nd Corinthians 10:5 have you to do?  How can you take those thoughts and subject them to the lordship of Christ?”  We walk with them as their family members, so that they are now thinking thoughts that are honoring to the Lord.  They’re subjecting their experiences, their thoughts, their emotions to God’s word as being authoritative over all of those things.  I want you to see that in the context of PTSD, Curtis has mentioned some of these, I have mentioned some of these, and there are typical areas that individuals struggle with.

The family can be equipped to minister to those typical areas.  I’ve used the idea of orienting.  The family can help orient them back toward truth and specific ways.  Some of those ways are ones that I want to highlight with you in our final time together and then I want to pull together just practical things that the family can and should do to minister to their loved one.  The first is the idea of shame.  This is the idea of shame.  Shame is something that should be evaluated to see if it is actually true authentic guilt.  That maybe there is a sense in which your loved one has done something shameful.  They have sinned.  You’re not wanting to just off load shame from them, no, just feel better, don’t think about that stuff.

Shame is actually a gift from God that can be used to move you towards repentance.  That there are certain things that we should be ashamed of, but then there’s also those who are experiencing shame when they are not guilty.  They have done no wrong, they in no way incurred that sin that happened to them.  They didn’t do that.  That wasn’t their fault.  In that moment, we’re wanting to orient them to the fact that they’re not guilty.  Will you trust what God says about you in this moment over what you say about you?  You’ve done nothing wrong, you didn’t deserve that.  You were legitimately sinned against.

Shame is something to where we’re willing to say, “Well, maybe you are guilty and maybe that you need to move towards repentance or will you trust what God says about you over what you say about you.”  Here’s what’s important to note is that shame is not self-determined, it’s derivative, meaning that we don’t get to pick what we are shameful over.  Let me explain for a second.  Some of us should be ashamed of things that we do and we’re not.  I’m not going to like sight new stories or I’ll go into history of different things, but there are certain things that we should be ashamed off and there’s no shame there.  Well, there are those who are ashamed and there should be no shame.  You’re not guilty, you’ve done nothing wrong.

Shame is something that is a gift from God to lead us toward repentance.  It’s a gift from God.  I don’t get to pick what I’m shameful over that God tells me what I should be ashamed of, how I should be ashamed, what that shame should look like when I transgress his law?  At the moment that I begin to make self-determination, the reason why I’m ashamed then I have now said, “Okay, my experience is more authoritative than God’s word.”  God’s word says that I’m not guilty, I haven’t done anything wrong, but I still feel guilty.  We’re saying, “Family member, would you invert that?  God’s word says you haven’t done anything in this particular moment to merit that wrong doing towards you.”

Will you trust what God says about you in this moment even though you still feel shameful?  Your loved with PTSD must be willing to see their shame as God sees it and to approach it with the remedies that he provides.  I try to say that in a way that’s generic enough for those of our family members who need to repent.  They need to do something different, they need to seek to offer restoration from what they have done, but for those who have done no wrong and are not guilty, they need to be willing to see that before God, they haven’t done anything wrong in this scenario.  Will they trust what God says over what they feel?  God’s word is more authoritative than their emotions.

One of the areas that a family member can help orient their loved one back is through guiding them through this balance of shame that ultimately it’s the way that God views them, not the way that they view them.  Another area and this is one that I’ll cover more in the breakout session tonight is the idea of guilt.  Guilt, it’s those sins that have been committed against them.  Guilt really has multiple facets within an individual’s life.  The individual can feel guilt over things that were done to them.  Some of you have experienced this egregious sins committed against you and yet you feel guilty.

For those who are struggling with wrongs that are committed against them, the family has to come and prop them up with a high view of human responsibility that their aggressor will answer for the deeds that they have done.  Hebrews 9:27 says that at the end of their life the aggressor will give an account for what they have done to you.  At the end of your life, family member, you will be given account of your own life.  You will give an account of the things that you did in the body.  Your family member’s abuser will answer to God for his or her actions.  This is why Hebrews goes on to say in the context of this that it’s a terrible thing to fall in the hands of the living God.  It’s a terrible thing.

Romans 12, goes on to say that he’s the avenger and vengeance is his.  For those who have been sinned against, one of the aspects that we want them to see is that they were not wrong and that their assailant, abuser, the one committing the sins against them, whoever you want to call that, that they are the ones that have sinned against them wrongly.  They must be willing to see that those were sins committed against them and that they in no way could merit them.  One of the ways that I will try and remind counselees of this truth is that no matter how terrible the person we are we can never cause another individual to sin against us.  That’s the theologically right version.  You can never cause another person to sin against you.

That person’s sin began, James 1, as soon as they gave into wayward sinful desires and then acted on you.  You didn’t deserve this.  We must be willing to remind our loved ones that everyone is responsible before God for their own actions. If they’re not guilty, then they must be willing to trust what God says over what they feel in this moment.  As I mentioned with shame and how shame is to help facilitate repentance that in a very real sense we have loved ones who are guilty and if they sense guilt over things that were committed by them.

I’m going to share a little more on Psalm 51 tonight.  Psalm 51 is actually written by the one who traumatized David that there are those in our families that were wrong and acted wrongly and feel guilty over that wrongness.  This is heavy news.  We don’t like to talk about this one.  In a very real sense, their guilt is appropriate.  This is always one that I have to brace myself.  I’m a small guy.  I get that from 165 pounds something like that, so in the counseling room I always have to think, “Okay, if this person comes at me, how am I going to get out of here?  I go left, I go right, I’m going to hide under the desk.”  I’ll say this many times and then I have to get in my kung fu stance.  Also, I’m really glad you feel guilty, praise God.  Praise God you feel guilt right now.

I’m in a kung fu stance.  Do I have to run out right now, is he going to jump across the desk at me?  Why do I say that, because a good gift from God or is that you feel guilty over the sins that you commit?  That, that guilt that you experience is not a means of death, that’s worldly sorrow according to 2nd Corinthians 7, but it’s a means of repentance.  That your guilt is actually to facilitate change in your life, so I’m glad.  Family members, we can be glad that are loved one feels guilty over sins that they have committed, but that guilt is not a terminal point.  That guilt is intended to facilitate repentance and change in their life.

What we take them to is that, “Okay, God is using this guilt to bring about conviction and repentance in your life, so will you repent and will you change?”  If you were in fact guilty, will you bear fruit and keeping with repentance? Matthew 3 verse 8.  Paul rejoices because the grief that he brought in the Corinthians was a grief that facilitated change and repentance not just for the sake of them grieving.  Not just for the sake of them feeling bad.  That our loved one who is struggling with guilt over things that they have done must recognize that there are remedies to their guilt if they would just receive them.

1 John, Chapter 1, in light of the faithfulness and justice of God, in light of those things that he will act in a way that is consistent with his character and he will forgive you, if you confess your sins.  Loved one, your repentance should be the result of your guilt.  Just so you feel bad, just so you’re mulling around in the bad things that you’ve done, but that, that guilt would move you closer towards repentance and greater Christ likeness.

Romans 8:1; is a verse that we often forget about for those of us who are guilty.  Romans 8:1; is a verse that’s written by a man who has committed flagrant traumas and crimes against others.  I’ve read to you some stories that he personally went through, but I didn’t read to you the things that he did to other people.  Yet, Romans 8:1; is a verse that says there’s now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Here we are.  Will you trust what God’s words says about you being in Christ Jesus or are you going to trust what you say about you?  God’s word is authoritative over your feelings and your emotions and your experiences.

You have to recognize that if you truly have been forgiven by God through Christ that, that verse is true for you that you don’t face condemnation.  It’s not because you’re awesome, it’s not because you paid the right level of penance and so now you’re good.  It’s because of the work that Christ has done on your behalf, so by faith, will you believe that and be led by that truth or will you let your feelings lead you during this time?  Our loved ones who are struggling with guilt, we’re trying to help them synthesize, will they believe God’s word even though they may not feel that way right now?

Last one is the idea of regret.  I want you to see, I love the way that Curtis mentioned this.  That regret is still under the sovereign control of God.  That maybe your loved one is struggling with regret over did they make the right decision?  Will they trust that God is sovereign over their decisions?  Will they trust that God can even use their malicious decisions to accomplish his purpose?  That’s what Joseph was telling his brothers.  That’s why Curtis brought that up earlier.  Curtis is telling the ones that who caused the trauma, God used your malicious decisions to accomplish his purposes.

Regret often needs to be vet with a right understanding of God’s truth, a right understanding of God’s sovereignty, right understanding that God works through people to accomplish his purposes.  One of those aspects is simply the side that God uses individuals to be ministers of his wrath.  This is Romans 13.  I don’t preach this one a whole lot.  God uses police officers, God uses government agencies and authorities to be a minister of his wrath to withstand and withhold the evildoer that you aren’t acting in a way that was malicious, that you are acting in a way that is faithful and that God uses the actions of faithful men and women to restrain evil among us.

Police officers need to hear that you didn’t just shoot a criminal, but you’re acting as a minister of God.  The pilot that dropped the missile doesn’t need to hear that they are guilty.  They need to hear that they were acting as a minister of God.  That God uses those people to accomplish his purposes.  This is important for you loved one to hear.  They were acting as a minister of God’s preventative grace on this earth; will they believe that truth over their feelings?  That God used them to stop and mitigate evil.  Families must remind them that their regrets are not founded on truth.  I want to finish by offering to you just some practical suggestions of how you can best orient your family toward loving ministry with those who are struggling with PTSD.

As I do that, I’m going to rotate my stand here a second, it’s bouncing around on me.  I want you to go with me to 1 Thessalonians 5:14.  If you’re a biblical councilor, I’m assuming that you are.  This is one of the passages that you must become familiar with, 1 Thessalonians 5:14.  I’ve tried to word it this way, in the practical steps for ministry that we’re to exhibit demanding patience toward our loved one.  Let me try and explain that, one author said this, he said, “The grace that adopts me into Christ’s family is not a grace that says I’m okay.  In fact, the Bible is clear that God extends his grace to me, because I’m everything, but okay.”  Isn’t that funny?  “We must exhibit demanding patience with our loved one that says we will endure, we will forebear, we will love you, but we expect for you to be growing, to be more like Jesus.”

This is 1 Thessalonians 5:14.  We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, but be patient with them all.  At times, it’s going to feel like your loved ones and one of those categories are all three of those categories, but what time of the day is it?  That’s which one they’re in.  Look how the way that Paul finishes this by saying, “But be patient with them all.”  No matter which you’re dealing with, you must be patient.  When I say “exhibit demanding patience,” that means that there’s no timeline for recovery, we’re not saying that we want you to be over this in six months, we want life to be back like it was before.

All we’re expecting is that you’re growing to be more like Jesus and maybe that’s a baby step, maybe that’s a half step, maybe it’s a millimeter more next week than you were this past week.  We will be patient, we will be loving towards you, but we expect that you a loved one, that you will be growing, that you are becoming more like Jesus in this time.  I want you to see that Psalm 51 paints a symbiosis of your outer man and your inner man.  I was talking with an individual earlier about the importance of how that works.  That in the middle of PTSD, you feel the complexities of body and soul, it is totally appropriate and wise for you to help facilitate any type of medical appointment, nutrition, sleep aid, whatever you can do to help solve the body issues that your loved one is facing.

Some would even suggest neurologists have a place in this conversation.  For those of you who, this is interesting to you, PTSD was actually believed to originally be a neurological problem that we face.  Whatever that looks like, I want you to see that it is totally wise and appropriate for your family to be engaged with wise medical doctors to help your loved one through this time.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that in my own life when I go without sleep, it complicates and makes everything more difficult.

Think of your loved one, think of how insomnia is one of the characteristics and symptoms of PTSD and think of how that now is going to exacerbate everything if they’re not sleeping right and eating right.  A family member would be willing to love them well by helping them towards doctor’s appointments, sleep specialist, nutritionist, whatever you can do to ensure that they’re in fact stewarding their outer man as best as they can.

The next are these ideas of circumstantial changes.  Let me just offer a few level of clarifications here.  When I say circumstantial changes, I want you to understand that we can be in a wicked and sinful environments and those wicked and sinful environments never cause us to sin.  Joseph and Daniel illustrate this for us and they do it well.  Your wicked, sinful environment can never cause you to sin.  Remember I said earlier that that’s a James 1 thing.  When you’re wayward desires have been drawn out and enticed and now you acted on them.  That’s where sin comes in.  The Bible does paint a high view of the importance of your environment, but many times it says things like purge the leaven from among yourself.  Purge the leaven from among yourself, meaning get rid of the evildoer.

1 Corinthians 5, we see that even the idea of allowing sin to be tolerated in the church is going to infect the entire church.  You got to be careful.  Your environment does influence you.  In 1 Corinthians 15:33, we see that bad company corrupts good morals.  Here’s the biblical balance of your environment.  Your environment can never cause you to sin, but it can encourage it.  I know you’ve been in that environment before.  It can’t cause you to make a sinful decision, only you can do that, but it can encourage you towards a sinful decision.  Here is just a way of expressing wisdom and biblical love towards your family member.

This is the idea of avoiding known stimuli or avoiding those things that promote and tempt your loved one.  Think this is the idea of exposure therapy, what exposure therapy does is this is the secular way of now saying, “Okay, loved one with PTSD, we’re going to have you talk about that traumatic moment over and over until you become okay with it.”  Okay, that sounds really terrible just to be candid with you.  The idea of avoiding known stimuli is that those who are struggling with PTSD have specific nuances to what triggers those thoughts.  Sometimes it’s a car ride, sometimes it’s a smell, sometimes it’s large groups, so that you’re doing your best to ensure as a family that we’re not causing unnecessary temptation towards our loved one.

Kids, we’re going to do our best to not scream as we run through the house.  We’re not going to slam doors.  We’re not going to yell at each other.  This is all just an outworking of seeking to make circumstantial changes that will help your loved one.  Some, it’s even the way that you come up behind them and touch them, but you’re not going to do that in a certain way, because you’re not wanting to tempt or elicit those thoughts of that painful circumstance from many decades ago.  Just simply see this as a means of the golden rule, which is your loving them the way that you would want to be loved.  We’re doing all of these things out of the means and desire of you to change.

I’ve ministered to couples who forced their families to do certain things their way and are unwilling to compromise, unwilling to go to large groups, unwilling to go to church, because it’s overwhelming for them.  What takes place over time is that now the loved one is not growing, but those circumstantial changes are seen as their only hope.  What I’m suggesting to you is that we avoid these as best we can now so that our loved one can continue to grow and learn how to respond toward them.  Remember the circumstances will never change the heart.

