[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
Traumatic experiences happen to all of us. It is not a question of if they happen it is a matter of when. All of us will lose a loved one; will experience some failure and disappointment. When it seems that life is going well then ALL OF A SUDDEN A TRAGEDY HAPPENS! A TRAUMA; A BETRAYAL! A NEGATIVE REPORT! A SETBACK! DEVASTATION! Something that you were completely unprepared for!
Cries for help are heard every day in South Africa. A spouse is violent towards a spouse. A family member attacks a family member. An innocent person is involved in a hijacking; in a shooting. As violence has erupted across the nation and as violence has taken over a nation; as brother fights brother; as husbands violates wife; as wife betrays husband; as father violates daughter…CRIES ARE HEARD!!!!!! PIERCING CRIES ARE HEARD!!!!!!!!!!! As a mother is inconsolable at the loss of her precious son; as families continue to lose their loved ones…..CRIES! PERCING CRIES ARE HEARD!!! Sleepless nights follow as people try to make sense of it all…WHY? Why did this tragedy befall my family! Why did I have to lose my husband in a tragic way like that? A certain mother in Boksburg asks herself why her son had to be dragged for kilometres to his death. Why did such an innocent soul have to die such a tragic death? A little girl witnessed her little brother being dragged to death, crying for help…A PIERCING CRY!
Images like this have become a reality in South Africa and around the world as people are victims of war, tragic shootings, natural disasters, abductions…senseless killings. We ask ourselves why. Some parts of South Africa experienced tremors this week — an earthquake. Of course as a country we are not used to earthquakes compared to other countries so our people were unprepared to deal with the reality of what was happening on Tuesday. Some things happen in our life that we are unprepared for. They happen “out of the blue” without warning or notice. Now all over South Africa we are asking ourselves what we would do if another earthquake should hit us.
The tremor that happened this week left many people repenting and appreciating their life because all of us know that life is indeed very short. Yes it was just a tremor but in some parts of the world earthquakes leave countless people homeless. Many others have lost their lives. This was not the case in South Africa. We are not used to such devastating natural disasters.
We know that such devastation and unplanned circumstances can come to us. They can come knocking on our door.
In an earthquake or a natural disaster situation the response is to run out of the building. There might be disasters that come to attack your home and the first response is to get away. A retrenchment hits your spouse and you want to leave because you are unprepared as a family to deal with lack and financial stress. Your loved one becomes disabled; you find out after marriage that your spouse cannot have children and you decide to run. A loved one dies and because you cannot handle the pressure and the gravity of loss you decide to abandon your family because “they are better off without me”.
So many people who ran outside their offices on Tuesday — most of them were in high rise office buildings — mentioned how they were so scared to return to work after that as they thought that the earthquake might return. You might also be scared to work out your issues with your spouse as you might not know if there is any hope. Stay. Work things out together. Give yourself time to grieve the loss if you need to. Grieve your job; the lost opportunity; your loved one. Give yourself time to heal; to be whole again; so you can trust again.
After a traumatic experience you might feel that you want to be alone. You might want to separate yourself from your loved ones. I remember when I had a miscarriage in 2005 I was numb; I was silent most days. I DIDN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!! What worked for us ; my husband and me, is the realisation that we were going through that traumatic time together. As much as I didn’t want to talk about our loss I knew that my husband was dealing with our loss his own way. It was a pain we were feeling together but we dealt with it differently. Do not alienate your spouse and your family. Approach the reality of the situation be it a miscarriage; a death of a loved one; losing your home through repossession; being retrenched; being paralysed; losing a child through death TOGETHER WITH YOUR SPOUSE. Do not shut them out.
Trauma can happen in many ways: being raped; being involved in a hate crime; being involved in a shooting. The parents of the little boy whose body was dragged to death in Boksburg would not have predicted what would happen to their young son. — countless families have lost their loved ones in senseless killings of children. There are families in Nigeria who are missing their little girls who were abducted. When trauma happens it leaves you devastated. It leaves you helpless and sometimes hopeless. You question issues of safety and security. Your ability to trust is challenged as you do not feel safe and secure around people.
Peace in God
In John 16:33 the Lord Jesus warns and assures us: I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Like Job you have lived your life right before God when all of a sudden out of nowhere calamity after calamity visits you. Some may judge you and say you are a sinner. I do not know why bad things happen generally. I do not know why bad things happen specifically to “good people” but I find courage and comfort in the lives of Job and Horatio Spafford. We all know the great loss Job suffered when he lost his 10 children and his livestock and health. It was indeed devastating. His attitude ministers contentment to us: in the middle of the tremor we should continue to trust God!
Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures. At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.
In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived. With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip that he penned those now famous words, When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul..
Philip Bliss (1838-1876), composer of many songs including Hold the Fort, Let the Lower Lights be Burning, and Jesus Loves Even Me, was so impressed with Spafford’s life and the words of his hymn that he composed a beautiful piece of music to accompany the lyrics.
For more than a century, the tragic story of one man has given hope to countless thousands who have lifted their voices to sing, It Is Well With My Soul. (The story shared in SHARE faith)
As the tragedy that engulfed Spafford led him to write a song that would minister to countless upon countless people perhaps that is the reason that you are going through what you are going through. Your testimony and worship of the King even in the midst of the tragedy might minister to souls who need a light while they are in the tunnel.
The psalmist reminds us in psalm 46: 1 — God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
Know that your God is concerned about what is happening in your family. Although you might be crying (like Jesus): “My God my God why have you forsaken me” be assured that God has promised to be with you wherever you go and whatever you may be going through.
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