Recovering from a traumatic experience is a highly subjective process that is different for everyone, and it is a process that you will go through constantly throughout a lifetime. While every one of us wants to heal and be whole again after a sudden terrible event, or to mentally and emotionally set aside the pain of our physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles, we cannot go on living, thinking, or behaving the same way after we experience something that causes deep emotional scars.  

Modern mental health professionals, I think, have done a fantastic job of communicating the need for slow and intentional recovery and self-care, so much so that the self-care industry has grown exponentially. But self-care isn’t about finding the right CBD product to help you relax or creating the perfect hygge-friendly home. And although I would never say that purchasing a product to improve your emotional health and wellbeing is a bad idea, it is a bad place to start.  

You can’t buy healing on Amazon. 

As survivors, we are never healed. It’s important to understand that any experience, good or bad, that has marked your heart and mind consistently for a long period of time will not be something that you will “get over.” If you are hoping that you will someday forget that this hard thing ever happened, or that you won’t remember or feel the pain of it when you think back on it later, please consider changing your expectations. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that you will feel angry, or rejected, or sad, or unloved for the rest of your life. The goal of trauma recovery is not to recover in the sense that you no longer feel any emotional connection to the experience. The goal of trauma recovery is to develop a satisfying, positive view of the effects of the experience on your understanding of yourself and others. Rather than removing its impact on your life, true recovery comes from integrating the experience into your understanding of yourself so you can offer a stronger, more seasoned version of you to those around you.  

Think of the worst moments of your life, the ones that you still struggle with, as a training ground that provided you with skills and resources that enable you to see and eventually become the person God is calling you to be. Your ultimate goal in healing, therefore, is not to stop feeling hurt by events in your past, but to offer others the wisdom that you earned through them.  

That’s why I’m writing this.  

If you’ve ever thought “no one should ever have to feel like this” you’re right, but the only way to act on that thought is to show others a better way.  

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul explains that, just as there are different types of ministries and spiritual gifts that contribute to our knowledge and faith, and just as there are different parts of the body that we use for different purposes, individual members within the body of Christ have different roles and gifts to offer to others and to the body of Christ as a whole. But what if we use this analogy Paul provides, the different roles of the parts of our body, to better understand the different roles of the events of our past? The broken ankle I got when I was 5 taught me not to run in a crowd. The hassle and struggle it took to lose 112 lbs. Motivated me to eat healthy food in reasonable quantities and maintain a strong workout routine.  

These examples are probably very simple compared to the complex trauma you’re struggling with, and they are with some of my past experiences as well. Most complex trauma will follow a more circuitous path to get from the pain and hardship to a more valuable endpoint, and the experience that you’re thinking about while you’re reading this may still be fresh and raw. If it is, you may be frustrated right now, because your wounds are still bleeding and you yourself are in need of comfort. If so, know that your goal right now is only to work on your own recovery at your own pace through counseling, psychological and psychiatric care, addressing any physical pain or problems that may have developed, and surrounding yourself with strong, faithful friends who will support you and help you find solutions to whatever needs you have that are unmet. You can come back to this another time.  

But if you are hoping and praying for a way to reframe your emotional scars or finally look for the good things God did in the midst of your hardships, recognizing God’s grace as a real and present force that stood with you in trouble and remains with you now in healing can be like changing rocks into diamonds. The sense of strength that grows from the ruins of frustration, pain, and grief can help you face the next hard thing with greater assurance, and provide you with a living testimony of God’s work in your life.  

Be strong and blessed,