The next is this idea of accountability.  Curtis used this idea earlier.  Frequently as we’re ministering to someone with PTSD, we’re ministering to someone who can be volatile and potentially violent, but anger is one of the symptoms of PTSD.  There’s a short fuse.  One of the ways that the family member can wisely love their family member struggling with PTSD is identifying who they’re going to call in that heated moment.  Here’s just practically what that looks like.  That you have your family member pick who you’re going to call.  When you get heated, when you start to throw things, when you start to punch walls, who do you want me to call in that moment?  When that happens, I’m going to call them and they’re going to come over.

It’s interesting, you see this all the time.  Isn’t it interesting how sometimes we can exhibit more self-control when we’re in a public place than we would at home or sometimes when there’s another individual there that we’re prompted to be a bit more self-controlling?  Think of the arguments you’re in with your spouse, someone calls and you answer the phone and say, “Hello.  Oh, great, how are you?”  You just got done with this long drawn out fight with your spouse.  What the accountability partner does is they come in and they help deescalate the situation.  Many times when this has worked, it’s been somebody who lived nearby and was a Godly influence.  They just came and showed up.

When that individual with PTSD started to get escalated, this accountability partner just came, showed up at the house and was there to ensure that things didn’t get nasty.  This is the idea of being willing to provide or implement accountability.  A few more here, avoid significant free times.  Speaking with a lady last year whose husband had been diagnosed and discharged from the army and what had taken place much to his demise is that upon being medically discharged from the army because of PTSD that he didn’t have a job and he wasn’t working.  He stayed home by himself most days.  He didn’t need income.  He was retired and also receiving pension.  What was taking place is that her husband was missing out on the blessing of work.

Genesis demonstrates that work is a blessing and that idleness is not a blessing that we find satisfaction in what we do.  It’s not extraordinarily surprising to me when that loved one with PTSD has gobs of free time, how it’s just complicating and making things worse.  Why in the world would that be helpful?  Our goal is to help tweak schedules so that we’re ministering to our loved one by saying, “Hey, you just can’t sit home by yourself all day.  This isn’t helping.”  Whether it’s part-time work, whether it’s volunteer work, whether it’s serving the family, whether it’s serving the church, whatever that looks like as best as a person can, that person needs to use that time in a way that would honor and please the Lord.

Remember the days are still evil.  We must redeem the time still even in the middle of our struggle with PTSD.  We encourage our loved ones to fulfill daily responsibilities even though they’re struggling with PTSD.  What’s so difficult about PTSD is that it’s often not the original traumatic moment and the response to the original traumatic moment.  It’s now the complicating factors that are surrounding them.  Now, it’s the way that I’m responding toward my wife for instance.  Now it’s the fact that I don’t have a job and I have financial stressors that are piling up.  When we encourage our loved one to stay faithful to their responsibilities, what we’re saying is that in the middle of this great difficulty that God has given you the grace to be faithful to your responsibilities.

If you will do them by faith, he will continue to honor and bless that.  If you let those complicating factors come into play here, it’s only going to make matters worse.  If you shirk the responsibilities that God has given to you, it’s only going to make matters worse.  Family members, we love others by expecting them to be faithful to their responsibilities, that is an act of love and act of kindness.  Maybe those responsibilities are lessened, maybe those responsibilities aren’t as large as they once were, but they still have family responsibilities and we’re still encouraging them to stay faithful to those.  Two more and I’ll be done.

This may sound silly as a family, but as you get into the nuts and bolts of ministering to a loved one with PTSD, what starts to take place is it feels like you’re just rushing from appointment to appointment.  That you start to associate that and when is this going to be over with, when are we going to be done with this?  Slowly what happens is that you’re functionally ministering to your loved one in an atheistic way.  What I mean by that is that, there’s no thought of God in this moment, there’s no thought of how he’s using this trial, there’s no thought of how this trial is slowly refining them to be more like Jesus that we see relief as goal and when this is over as goal.

What takes place is that now relief becomes our God, comfort becomes our God or the way things used to be becomes are God.  A redemptive posture is one that says we would love for relief to come from PTSD and the symptoms you’re facing, but if it doesn’t come immediately, will you still grow to be more like Jesus?  Will you still allow God to work in this difficult time?  Will you be faithful?  Feel the weight of that observation for just a second.  A redemptive posture is one that says, “I can be a success in God’s eyes and struggle with PTSD because I’m honoring Jesus in this moment.  Not when I got done, not when the struggle is gone, but I’m responding faithfully now.”  Don’t let your family’s response toward your loved one.  Don’t let it become functionally atheistic.

It’s all about relief.  It’s all about getting better.  It’s all about the logistics of this, coordinating this and we’re going to pay for this.  Let it be one that is constantly focused on becoming more like Jesus.  Then for those who are being ministered to by loved ones.  This is the idea of Philippians 2:12 through 13; you know what’s fascinating about this text?  When I’m sitting with guys and at this point in my counseling ministry, it’s primarily guys going through PTSD.  When I’m sitting with these guys, I can say Philippians 2:12 is still true in your life.  You need to work out your salvation still.  As you do that in the middle of your struggle with PTSD, what takes place is that God works in you those willing to work for his good pleasure.

If you’ll be faithful in this time and then trust yourself to family members who love you, you will see God continue to grow and to strengthen you.  Remember that your family can’t change you as much as they would like to and they can’t change for you as much as they would like to, that you must be willing to own the responsibility during this time and to be faithful and to respond in Christ likeness.  That your family could this on your part, but they can’t.  You must be willing to own that responsibility.  The family is willing to say loved one, we can’t do it for you, but we can help you do it.  I’m convinced in the counseling room that your family is the most effective means of change to your loved one.

If you have a family that understands biblical truth and is willing to call their loved ones to subordinate their experiences, their emotions to biblical truth, then you’re going to have a family that is creating and conducive environment for change.  We need families that will prompt others to be truth led not to be feelings led.  We need families that like, Peter, see the word of God as being more reliable than our experiences, even our extremely spiritual ones.  Your family member needs to hear those things.  If we’re ever going to help our family members, we’re going to do that by pointing them to the word of God and saying that his word is more sure, it’s more reliable.

Will we trust it?  Will we trust it over the way we feel right now?  Will we trust what God says over what we say right now?  We want them to respond in this time in a way that doesn’t just bring about relief.  It’s important.  It doesn’t just bring about the way things used to be and that is always great if we can have that, but what we want is that they would respond in a way that results in praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, may that be our goal.  Amen.  Thank you guys, good to be with you.

Helping the Individual Through PTSD {Transcript} Fri, 19 Oct 2018 14:31:04 +0000 Welcome back. Thanks so much for making it back to our Pre-Conference on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder here at the Summer Institute. It’s good to see that most of you are able find your way back from lunch. I hope that your meal was satisfying and that doesn’t cause you too much trouble in the area of wanting to go to sleep. It’s always a challenging thing as a speaker to be up after lunch, but I pray that the Lord give both of us grace as we think about it and how to help the individual through PTSD.

This morning, I talked a little bit about demystifying PTSD that Dr. Greg Gifford got up and shared about the interpretive nature of posttraumatic stress disorder. In this session, I’m going to talk about helping the individual through PTSD and then he’s going to come back up later and talk about how to help families deal with the issue of posttraumatic stress.

The first thing that I want to point out to you and to remind you of, and I mentioned it a little bit earlier, is that when you’re helping somebody wrestle with posttraumatic stress issues, your confidence is in the Lord, it is not in you. You are not in this fight by yourself for sure and you are not the Messiah. You are not the one who’s supposed to give all the solutions, all the help to somebody. This can be really tempting and a lot of counseling scenarios. We need to remember this for all of them, is that we can try to take on burdens that are too great for us and do things that are not really our responsibility and that can be really damaging to our souls as well. Remember to put your hope and the hope and confidence of your counselee in Jesus Christ not in you.

One of the things that you want to do, the next thing you want to do when you’re dealing with somebody who is wrestling a posttraumatic stress is to demonstrate 1 Corinthians 10:13. We talked about this a little bit earlier on, 1 Corinthians 10:13 is a verse that is common to biblical counseling in all areas, no temptation is taken you except that which is common to men and God is faithful. He will provide a way of escape. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you’re able, but will provide a way of escape so you’ll be able to endure it.

That truth is true for every situation and it’s true for trauma survivors as well. For those who are wrestling with posttraumatic stress, they are not alone. This is harder sometimes with people who’ve gone through intense trauma to believe or to understand. What I’m saying and demonstrated, I’m saying go beyond just telling it to people because you can say here’s the Bible. The Bible says this. The Bible is true so you must believe it. That’s harder for people to believe than to just hear. If you can demonstrate the reality of 1 Corinthians 10:13, that’s going to help them get over that gap of you don’t understand what I’m going through. Nobody understands what I’m going through. I’m in this alone you can’t help me. It’s going to get them beyond that point to understanding and receiving the hope and help that God’s word can actually give them.

One way to do that is to use biblical narrative. I mentioned earlier on in the talk, some of the different situations of trauma that had been recorded in scripture and the scripture is full of them, from the fall to the flood to Jonah being sold by a fisherman. You just go through it over and over and over again. I kind of walked through a little bit the situation that Tamar went through in 2 Samuel 13. If you look at the life of Saul and David, I’ve taught before on them as a case study of how people respond to trauma, and to combat trauma and other types of trauma both in a positive and a negative light.

If you help people read the Bible through the lens of the suffering and difficulty that life has always held since the fall of mankind into sin. It can help them understand that they’re not alone. When they see the story of David who was a combat veteran, who went out, killed people, decapitated them, mutilated the dead bodies of his enemies to get his dowry, and then in Psalms 6, he’s describing sleepless nights where he’s soaking his couch in tears and his enemies surround him and he’s wrestling with these realities, that begins to help people connect their story to the story of scripture in a way that helps them understand, they are not alone. That demonstrates the reality of 1 Corinthians 10:13.

As you walk people through, I think at some point, pointing them to the life of Jesus Christ as one who didn’t live a perfect, happy-go-lucky life. Some people who are unfamiliar with the Bible or didn’t grow up in church, think the Bible is full of happy stories of people’s whose lives were great and hunky dory, but they’re not, and you know that if you’ve read the scripture. Jesus’ life, if you can help them reinterpret Jesus’ life in a way that is true and accurate according to scripture, they will see Jesus was an intense sufferer. Isaiah tells us that. He’s a man of sorrows and acquainted with much grief. Then if you can show them that, it also helps them understand Hebrews 4:14 and 15 that they have a high priest who understands where they’ve been, who understands what true suffering is.

Another way that you can help demonstrate this is to use fellow sufferers. The Mighty Oaks Warrior Program that I mentioned before and we’ll get to meet a couple of their instructors here in a little bit. Jokingly calls themselves a poke-a-vet program instead of a hug-a-vet program. Because of the connection that they have with other combat veterans, guys who come in to the program thinking nobody else understands what I’ve been through can’t say that because the instructors have all been through the program. They’re all former combat veteran. They’re all combat veterans who’ve been in difficult situations, who’ve seen the hardship and they’re able to get past the separation that people can throw up of you don’t understand what I’ve been through and they’re able to poke them in the chest and say, “No, we’ve been there.”

Let’s start talking about solutions rather than just focusing on the problems. Using people who’ve been through other difficult circumstances can help you get past that wall of disbelief of not trusting 1 Corinthians 10:13. Then if you are a person who’s been through trauma yourself, another thing you can do is use your own personal accounts. Use the stories of the trauma that you’ve suffered and then take that comfort and encouragement that God has given you to comfort and encourage them through that as well.

If you can share your difficulties, the hardships you’ve been through, that can sometimes bridge that gap and open them up to receive the counsel that God’s word has for them through you. 2 Corinthians 1:3 through 4 makes it really clear that we don’t have to have experienced the same traumas, the same trials that other people have, but there is a certain value of shared experience so that we can share those struggles. 2 Corinthians 1:3 through 4 goes on to tell us that the hope… The God of all comforts, comforts us in our afflictions so that we may comfort others in any affliction with the same comfort that we’ve been comforted with.

I wrote an article so I called, Growing Compassionate Counsel Through Imagination. That’s on the BCC website. I just talked about the fact that if you use your imagination to just put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and think, man, I haven’t been in combat, but if I just imagine the horror of having my life threatened and seeing one of my close friends killed right before me and feeling the guilt of what would that create in me? A sense of guilt of why him not me? Why Lord did you allow him to die and not me or why did you allow him to die at all? The anger and hatred you might feel towards somebody else and maybe actions that you took after that. Just try to imagine that and then think about truths from scripture that would offer you comfort and encouragement in those moments. Oftentimes that can point you to places in scripture that will provide hope and comfort and for those that you’re trying to minister to.

Sometimes they may not be as familiar with scripture, so your guidance and your counsel pointing them to different places in scripture is going to be abundantly helpful and you can be motivated and drawn to different places through trying to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine what you would be, how you would handle certain circumstances if you’ve never been there, but if you have been there in a wise and truth and loving and gracious way, use your own personal stories to connect them to that.

Another key factor, the next major point in your outline there is to establish and integrate them into community. Galatians 6:1 and 2 says that, you who are spiritual restore … When you see someone who is caught in sin and trespasses, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, looking through yourselves as well that you would not be tempted and in the same way. It just reminds us and it goes on to say that doing so, bearing one another’s burdens, fulfils the law of Christ. We are loving and fulfilling God’s command to love one another when we help each other carry the burdens of life that we each bear. That’s going to happen through community.

That term there, you who are spiritual, is not putting some section of the church above and other section as though those are spiritually elite people who can help other people. If you look in the context of Galatians chapter 5, it’s those who have the Holy Spirit and who are walking by the spirit, the passage right before that is talking about the fruit of the spirit versus the deeds of the flesh. In contrasting those and then says, and if you will live by the spirit, let’s walk by the spirit. Those are those who are spiritual according to Galatians 6:1.

Integrating them into a genuine, true community might start with your relationship. As their counselor, as a biblical counselor that they’ve gone to, to get help, you have a special place. One of the ways that you can just develop that relationship is the idea of a ministry of presence. Just being there, making yourself available to them when they’re struggling. We’ll talk about in a minute that you are not supposed to be the only person. We mentioned that in the beginning. Don’t think that you are the source, the Messiah, the solution to their problems but you do play a significant role. Be there but don’t make yourself the sole source of encouragement and hope. Sometimes just sitting there with somebody and suffering alongside them, weeping with those who weep is valuable. Helping them learn how to go to the grocery store without having a panic attack. Just walking them through these things can be a real benefit to you.

Then bring along other team members as well. Dealing with almost every counseling issue really should be a team effort not just an individual sport. It’s something that we work together in the body of Christ.

Another group of people you want to include in the counseling process is the person’s family. Very few other people have as much vested interest and seeing this person grow in godliness and dealing with the struggle that they’re facing than the family members. I’m not going to delve into all the particulars of that because Greg is going to deal with that later but definitely include spouses, brothers, sisters, parents, children, anybody else into that process to help this person have true communion not to isolate.

