Grace Counseling Services
Winter Haven, PLLC
Church Trauma: Finding Peace within the Storm
As the world continues to develop and expand, I find it very difficult to enjoy moments of peace. Ever since I was younger, I was always taught that home should be a place of peace that no one should be allowed to disturb. The mentality behind this was so that when the rest of the world felt out of balance, home could be a place where you can find rest. However, what do you do when the peace that you once received has been disturbed in the place you once called home? For those who grew up in the church and has experienced traumatic hurt knows exactly what this feels like.
Being raised in the church myself, I have had my fair share of moments where I felt hurt and abandoned by the church circles that I was supposed to consider home. Many who understand church culture knows that it is supposed to be a community of fellow believers who worship the same God. As more people feeling the hurt leave these communities that they were once apart of, there tends to remain a lot of questions. “What should I do now?” “How can I heal from this?” “How can I trust God if he allowed this to happen?” If you have asked these questions or in this space currently, just know that you are not alone. As more stories related to church sexual abuse, traumatic experiences, and racial injustice come to light, it is clear that there is room for healing and redemption all around.
Social media and news outlet continue to guide the current trends, including the idea of deconstruction. Deconstruction culture continues to make a way for those who have been hurt by the church community and has even created a platform for so many individuals. This idea stems from the concept of a person restructuring and rethinking their understanding of what it means to be a Christian in today’s world. For some, they have found it helpful in restoring their faith and trust in God. For others, it has led to those turning from the faith completely. As a social worker and a mental health therapist, I have been given a great opportunity to walk alongside others who may have gone through similar experiences. Even though there were things I wrestled with when it came to my faith, I realized that I was trying to mend and give credit to the wrong relationships. For me, it was more about my relationship with God and how he was the home that I needed to regain my peace. For years, I allowed other humans to be that for me and every time, a portion of my peace was disturbed. This is because as humans we are not perfect, and we are going to mess up in some way or another.
One thing that I always want to instill and teach my clients is how to gain and build resiliency in their lives. As I was reading through some research articles, this passage of “Trauma and Resilience in the Church” by Carolyn Custis James (2018) spoke to me:
“It is also true—and we have biblical support for this—that survivors of trauma of every kind have given us some of the deepest theology we possess. Job's stories are borne of trauma. Hagar, Naomi, Hannah, and Esther are a few examples. These sufferers give us permission to wrestle with the deepest questions human beings ever ask” (p. 4).
These figures are great examples of faith who experienced trauma but gained resiliency with the help of them trusting in their relationship with God.
If you are someone who has or is currently experiencing church trauma, remember that you have support. You are not alone in your experience and your experience is a part of your unique story. As the church, we must strive to do better to create spaces of healing and safety for everyone. Let us be a community of encouragement and advocacy for those who feel like they do not have a voice!
James, C. C. (2018). TRAUMA AND RESILIENCE IN THE CHURCH. A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE, 2-8.