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Helping the Family Through PTSD {Transcript}

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.