Then you also want to include the church for sure, maybe that is you, maybe you’re the pastor. The pastor or biblical counselor is going to be key to that. That might be you or it might be somebody else you might a biblical counselor working with other team of biblical counselors or underneath the pastor. Make sure the pastor or other leaders in the church are aware. There’s small group, small group leader that they’re involved in. It needs to come alongside and minister to the families, a whole meeting, physical need as well as spiritual, emotional needs. Bring them into that and then definitely two to three people of the same gender who are close friends of this person can reach out to and call at a moment’s notice when they just need somebody to help them gather their thoughts and speak the truth to themselves and think through this, the reality of what is going on and what’s not going on and if they’re not actually in the moment of trauma that they were reliving from years before but they’re somewhere else and they can really think through the truth.

One of the things that I remember hearing from Joni Eareckson Tada, you’re familiar with her and her ministry. It’s phenomenal what the Lord has done through that woman and she just exudes joy and the love of Christ even though she experienced lifetime of difficulty and struggle. When she was 17 dove into shallow water, broke her neck and has been paralyzed for over 50 years now. Been in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic, the longest living quadriplegic in recorded history and dealt so many other issues.

One of the things that she said after sharing her own testimony and even wanting to kill herself early on as she wrestled with what her new life was that isolation brings death but community brings life. We find life in our friends, in the community of people that God has brought around us, but when we isolate that can lead to death. As we talked about earlier on, it’s no wonder that people who are wrestling with posttraumatic stress want to isolate because of the things that their body goes through, the memories that they have, the other things that they’re experiencing sometimes with no known reason. It’s no wonder they want to isolate, but isolation is going to lead them to death and even thoughts of suicide and even acting out on suicide. Whereas this community of true love, true community not just people that are surrounded by, but true community, people who are going to get into their lives is going to bring life and really help them.

Then you remember earlier on in the morning, I talked about the fact that why people who wrestle with posttraumatic stress tend to isolate is they’re encountering things that nobody wants to encounter all the time. They’ve already gone to really horrific trauma. They’ve seen their friends and loved ones killed. They’ve been attacked. They’ve been through explosions and combat and violence and rape and difficulty. They have had their lives and the lives of somebody else around them threatened or ended.

Then randomly, seemingly at random with no desire of their own, no control of their own, these thoughts, these memories keep flooding back into their minds. Sometimes, it’s so extreme that they black out and they don’t even understand. I have one dear friend who is sharing with me one of the first times he went to Mighty Oaks. He’d been a combat engineer in the army and he was driving on a van. Sorry, messing up the timeline. He is at Mighty Oaks, which is on a ranch up in Central California, one of their locations. He’s in a van. He’s driving down the road and he goes from paved road to dirt road. Have you guys ever drove on a dirt road? It’s different when driving on a paved road, right?

What happens a lot of times when you’re driving on a dirt road is you start to kick up rocks. It make a sound of metal being hit by projectiles. He said he’s driving down minding his own business, not thinking anything and all of a sudden, they’re on a dirt road and the next thing he knows he’s waking up and there’s a guy giving him a sternum rub and another guy checking his pockets to make see if he has any medications that he needs to take. Why?

Because when he was in the combat theatre, he was in a heavy piece of equipment, he was getting shot, it has a ballistic glass so he’s technically behind bulletproof material but when you see AK-47 rounds embedding themselves into the glass in front of your face over, and over, and over again, you begin to think at some point that stuff is going to give way. He’s stuck and he can’t get away from it.

Those rocks hitting the inside fenders of the van, took him back to that place. He didn’t mean to do that. He didn’t know. He didn’t even know until reflecting back on it a lot later, that that’s probably what happened. You start to have those types of experiences where at random you can just black out. You’re not going to want go out and be with people, so you need to surround yourself that person with people who understand, who love, and who are going to fight that tendency to isolate. Somebody who can go with them maybe to the grocery store and walk with them and begin to identify, hey, they’re starting to amp up a little bit. Maybe we’ll just need to go sit on a bench for a little bit, talk about this, driving down the highway, start to feel a bit panicky.

They needed somebody that they can pull over on the side of the road and they can walk up and down the road and say, “Lord, help me to take my thoughts captive. I know I’m in a safe place,” begin to speak the truth to themselves like Philippians 4 would encourage them to do, say I’m not in Iraq. This is not the place where IEBs are going to be common. I’m okay. I’m safe. This is true. Pray to the Lord and ask for things and also have somebody on the phone, a friend on the phone who can talk them through all those different things.

You need to fight the tendency to isolate with true community, because that isolation is going to oftentimes will lead to death. Because the further and further and further away they get from relationships and the more they get consumed with just their own thinking and turning on themselves and having just a revolving door of their own thoughts, that can be a dangerous place and it can often lead to suicide or some other really perfect thing. You want to build a community of people around this person who loved them, who cared for them. They’re going to show them the love of Christ and point them to truth that they can remind themselves of regularly.

Another thing you’re going to want to do as a biblical counselor when you have the opportunity to is you want to help them reinterpret their history through scripture. You want to help them reinterpret history through scripture. One of the big things that people wrestle with, especially I don’t want to say especially in a combat situation, but in traumatic experiences that involve other people, whether it’s rape, abuse, some kind of attack or combat, is the issues of responsibility and forgiveness. Well, how many of you have ever had people on your counseling ministry that didn’t understand true biblical forgiveness? Everybody should raise your hand.

I mean the reality is that there’s radically bad understanding of forgiveness in our culture and in our churches, right? People just think an apology. I thought I’d just say, I’m sorry, it’s okay. That’s all that needs to happen. People don’t understand that the true nature of what forgiveness looks like a transaction between one person and another who’s promising not to hold things against them, not to bring it up to other people, all those things that hopefully you’ve heard about and learn in your biblical counseling training.

If you haven’t learned about that find out, find a good resource on forgiveness and read up on it. I don’t have time to go into all of it. When you’re dealing with somebody who’s been in a traumatic experience involved somebody else or themselves, there’s a lot of questions running around their minds about guilt, responsibility, forgiveness. What am I supposed to do in this situation or that situation? I know for combat veterans, it can be especially difficult when they have taken another person’s human life, another human life. When they begin to think about it like Greg mentioned it, it’s an interpretive disorder because they start to question whether or not that was a justified action.

Some of the guys that I work with, they’ve been in horrendous fights. I knew one guy who had been in a few different fights actually doing counter drug operations in Mexico against the cartels and he had an ice-pick shoved through his face, hit over the head with an axe handle. He had had a compound fracture of his arm where a guy fell on his arm and broke it in three places and I mean just crazy, crazy stuff. You think, man, all those fights would probably really bother him. The thing that bothered him the most, he was what’s known as a combat controller in the air force. They’re one of the jobs that they have is to be dropped in to enemy areas and call in air strikes on particular targets.

He was dropped in the First Gulf War ahead of the ground invasion and he was one of those guys that Norman Schwarzkopf would point to the little old school TV and watch them, the laser guy, the missile hit the target. He was one of the guys guiding those missiles in with the laser. There was a high value target in an area and he identified the target, called in, said, hey, there’s this target, and they said, okay, we want you take him out, call in an air strike. He calls back their non-combatants in the area, women and children. It doesn’t matter. It’s a high value target, we need to take him out and he wrestled with that, because he ended up going through with the attack and he said the thing that bothers me more than anything is that moment, can God forgive me for that?

You need to help them understand 1 John 1:9, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The reality is you might not be able to get into all the different intricacies of motivation, and who was right and who was wrong, who was in charge and who was making the call and all those different things. At some point, sometimes you can walk through those things a little bit. A couple of resources that are really helpful, putting your past in its place, by Steve Viars has a great section on helping people parcel a guilty past versus an innocent past.

Are you struggling because you were sinned against or because of sin that you struggled with? Then did you respond biblically or un-biblically and either a guilty past or innocent past situation, it’s a great resource. I encourage you to check it out. To help people just walk through those types of questions because they’re going to have those questions.

Did I do anything to encourage that guy to rape me? Was I responsible when my uncle snuck into my room at night and did that? Should I have told somebody when I didn’t? Those kind of questions are going to be running around in the mind of your person and you want to help them understand them from a biblical perspective. Take time and walk through those things and help them frame what they saw, what they experienced, what they did from a biblical perspective. The whole question of self-forgiveness, can I forgive myself? That is a big, big question with people who are wrestling after a traumatic event and help them understand true biblical forgiveness and finding the rest in the final complete work of Christ in his work alone.

Another helpful article is one on the BCC website by Dr. Bob Jones called Distinguishing Guilt From Guilt. He talks about the idea of false guilt versus true guilt and a few other things there. I encourage you to check out that resource, but help people walk through those questions. The other question you have to ask yourself they are going to be asking is, where was God? Where was God?

Joni Eareckson Tada shares in her own experience that she questioned early on after she broke her neck and was left a paraplegic, she wondered where was God? Was God against me in this moment? Did I do something that he turns his back and Satan shoved his heel into my hip and have me dive into that water and snapped my vertebrae?

The reality is, is we have to at some point in the process teach them to understand that God was there. Not only was He there, but He was active for some reason in bringing about this trauma and Greg talked about that earlier on a little bit that God uses with precision the suffering and the trials that he brings into our lives for our good and God’s glory. He brings about good things through our suffering. Walking them through the life of Joseph sometimes is a really helpful exercise because Joseph if you think about it, Joseph could have thought many times over and over and there are times in his life, if you look where he’s questioning God, where are you? I thought, I thought I was going to be this great guy who had his family bowing down to his feet, right? I had these visions when I was a kid and then I’m abandoned, falsely accused, all this difficulty, walk that person through Joseph’s life and help them understand a couple things.

One, when Joseph was going through the hardship, what did he have to hang on to? He had the promises of God. It kept him faithful. Then, you can take them to the very end of Joseph’s life, and say, look in Genesis 50 chapter 20, Joseph says these amazing words to his brothers, what you intended for evil, God intended for good. You see, Genesis 50:20 wasn’t put there so a bunch of like near reformed guys can get really hyper excited about the fact that God sovereignty, no, it was put there to comfort people who had done evil.

You can help the veteran who’s struggling with guilt over what they might now classify as moral injury and say, even if you had evil intent in your heart, when you did that action, there is hope that God can use if for good. The fact actually that they’re sitting there with you talking this conversation over is evidenced in the fact that God is using it for good. If God can take evil intention and use them for good, how much more can He can or maybe not how much more, but He can obviously also take good intention and use it for good as well. Helping them wrestle through those motivation questions, all those questions are really good but they need to understand God was not absent. He didn’t go on vacation. He didn’t turn His back. He was there. He was present and He was actively involved in your suffering.

Another question that is going to come up is, what was the point of my suffering? What was the point of my suffering? Why would God do such a thing to me? One maybe obvious answer is that you would be able to then help other people who’ve been in your circumstance. One of the things I love about Mighty Oaks is they encourage our guys to pay it forward. They say, you don’t have to have a PhD in Biblical Counseling, you don’t have to be a pastor, you don’t have to be a seminary guy. If you’re three steps ahead of somebody else, grab them and show them how you made those three steps and help them move forward.

There’s a lot of comfort and encouragement of knowing that, hey, my suffering wasn’t pointless. If I can turn around and help somebody else suffer well too. There’s a lot of comfort in 2 Corinthians 1 to be gained from that.

You need not also help them understand the idea of the world terms at posttraumatic growth and when I first heard this idea, it was like, oh man, they’re so close. It’s such a beautiful thing. I mean the secular world is recognizing that people can actually be better off after their trauma than they were before their trauma because of the trauma. We have an amazing thing in our understanding, in our world view, in our ability to understand called sanctification. I like to point from a fact that you’re going from PTS to PTS. You’re going from posttraumatic stress to posttraumatic sanctification. Amen.

I mean think about that. I mean Paul over and over, and over and all kinds of ways uses this idea that I’m better off now than I was before because of the trials that I have gone. They’ve drown me closer to Christ. Think about the terminology he uses in 2 Corinthians 12 where he says, “I have fellowship in his suffering.” When we suffer we are drawn closer to Jesus Christ so we understand him better and he understands our knowledge of his understanding of us deepens, as we truly experience the suffering that he has. The reality is sometimes the growth that you will have would not have come about if it wasn’t for the suffering that he went through.

How many of you just think about it in your own life. What are the seasons that have caused the greatest growth in your own personal sanctification? It’s typically not the easy happy go lucky fun times. It’s the suffering. It’s the trial. It’s the difficulty. We want to point them to the fact that God is using. What was the point of my suffering? I don’t know all of the benefits that God had in store for your suffering, but I know a few of them that I can point to you from scripture and then just keep praising the Lord every time a new one comes up.

I mean there are going to be people here today who will come up and who will talk to me, who will talk to Greg or to other people who’re going to say that thing that you shared helped me do X. Well, a lot of the things that I’m learning I’m not learning from me. It’s not like I have some great brain that’s just creating the stuff I’m drawing it out of God’s word and I’m drawing it from the life experiences of people that I get to experience. I get to go back to that person that had that testimony, have that store and say you know what your testimony of the suffering that you went through and the growth that God had a new life helped dozens more people this conferences being here. Amen.

I mean there’s just an endless number, an infinite endless possibilities in the growth and the benefit that can come to your suffering and think about this. Just let this point sync home for you for a second. The greatest good that has ever occurred in all of history came through what? The worst traumatic event that ever occurred in history, that the shed blood of Jesus Christ the father turning his back on him when Jesus the God in the flesh cries out, my God, my God why have you forsaken me and it is finished. He was murdered as a capital criminal even though he was entirely innocent. He wasn’t just murdered he was tortured and then murdered.

A completely innocent human being who also was divine, the creator of the universe, the word made flesh was executed in the worst and most horrible bloody long drawn out form of execution anybody has ever imagined and God took that to bring us salvation. Amen?

The greatest good in all of history of all time human and otherwise was brought about through the worst trauma that could have ever have been executed ever. When you can bring that reality home to somebody who’s been through horrific suffering and they can begin to experience the unity and the fellowship of Christ and understanding his suffering and the potential for the good that can come about through that suffering oh, what a blessed day that it is when God opens their eyes to see the potential of the good that he can work through the worst times that this person has ever suffered.

PTSD as an Interpretive Phenomenon {Transcript} Fri, 12 Oct 2018 14:28:38 +0000 Good to be with you. IBCD does a wonderful job of being organized and timely and kind throughout this whole process.

Thank you. It’s good to be here with you. Special thanks to Craig Marshall for organizing, keeping us all on track. Being communicative with us speakers and I’m sure you’ve had the same experience as guests.

Just been very pleasant so far, and I also get the blessing of coming to you while your brains are still fresh. It’s the nice thing about a pre-conference is that your brains haven’t start to harden through all the information that you’re going to take in over the next–

I can totally ruin your brain capacity for the next two days if I’m not careful.

