Six Unshakable Pillars
By Sarah Fletcher
Diedre opened the door to find a police officer standing before her. She somehow knew before he spoke the words. “Ma’am, there’s been an accident. A northbound car crossed over the center line, and your husband did not survive.”
Glenda felt herself go numb as she tried to process the doctor’s words, “You’ve tested positive for HIV.” How could this be? She’d never used drugs—not even a blood transfusion. However, a painful conversation later the same day that paralyzed her emotionally, when her deacon husband hesitantly revealed a secret life with multiple male encounters throughout their marriage. Glenda’s first thoughts were for her children, who as young adults were already questioning their faith. “What will this do to them?”
Ella and Dave had so anticipated the day when they would learn the gender of their first child. Yet, the sonogram revealed something more—an abnormality. The couple held each other and wept in the hospital waiting room where they had been referred for further testing.
What do you do when plans change? When a family member dies? When a spouse is betrayed? When a child’s life is endangered? When trauma rocks the foundations of your family, and life as you knew it ceases to exist?
Traumatic moments such as these produce one of three responses: fight, flee, or freeze. Our response depends upon many factors, including early attachment (whether or not basic needs for love and acceptance were met as an infant, toddler, and young child). A fight response may look like anger, revenge, or taking up a cause. A flee response may involve avoidance, telling ourselves it never happened, or running away from the situation. A freeze response may immobilize us or create a numbness that could cause us to dissociate in some way. Each of these responses may be felt or actualized at varying degrees, depending upon our resilience.
Trauma specialists cite the benefits of a technique known as “grounding” when addressing a traumatic event. This involves simple touching, leaning against, or holding to a fixed structure—a wall, a chair, or another sturdy object. As believers, we can doubly benefit from this technique as we not only reach out and lean upon a material object, but also reach out through faith, lean upon everlasting arms, and hold to the sure foundation, which is Jesus Christ.
Recognizing and claiming six unshakable pillars of truth can help us heal from past traumas, steady us through present traumas, and prepare us for the unforeseen changes life sends our way.
PILLAR ONE: God knows. In His omniscience, our Father knew this would happen, at this time, in this place. He is aware of our situation. He knows us by name (Job 23:10; Isaiah 43:1).
PILLAR TWO: God cares. Not only is He aware, He is also concerned. Full of tender mercy and compassion, ever with us, He stands ready to help, comfort, uphold, and sustain us (Deuteronomy 33:26-27; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:1-5).
PILLAR THREE: God is faithful. Unlike His creation, God remains true and faithful in what He says. He cannot lie; His Word will not fail; He will not forget His children. He keeps His promises. He is the constant; He never changes (Joshua 21:45; Psalm 33:4, 36:5; Lamentations 3:21-23; Hebrews 13:8).
PILLAR FOUR: God can be trusted. Because He is faithful, we can trust Him. We can cling to His Word. He will not betray our trust, nor will He dismiss our concerns. He is the man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief. He is big enough to handle our doubts, and He promises to direct our paths (Psalm 56:8-9; Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 53:3).
PILLAR FIVE: God can redeem. We may see a tragedy or a life change as irreversible. However, God has all power. He still works miracles and changes lives. He can restore and redeem. Our deepest hurts and greatest weaknesses may become our greatest strengths and richest opportunities to share His love and truth (Joel 2:24-25; Hosea 6:1-3; Isaiah 48:17; 2 Corinthians 12:9).
PILLAR SIX: God has a plan. He is conforming us to the image of His Son. Trials and tragic circumstances can produce growth and beauty as we allow Him to chisel away our rough edges. What looks like a dead end may become a passageway to greater blessings (Genesis 50:20; Isaiah 43:19; Romans 8:28). After we have grounded ourselves (physically and spiritually), we can take the following steps toward healing:
Breathe. Take calming, cleansing breaths. Recall a favorite Scripture (or choose one of these listed above). Breathe in the Word. Breathe out the Word. (Inhale slowly; exhale doubly slow). Let His Word fill you and surround you with His peace.
Grieve. Trauma nearly always involves loss. Grieving loss is necessary for healing. We do not grieve as unbelievers, as those without hope; however, we do grieve. Grief is a healthy emotion. One helpful tool in grieving is to establish a set time each day or week in which we allow ourselves to grieve—a 30-minute or hour window, followed by a joyful activity.
Receive. Accept help from others. Receiving assistance not only benefits us, but also affords others opportunities for blessings and service. The pathway to healing may also include receiving services from a Christian counselor, life coach, or pastoral staff member.
Believe. The wisest man who ever lived penned these words, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Seasons pass. Believe for this moment. God has brought us this far. He will not abandon us now. In God’s strength we will get through this. Believe for the future. One day, we will understand His purposes and His plans. In that day, all wrongs will be made right. Earthly memories of trials, traumas, and tragedies will pale as we experience the eternal joys of His presence.
About the Writer: Sarah Fletcher is a licensed professional counselor and adult mental health therapist. She and her husband Keith minister in Johnson City, Illinois, and have three adult children.