How to Disciple through Emotional Trauma: Truth
John 1:17 reads, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Law (or any rule) cannot free people from emotional trauma. You can tell people all day that they have no reason to believe a lie… to be afraid… or to be ashamed. You can tell people to do things that appear to be confident and fearless.
But, until they internalize some missing but very important truth about God, themselves, or the world around them, they may be stuck.
And as I’ve mentioned in previous articles — being stuck in emotional woundedness can be a significant detriment to love. We love to our full potential when we are emotionally whole.
“You won’t believe where I am right now, Dustin!” Emma couldn’t hide her excitement even though she was speaking over her mobile phone.
“Um… okay… where are you?” Dustin asked.
Dustin had served as Emma’s youth minister for over a year and during that year, had walked with her through some unfinished grief, and through her senior year of high school. When they first met, he would learn that Emma’s father had died early in her youth and then later, that his death had a profound effect on her. One of those effects was the development of a bonafide phobia of thunderstorms.
To make a long story short, Emma’s father was a great comfort to her through the noise and flash that often accompanies a thunderstorm.
This is a very normal fear for young children. However, when he died, the sudden absence of her comforter, and the associated grief from her loss left her stuck in an irrational fear of an otherwise very normal phenomenon. There is likely more to the psychological nature of this story, but what I’m sharing here will suffice.
In the course of their discipling work together, Dustin had an opportunity to work with and pray with Emma through her fear of thunderstorms. And now…
“I’m standing in the rain! I’m outside! And it’s thundering! Can you believe it!!!”
She was in tears. He couldn’t see… but he could hear. He could hear her tears, and yes, the thunder as well. Until this day, every thunderstorm had put her in hiding. Under her covers. In a closet. Somewhere out of the sight and sounds of the storm.
“Wow, Emma! That’s–well, how is it!? Are you okay?” He asked.
“I’m awesome, Dustin!” she cried. “He is with me, Dustin! I know he’s with me!”
Their prayer time together had focused on one simple thing. Dustin was trying to help Emma to give her fear to the Lord and to understand why the fear had such a grip on her.
It was the simple act of giving her fear to God, and taking a simple but missing truth to heart. It was this truth that released her from her fear.
The truth can be expressed this way:
Yes, my dad passed away when I was young. But now, God is my Father, and He is my Comforter. When the storms come, my heavenly Father is with me, because God is my Father.
The moment she was able to internalize this truth… she was free!
Why is this important?
Because our goal, as disciple-makers, is to help people arrive at a place where they can, to the best of their ability, observe all that Jesus has commanded us. And, if he commanded anything, he commanded us to love Him, and to love others. Emma had learned an important truth that expanded her ability to love God.
For Emma, this love was realized and fully expressed in an evening of singing praise and dancing in the rain. In the thunder and lightning even! In this storm, she was actually receiving comfort from her heavenly Father–and expressing her love for him.
As disciple-makers, it is our prerogative to help others to arrive at biblical truths about God that open their hearts to love him even more.
It’s almost as simple as that. Who wouldn’t love a God who comforts in the midst of the storm! For Emma, the storm had actually become a reason to celebrate her God…her heavenly Father and the fact that he lives with her every day.
Being part of a healthy disciple-making ministry doesn’t take the place of a professional therapeutic relationship. But it can help! The goal of the disciple is not to be a therapist. God is, however, a divine therapist. And the truths that we learn in Scripture have the divine power to “demolish strongholds” to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NIV).
This is what we do as disciple-makers.
Why? Because knowing God better results in greater love.
Understanding biblical truths about God, ourselves, and the world around us opens our hearts to be able to love Him and others without hindrance.
Indeed. Jesus brings us both grace and truth. Two essential ingredients when discipling others in emotional trauma.