Let me tell you just a little bit more about myself that might be helpful for you to know. He mentioned, Dr. Newheiser mentioned already that I do teach biblical counseling at Master’s University. That’s about three hours from here, depending on what LA traffic is doing. But I also have the privilege of getting to pastor part-time. So I get to be a pastor of counseling in my church. Doing the work of counseling and training other counselors to do that work.

That’s important to hear, because I am in the trenches with you, when it comes to this stuff. I never want to just be an academic and teaching. But I want to be in the trenches helping.

So some of this is spoken from that vein of what has been helpful in the counseling room, and what we’ve used in other scenarios for those going through PTSD.

But the last dynamic that has already been briefly mentioned, is that I also am a veteran like Curtis. I had the privilege of serving in the United States Army for 4 1/2 years. I signed up in 2007, and if you think — this is crazy this has already been 11 years — but if you think back 11 years ago, that’s the height of the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan War. And as I went in, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I signed up to be what was called an officer candidate, which means that I had the privilege of competing for my job and I ultimately became a signal officer and served 4 1/2 years as a signal officer, or a COMMO guy.

I primarily served in Asia. Primarily within Asia on the Korean DMZ. Something that’s been increasingly popular here, lately. There’s a few United Nations camps there. Spent most of my time there, and also in Japan, in Okinawa.

So this topic of PTSD is something that’s been very dear to me, and that’s been true for some time. Let me try and explain some of the reason that is true. Is we were preparing to get out of the military; this was roughly 2012. What was taking place is that the wars were both drawing down, and it was that year that Afghanistan was pledged to have another draw-down of forces. And so troops were being brought home from places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Places that we had been for many years. And troops were coming home and were being diagnosed with what was called “PTS”, or “PTSD”. Depends on how you want to define it.

And they would come home, many of them my colleagues, and some of them my friends, would come home and were diagnosed and occasionally medicated. And some even given pensions from the VA because of what they were going through with PTS or PTSD. However, there was very little hope for change. As I was coming out of the military, my peers were diagnosed, and they were given resources to learn how to cope, but they weren’t given any promise that, “You can work through this,” that “It doesn’t have to be like this the rest of your life.” Or as Curtis was saying in our last session, that, “You are not your PTSD. It’s not your identity.”

It was a really, kind of grim situation and as I was looking from a biblical landscape, I was also noticing that we didn’t have a lot of biblical resources that were out there. I think Tim Laehn’s booklet that you just saw was one of them. Jeremy Lelek wrote another one. Those were functionally it, in 2012.

And so I don’t pretend myself to be a wonderful person, but I thought, “Well, man, maybe I could start something. Maybe I could help in some way.” And address those blind spots. So that’s where I really started to research, and dig in, and seek to orient my ministry towards those struggling with PTSD.

Some of that is what I’m going to share with you. Some of that is what Jim mentioned in my book. That this all came to fruition last year as I sought to publish this, and make this available to those who are families going through this with a loved one. And so as I wrote that, I wrote it for the family member who has someone dear to them who is going through PTSD.

So in a room this size, I echo what Jim said earlier, that I know that’s why some of you are here. That you’re thinking out of a counselee, that you’re thinking of a loved one. So hope to equip you with ways to think about that. Hope to equip you with certain responses that you can take. But as we do that, let’s start by going in our scripture to 1 Samuel. Go with me to chapter 18.

As we’re talking about the phenomenon of PTSD, I’ll share with you– spoiler alert! That one of the main thrusts of my book is this simple statement that, “PTSD is an interpretive phenomenon.” And I hope to explain to more clearly throughout our time this morning.

PTSD is an interpretive phenomenon. First Samuel 18, this is the verse that you see at the top of your notes. This is just the small tid-bit of trauma. We see chapter 17 finishing with what Curtis was talking about, and how this young youth slayed a giant. Not only slayed him, but killed him, decapitated him. Brought back that mutilated body to the king. And then now there’s a song being sang about this young David.

‘Cause the text says here, this is verse number 5 of 1 Samuel 18, it says, “David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. And as they were coming home, when David returned from striking the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing to meet King Saul. They came with tambourines, with songs of joy. With musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated.” And this is what they sang. “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” What a song to be welcomed home to.

Now, I’m from Georgia. Even we don’t sing songs like that. Sorry if you’re southerners out there. I’m imagining that you don’t teach your kids that one? “Saul has struck his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Think about what they’re celebrating just for a moment. Think about the atrocities of what have occurred. You’re celebrating a Philistine that was just killed. You’re celebrating all the military victories that were taking place. The death. The conquering of the enemy by David. You’re celebrating all of this, and it’s coming out in a song that says, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands”. That sounds more like a taunt, but we see that that’s the way that Saul took it. Saul was immediately jealous. “He’s killed more people. He’s having more success on the battle field than I’m having. He was brave and courageous when I was a coward.”

So he immediately becomes suspicious of David. And we see the narrative continue that from that point he continues to seek to get rid of David. What I want to point out to you is that they’re celebrating something that perhaps we would identify as being traumatic. You just want to use the death of the Philistine that immediately proceeds this. Or you want to think of the war, the conquering of the enemy that immediately precedes this. That these women were looking at this trauma from a certain angle, and they were celebrating those traumatic events. It’s fascinating.

Have you ever wondered this? Have you ever wondered why two different individuals can experience the same, exact, traumatic event. One develops PTSD, and the other does not. Have you ever wondered about that? Why is that so? Think of car accidents. Many of you have been in them. Think of great crimes, think of combat. Think of natural disasters. Why is it that two people can experience that same, traumatic event? One develops PTSD, and the other does not?

Well, that’s what I hope to spend our lecture today talking through. Is the nature of what that’s so, and how we as biblical counselors can help minister. The reason, I would suggest to you, is that some people like the women in Israel, they viewed trauma from a different perspective. They celebrated it. Just talking with a brother down here, who has special operations guys in his church. There’s a different approach by our special ops guys towards traumatic moments. And there are those who are civilians who have never been in a combat scenario.

Maybe it’s the way that the women of Israel were viewing it. Maybe it was the way they were interpreting it. But I want to point a few things out to you as we talk that through. So that there is secular research that would suggest the way you interpret the event is going to shape the way that you respond to it. But there are many factors that would shape that interpretation.

Even the interpretation of your trauma is influenced by your body. And if you remember some of what Curtis just shared, the physiology of PTSD. It’s an important factor, and we’re going to spend just a few minutes talking it through. But what they would say is that the reason why you interpret trauma in a certain way, is because of your body. Or your genetics. So at one point it was actually believed that those who develop PTSD were constitutionally weak people. I don’t think anyone would say that these days. There’s no one espousing that position.

But at one point it was believed that they way that we remedy PTSD, is that we get rid of a conscript army, and it’s all volunteer. So that anyone who would go to combat is there by their choice. We’re going to develop a professional soldier. Why did they do that? Because they believed that the reason why they were developing PTSD was because of the fact they were constitutionally weaker. Or their genetics were inclining them away from this.

There are other factors that would influence your interpretation. One is that of your sociology. Kind of the environment in which you were in. Your cultural influences. Your family. All of those are shaping influences for how you interpret trauma. We think back to the time of Israel, and all that the victories of David meant for these women singing this song. They’re interpreting that through a sociological influence. They’re interpreting that trauma based off of what all of that trauma means for them as a nation.

That’s really important to note. We’re going to spend some time talking through why you interpret things the way you interpret them. I’m going to hope to offer you some biblical suggestions as we do that. But as we continue to do that, I want to share with you a story from Vietnam.

Vietnam’s not that far away. It’s not that far away that many of you perhaps have a father or an uncle who was involved in the Vietnam War. And you remember the stories of how this war was. Just so terrible. I want to tell you of a story of a civilian who was involved in the Vietnam War.

Her name is Phan Thị Kim Phúc. I’m gonna call her Kim, hope you guys are okay with that. Perhaps you would better know her as “The Napalm Girl”. Reason you would know that, is because on June 8, 1972, Kim’s village was bombed by a South Vietnamese Napalm attack. There’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph that shows Kim as a 9-year-old little girl, running down this road, screaming with her hands behind her. Crying, because she had just been burned by the Napalm. That photo captured the atrocities of the war.

If you look close enough at the photo, you can see that Kim has skin hanging off her arms, and that there are certain colors of her arms that are actually different colors. There are certain parts of her arm that are different colors. She was burned. The reason why she was naked is because her clothes were touched by Napalm. She’s running away, stripping them off, so that she’s not continuing to be burned, screaming.

What happened that day, according to her account, is that she wasn’t actually being targeted, but the South Vietnamese had been bombing trade routes used by Viet Cong Rebels. She says, “I had not been targeted. I had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Those bombs have brought me immeasurable pain. Even now, some 40 years later. I am still receiving treatment for burns that cover my arms, back, and neck. The emotional and spiritual pain was even harder to endure. And yet looking back at the past five decades, I realize that those same bombs that brought so much sufferings, also brought great healing. Those bombs lead me to Christ.” She has a memoir that has just come out where she says this.

She looks back on that traumatic moment where she was burned, where she was bombed, where she was running naked down the street as a 9-year-old. And she looks back, and she says, “I give thanks for that road.” She says, “I give thanks to God for everything, even for that road, and especially for that road.” Her being burned, embalmed by her own people was a traumatic event. Most of us could agree with that.

And as she looks back on it, the way that she responds to it is one that gives thanks and recognizes that that traumatic moment was the beginning of her journey to become like Jesus Christ. And that God used that terrible, traumatic event in her life to draw her to Himself.

I point that out to you, because what’s significant about Kim’s response is that in light of this trauma, Kim has not developed the symptoms of PTSD, to this point. Not as of March this year. Why is that?

Well what I want to show you is that PTSD is an interpretive disorder. This is the blank that you have in your notes, I think the only one that I’ve given to you. PTSD is an interpretive disorder. Meaning, the way that one perceives the trauma, determines their response to the trauma. The way that Kim interpreted the trauma that day of being bombed and burned has influenced her response. One that to this point, has not entailed PTSD.

I know that that’s a controversial statement, so we’re going to spend some time unpacking what I mean by that statement. That’s the basic thrust of what I want to communicate to you. PTSD is highly interpretive. The way that one perceives the original trauma, determines their response to it. Okay, so I know that there’s the mathematician among us who likes exactness. So bear with me. I don’t really like the term, “determines”. We could swap that one out. Let’s take out “determines” and let’s just say that it simply, strongly influences your response toward the trauma. Maybe we’d be more comfortable saying that.

But what I want you to see, is that when the women sang the song celebrating David’s victories of trauma, they were interpreting trauma. And what that traumatic moment meant for them as a nation.

When Kim reflects back on the bombs that led her to Christ, she is interpreting trauma. Those traumatic moments in a 9-year-old’s life she’s looking back on, and interpreting.

When individuals who are struggling with PTSD look back on the trauma, they are interpreting. You have to see that. They’re looking back. They’re exerting an interpretive effort. The struggle with PTSD is one that is highly interpretive. I want to show you this through two definitions. I have them inverted here. Let’s start with the Veteran’s Affairs definition of PTSD.

So what Curtis did is he walked through some of the symptoms that those facing PTSD would go through. I want to share with you just two, maybe synopsis statements about PTSD.

First is from the VA. The VA would describe PTSD as, “A mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing life-threatening events, like combat, natural disaster, car accident, or sexual assault. PTSD is not,” I want to you listen to this next part. “PTSD is not, nor has it ever been associated or exclusively tied, to those who have only experienced physical injuries.” There has consistently throughout history of PTSD, been those who’ve said that, “You must have faced a physical injury, in order for you to have PTSD.” And then there’ve been those who have said, “No, you don’t have to have faced the physical injury, meaning that you weren’t physically hurt, but that you saw that physical hurt happen to someone else.” At no point has there been one or the other where exclusively it’s believed that it’s only a physical injury that happened to you, or it’s only this immaterial injury that could happen to you. That’s important. There’s always been a debate about that. Ever since we can go back to the late 1800’s when PTSD started to be formalized and practiced, and counseled for.

So PTSD, you must note, according to this definition, can be instigated from both an immaterial and a material trigger. This includes that you were part of it, or that you witnessed it. Someone you loved was part of it. Think of soldiers in a unit. Think of a loved one in a car accident. Think of family members in a natural disaster.

The APA would define trauma as this. It says that, “Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event, like an accident, rape, or a natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical.” You remember Curtis brought up the idea of “A normal response to abnormal circumstances”? Trauma is that abnormal circumstance. We can be okay in saying that. But what the APA goes on to say is that, “PTSD is an anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events. Such as combat, crime, an accident, or natural disaster.”

I want to highlight from both of these definitions the thought that you don’t have to be physically injured in order to develop PTSD. You don’t have to BE in the car accident. You don’t have to BE wounded in combat. You don’t have to be injured through the natural disaster in order for you to develop PTSD. Both of these definitions are suggesting that your post-traumatic-stress symptoms can develop when you’ve witnessed these things take place. It’s important. That’s important because one doesn’t only develop PTSD when they are injured. When exposed to significant trauma. But they develop PTSD when they interpret something to be traumatic.

Think about that for a second. That you can develop PTSD through witnessing a traumatic moment. In your mind, you observed something that’s out of the ordinary. It’s that abnormal circumstance. You observed that traumatic moment. And now you are struggling with some of the effects of PTS or PTSD in your mind.

The reason why that’s important is because then we have to beg the question of, “Well, what is traumatic?” What is a traumatic moment? Think of that. You don’t have to answer that out loud. What would you describe as traumatic? Because what you may describe as traumatic is different from what I may describe as traumatic. And the person next to you. And the people around you. Why is that? Why is the way that you would describe traumatic, different from the way that I would describe traumatic? Why is that different?

It comes down to the way that we interpret trauma. Meaning that what may be traumatic for me may not be traumatic for you. Maybe you’ve faced that multiple times. Or what may be traumatic for you isn’t traumatic for me. Maybe you’ve faced that. Maybe I’ve faced that multiple times, and for me it’s not a struggle.

Well when we talk about those who are witnessing traumatic events, they are in the process of doing interpretation and synthesizing, “Is this something that I should be fearful of? Is this something that I should be concerned about? Am I in danger? Am I being hurt?” What’s taking place is that we are interpreting that trauma. I want you to think of the carnage that medical doctors see on a regular basis. Think about this. Some of you may be medical doctors, you don’t have to think about– this was earlier, today. Why is that not traumatizing for them? Why is it not traumatizing to do open heart surgery? I asked one doctor this. We mentioned him earlier. His name is Charles Hodges, biblical counselor. I asked him this question. He said, “As a physician, I have witnessed amazingly terrible events. Like open heart surgery. It doesn’t bother me. Yet in another context, seeing someone’s chest torn open might bother me a great deal.” And this is what he finishes by saying. “So that interpretation depends on the context.” That interpretation depends on the context.

