Those powerful two words come from the book of Haggai chapter 2 verse 4. They are the words of a loving Father to His children – children who are lamenting over present events because of painful memories of their past. Something has occurred that triggered pain and disillusionment to what should have been a joyous occasion. The surfaced emotion is now impeding their ability to move forward.
With two simple words, God validated the pain of their past, justified the struggles of their present, and nudged them forward to the glory of what He had planned for their future. His plan will not be stopped.
I have PTSD.
That truth has been eye-opening to process. It has been difficult because the struggle is always just beneath the surface. The lies and fear from past events sometimes feel just as real as my heartbeat. I fight to keep emotions, questions, confusion, and thoughts hidden but they relentlessly surface at their whim. Past experiences have changed me. They have hardwired my body to react in a way that is contrary to my conscious desires. Scars from the past continue to affect my present reality. The thoughts that run ruthlessly through my mind, and paralyze my progress, go completely unnoticed by those around me.
My struggle may be invisible to others, but not to my God.
PTSD is not just an emotional response – it is a physical response due to a hardwiring change in the neurological makeup of your body. It changes your default reaction. Triggers can occur that you do not understand from memories that you no longer have. These triggers impact your thoughts, your attitudes, and your actions. Triggers that go undetected by others can bring pain that will skew your reality. The simple, flippant uncaring words of others or the selfish snubbing by those in your environment can bring about intense emotion that you do not understand and response that you cannot control. It can cause the crumbling of your very core.
Even to a follower of Christ.
So where is my restoration in the scars that remain? It is there. Does my walk with Jesus invalidate my pain? No. Do the scars that have changed me, make me less of a believer? No. Are my hidden emotions unjustified? Absolutely not.
My perception of things IS my reality and God understands.
Haggai 2: 1-5 and Ezra 3:12 tell of a time when a remnant people allowed memories of the past to affect the reality of the present. Long story short….a group of Israelites who had been held captive in Babylon were allowed to go back to Jerusalem to restore the temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. As they began the task of rebuilding the temple and began to offer sacrifices on the foundation of the new construction, some of the older people began to be caught up in memories of the past.
The older people who had witnessed the grandeur of Solomon’s temple were emotionally distraught as they saw the new temple being reconstructed. The temple they remembered had been grand and unmatched in its splendor but this one was no comparison. The memory of the first temple’s destruction was too painful to bear as they watched the subpar reconstruction of its replacement. They had waited so long during captivity to come back to the holy city and reconstruct this place and now everything rushed in – disappointment in the way the temple was being reconstructed, grief from the events of the past, and fear that what they once knew and hoped for would never be again. The young ones who never knew the first temple were overjoyed at the reconstruction– but the old ones? Intense emotions had been triggered in the old ones and no one but God knew why. He saw the hidden trauma that was triggered and understood the pain they felt.
Are you living with a painful past that has changed you? Do triggers lead to an unwanted emotional response that you try to hide because no one would understand? Is it hard to move forward because you can’t get past the memories? The temple had not only been destroyed by the enemy but the treasures ransacked and stolen-just as the enemy does to our lives today. As our creator, God understands our emotions, and yes He justifies our anger, our sadness, and our fear brought on by events that were unfair.
But now….God doesn’t leave us there.
After giving reflective questions to the people so that they could process their emotions – God gave them clear direction in Haggai 2:4-5 on how to move forward:
4 But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 5 ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.
God sees the hidden, confusing, painful parts of your life that you try to hide even from yourself. He understands your trauma because He was there in Egypt with you through it all when no one else was. With God, reflect and process your past, your confusion, and your disappointment. Your feelings are real and validated by your creator and your pain is justified because of the unfairness of evil.
"But now".... continue moving forward. Be strong in your walk because the God of the universe stands with you. Be strong and go back to the job that God has given you to do. Be strong and do not allow the enemy to continue to destroy and steal the treasure from the temple of the life God has entrusted to you.
Allow God to rebuild as He sees fit….Just be strong, get back to work and do not fear.