I believe you. These words are often underrated and not said enough. No one knows the value of these three words quite like someone who has experienced trauma, been gaslighted too many times, or has questioned things like “Did I really see what I saw?” “Maybe I am overreacting.” “It’s really not that big of a deal.” I did something to encourage it.” But it is a big deal, you are not overreacting, and yes you saw what you saw. Yet, you begin to question your own abilities to judge a situation, your gut becomes unreliable, and you often feel like a ping pong ball. "I believe you" is something you want more than anything to hear but it as also terrifies you because in order for you to hear these words means you have to tell your story to someone. It often feels too hard to do. We try to do everything we can to not relive what happened and we know people are broken, they aren't perfect. We don't know if they can handle hearing about our trauma and we know there's a risk that people who should be a safe haven end up not being one, causing more trauma than we began with. And how could they understand the flashbacks that bring every part of you back in time, why you have a hard time trusting others, the physical effects you experience, being easily overwhelmed, the feelings of shame or something being wrong with you? If you have been there. I am sorry. So very sorry. I understand because I have been there too. It caused me to try to stuff the effects of trauma, pretend it wasn't there, second guess myself, and retreat back into my shell; afraid of being hurt again by someone who was supposed to help. It was a valid fear. But, God kept pushing and prodding. Pushing me just enough to grow but not so much that I would re-isolate. Slowly connecting me with people that connected me to others and eventually I found the right kind of people. Those very invaluable people that will listen to your story, not react to it, believe you, and guide you on the road to healing. People that show you the beautiful reality of God's love for you.
Isaiah 61:1-7 is a beautiful picture of God's heart, of what He instills in the helpers, those that are truly wanting to help. "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...proclaim freedom for the captives...release darkness for the prisoners...comfort all who mourn...bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes...joy instead of mourning...praise instead of a spirit of despair...they will rebuild...and restore...renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations...instead of your shame...instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance...everlasting joy will be yours."
Every part of these verses scream God's heart and character. He heals the brokenhearted, He comforts, He gives beauty where ashes used to be, He rebuilds, restores, renews, and gives freedom from the chains that once held you down. And knowing we do not do life well alone, he instills this heart in so many. If you aren't ready to talk to someone, talk to The Comforter, the Holy Spirit. He is listening. Ask questions, cry, let out your anger, He understands it all. He will not turn you away. God can handle your emotions. He has never made one of His children feel ashamed for their feelings. He already knows we have enough shame on our shoulders, He will not place more.
I'll end with this. The church body, those who love God and His commission, are supposed to be a place of safety. A safe haven, a place for the broken and fearful to feel safe. The church sometimes is not the first place of safety for those who have experienced trauma, suffer from addiction, mental health illness, or suicide. And many are afraid to have a conversation about these things. If you are reading this and in a place to listen to another, just listen. Listen to their story. Be aware that they may have been hurt by other Christians. Educate yourself on the affects of trauma. Be the one to change the culture.
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In case you haven't heard it lately, we believe you, we're sorry you've experienced that hard stuff in your past and we are here for you. God is fully able to heal your heart, but He will not rush the process for you. When you're ready to heal, we're ready to help.