If you were to see the carnage of open heart surgery on the side of the road, that would change your interpretation of that moment. And not to be crude, but it’s the same blood and guts. It’s the same mess. Why are you interpreting it differently? Well, because of the context. I want you to see that the way that a person interprets that traumatic moment determines, or greatly shapes, their response to that traumatic moment. And in the middle of terrible traumas that we all face, we are all meaning-makers. We are all interpreters. We are all processing. We are all synthesizing.

So what I’m hoping to offer to you that at the core of the problem of PTSD is one of interpretation. I acknowledge physiological influences towards interpretation, and towards responses. I’ll clarify that in a second. I acknowledge those. But at the core of the problem of PTSD is that we are meaning-makers who are looking at traumatic moments, seeking to synthesize and understand what in the world happened.

So thus, at the solution and at the core of how we can help people going through PTSD, is that we help offer to them a biblical worldview of how they can view that original trauma.

You know, we can be candid as biblical counselors and say that there are physiological influences that impact your interpretation. That doesn’t have to make anyone in this room twitchy. The way that I hope to explain that is that those physiological influences still don’t cause you to make sinful decisions. Let me see if I can clarify that. So I’m at the point in your notes where you see “Influences of Interpretation”, and we’re at the point of “Genetic Predispositions”.

Scholars actually believe that you are genetically even inclined towards PTSD responses or not. One scholar in particular, Dr. Armen Goenjian, of UCLA, he observed that after the Armenia earthquake in 1988, he took samples of DNA from 200 different individuals. The people spanned several generations, and were from 12 extended families, who suffered PTSD symptoms after the disaster. The family’s genes showed that those who had specific variance of two genes were more prone to PTSD symptoms. Those genes were TPH1 and TPH2. And those are the genes that help control the production of serotonin in your body.

So what serotonin does, is it’s a brain chemical that regulates mood. Sleep, alertness. And most would believe that serotonin is interrupted during PTSD [inaudible 00:25:47] influenced its production level.

What this doctor is arguing is that those who have this certain gene are inclined towards PTSD. And that their influence, or excuse me, their interpretation of that original traumatic moment is now based off of their genetic composition. What he would suggest is that if we want to know who has a proclivity towards PTSD, let’s do genetic testing, and then we’ll know that. ‘Cause we can find similar strands of DNA.

There’s also another popular movement taking place, and this is the idea of brain versus mind injury. That one of the distinctions that I’ve already offered to you is that there is a difference between the physical explosion being experienced by you, and the physical explosion being observed by you. There isn’t a difference between you being in the accident and you observing the accident. Well, what’s taking place is that increasingly now, there is the idea that your brain is what’s causing your PTSD.

Recently on 60 Minutes, your brain was even more specified with the gray matter. They took an autopsy of a soldier who committed suicide and was diagnosed with PTSD, and they were studying the gray matter around his brain. Making the hypothesis that potentially it’s that gray matter that encouraged him to develop PTSD.

The American Legion, for those of you who are familiar with The American Legion, it’s a group of individuals who seek to serve to veterans of foreign war. American Legion did an article recently observing how electrical stimulation has been helpful for those with PTSD. They’re suggesting that if you can have little zaps that would take place within your head, that the neuro pathways that aren’t firing will be opened back up. So those who are going through PTSD are now faced with these brain solutions to what they’re going through.

Some believe that the physical organ of the brain can cause PTSD. Some believe that your genetics can cause PTSD. But as I said earlier, I want you to recognize that never in the history of PTSD has it been accepted that it’s a body only. But that there is an immaterial component to why one person develops PTSD and when another does not.

So, is it okay for us to acknowledge that there are potentially physical encouragements toward PTSD? The answer is yes. Absolutely. That shouldn’t create a problem in your counseling, in your ministry, in your thinking. That it is very possible that we have physical encouragements towards PTSD. But the clarification comes for us as biblical counselors, when we say that even if we have bodies that are encouraging us towards fear, for instance, that I never have to give into that fear, because God has promised to give me the grace to do what’s right.

So I may have a body that’s encouraging me towards anxiety. I have one of those bodies; I don’t know if you have one of those. But my body can’t make me give in to anxiety, from a biblical perspective. So you recognize that it’s not a problem for us to observe that your body, maybe your genetics, maybe the organ of your brain, is encouraging you towards some of the PTSD symptoms. That’s okay. But God gives us grace in those moments to make accurate interpretations and respond in a way that honors and pleases Him. So the first is this idea of genetic predispositions that segways into your brain, and your mind, and how those interplay.

The second thing that helps influence your interpretations are sociological influences. Think of the environment that you live in. Social influences are shaping you, and informing you, and teaching you what is even traumatic. Have you ever thought about that? That your social influences actually teach you what is trauma. What you view as being a traumatic moment in your life. And that your social influences also help inform how you respond to traumatic moments in your life.

Research was done after the 2004 tsunami by a professor at York University, and he just made some basic observations about the Sri Lankan people. Here’s what he said. He said, “Immediately following the tsunami, Sri Lankan people’s top priority seemed to be aiding those around them rather than seeking treatment themselves. Behaviors that many viewed as signs of denial and shock, and considered to be warning signs of PTSD. Despite the persistence of Sri Lankans to continue to help those around them, the therapists continued to encourage them to stop, and to take care of themselves first. However, in many cultures the practice is to help others before you help yourselves.” Couldn’t stop! “Hey, guys, you need to stop, you need to focus on you. You need to take care of you first, before you minister to another person.” The Sri Lankans weren’t responding in that way.

I don’t know if you remember, but thousands upon thousands lost their life in this natural disaster, and their culture was informing how they should respond to this traumatic event. The culture of the Sri Lankans encouraged them to respond by serving others. This is what Dr. Muller goes on to say would prevent the development of any psychological problems.

Anthony Marsella, of the University of Hawaii, goes on to say, “Is it possible for us to develop a psychological disorder outside of our cultural influence?” And he says, “No. A reasonable point of view is that all disorders are culture-bound, including all western disorders, since they emerge, are experienced, and are responded to within a cultural context.” It’s just a big way of saying that your culture informs the way you view trauma and what is traumatic.

Which just in passing, earlier I mentioned this some in the book. I had the opportunity to minister by a group of individuals within the army called the Army Rangers, if any of you are familiar. It’s special operations community within the army. That is a subculture that informs the way that a person view trauma, traumatic moments, or trauma. There are special operations guys here, you would say the same thing. That that subculture of your special operations unit has informed the way that you would view trauma. Why is that?

Because your sociological influences shape the way that you interpret trauma. And they also shape the way that you respond to trauma. So can it be that your culture shapes the way that you view trauma? Of course. No problem with that. Shouldn’t create problems for you as a biblical counselor. But that your culture never determines how you view. It doesn’t have to determine. It doesn’t have to determine how you view it, and how you respond to it.

Let me highlight just one other segway here, which is the idea of other influences. It’s also believed that your families help shape the way that you interpret trauma. Your familial influences, meaning that some of us come from families, that– give the southern-ism here. That “make mountains out of molehills”. It’s a southern-ism. And that others come from families that want to minimize the most heinous of events. That your family actually informs the way that you’re interpreting trauma. Do they maximize it, do they minimize it, do they exacerbate the pain? Do they keep bringing up memories in unhealthy ways? Your family can actually make this worse, and I hope to argue for you later on, that your family can actually contribute to solutions.

But here is the one that I really want you to catch. This is the last influence on your interpretation. This is a lynch pin of sorts. One of the most important observations from secular researchers, is that religious influences respond or shape our response to how we interpret trauma. That your religious influences are some of the greater influences in how we interpret trauma, and our response to trauma.

One professor up at West Point, he said that out of studying eleven different reviews of those who had PTSD and their associations with religion or spirituality, he found that higher scores on one measure were correlated to higher scores on the other. What he was doing is observing the data, and through the data, not a believer, not trying to make a case for religion, he said that those who have a religious worldview respond better to traumatic moments and traumatic events.

Two more professors would affirm this, both at UC Berkeley, or one at UC Berkeley, one at UC San Francisco. They said the two most influential, cognitively oriented formulations of trauma response. The two most important factors about the way you think about trauma are this: The importance of beliefs and linked emotions about the self and the world. The importance of your beliefs, and the linked associations about yourself and the world. I love this. It’s hard to say this and not smile. This is our lane. This is our lane. What else is the Bible, but a worldview?

When we begin to talk about beliefs and linked emotions, we’re talking about the worldview. I don’t use secular researchers to support my claims; I don’t need those. I know the Bible is sufficient to provide a worldview. But I bring these up to say that even a secular researcher observes that those who have a religious framework, or how to process traumatic moments, they respond better to the traumatic moment. I love that. Isn’t it interesting that even a secular researcher would note that? He’s not trying to prove anything, not trying to make a case for why we should use the Bible, or why biblical counseling is effective. He’s just stating the facts. What he sees to be taking place.

It’s my goal to press upon you that the way that we help individuals is by equipping them with a biblical worldview, so that they can interpret that trauma, and they can respond to that trauma in a way that honors and glorifies God. So grab your Bible. Let’s go to 2 Corinthians.

As you’re going to 2 Corinthians, we’re going to stop in chapter 4. And I’m gonna read to you from chapter 12 here in a second. Want to explain to you a passage that has a lot to do with worldview. This passage is where Paul is actually seeking to establish himself as an apostle. What I love about the way Paul goes through this is that he’s establishing himself based off of how lame he believes himself to be. So he says in verse number 1, “That I’ve actually been given this ministry by the mercy of God.” People think that he’s an imposter. People think that he’s not legitimate. And he goes on to establish his legitimacy in verse number 7, and he says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay.” Love it. He’s establishing his legitimacy based off of his own fragility. “We have this treasure in jars of clay, we’re not the greatest of people, we’re not the most competent. But we’ve been given this treasure in jars of clay to show the surpassing power belongs to God, and not to us.”

The way that he’s seeking to validate himself as an apostle is by saying that, “I know my own frailties, my own shortcomings, but God’s using those to demonstrate that He has the power. That He is the one that is sufficient, not me.” And then he segways into a section where he begins to talk about the hardships that he’s faced in this ministry. “We’re afflicted in every way, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not driven to despair.” Verse 9. “Persecuted, but not forsaken. Struck down, but not destroyed. Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus. So that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies.”

What he does throughout this entire letter of 2 Corinthians, is that he establishes legitimacy of him being an apostle based off of the weaknesses that he has. Based off of the things that he has faced. Chapter 12 he goes on to say that, “Are others a servant of Christ? Well, I’m a better one.” He’s being sarcastic here. “I’m a better one. Let me talk about why I’m a better one. I’ve been through far greater labors. Far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I’ve received at the hand of the Jews, the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. A night and a day I was adrift at sea. On frequent journeys, and danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people. Danger from Gentiles. Danger in the city. Danger in the wilderness. Danger at sea. Danger from false brothers. And toil and hardship through many sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and in exposure.”

And as if that weren’t enough, he has pastoral anxiety. Pastors can experience this. Apart from all these other things, there is a daily pressure on me. The anxiety for all the churches. You know, I don’t know how you define trauma. But I think you can fine it somewhere in here. You think about the pressures, you think about the beatings, you think about the shipwrecks. You think about all of this significant trauma that Paul has faced. And what he does in chapter 4, verse number 16, is he shares how he works through those difficult moments.

So why are we not destroyed, as we think through this? Why are we not forsaken? Why is it that we’re not driven to despair, look in verse 16 with me. We don’t lose heart in this ministry. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. Verse 17, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory, beyond all comparison. As we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Despite the hardships that Paul faces, he enumerates them in chapter 12. Despite all of that garbage, all of that trauma, all of those difficulties that he’s gone through, he introduces this idea that he’s not overwhelmed, because these light, momentary afflictions are working something for him. They’re preparing something for him. That the glory that is to come is far superior than the affliction that he’s facing here on this earth. Hardships haven’t gone away. You study his life, they don’t go away. But those hardships don’t overwhelm him. The momentary afflictions that we are facing in this life, are working for us an eternal weight of glory, beyond all comparison. That’s what he says. But then he says, how does he know that to be true?

Look in verse number 18. “As we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen.” How in the world does he endure through these great difficulties? Well, he doesn’t look to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. He has a certain way of viewing the world. He understands that all of the heinous things that he’s experienced in his ministry, that they’re not it. That’s not all that there will be. That all of those things are actually working for his good. An eternal weight of glory that’s prepared for him.

Can I just suggest to you that that’s worldview? That’s a certain way of you viewing your suffering. Dare I say, your “traumatic moment”? That God has equipped you with a biblical worldview to say that, “That traumatic moment can work for me an eternal weight of glory. That trigger–,” if I want to use PTSD terminology, “That trigger, that can work for me an eternal weight of glory.” That’s a world view that we use. When we look at that and we say, “I’m not defined by it, it’s not who I am. That hardship is working for me an eternal weight of glory. As I look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen.”

It’s no wonder why David says in Psalm 63, excuse me not 63. Thirty-six, nine. He says this, “In your light do we see life.” When I see things from God’s perspective, I truly begin to understand. It’s what Paul’s doing here. He’s saying that when I view my afflictions through the eyes of faith, then I recognize that those afflictions are actually working something far superior to their light, and their momentary. It’s no wonder why just seven verses later he goes on to say that the Christian life is on that is characterized by walking by faith, not by sight. A way of viewing the world.

So secular research would say that those who have a religious worldview respond better to trauma. Why is that? It’s because those who have faced significant, traumatic moments, they know what to do with them. They know how to interpret them. They know how to interpret car accidents and natural disasters. They know how to interpret trauma, like combat. It’s not to take away all the physical influences toward these things, but it’s to say that they know how to respond to them. They know how to respond to loss.

The Bible informs us of how we respond to loss. That it’s okay to mourn. We’re commended for mourning with those who mourn. We’re commanded to mourn. Just differently from those who have no hope, 1 Thessalonians 4. So your mourning, in light of what this traumatic event has brought, it’s okay. The Bible informs the way that we do that. The Bible informs how we respond to regret. Perhaps we were the one that traumatized. We were the one that made the decisions that cost others. The Bible makes it clear that God uses our sinful, and foolish, decisions to still advance his purposes. They’re still under His sovereign control. And oh, how we wish we could do them again. Oh, how we wish we could go back and make that decision again. But the Bible still informs us of what we can do now, going forward, in light of our foolish mistakes. The Bible tells us what to do with regret.

