PTSD and God

Written by: Anne Peterson
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not only suffered by wartime soldiers. Many abuse victims also suffer with it. People like me.

It happens like this: you’re having a normal day, when all of a sudden you find yourself feeling powerless. Outwardly you haven’t changed, but inwardly you’re a child, feeling alone and scared to death.

Something in your present life has triggered something from your past, and it’s like living in a minefield. You never know when it will happen, and the results feel devastating.

I have PTSD because growing up in my house was like a war zone. I stayed on high alert because my siblings and I never knew when we were going to get it. Dad would yank his size 52 belt out of its loops and take off after us. We ran in different directions, trying to escape the inevitable. But we never could.

“Please Dad, stop.” we’d beg, covering our faces.

“Put your hands down or you’re gonna get it worse,” he’d yell with eyes ablaze.

His words dripped with anger, words no one should ever hear. I could hear my brothers pleading in the next room. My heart felt like it would burst out of my chest. I knew I’d be next and there was nothing I could do.

Now, fast forward a lifetime. Lights are flashing in my rearview mirror. No one likes to be stopped by the police. But for those who suffered from abuse, authority is scary. Every time a police officer approaches my car, my heart rate quickens. There is no stopping the tears. The officer asks a question and once again, I’m a child standing before dad. The officers are kind but they’re still an authority and I feel like I’m in trouble. For me, being in trouble meant a beating or a slap across my face.

God is also an authority, as well as a Father. How can I see him in love, while living with PTSD?

It’s been hard for me to accept God as an authority. The way we see our earthly fathers is often the way we see God. Was God like my father, waiting to let me have it? Over time, God showed me he is nothing like my Dad. He demonstrated this in tangible ways. One time he gave me flowers, another time he gave me a trip to Israel.

I was a scared child who needed patience. God is the ever patient one. Although I still experience pain from my past, this is what God is teaching me: God is the God of all time.

He was there in my past when my Dad picked up the belt. He’s in my present as the buttons get pressed, and he’s in my future. Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

PTSD makes my life difficult, but without it I’d never depend on God like I do. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

I’m so grateful that God is a loving Father, and that he holds my past, present and future challenges in his hands.

How can you pray for someone in your life who has PTSD? Let’s commit to reminding each other about who God is, despite our unique circumstances.