6 things to consider when facing traumatic impact

December 6, 2017

Recently, I sat with a client who experienced repeated sexual abuse and rape by high school peers. The tragedy is not only that this was part of her past, but that PTSD symptoms still haunt her adult life some 20+ years later.

You see, unlike riding the roller coaster at the amusement park, where the gut-wrenching twists and turns stop when the ride comes to an end, trauma has no defined stopping point for haunting its victim. Sometimes, the trauma prowls about for many years and wells up after a hairline trigger is induced (e.g. loud noise, tone of voice, certain touches, location in the city). Despite the victim being a survivor, she is still a victim. I believe this is where the real hurt is experienced: the body can endure many things, but trauma can continue to torment the mind and soul.

However, there is real hope for being able to take back control of one’s own life and live in light of one’s dignity. This usually begins to happen when one is able to appropriately reflect upon the heinous act and is best done in a professional counseling environment.

Sadly, we regularly see tragedy and trauma all around us. And, as we realistically look to the future, the only safe thing is to assume there will be more of the same in our culture and personal lives. Jesus told us that we’d have trouble in this world (John 16:33). And Peter warns that “the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Despite the passage emphasizing one’s faith in Christ, I have not known a greater adversary to a person’s faith than experienced physical trauma. There are usually questions of, “How could God allow this?” or, “If God is good, then why did I experience this?”

There is hope, and there are means for transforming victims from survivors to thrivers. Jesus Christ wants to restore, not continually shame a person.

But, there is hope, and there are means for transforming victims from survivors to thrivers. Jesus Christ wants to restore, not continually shame a person. We see this in various conversations, including with the woman at the well (John 4). He is empathetic and desires all to find rest in him. A victim must realize that she is worth redeeming because she is made in God’s image. As seen in the physical examples of a paralytic man (John 5) and a blind man (John 9), Jesus is willing to bring healing and restoration.

As a professional counselor, my heart breaks for the trauma many people endure in this fallen world. Through my experience in walking with counselees through their struggles, here are several things I’d like you to consider if you’re dealing with your own mental and emotional pain:

  1. It’s okay to cry, mourn, and be angry with the atrocity (Eccl. 3:4-8). Often the way one resolves the emotional pain of trauma is to pretend that it doesn’t exist. This may sound irrational, but our brains are quite intricate and capable of complicated, self-preserving tasks—by God’s design. Whether cognitively or subconsciously, our brains can actually “block” harmful memories so that we are not emotionally heightened in negative ways. In extreme form, this coping manifests itself in Multiple Personality Disorder. In lesser, more common ways of coping, one denies himself the opportunity to reflect on the trauma and face the fears it has created. The victim often will believe that if he doesn’t display the emotions attached to the trauma, then it “wasn’t that bad.” Other times, a victim will compare himself to others who experienced “similar” trauma, feeling like he should be able to “suck it up” too. Our world is broken, and we await the day that Christ will come and make all things news. Until then, you should use your emotions to react to situations in the way God has designed.
  2. It’s not your fault! This is a tough thought to process emotionally because self-induced shame is often the only way we can rationalize random trauma. We innately want to believe the good in others, even though we acknowledge that we are fallen. So, when something wrong or bad happens, a person will often justify the circumstance by accepting the responsibility and blame upon herself. This is easy to do because most trauma results from vulnerable situations that already lead the victim to the conclusion that she “is not capable of being right/strong/good.” Therefore, she is more willing to accept unmerited responsibility for trauma she experienced. But the key to remember is that you are never guilty by association alone.
  3. The experienced symptoms are all normal and common (i.e. anxiety, depression, nightmares, digestion issues). You don’t have to feel weird or embarrassed for having mysterious side effects. The residual pain of trauma, resulting in physical symptoms, are reminders of the haunting experience. If a victim suffers PTSD symptoms, that is not a loss of control, but evidence of how trauma negatively impacts that person. If a you notice any changes in health, you can compare the symptom onset with the occurrence of the trauma. If those correlate, then it is comforting to know that by reducing the distress, you can likely alleviate ailing symptoms.
  4. You are a survivor, not just a victim. You are not defined by your crisis. It is important to remember that we are fragile beings with the supernatural strength of the Lord available to us. Each living victim of past trauma should view herself as a survivor. Sometimes it is easy to be fixated on what happened, rather than what can be. As a Christian, your identity is found in Christ. No future growth and prognosis is too hard for him.
  5. Seek counseling. Find a competent counselor who will delicately speak and display Christ-like compassion and truth during your recovery process. This is an important step for two reasons: 1) It’s worth the professionalism to deal with trauma, and 2) If one avoids competent counseling, there is a risk of further damage. (Note: avoiding counseling altogether does not aid the healing process.) Time does not heal all wounds. If I saw someone had fallen into a giant pit and could not get out, I would not yell down in vain, “Don’t worry, eventually you’ll figure something out, or you’ll die trying.” Immediate action is required. Likewise, it is necessary to consider one’s emotional health with immediacy and care. I believe the client is best served when the counselor is professionally trained, with the fortitude and compassion of a Christ-like emulation.
  6. There is hope! Jesus proves this through his ministry of always healing, restoring, redeeming, and renewing lives that he encounters. Remember, there is nothing new under the sun. I have seen the power of his redemption and restoration firsthand. Jesus, who defeated sin, death, and the grave is capable of transforming lives and will one day fully heal and restore when he returns.

Healing may be a short or long journey for recovery, but it cannot begin until one confronts the reality of the past. I pray that God gives you courage to seek that out with the safety of a competent counselor. If you are the listening helper in someone’s trauma recovery, then I pray you will be discerning in how you convey your compassion through your counsel and your conduct with the trauma survivor who sits with you. May God use the hurts we’ve encountered to make us conduits of his compassion and care.

Jesse Masson

Jesse Masson has been counseling since 2012 and lives in Kansas City with his wife and three children. In 2020, he started Connected Counseling LLC, a Christian counseling practice that offers professional in-office and teletherapy sessions. Jesse regards himself as a “broken healer” who desires to bring healthy change in … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24