The Bible tells us what to do with guilt. If I’m standing in a room among believers, hey we know a lot of what to do with guilt. We’ve been very guilty throughout our life. But the saving work of Christ is about mediating and atoning for guilty people like us. So maybe we’re ministering to someone who is guilty. Maybe we’re ministering to someone who feels guilty, because of that traumatic moment. The Bible knows what to do with that. The Bible knows what to do with anxieties and fears. That’s what the APA calls PTSD, after all, an anxiety problem. I don’t know if you remember that Jesus squarely addresses both of these in the Gospels. This is how you respond to your fears, you look to God the Father who is good, who provides, who knows.

The reason why those who have a religious worldview can respond better to trauma is because they know what to do with it. They know how to interpret it. Brothers and sisters, if we were really going to be helpful to people going through PTSD, we’re going to help them by helping them with God’s words. They can view their trauma the way God views it. And they can respond to their trauma the way God wants them to respond to it. When we do that, we’re truly being helpful toward them.

So I want to suggest the reason that two people can face the same trauma, one develop PTSD, and the other not, is because PTSD is highly interpretive. The way that you view the trauma shapes your response to that trauma. Think of Kim. Think of Kim’s response. “I thank God for that road, especially, because those bombs brought me to Christ.”

We can be totally comfortable as biblical counselors, suggesting that there are things that influence the way that you interpret what is traumatic. It shouldn’t bother you in the least. Body, environment, social influences. But what we have, is we have the hope of offering that in light of all of those things, God gives you a better worldview, as revealed in His Word.

If you’ll just trust Him. If you’ll just be willing to let His truth be authoritative over your truth, you will see change. We can truly help those with PTSD find lasting change. Because the way that we do that is we, like, Paul, we equip them to look with the eyes of faith, not at the things that are seen but at the things that are unseen. We truly help them as they look at that original trauma through God’s worldview, and as they respond to it from God’s perspective.

Thank you guys for allowing me to be with you through this conference, I’ll have the privilege of being back this afternoon. May God give us wisdom as we seek to minister to those with PTSD.

Demystifying PTSD {Transcript} Fri, 05 Oct 2018 14:26:35 +0000 Thanks Jim for that very kind introduction, it’s a pleasure to be here with you. And thank you so much for all of you who are in attendance, it’s really exciting to see so many people who are here to learn about the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and who want to help others who are dealing with a very difficult issue, find hope and healing through God’s word.

I was told earlier that this year summer institute is the record attendance, so that’s exciting. And also, the pre-conference has record attendance. So, really blessed and thankful for that and just pray that the Lord be glorified. And you would be edified and encouraged today. I wanted to give you a little bit more introduction to myself. Jim gave you a great introduction there, very kind. As he mentioned, I’m the Director of The Biblical Counseling Coalition. And while I haven’t really heard other people talk about it as the U.N. of Biblical Counseling, I guess that’s appropriate in some ways. But, I pray and hope that we are more effective than the U.N. has often been. But, we do … One of the greatest things we do is bring together leaders of the different biblical counseling schools, organizations and churches to really try to advance and enhance biblical counseling around the world. To really improve what we do, where we are doing it and then, push biblical counseling into new areas where it doesn’t exist already.

And we do that by building relationships, connecting people together, broadcasting the biblical counseling movement and collaborating together on different things. I’m also a Veteran of the United States Air Force. I served in the California and Kentucky Air National Guard. I was activated two different times, both under Operation Noble Eagle and then in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. My job was not a combat role, I was … My job epitomized what people jokingly call the ‘chair force’. I was fighting the war on terror with Google in a locked down command post. So, I have not personally experienced combat but have a passion and a heart to help those who have. After working at … Being in the military and graduating from Seminary, I also worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for a while, helping people to process disability and compensation claims.

And, while I was there my desire to bring true help and healing to those who have undergone combat or just have other issues related to their military service, was heightened because I saw just the lack of true answers to help people with their problems. And especially, their most needed problems that were offered through the VA and through other places and recognized, “Man, these people would really benefit from biblical counsel.” And so, my desire to provide something along those lines was heightened through that experience. So, when I started my PhD program in Biblical Counseling at Southern Seminary, I wanted to do something in the field of post traumatic stress disorder. There weren’t a lot of resources available in that vein from a biblical counseling perspective. And the Lord has really opened up opportunities for that study for me. In particular, I’m evaluating a ministry called The Mighty Oaks Warrior Program. It’s a Christ centered biblically based program for Veterans and active duty service members who are dealing with combat trauma and post traumatic stress.

This afternoon, you’ll actually get a chance to meet a couple of their instructors and learn a little bit more about that program throughout the day. So, that’s a little bit of my background. Why I am interested in this topic and why I want to share with you a little bit about counseling from the biblical perspective in helping those wrestling with post traumatic stress. So, the talk this morning, this session is called Demystifying PTSD, because I really want to help people understand post traumatic stress in a way that takes away some of the stigma. Some of the fears, some of the confusion that often shrouds this very difficult issue. For starters, the diagnostic and statistical manual, the DSM, which is the book that is used by psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose and then, offer treatment for various different mental health issues. Defines post traumatic stress disorder as “an issue, a disorder, that arises in somebody after … One month after or anytime after one month from experiencing a traumatic event. And it is involves certain systems that are kind of clustered around three different areas”.

The first area of kind of cluster of symptoms or intrusive symptoms. These are memories or dreams or flashbacks that people might have that come to their mind when they’re least expecting it. When they’re not wanting it, when they’re not thinking about it. Oftentimes, these flashbacks are other negative distressing responses like, blacking out or panic attacks or dissociative episodes, can be triggered by stimuli related to the trauma or sometimes, stimuli that aren’t readily apparently related to the trauma. And we’ll talk about that in a little bit. The second cluster of symptoms is really known as “negative cognitive” or “mood alterations”. These are things like, the inability to remember key aspects of the trauma. Difficulty in memory and other areas. Negative emotional states, just feeling depressed, feeling anxious. Having an overall negative outlook on life. Maybe a fixation on death, decreased desire for things that used to bring about pleasure. Isolation, estrangement, other things like that.

And then the third cluster of symptoms are known as “alterations in arousal” or “reactivity responses”. This can include, hypervigilant. Somebody who just seems like they’re always on guard. People who are walking the perimeter, so to speak, at their house every night. Continually just, always on edge, thinking about where the next attack might come from. Trouble sleeping obviously, can be related to that. And then, what’s known as an “exaggerated startle response”. That’s where somebody has a response that seems inordinately over the top to certain stimuli. And you’ve probably seen this depicted in movies or other things where there’s a loud bang, like a door slams or somebody drops a tray, and then a Veteran hits the floor or grabs somebody and throws them up against the wall or something like that. That’s kind of a depiction of an exaggerated startle response.

And as I mentioned, this has to last for over a month and occur from one month to any number of years after the trauma occurred. PTSD, one of the reasons I want to help demystify PTSD is it sounds very intimidating. As I mentioned TVs, movies, media have depicted this issue in a number of different ways that can often, make it very scary for people. Both for people who are diagnosed with PTSD as well as, for those who are wanting to help those who’ve been rec … Who have received this diagnosis. People get this idea of the crazed Veteran who’s going to snap at any moment and could hurt you or go off on a crazy shooting. And that’s an unfortunate miss-characterization of what often, occurs with people who have post traumatic stress. But that’s one of the reasons people can get intimidated by it.

The other reason it can be intimidating is that, people who are experiencing post traumatic stress, have been through really horrific things. They’ve been raped. They’ve gone through a violent attack. They were in a very awful car accident, or they’ve either been in combat. Or they’ve received or seen death or serious mutilating injury of some type of capacity, and just that experience itself can be intimidating for a counselor because, they feel like they don’t … They haven’t been through that. They haven’t experienced what that person’s experienced. And how could they ever hope to offer help to something they know so little about?

And, that can be intimidating. So I want to help you overcome that intimidation in a number of different ways. We can … When we feel like we have … Can’t offer anything because we haven’t been there. We need to be reminded of the truths of Scripture that, we don’t have to experience exactly what somebody else has experienced in order to give that help. So, if you’re here today because you want to help somebody, there’s somebody you know, you love that’s struggling in this way. I really want to encourage you. There is hope, there is help that you can offer and we’re going to talk about that today. And maybe, on the other hand, it’s not … You’re not here because you want to help somebody else. Maybe you’re the person who has been raped. Maybe you’re the one who has lost a loved one in a sudden and unexpected way. May be somehow, your life has been placed in peril. Or maybe, you feel responsible for ending the life of another human being. Perhaps, you’re haunted by memories. You feel robbed of the life you once had. You no longer have that positive, happy-go-lucky outlook on life that you used too, and you want that back or you are depressed because you don’t have that.

And maybe you’re afraid that things will never change. You’ve been told you have post traumatic stress disorder and there’s no cure. There’s just coping mechanisms and medications and other treatments that might alleviate symptoms, but nothing can really change this diagnosis or take it away. Well, I want to encourage you, there is help, there is hope. And I’m thankful that you’re here today with us. And I want to encourage you and pray that God would encourage you through our time together.

Thinking about defining post traumatic stress, my friend Charlie Hodges and I have been working together on this issue and we offer this definition of post traumatic stress. “Post traumatic stress is a whole person response to traumatic events that encompasses the physical, mental, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual being of those affected. It results in significant disruption of life at home, work, school, and church. And it often draws on anger, fear, sadness, shame, and guilt to disrupt family relationships, friendships, careers, and Christian service. Those who are affected will often compensate the best they can in ways that may compound the struggle they face”. That’s a little bit of a lengthy definition there, but it incorporates a lot of different aspects that we’ll talk about some of those today.

And what I want to do is to begin demystifying PTSD. And I’m going to move and propose to you that we move from an understanding of post traumatic stress disorder to post traumatic stress or PTS. So, I might use those terms interchangeably a bit today. But what I want us to understand today, first and foremost is that, this is not … Most often, this is not a disorder. This is not a irrational or unexpected crazy response to normal life. But this is more of a normal response to really abnormal circumstances and an abnormal situations in life. So, the first thing I want to do is I want to help you demystify PTSD for the counselee. For the person whose wrestling and struggling with the aftermath of some type of trauma. How do we help them understand what’s going on in a way that takes away that mystery, that shroud, of stigma and other false understanding of post traumatic stress?

And the first way that we do that is just, understanding the physiology behind post traumatic stress. Here’s an earth shattering news for you. As God gave you a brain. I know some days and sometimes that seems questionable. But the reality is, God gave us brains and part of God’s design in our brain is a security system. And this is a passive learning system that God has given to us, and it’s often known as the ‘fight or flight’ system or the limbic system. And this passive security system is always at work and it’s always learning. It’s like Artificial Intelligence built into your brain, but it’s not artificial, it’s real. It’s learning by taking in data and information from various scary or frightening situations. So that we can learn and it can help our bodies and our whole person respond to different situations, threats to our life. So that when we face similar situations in the future, we’ll be able to respond better.

And the beauty of it is that … And the reality of it, is that you are all here today because, you have this wonderful system that God has given you. You’ve learned to stop touching hot things and now you have hands, hopefully that work and that aren’t covered in callouses or burns or are missing digits because you learned to stop touching sharp things and hot things. Because, your limbic system identified them as threats and dangers. You also … We’re all here not in an evolutionary standpoint but in a realistic standpoint from the fact that we learned that, not all fuzzy, furry creatures in the wilderness are there to cuddle with. Lions and tigers and bears, are things to avoid and things to run from. And God gave us that fight or flight system so that we don’t have to in a moment’s notice, go through some big long rational process to decide whether or not we should run away or fight certain threats. And that fight or flight system is typical designed to help us do that. To fight, to crush the threat or to run away from the threat. To get away from it. So destroy the threat, or get away from it. That’s what we’ve been given by God. And thankfully, it helps us survive. It helps to keep us alive.

But for those who under … Are experiencing post traumatic stress, that’s resulted because, certain types of trauma. Certain severe traumas or severe system … Certain severe traumas or exposure to traumatic events for an ongoing period of time or again and again and again, can cause that limbic system. It can cause that fight or flight system to malfunction in a number of different ways. But what happens is, our limbic system can get overloaded with the data. Some trauma, some experiences are so difficult that they overload us to the point where we can’t sort through what is truly related to the threat and what is not.

So, for instance, one Veteran had an experience and this IED attacks, Improvised Explosive Device, attacks are a common threat to soldiers in theaters of combat, these days. And what happens is, there’s an explosive that’s setup. It could be a bomb on the side of the road hidden under garbage. It could be a vehicle born IED, which is a car that is loaded up with explosives and driven into a place or whatever. So, one Veteran had a scenario where he’s driving along in a convoy and in the convoy, gets hit by an IED. Well what happened in that instant, is his brain latches onto all the sensory data he can imagine, and can collect. Smells, feelings, sounds, sights, stuff in his peripheral vision that he is not even aware of. The immediate sight of the garbage pile on the side of the road. All kinds of things.

Including, a little red car that was passing by on a road, nearby the attack. That had absolutely nothing to do with the attack. Fast forward a few years, this same Veteran is driving down a freeway in the United States. And in his peripheral vision a vehicle of similar color to that one, begins to go by and he begins to have a panic attack. And he doesn’t know why. He didn’t consciously remember that there was a red Corolla or whatever it was, driving into his peripheral vision. It just happened, and his brain latched onto every single ounce of data that was available to it at that time. But what happens is, sometimes is that data is going to come in. The stuff that he’s not even aware of, and it’s going to trigger his fight or flight response.

Again, this is a God given system that is passive in learning. But it gets overloaded and it can’t always sort out, which stimuli was related to the threat and which stimuli was not. So, what we respond to things that shouldn’t threaten him, typically. In a very threatening fashion. If you think about it, this a really common reason that leads to isolation, right? Because if you don’t … If you’re going through life … If you’re just walking through a mall and all of a sudden, for no good reason, you just start to have a panic attack. Are you going to want too … And a panic attack is increased heart rate, shortness of breath, can lead to passing out, all kinds of other things. There’s a very physiological response, it’s the fight or flight system going into overdrive and then, sometimes, oftentimes, leading to passing out.

If you were walking around, and you start to have these things and you have no idea why. What’s that going to attempt you to do? Isolate. To not … If I go to the mall and I start having that panic attack, and I don’t know why. I’m going to stop going to malls, right? If I start driving down the highway and I start having panic attacks for no good reason. I’m going to want to stop driving. So, when we see people begin to isolate, we need to understand this is not just some … It makes sense for why they would want to isolate. We need to try to understand from their perspective, what they’re going through and they’re not just trying to isolate because they hate people, they don’t want to be around people anymore. They’re trying to isolate because they’re not … They’re having really bad experiences in life that you or I would not want to have either. And they’re trying to avoid them.

