Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Spiritual PTSD

December 13, 2016

Until Vietnam, we didn't know what it was and didn't know what to do about it. In WWII, General George Patton was relieved of his command for slapping a soldier who suffered from it. Back then, they called it 'battle fatigue;' but for the most part, it was expected that once a soldier got home, it was over. Except it often wasn't. The battle may have been over, but for many, the war had just begun. Today we call it PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It manifests in many ways; depression, physical ailments, anger, fear, and a host of assorted debilitating symptoms.

Entire support systems have been developed to help veterans deal with it. But they aren't the only ones who fight this battle.

In Mark and Matthew's gospels, after Jesus has endured forty days and nights in the desert battling Satan, they record that angels came and ministered to him. He had won the battle; have you ever wondered why he needed angels after the fight was over? I suspect that he was suffering from a spiritual PTSD, and needed help to overcome it. Sometimes we fight protracted life battles, whether physical illness, divorce, job loss, the death of a loved one. We get through the crisis with (sometimes) flying colors, only to unexpectedly crash later on. It takes us totally by surprise, and takes the wind our of our sails.

This is one reason we need one another...to rejoice when we rejoice, but also to weep when we weep; people who not only walk with us through the fire, but who also stand with us as we stand in the wreckage of what was once our life, but is now just a charred landscape that leaves us feeling empty and exhausted. Spiritual PTSD. It's real, it's destructive, it can be deadly. But God has given us the tools for this fight as well as for the battles we more easily recognize.

I am grateful tonight for a conversation with a dear friend that opened my eyes to this dimension of spiritual life, and for the holy privilege I was given by being invited into his life.

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