Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 16:24-25 ESV
In order to gain something, you have to lose something.
Moving beyond past trauma means letting go of all that it says about you and instead embracing what God says about you. It is about discovering and embracing the identity that God has given you in creation and pursuing the purpose for which God placed you here to begin with.
Holding onto the mess
Loss makes us want to hold onto things that God never intended for us to hold onto.
Part of finding healing from the trauma of our past is letting go of things that were familiar – routines and habits and thought patterns that kept us secure in the uncomfortable moments.
Grief is hard, and it often makes a mess of our lives, but letting go of the mess actually moves us closer to our true identity.
As disconcerting as that may feel at times, God wants to free us from the slavery of Egypt and lead us into a land of freedom and abundance. For me, years of grief often felt like wandering in the wilderness.
The slavery is real. The wilderness is real. But so is the promised land.
What the past is teaching us
When we hold on to the past, we allow it to dictate the future because we haven’t learned to think differently. One key to letting go is understanding what our traumatic experiences have taught us.
My world feels unstable.
I’m not safe.
I’m not loved.
I could lose another loved one at any moment.
I don’t know if I’ll survive.
How often do we hold onto old patterns of thought or behavior because we think there is gain in them, when actually there is more loss?
I need more control (so I feel more certain that things will be okay).
I have to protect myself from being hurt again.
I don’t need anyone else.
I’ll just stay busy so I’m distracted from the anxiety.
If all else fails, I’ll just end it.
I’ve struggled with every one of these thoughts. The loss is that we aren’t going to move forward in freedom if we don’t change our thinking.
Learning to let go
I’ve heard it said that doing something the same way every time and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. The enemy wants us to hold to old patterns, because they are the ones he’s established in us to keep us from realizing our true identity and freedom in Christ.
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
2 Corinthians 2:11 KJV
God’s desire is that we leave the past with its corrupt thinking and move toward something better – an identity based on His righteousness and holiness.
…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV
Grief doesn’t necessarily equate to sin, but the enemy will certainly take advantage of our weakness and bring in ungodly beliefs to keep us trapped.
God’s desire is the renewal of our minds – and that means learning to think the way He thinks about what we’ve been through (and I know how difficult this can be).
God is in control. He is my source of stability.
I’m safe in Him because He is my shelter and my fortress.
He will never leave me or forsake me.
God created me to be in relationship with people who love me.
I can rest in the hope of seeing my loved ones again someday.
I will live and not die to declare the works of the Lord (Psalm 118:17).
Living with these thoughts is living with hope.
Leave Your Past
Notice that when we begin thinking how God thinks, He becomes central to our focus. We rely less and less on our own understanding.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
The journey of recovering from past trauma is so much the journey of growing in our relationship with God.
You can look your past in the face, with all that it says about you and to you, and refuse to remain victimized by it. It’s easy to be a victim in the tragedies of life, but you can decide that you will not be defined by those circumstances.
Your identity is far more than a few (or many) awful moments in your history. Choose to believe what God says about you instead.
You can read Part 2 here.
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