Another problem that can happen with the limbic system is that it can get turn … It gets turned on and off when it shouldn’t. Like I said, it’s responding to that stimuli. But it also can get kicked on and left on for a really long time. And that can lead to other psychological damages. Actually, a heightened level of cortisol, which is a stress hormone in our system, can cause changes to the structure of your brain. It can cause the prefrontal cortex, which is where your high functioning like, reasoning thought, it can cause that to shrink. And it can cause the amygdala, which is part of the fight or flight response, to grow. And if you’re living in a constant state of hypervigilant, you have high, high levels of these stress hormones going on in your body all the time. It causes physiological changes to your brain. The beautiful thing is that God has designed those to be reversible as well.

But if you think about it in the sense of … Any of you guys street racers, any drag racers out there? Street racers, no? No? I never find street racers at Biblical Counseling Conferences, I don’t get it. What do you guys have against speed and … No, I’m kidding. I’m a Biblical Counselor as well, I get it, I don’t street race. But, you can imagine … I have some Uncles who do. So anyway. If you’re familiar with any type of street racing, there’s a thing called a “NOS System”, its nitrous oxide, right? It’s that extra boost of energy. If you watch Hot Wheels, you’ll figure this out. You’re going really fast in a really fast car, you have this canister of nitrous oxide that’s hooked to your fuel system, and you push a button and it adds nitrous oxide into the system, which burns hotter than regular fuel. And your engine goes [inaudible 00:20:56] really fast and you just get an extra boost of energy and you go. And that’s kind of like our fight or flight system, right? We’re going along, normal dude, and then we need some extra boost of energy. BHAM, we hit it and we go.

Problem is with the nitrous oxide system, is if you leave it on, you’re going to blow up your engine. Your engine is not designed to take that intense heat for any amount of time. So the same thing, if our fight or flight system is left on for too long, it has negative effects on our bodies. Or it’s like, driving up to the stop sign and hitting your NOS system, right? [inaudible 00:21:30], but you’re not trying to go anywhere. Or you’re driving through the lazy, scenic views along the coast and you’re just enjoying it and you hit your NOS system. [inaudible 00:21:40], and it’s just kicking on and off at the wrong times, it’s going to blow up the system. It’s a very similar response that our bodies have to post traumatic stress symptoms. When our fight or flight system is getting kicked on and off when it shouldn’t. Or when it’s staying on for too long, then it just … It falls apart.

There’s one Veteran I had the pleasure of working with and getting to know. And we were sitting there and I was actually teaching him and a number of other guys, how to do Biblical Counseling, marriage and family counseling. They work with this program, Mighty Oaks Warrior Program. And we’d been sitting for probably, six hours on lush, comfortable couches. Taking breaks every once in a while. But because of some experiences he had in his life, his blood pressure was through the roof all the time. You could see it, his face was always red. He was always on edge. It was a physiological issue. It wasn’t something that he could control. How many of you have ever been diagnosed with hypertension, high blood pressure, anybody? You guys control that? With medications and other things, right? You can’t just make yourself not have high blood pressure.

And that eventually, begins to wear on the body again and again and again. So, I just want to help you understand, there is some physiological problems going on. Intrusive memories are intrusive, they’re not wanted. They come when you don’t want them to come. That’s the whole point. And the reality is, is intrusive memories, neurologically the way that we remember things and the way that we have patterns and habits, and we’re able to do things over and over again. Is our brain creates neuro networks. These are different groups of neurons that fire together and the saying is, is neurons that fire together, wire together. So what happens is, we begin to have developed channels of a sort in our brain. So, when we begin to have certain physiological responses, they’re firing certain neurons in our brain, which can also fire other neurons in our brains that are used to firing at the same time like, thoughts and memories. That we don’t like to have.

One guy I know and was working with who has no post traumatic stress, just a history of anxiety and panic attacks. Every time he goes to the gym, begins to feel anxious. Because his heart rate is getting up and the same neurons in his brain that are helping him get exercising, begin to fire some of those other neurons that were associated with some anxious thinking that he was having. It’s like his body remembers that these two things are related, so I’m going to bring them up at the same time. So, just recognize again, this is not something that is outside the norm or outside of the realm of Biblical Counseling. We just … I want you to have a basic understanding of what that is to understand that there are … This is a whole person issue relating to body, mind, soul, every aspect of our person.

So, the next thing that I want you to see is, we need to understand First Corinthians 10:13, right? Anybody quote that for me?

I hear a bunch of mumbling. Yeah, “Therefore, no temptation is taken except that which is common to man”, right? And God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you’re able. But with every temptation, will provide a way of escape. The problem is, is that’s easy to say and hard to believe sometimes, right? Especially if your somebody who’s gone through really intense, difficult suffering and circumstances. You know, the Greek word for “temptation” and “trial” are the exact same word. Because if you think about it, every trial is a temptation. And every temptation is a trial. So when we go through really catastrophic suffering, we are tempted with disbelieving the truth or believing the truth. Trusting in God, not trusting in God.

What we want to help our … The people who come to us understand is, even though they’ve gone through severe, intense suffering and trauma, they are not alone. They’re not the only people who’ve gone through this. Trauma and intense suffering is something that has been part of human history ever since the beginning. I mean, think of Adam and Eve. Their two first born sons, one killed the other. Who found Abel in the garden? Did Eve walk up and find her second born son there, lying dead? I don’t know. But at some point she found out. There are other people who have been through the situation and the Bible has something to say to these situations and we want to encourage people that they are not alone in their suffering. They … This is not a helpless or hopeless circumstance that they’re facing. And the greatest point in First Corinthians 10:13 is not that you are so great that God has allowed you to have intense suffering because, He knows you’re so strong you can handle it. Though, we sometimes misuse that passage that way.

Who does that verse point too? But God is faithful. He’s the one who’s going to provide a way of escape or a way to get through this suffering, right? So we need to point our people to this reality that they are not alone. This is not something that is unusual or unique to them. And God understands and He is the one who’s going to help them out. The next point that I want you to see is just, what I call PTS. This is where we remove the “D” from the PTSD. So we’re still trying to demystify this for our counselee, right? This is what it boils down too. This is a normal response to abnormal circumstances, not an abnormal response to normal circumstances. Helping them understand they are not broken. They’re not freaks, they are not a burden. They are not a problem to be fixed. They are people created in the image of God, who have gone through some horrific things because we live in an evil fallen world corrupted by sin. And this is where I like to just take the “D” out of it and say, “You don’t have post traumatic stress disorder. You’re wrestling with post traumatic stress.”

The next thing as you’re helping demystifying this is for your counselee, is you want to help them understand PTSD is not their identity. A lot of times, especially in the Veteran community, it can become something of a … Maybe not a badge of honor but just something they get wrapped up in, in identifying as, “yeah. I just have PTSD.” And some of the solutions that are offered out there are not for you to begin to work and wrestle through the things that you have but to recognize, you have a disorder that we don’t have a cure for. We don’t have a solution for. So, you just need to help everybody else in your environment and everybody else in your family, understand your struggle and your wrestle. And then, they adapt to you rather than, you growing and changing.

But that’s not really going to be helpful. They become something of a, “This is who I am. I am a Veteran with post traumatic stress disorder.” Or, “I am a victim of rape with post traumatic stress disorder.” Or, “I am X, X, X, X.” This is not their identity. One of the things, we have the pleasure of having a couple of guys from Mighty Oaks come this afternoon to talk to you in a panel discussion, and one of the things that they do really well is, they have a week long program designed to help people wrestling with post traumatic stress disorder. Guess how long they talk about PTSD, in an entire week?

45 minutes. You know what that 45 minutes was? Basically, the intro that I did on physiology. To help them understand, this is not … You’re not a freak, you’re not broken. And the rest of time is designed around showing them what God’s word has called them to be as husbands, as fathers, as sons, as sons and daughters of the King of Kings. And how to live in responsible ways with your finances, with your time, with your purity, with all this other stuff. It’s saying, “Hey listen, yeah. PTSD is a component of your life. Or this thing that you’ve been through is a component. But let’s put it on the shelf, where it belongs and move forward recognizing, this is not the center of who you are.” You’re a human being created in the image of God and if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are a son of the King.

So demystifying PTSD for the counselor. First thing, really simple syllogism here. The next three points are, trauma is a part of life. The Bible addresses all of life, therefore the Bible addresses trauma, right? So the Bible … Trauma is a part of life. First and foremost, I want to reiterate, this is not a military issue. It’s not just a combat issue. Think about all of the first responders who are faced with traumatic events, they see the remanent of car accidents, of suicides, of overdoses. They see death on a daily basis. Or people who are in abusive relationships. People who are attacked. People who go through natural disasters. People who go through car accidents. Trauma is a part of life. And as Biblical Counselors, if you’ve been around biblical counseling for any amount of time, you’re familiar with Second Peter One 3:4, right? Because God has given us everything that we need in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the true knowledge. To deal with everything relating to life and godliness. Everything you need to know in order to live a life that is pleasing to God, is here.

No matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve been through. There’s nothing outside of here that you need to know, to live a life that is pleasing to God. The challenge is, how well do you know this? As Jim likes to put it often, “How thick is your Bible as a Biblical Counselor?” How much … How many passages can you dig into to really understand what God has to say about the complexity of the human heart? And the Bible addresses trauma. I mention Cain and Abel, think about Noah. Why did Noah, the first thing that he did after he got of the Arc and after sacrificing to God, he goes plants a vineyard, passes … And gets drunk and passes out. Have you ever just tried to put yourself in Noah’s shoes and imagine the sounds of the screams of every human being around you drowning? Recognizing that the entire world has been utterly destroyed except for you and the six people onboard the ship with you?

When God’s word says, “All the desires of man’s heart was evil” continually in Genesis Six, that doesn’t look like a nice, quaint pastel blue nursery scene that we paint inside our nursery’s all the time, right? Think about what Joseph went through for decades of his life, his brother’s wanted to kill him. Decided to sell him into slavery. He’s falsely accused, imprisoned. Thinking left for dead over and over and over again. Moses, murders somebody. His life is threatened, he runs away. Then he has to go through all this craziness. I mean, think about what it would have been like in Egypt when every animal is being destroyed. The first born son of every family is killed. All this stuff is going on. Death, death, death, death, death. Walking up with all these people to the sea … To the Red Sea and thinking, “we’re going to drown or be massacred by this army”. And you just move through Saul and David, Jonah. Jonah wasn’t jumping into the ocean expecting to survive. He was trying to commit suicide.

Jeremiah, Paul, the list of suffering he went through in Second Corinthians 11. And then, Jesus. The Bible is all about … Not all about. But it is about trauma. It has a lot to say. So another thing you want to do is to, help your counselee understand that they are not alone. Because a lot of times … I mean, honestly some people who come in … A lot of times people who come into your counseling room, they’re completely ignorant of this, right? I don’t know how many times people have said. “Well, life isn’t like it was in the Bible times. It’s not all happy and good.” And I’m like, “You clearly have not read the Bible. Let me tell you about this guy named Lot. Let me show you what these different judges did to Kings like Agag. And, David didn’t just throw a stone through Goliath’s head, he decapitated him. And oh yeah, by the way, he mutilated the dead bodies of his enemies.” The Bible doesn’t paint a pretty picture of life. So help your people understand that.

And then help them realize … And for you as a counselor, you are not alone in this fight. When somebody comes into get help from you, you are not alone. You’re not the Messiah, in case anybody forgot to tell you. You’re not Jesus. So don’t think that you need to have all the answers, all the time, right away. One resource that you have is your counselee. How many of you take time to learn from your counselee’s when they come in? Not just data gathering, right? Not just finding out about their problems but, they have something to teach you as well. And if you’re not … If you have somebody come in who’s gone through trauma. Who’s gone through combat, who’s been raped. Who’s gone through these different things, and you haven’t. They have valuable information and wisdom to pass onto you as well. Have you thought about that? We need to be humble as counselors. And learn from our counselee’s. Listen to their experience, listen to their heart. Find the struggles within their heart, where they connect with Scripture and where they conflict with Scripture. And begin to understand and have them open your eyes to understand the world as it really is.

I sometimes tell counselee’s and I tell people that I’m training in this situation is that, people who’ve gone through intense trauma actually probably, have a better perception of how the world works, then the rest of us. Most of us, especially in western wealthy cultures, have this crazy harebrained idea that I’m basically in control of my life, right? I have a lot to say about what happens in my day, day in and day out. One of the things that almost every single person, whether they’ve been raped. Whether they’ve been in a car accident, whether they’ve been in combat. Will you tell, is in that moment of intense trauma, they’ve had this extreme sense of a loss of control. That they weren’t in control of their lives. That is more real than the fog, the disillusion that we walk around in thinking that we’ve got it all under control.

Learn from your counselee. You also have other people in your church. We’re going to see Second Corinthians Chapter One, tells us that God allows us to go through suffering and gives us comfort so that we can comfort others with the comfort that God, the God of all comfort, gives us in any affliction. So that means, even if the comfort that you have gotten came because, your husband had a fight with you and stormed out the door and you’re afraid that he was going to get into a car accident because he was driving erratically. And God comforts you and gives you peace to help you deal with those anxious thoughts. That same comfort, can be applied to anybody who’s wrestling with anxiety of any shape.

So don’t discredit the comfort that God has given you. But there is something to the quick connection that can happen when somebody else has been through the same thing you’ve been through, right? When I have a counselee who’s been molested, raped, abused in some way shape or form. It offers them a sense of openness if I share with them my story of being molested when I was a kid. So, there is some value to that. But, just because you haven’t been where somebody else has been, doesn’t mean you don’t have something to say. But if there is somebody in your church community who has been through what they’ve been through, bring them into the process. Help them weep with that person while they weep. Help that … The three of you to work together to understand the situation and to weep together. And then to rejoice together as growth takes place. So don’t do it on your own. Recognize the tools and the resources of the other people in your church community.

Other survivors of situations as well. Those kind of overlap there a little bit. And then, other organizations. There are great organizations. One of the things I love about Mighty Oaks, is they call themselves the “Poke-A-Vet” program instead of the “Hug-A-Vet” program. Alright, there’s a lot of hug-a-vet programs. I mean, on the coast there’s, I don’t know how many like, surfing Veteran, help out Veteran programs there are. There’s a number. And they bring you in, they slap you on the back. “Thank you for you service and we want to help you.” And I don’t want to discredit those things, they’re great organizations, they’re really trying to do some great stuff. But, Mighty Oaks is run by combat Veterans, helping other combat Veterans. So they welcome them, give them a hug, slap them on the back. And then say, “Okay. Let’s get down to business.” Because, they can … because they’ve been where the other guys have been. They’re able to jump in there and they say, “Poke them in the chest” and say. “Okay. This happened in your life. Where are we moving forward from here?”

