It is not important what is in front of you, or behind you. It is what is inside of you that counts.
I read these “words of wisdom” on Facebook today and thought it was good advice except when you suffer from periods of PTSD, or as I call it PTCS (Post Traumatic Church Syndrome) it is still important to know what’s in front and what’s behind because it changed what’s inside me.
According to Wikipedia, PTSD is known as an anxiety disorder and can affect anyone who has seen or experienced a traumatic event. The common causes of PTSD include war, rape, terrorism, physical assault, and any threat of death or serious injury.
The Wikipedia definition for PTSD didn’t list trauma experienced from association with an unhealthy church. There are quite a few of us who suffer from several church related traumas, especially those who have left the United Pentecostal Church or other legalistic churches. I’ve heard, read and experienced many traumas from unhealthy churches and know the anxiety actually exists.
I found a book while surfing the internet one night titled, “Post Traumatic Church Syndrome Memoirs and Healing” written by Reba Riley and it caught my attention, why wouldn’t it?
Inside the pages she explained while Post Traumatic Church Syndrome is not actually a real sickness that is recognized by the mental health society, it still exists and the pain and grief are very real.
It is very hard to imagine that a church you go to for help can turn on you and drop you like a hot potato, but it’s true. We are all walking wounded and we’ve been hurt from the very church we sought out for help and salvation. These wounds create an emotional barrier for us to attend church, create barriers for us to connect with God, and create barriers for us to develop relationships with other followers of Jesus.
These barriers are not evidence of anything that was wrong with us, but are evidence of wrongs that have been done to us. There is nothing wrong with us as we were made to think, we just had inquisitive minds who questioned things… and that is frowned upon in many legalistic churches.
PTCS runs deep and it hurts because we feel like we’ve lost our identity. I believe Paul said it best in Romans 7:5-6, “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law (legalism) were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law (legalism), having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” When we wanted to be “good”, when we wanted to do the right thing and when we deeply wanted to be a follower of Jesus, and the pastor and/or another member tries to tell us that we’re not very good at it, it messes with our mind and soul.
But when I had enough trauma, I walked away. As a matter of fact, I was so discouraged, depressed, and hurt, I literally ran away. I know it appeared to many that I ran away from God and I often heard comments and read posts on Facebook about how I had backslid and I was a former pastor’s wife and should be “set” right. But that wasn’t my case at all…I simply ran away from the United Pentecostal Church, and everything that was associated with the people who hurt me. As I started working through my PTCS, I realized how resentful and even hostile towards anything “churchy” I’d become, but deep in my heart I still wanted to know God and I wanted a close walk with Him. I wanted something deeper and more meaningful.
It’s taken me several years to come to grips with my PTCS but I was able to receive help through programs offered in my new church. Programs like Cleansing Streams and Celebrate Recovery which enable you to receive help and healing from hurts, habits and hangups.
No it wasn’t easy to do and I’m not completely healed but my anxiety level is the lowest it’s been for many years. My anxiety medicine is only taken “as needed” and I haven’t needed it for several weeks. So I end with this, if it’s still important to know what’s in front and what’s behind because it changed what’s inside, then it may be time to find a church that offers programs that will help you heal. Those churches are the ones that care about you and want to help you. We shouldn’t have to carry the hurts from the past and let them hinder our growth for a future.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”