Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an extreme reaction to trauma. When I was a boy the name didn’t exist, it’s a disorder that was first named in the 1970s linked, I would imagine, to Vietnam veterans and the problems they faced. It’s now recognised that any form of personal extreme trauma can lead to PTSD, although many people have an inner resilience that stops them developing it. That doesn’t mean, of course, that they don’t suffer.
For some time now the whole world has been living with a trauma created by Covid-19. We carry on in this country, showing that stiff upper lip for which we’re known, but let’s be clear. Covid-19 has seriously impacted upon the mental health of the nation and it won’t be resolved overnight. The impact of Covid will continue for years to come, long after we have finally brought it under control and deaths are kept at a minimum. That means for years to come people are going to be suffering with mental health issues created by Covid’s trauma and it will show in all sorts of ways.
My first school was in an area that had suffered the loss of its steelworks. My father was one of 6000 people made redundant and he never worked again. I remember it well because I joined the steelworkers as they travelled to London and marched on the Houses of Parliament to protest, all to no avail. I was 17 at the time and it was 7 years later when I started teaching. What a difference had taken place in the local community in that time. In addition to mass unemployment there was an increase in alcoholism and drug use, domestic abuse, crime, divorce, violence. This is what trauma does. It has such an impact on the mind which is manifested in all sorts of negative ways.
We have to face the fact that we won’t easily recover from Covid, but this is where the good news of Jesus can make a difference. Jesus himself understands trauma because he went through the trauma of the cross. He was nailed to it and left to die. The pain was sheer agony, he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (1) A book in the Old Testament speaks to his suffering and says, “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see. Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me.” (2)
Having faced the cross, and being alive today through his resurrection, he is able to help us in our trauma. He understands it and he can do something about it. He can bring peace to the most troubled mind and anxious heart. To his disciples he uttered words that are just as relevant to you. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (3) At another time he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (4) Peace and rest are what we all need in times of difficulty. Peace and rest will be what we need as we move forward into an uncertain future.
There’s a lovely promise about Jesus and his love for us, found in Psalm 23. It’s all a great read but I’ll just share one verse with you. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (5) Both the present and the future are a dark valley and we can’t find our way through it. We’re scared, we’re traumatised, but Jesus knows trauma. He’s experienced trauma and he came through it. To those who have him as their Saviour there is the certainty that he will be with them in the days ahead. They don’t need to be afraid. They can trust him and enjoy his peace and rest.
- Matthew 27:46
- Lamentations 1:12
- John 14:27
- Matthew 11:28,29
- Psalm 23:4