At Pure Desire, one of the primary tenets of the healing approach is the necessity of understanding and healing from our past trauma. Along with family of origin issues and an individual’s arousal template, these three core concepts have become crucial to the recovery journey from sex, love, and pornography addictions for thousands of men and women.
But for those who were raised in the Church or a Christian home, the idea of “going back” to deal with our past wounds and trauma can feel like a lack of faith at best or downright unbiblical at worst. After all, the thought pattern goes, we are “made new” in Christ and have been given a pattern in the New Testament of “forgetting what is behind” as we walk forward in our salvation.
We may feel that revisiting our past wounds and trauma is simply a man-made effort of dealing with something Christ has already dealt with for us.
I want to explain why I see a focus on our past wounds and trauma as not only biblical, but also as a life-giving practice for everyone when it comes to following Jesus in a broken world.
This is one exciting “tension” we find throughout the Bible. Even while we work out our salvation and engage in a process of discipleship to become more like Christ, we know that the eternal realities have already been secured. We fight each battle of personal transformation knowing the ultimate war is already won—but knowing the war is ultimately won doesn’t eliminate the current struggles. In Galatians 5:16 the Apostle Paul encourages us,
So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
Do you notice in this verse how we have both? We have a new life but also must choose to live in accordance with the new life that is already ours.
We are saved but being saved. We are forgiven and being forgiven. We are saved from the ultimate and eternal consequences of our sin, but we are not guaranteed immediate freedom from our sinful patterns and behaviors.
If we can see this truth in many other areas of our faith journey, isn’t it possible that healing our past wounds and trauma is part of the ongoing work of transformation God does in each one of us?
For example, we don’t come to faith in Christ and expect that patterns of anger or overeating will immediately disappear. Some people will experience miraculous healing and deliverance in certain areas of their life, but no one expects to be made perfect immediately.
So, we are right to look at the impact our past wounds and trauma have had on us. We do this, not to glorify the pain or find a scapegoat for our behavior, but in order to understand why we do the things we don’t want to do. We are already made whole in Christ. But we have not yet become whole in our thinking and believing. These patterns change over time as we engage with others in understanding our past wounds and trauma.
Jesus wants to deal with the sin in our lives; all of it. Most of our attention, though, is put on the forgiveness of sins we have committed. Don’t get me wrong—this is good! Grace applied to our past mistakes is a powerful, awesome experience.
But what about the truth that others have sinned against us? What about the impact the fallenness of our world and the humans in it has had on us? I would contend that Jesus is just as interested in healing us from the sin of others toward us as He is in healing the sin we have done against Him and others.
The brokenness of others perpetuated toward us—whether intentionally or unintentionally—results in wounds and trauma for every single one of us. Even if we were born into a “good Christian home,” we were still raised by people who were not yet all God had called them to be. In their imperfections and in the cracks in their holiness, they wounded us. Our parents or caregivers wounded us, not because they are evil, but because of this simple truth: hurt people hurt people. Wounded people wound other people. It is impossible to live in a fallen world without experiencing the impact of this on our souls and on our thinking.
The evangelical gospel many of us received growing up is essentially too self-focused. “Jesus forgive me of my sins and come into my heart” is a beautiful prayer that God answers, but I believe we need a deeper gospel that takes us into the awareness of how our sin impacts others. And if we can see that our fallenness has impacted others, can we not admit that the fallenness of others has impacted us? Inviting Jesus into the healing of this sin—the sin of others—is a gateway into a more holistic, healthy life.
We can actually see some examples in the Bible of the outworking and evidence of trauma in people’s lives. Consider Gideon when the angel of the Lord encounters him threshing wheat in a cave. The angel calls Gideon a “mighty hero.” Can you imagine such validating words declared by a messenger of the Lord? And yet how does Gideon respond? “I am the least in my entire family.”
I would contend that no one grows up believing this about themselves, unless this message has been communicated to them by others—whether advertently or inadvertently. While we don’t know the exact source of this trauma, we can see the impact it had on Gideon’s thinking.
We see a similar story in Saul, where the Lord has identified His man—His hero—but the man called can’t see himself as God does! When the prophet Samuel tells Saul he will be king, his reaction is similar to that of Gideon—who am I? Even though Saul was head and shoulders above the rest and selected by God to be the first King of Israel, he saw himself as worthless. When the big coronation day came, where was Saul? Hiding among the baggage.
In yet another story, a man named Mephibosheth calls himself “a dead dog.”
In each of these stories, we can see a way of thinking that has been shaped by unaddressed trauma and wounds. The danger of trauma isn’t in the wound itself, but in the way the wound becomes infected with lies about our character, identity, and future.
The final evidence we see of trauma in Scripture and our motive for dealing with it is the pattern of generational sin, or curses, we see in families.
Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, uses deception to protect his family and deceive a local king. This thread of deception begins to run through the generations and becomes part of the repeated trauma story.
Abraham’s son practices the same deception. He becomes father to Jacob the deceiver. Jacob’s sons will lie to him about the “death” of their brother Joseph. This pattern continues to impact one generation after another.
If we don’t heal trauma’s impact on us, we will continue to pass on the legacy of trauma in our family. As Richard Rohr has said so well,
If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.Richard Rohr
In 1 Corinthians 13, we see Paul teaching, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned like a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”
As children, the natural response of our brain is to protect us from anything traumatic that causes us fear and pain. In a healthy environment, this pain and fear is dealt with and processed so we can grow into adulthood and put these traumas behind us.
However, many of us still live with a child’s brain—our brain held captive by the trauma from our past which continues to drive our behaviors today.
Healing our trauma and facing our wounds is biblical. It is simply one method God uses to mature us and help us grow in Him.
One of my favorite worship songs contains the line, “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.” I believe the writer of this song speaks not only of the “someday heaven,” but the right here, right now “heaven on earth” we begin to experience through Christ’s transforming work in us. Through His Holy Spirit, as we face our trauma, we invite Jesus into the shadowy corners of our lives. From these dark chambers, where once we listened to disastrous lies, we begin to hear the truth of Jesus’ words over us.
The wounds of our trauma can be healed—and when they are, our capacity for freedom and love grows to a whole new level.
For more information about Christ-centered trauma recovery through counseling, contact the Pure Desire team at puredesire.org/counseling.
May you experience this healing and freedom in your life.
1. Author’s Note: If you look closely at the Apostle Paul’s statement of “forgetting what is behind” (Phil. 3:12), you will see that the context of this statement relates to his accomplishments, victories, and false identity. He isn’t advocating that we ignore all facets of our past; he is, instead, choosing to focus on Christ and His victories rather than on his own success. In this regard, we are wise to practice self-forgetfulness and a healthy letting go of the past. Becoming overly enamored with our past personal success and achievement might be the very dynamic that keeps us from an all-out vision of what Christ can do in and through us in our present and future.
2. Judges 6
3. I Samuel 9:21
4. 2 Samuel 9:8
5. Crowder, D. (2014). Come As You Are [Recorded by D. Crowder]. On Neon Steeple [CD]. Brentwood, Tennessee: Sparrow Records.
Nick is the Executive Director of Pure Desire Ministries. He has been in leadership for 15+ years. He was in Pastoral Ministry at East Hills Alliance Church in Kelso, Washington, for 14 years. Nick has a Bachelor’s in Pastoral Studies from Crown College and an MDiv from Bethel Seminary. He has authored two books, Setting Us Free and Safe: Creating a Culture of Grace in a Climate of Shame.