I’ll be honest, I don’t feel comfortable doing that because, I haven’t been in those same shoes. But somebody else who has. So, utilize some of these other organizations, you’re not on. And then obviously, the greatest person in the counseling room is the Holy Spirit. Always remember that. You are not alone. Jesus is not going to leave you or forsake you. Definitely not when you’re counseling and when you’re opening up His word and delving into the heart of the people and your own heart. He is never going to leave you or forsake you. So rely on Him, open up God’s word. This is the sword of the spirit, right? The word of truth that divides down to the joints in marrow and He’s able to separate the truth from falsehood and dig into our people. So remember those things.

A couple other ways you can help people understand this. And these … A couple biblical examples that I like to use just to help people connect to scripture and realize that the Bible has something to say about this difficulty they’ve gone through. I was talking to somebody this morning, just reminded that, we could spend hours and hours and hours and hours delving into the various nuances of different types of post traumatic stress. There’s something called “complex post traumatic stress” for people who’ve been in long-term abusive relationships or intense suffering for … Think about POWs or others like that. You can get lost into the weeds because there are lots of different little nuance things but there’s going to be some general truths that we’re going to talk about today that are going to be helpful for everybody.

One of those things is helping people connect to the Scriptures and understand that God does have something to say to all of these different situations. But we could spend a lot of time and not all of what Greg or I or God’s word, has to say about this issue can be squeezed into one day. So tomorrow, I’ll be doing a breakout specifically on combat trauma. And then, there’s lots of other resources we’ll point you too. But one of those things, I have a whole lecture on the life of David and Saul, which I can’t squeeze the entire lecture into this but, just think about this for a moment. David and Saul were both Kings, right? First two Kings of Israel. Both have interesting and kind of similar backgrounds in certain ways but also very different. Both were exposed to traumatic events. Both David and Saul saw combat, hand-to-hand combat. Where you’re taking a large piece of sharp metal and shoving it into the body of another human being.

The Bible talks about how Saul saw almost no peace the entire … His entire reign. And David. The Apostles … The Prophet Samuel comes to Saul at some point and says. “Hey, you need to kill this person here.” And Saul says, “I don’t want anything to do with it.” So what does Samuel do? Chops that person into pieces right in front of Saul. Both of them went through really difficult things and both, if you’ve studied Scriptures, manifest something similar to the symptoms of post traumatic stress. If you read through the Psalms, David over and over again talks about sleepless nights. Crying himself to sleep, surrounded by enemies. Wrestling with things that he had done himself, and things that had been done to him. Saul as well. Extreme paranoia, right? He thought David was after him, constantly and trying to kill him. And you can begin to dissect these two guys lives and see, man they have some similarities there, but they also have some radical differences as well.

One of the things that is radically different between the two is are what as known as “pre-traumatic factors”. We’ll talk about this a little bit more later on but, pre-traumatic factors are things … Influences in people’s lives that happen to them before they go through intense suffering. What’s your upbringing? What’s your background? You know the interesting thing is, if you look at Saul and David, the first time that you see both of those guys in Scripture, you know what they’re doing? They’re taking care of animals. I think it’s a really interesting similarity between the two that God put into His word. David is doing what? He’s tending sheep. We’re all familiar with David’s life, he’s tending sheep. He’s laying down his life for his sheep. He’s tearing apart animals with his bare hands, he’s killing them with slings. He’s just willing to sacrifice for these sheep. Saul on the other hand, first time we see Saul is, he’s wandering around trying to find some lost donkeys. He can’t find them and he wants to give up and go home but his servant who’s not even of the nation of Israel says, “You know what? Why don’t we find the man of God and ask him if he can maybe give us some direction on how to find these donkeys?”

I think there’s some interesting insight into what’s going on these two different guy’s lives before they are faced with intense trauma. David has a close relationship with God. He’s willing to sacrifice himself for sheep. Saul gets worn out and tired doesn’t even … He’s not even the one who says, “Hey let’s go talk to the man of God about this”, it’s his servant who has to remind him to go do that. He’s not developing this intimate close relationship with the Almighty God. And then, when he’s appointed King, what’s Saul doing? He’s trying to hide behind luggage. So you see, there’s some very big differences in the way that Saul is approaching life even before they begin to face these traumatic circumstances. And then, there’s something that’s called “peri-traumatic” factors. What’s going on around the trauma? The different influences that are associated with me when Saul is being combative or involved in different traumatic events. He has different reactions. Whereas David, if you take some time and dig into his life, when he’s facing those traumatic circumstances. Oftentimes, he’s seeking out the Lord or he’s doing it for the sake of the Lord.

Actually, if you remember Abigail, who stops David from massacring her husband and all the people affiliated with him because he insults David. She warns David and says, “If you do this thing for your name, it will trouble your soul.” When David goes into battle knowing that God is in control, he’s appointed him as the King of Israel. And he goes out and massacres thousands of people. It’s not going to trouble his soul the same way it will if David does it for selfish reasons. That’s a very helpful thing to help people wrestle with before they go into combat. This is one example. And then there’s post traumatic factors. How have we responded after the fact? If you look at Saul’s life compared to David’s life and how they respond to the difficulties in life. Saul continually moves further and further and further away from the Lord. And where does he end up? Isolated and suicidal. David as he deals with the traumas and the difficulties in life, he does not always handle it perfectly, right? You sometimes have to wonder, why was David not on the combat field when he was up on the rooftop looking at Bashibai?

What are some of the things that we often run too when we’re seeking comfort and all these different difficulties we’re facing? Men, women, booze, drugs. So David didn’t respond correctly all the time but if you look at the Psalms when he does. He might be up in the middle of the night crying, but then he peruses the Lord. And the Lord gives him peace and many nights, the Lord grants him sleep. Not every night. And one of the things, if you study through the Psalms, you’ll see in David with … If you look at it from a perspective of, how is David handling the traumas that he’s gone through in life? And I wrote one paper where I dissected all the different points where you can identify particular stressors in David’s life. Any symptoms that might be affiliated with post traumatic stress and then, how he responds. And you learn some really valuable lessons and one of those things is that the memories are not going to go away, necessarily.

When you’re counseling somebody, if you set that as the expectation that you’re going to take away all these memories. You’re going to fall flat. You’re going to be discouraged, they’re going to be discouraged. The point is not to eliminate these memories. One of my dear friends who has faced one of the most horrific days of combat in Army history said, “If I was going to take the memories away, I’d have to have a lobotomy.” Because they’re there. But how do we handle those memories? How do we address those? Where do we go when they come? Do we run to the Lord? Or do we run to ourselves or to some other place? And David over and over and over again, oftentimes again, not perfectly. But oftentimes, does run to the Lord and he is able to find peace and rest for his soul.

So you have these different reactions. And then think about the issue of Tamar. One of my colleagues, Rachel Rosser, has done a lot of research in something that’s called “complex PTSD”. This is again, people who are in situations of intense stress for long periods of time or facing trauma, after trauma, after trauma. Think about the little kid who is molested by her father night, after night, after night. Or maybe some breaks in there but, regularly for years of her life. There’s going to be some particular difficulties that she is going to face and Rachel often, uses the story of Tamar in her counseling. If you go to Second Samuel Chapter 13, and you see this account of this woman who is abused, who is molested, who is taken advantage of by her half-brother.

When you begin to read through Psalm … Or Second Samuel Chapter 13, you see the Absalom is mourning that he can’t have relations … He can’t be with his half-sister because he knows that this is not appropriate. And he brings in a friend, he talks to his friend about this. And his friend gives him some really bad council to trick his sister … Into pretending to be sick. Have his sister make him some food and then, rape her. If you pick up in Verse six he says, “So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the King came to see him, Amnon said to the King, please let my …” And the King here is David. No sorry, yeah. It is David, sorry. Duh. So Amnon laid down and pretended to be ill and the King came to see him and Amnon said to the King. “Please let my sister Tamar, come and make a couple of cakes in my sight that I may eat from her hand.” That David sent out, sent to the house for Tamar saying, “Go now to your brother Anmom’s house and prepare food for him.”

So Tamar went to her brother Anmom’s house and he was lying down and she took dough, kneaded it, made cakes in his sight and baked the cakes. She took the pan and dished them out before him but he refused to eat. And Annam said, “Have everyone go out from me.” So everyone went out from him. Then Anmom said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom, that I may eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the cakes, which she had made and brought them into the bedroom to her brother Anmom. And she brought them in to eat and he took hold of her and said to her. “Come, lie with me my sister.” But she answered. “No my brother, do not violate me. For such a thing is not done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing. As for me, where could I get rid of my reproach? And as for you, you will be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the King for he will not withhold me from you.”

Tamar is concerned not jut about her own physical integrity but about the … God’s integrity. Such a thing is not done in the land of Israel. She’s more concerned about their reputations and what it says about God than she is her own personal purity, right? I mean, she doesn’t want to be violated. Primarily doesn’t want God to be disgraced. And she’s even pleading with her brother not to do this thing. However, he would not listen to her since he was stronger and she was … Then she and he violated her and laid with her. That’s where a lot of these women are going to be. They’re going to feel like they … Because they don’t, they didn’t have the strength to fight off their attacker. They couldn’t stop the person. They might have begged, they might have pleaded. They might have tried to reason with their attacker, but they couldn’t.

Then Anmom hated her with a very great hatred. For the hatred for which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Anmom said to her. “Get up. Go away.” He doesn’t treat her like a person, he treats her like an object. But she said to him. “No. Because this wrong is sending me away is greater than the other you have done to me.” Yet, he would not listen to her. Then he called his young man and attend to him and said. “Now throw this woman out of my presence and lock the door behind her.” She wasn’t even his sister anymore. The one that he pined away for saying he loved her so much. He calls her ‘this woman’. Now she had a long sleeve garment manner of the virgin daughter’s of the King dressed themselves in robes. And his attendant took her out and locked the door behind her. Tamar put ashes on her head and tore her long sleeve garment, which was on her. And she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went. Then Absalom, her brother, said to her. “Has Anmom your brother, been with you? But now keep silent my sister. He is your brother, do not take the matter to heart.”

Think about how many people who have been molested by family members have been told something very similar. This is a family issue, don’t make a big deal out of it. We need to cover this up. We need to hide this. So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother, Absalom’s house. Now when the King, David, heard of these matters he was very anger but Absalom did not speak to Anmom, neither good nor bad. For Absalom hated Anmom because he had violated his sister.

One of the greatest ways that you help your counselee and you help yourself understand that this thing we call PTSD is not so scary. Is to recognize that God’s word has infinite accounts of these types of attacks and traumas. It has great wisdom to offer us in these things. Tamar is wandering around wondering, “how will this reproach be taken away from me?” She was the one who was violated yet, she feels dirty and guilty and wrong. When you begin to open that up to somebody who’s been attacked, who’s been raped, who’s been molested. Their heart can begin to meld with God’s heart because, they recognize He understands their pain. It begins to open up for them the truth of Hebrews 4:15 that they have a High Priest who’s compassionate and empathetic and understands where they’ve been. Understands what they’ve gone through. Begin to connect their heart to the heart of Scripture, and help them understand that God knows their suffering.

It seems like it was done in a dark place, in a place that nobody could ever find out or nobody would ever understand. But it’s not, God knows. He knows their heart, he knows their suffering and He cares. So for you as a counselor, I hope that you have a better understanding that you don’t need to be afraid of this label, post traumatic stress disorder. Don’t … You don’t need to be scared because you are not alone in this battle. You have other people you can rely on. You have other resources and most of all, you have God. His word and His spirit to open up these truths to you and to your counselee to give them healing. To give them hope, and to give them a future. And we’re going to dig into some more of those in the future. And if you again, here are the person who has suffered. I pray that you just begin to see a glimpse, just a tiny glimpse of the hope that God has for you in His word.

Let’s pray together.

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you so much. That we are not left alone to try to figure out these difficult situations, these difficult trials, on our own. And Lord, I pray that as you have offered Greg and I the opportunity to open up your word and to share in the ministry of suffering souls that, you would embolden us and help us to speak with your spirit and your spirit would take our words. And bring about good change in the lives of people here today. So that they would find hope and healing for their own suffering. And be equipped to offer hope and healing to others who suffer as well. Or we thank you that we do have Jesus, a High Priest, who experienced greater trauma than any of us could ever fathom. Yet, walked through it without sin, upright, wholly and perfect. And He cares for us. And He loves us deeply. So Lord, help us to understand that love and to walk in it more faithfully as we go out from these times together. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Helping the Family Through PTSD Thu, 09 Aug 2018 13:00:51 +0000

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Families are often the ones most influenced by PTSD, and also the ones most qualified to minister to their loved one with PTSD. This session will help the counselor equip the family to become a helpful environment and influence for biblical change.

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Families are often the ones most influenced by PTSD, and also the ones most qualified to minister to their loved one with PTSD. This session will help the counselor equip the family to become a helpful environment and influence for biblical change. Families are often the ones most influenced by PTSD, and also the ones most qualified to minister to their loved one with PTSD. This session will help the counselor equip the family to become a helpful environment and influence for biblical change. IBCD clean 56:38
Helping the Individual Through PTSD Tue, 07 Aug 2018 13:00:47 +0000

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Having established hope that God’s Word addresses this challenging topic, this session will offer some specific ways the counselor can help the counselee to move forward.

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Having established hope that God’s Word addresses this challenging topic, this session will offer some specific ways the counselor can help the counselee to move forward.  Having established hope that God’s Word addresses this challenging topic, this session will offer some specific ways the counselor can help the counselee to move forward.  IBCD clean 1:17:09
PTSD as an Interpretive Phenomenon Thu, 02 Aug 2018 13:00:46 +0000

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The way one interprets the original trauma influences the way they respond to the trauma. This session will help the attendee understand what encourages individuals to interpret trauma in certain ways, and how to help them form a biblical worldview.

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The way one interprets the original trauma influences the way they respond to the trauma. This session will help the attendee understand what encourages individuals to interpret trauma in certain ways, and how to help them form a biblical worldview. The way one interprets the original trauma influences the way they respond to the trauma. This session will help the attendee understand what encourages individuals to interpret trauma in certain ways, and how to help them form a biblical worldview. IBCD clean 48:19
Demystifying PTSD Mon, 30 Jul 2018 17:37:51 +0000

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Receiving the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be scary or even debilitating to a person. It can also be intimidating to a biblical counselor who wants to help. The goal of this session is to pull back the shroud of mystery that makes PTSD so scary for both counselor and counselee, and offer the assurance that God’s Word does address this challenging issue.

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Receiving the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be scary or even debilitating to a person. It can also be intimidating to a biblical counselor who wants to help. The goal of this session is to pull back the shroud of mystery that m... Receiving the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be scary or even debilitating to a person. It can also be intimidating to a biblical counselor who wants to help. The goal of this session is to pull back the shroud of mystery that makes PTSD so scary for both counselor and counselee, and offer the assurance that God’s Word does address this challenging issue.  IBCD clean 1:00:45