How to Experience God’s Presence in Your Past Trauma

Man walking through darkness, needing God with you in your past trauma

We’ve all experienced “stuff.” No one comes through life unscathed. What’s in your bucket of stuff is different from what’s in mine. No one else can tell you how heavy your bucket is. But if “stuff” is still weighing you down and often impacting you, you need to find the freedom Jesus offers. That comes through inviting Jesus to be with you in your past trauma.

Your intellect might “know” that God was with you when “it” was happening, but the other part of you, your right brain, doesn’t fully believe that. Wouldn’t He have changed things if He had been there? Did He not care? Was He rather powerless? Then would He really be God? And if He is God, is He good?

Christians have been wrestling with such questions for millennia, and much has been written and spoken about such questions. But as important as sermons, Bible study, and even hearing other people’s stories can be, that’s not usually enough to change your inner feelings. Thoughts and feelings about your “stuff” get triggered and you feel alone and hurt.

Theology and neurobiology provide some wonderfully encouraging ways to think about this, and some practical ways to change your inner world. You can rewrite the scripts in your brain when you experience God being with you in your past trauma.

Trauma and the Brain

Trauma in this context can mean just about anything hurtful. It might mean little “t” or big “T”, a one-time event or an ongoing series of events. It might have been something done to you (abuse, abandonment, loss, disappointment), or it might have been something you did yourself (sinful behavior, an unwise decision, etc.). Divorce, abortion, death of a loved one, job loss, sexual acting out, or any of a million other possibilities.

A simplified version of how your brains works; when something overwhelming happens your brain is flooded with incoming messages. The sights, sounds, smells, sensations, and feelings all get sent to your right brain for processing. Your right brain hears “incoming!”, processes the data, and under normal circumstances sends those messages on to your left brain for it to make meaning out of them. Or more succinctly, first you sense things and then you make sense of them.

When the incoming messages overwhelm your brain’s processing capabilities your left brain never gets a chance to fully make sense of it all. You never complete the story in your mind. That’s why for so many people it feels like “it” is still happening. Part of you “knows” it happened in the past, but it still feels as though you’re in the middle of it right now.

That’s the essence of trauma, and finishing the story is the essence of trauma healing.

All the tools available in mental health today are valuable. But here’s where Jesus can make a much bigger difference than you’ve ever realized.

God in Your Past

God lives outside of time. “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (2 Peter 3:8). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God understands time; He created time, and He created us within time. Jesus experienced time when He was here on earth.

But because He exists outside of time, to God yesterday is just as “present” as today is. (And so is tomorrow). Time is truly no limitation to Him.

Isn’t that similar to your trauma brain? To that part of you, yesterday didn’t happen; it’s still happening. Yesterday is “present” to you as real as if it was happening today.

And that’s where God living outside of time can be powerfully healing to any hurtful memory out of your bucket of “stuff” that’s still exerting control over you.

Invite Jesus Into Your Past

How do you do that? I’m glad you asked.

Get quiet. Simply pray, “Jesus, come. I invite You to be here.” Then allow your mind to enter that hurting place. You may have realized by now that stuffing it doesn’t work very well anyway, so “go there.” Imagine being in that moment.

And then imagine Jesus being right there with you in that place. Where is He as you’re being shot at? Where is He as you watch your loved one take their last breath? When you are being abused? When you are having sex with that person? When your parent or boss or teacher is calling you names? When you are having that abortion? When all your money is stolen? When you are feeling so ashamed at failing in something important? Picture Him being right there with you.

In your imagination see the look on Jesus’ face. How close is He to you? What’s the feeling you get from seeing His eyes? Is He saying anything to you? Sit with that for a time.

I’ve seen people break down in tears or get an amazed far-away look in their eyes as they experience Jesus being with them in those moments. The story suddenly has a whole new meaning.

How We Become Changed

The very neural networks in your brain become changed as you experience Jesus being with you in those moments from your past. From that day forward the meaning of that memory will be different. Your brain is doing its work of finishing the story.

And your past loses its sting.

I want to say strongly and clearly, nothing here is designed to lessen the important help trauma therapy can and does offer. AND, going to the One who made your brain in the first place is a truly awesome way to find healing and restoration. You can come to where you remember the event(s) as having happened to you, but they are no longer happening. You can do this as often as you need to, and for as many past events as necessary. Jesus can transform them all.

I’m so grateful our God is the Lord of time, and that He can be present with you in your past trauma.

Next time we’ll talk about God being present in our future.

Your Turn: What past events continue to exert their hold on you? Will you take the risk of “going there” and invite Jesus to be with you in your past trauma?

Tweetables: why not share this post?

  • God made time, but He exists outside of time. That means the past is as present to Him as today is. So, invite Him into your memories of loss or trauma. Imagine Him being there. He will be! And that transforms your past trauma. Tweet that.

Can’t Talk to Anyone? 

Many people feel they have no one they can talk with about their biggest challenges. Loneliness is painful. And dangerous – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But doing something about it is hard!

I’d love to send you some ideas about some practical small things you can do when you feel you can’t talk to anyone, things that will empower you and just might result in some real connection.