The Other Side of Pain
by Anita Agers-Brooks
Can I tell you a secret?
For years I hated it when people said to me, “You need to let go and let God.”
The problem was, I desperately wanted to, but how do you let go of things you can’t get over? I wrestled with shame because it sounded so simple. Apparently something was wrong with me—otherwise I would do what I wanted instead of holding on to the fears I detested. Like Paul in Romans 7:15–24, I struggled to understand myself and why I sometimes acted in opposition to what I truly desired.
Unbeknownst to me, I grappled with shadows of PTSD symptoms from things I’d experienced in my childhood and recent past. There were times I identified with Job when he cursed the day he was born and longed for death to carry him away from his terrors (see Job 3). Except I didn’t really want to die—I simply wanted the pain to go away.
Post-traumatic stress in the ordinary woman or man can originate in different ways: childhood abuse, sexual attack, identity crisis, serious money problems, unachievable expectations, loss of possessions, betrayal by a loved one, debilitation from illness or accident, the death of someone we don’t know how to live without, or a myriad of other sorrows.
Regardless of what or why we are traumatized—whether it’s one big, dramatic event or an accumulation of many things piled on top of one another—the fact is, when our souls ache, everything about our lives is affected. It keeps us in bondage.
Sadly I’ve learned this through multiple real-life experiences, including near death. In my book Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, I tell some of those stories, as well as true life accounts of others who were taken on journeys they never asked to travel.
I’ve equally learned that we human beings can get through these very dark valleys. Crevices onyx black and consuming while we’re in them—it feels as if we’ll never see the light in life again.
One of the greatest obstacles to healing from post-trauma stressors is the inability to forgive ourselves. But there is a way out of this self-induced bondage. Through research, interviews, and experience, I’ve discovered keys to help us unlock emotional chains.
- Recognize healthy and false guilt. When faced with a painful situation, list all known facts evidenced by proof. Make another list, writing down all your feelings about the matter. Ask yourself where your emotions have lied to you and distorted your perceptions, helping you justify or making you feel guilty for something you did not cause or magnify.
- Confess without condemnation your specific demons of hate, fear, shame, and false guilt to God. Analyze them bathed in the light of His love, realizing He sees your deepest wounds and how you’ve reacted to them—versus how you see yourself. He was with you when the hurts began, and He is with you as you heal.
- Accept responsibility where appropriate. Take some kind of positive action to demonstrate your genuine remorse. (Regardless of whether it is appreciated or not.)
- Ask others what positive traits they see in you; then write their affirmations on sticky notes. Place them on your bathroom mirror and your refrigerator, in your car, and any other place you frequent.
- Refuse to be ashamed of you. Give yourself permission to love yourself wholly, accepting your flaws as part of your human condition while equally accepting the goodness of God’s image as part of who you are.
- Don’t assume you know how God feels. If He says you or others are forgivable and you say differently, you are telling Him you know more than He does.
- Surround yourself with healthy friendships, godly counsel, and joyful encounters. Plan outings and adventures where your spirit can soar.
- Allow yourself to smile, or even better—to belly laugh. Spend a whole day in the presence of someone with compassion who cares about your happiness.
From what I’ve learned, surviving emotional trauma is about holding on to Jesus and never letting go. Knowing faith isn’t based on how you feel in a painful moment, it means choosing to believe in God’s promises in spite of your emotions and taking positive action where you can.
Darkness cannot prevail forever; even death cannot hide from the power of God’s healing. This is our promise, our hope, our truth. You need never walk through your valley of pain alone. Lasting freedom is possible when you grip Jesus’ hand—and let Him guide you through to the other side of pain.
Read more about moving past your pain into lasting freedom in Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over by Anita Agers-Brooks.
Anita Agers-Brooks inspires others to overcome and thrive, by telling her own dramatic stories, and sharing those of people who also believe, “It’s never too late for a fresh start with fresh faith.”
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