I was four years old when I threw the temper tantrum of a lifetime. The one that would trigger every emotional meltdown for decades to come. The fit in which every four year old fear would later ignite every teenage insecurity, every twenty something stupidity, every thirty something full-circle moment, and every forty something failure and inevitably create emotional fireworks that could rival any July 4th celebration. Except these emotional explosions only set relationships ablaze leading to meltdowns marred by the soot and ashes of self-sabotage.
Kid-sized tantrums often become adult-sized meltdowns when emotions don’t know how to grow up.
In fact, childhood temper tantrums rooted in deep-seated fears have a way of sticking with you. In a child’s mind, even the most subtle hurts can leave the deepest wounds. Whether they are wounds caused by abuse, divorce, loss, chaos, volatility, or hypocrisy, any stripping of innocence is traumatic for a child.
Trauma, in any shape, form, or fashion, changes you. It changes the way you think, act, respond and react to the world around you. Trauma is, well, traumatic. And we are wise not to mistake someone else’s trauma as merely drama.
Friends, I do not know what kind of trauma you have experienced as a child, or as an adult, but I do know that while trauma changes how we interact with the world, it does not have to negatively impact our worldview. Specifically, your trauma does not change who God is and how He thinks, acts, responds, and feels about you.
My personal trauma was subtle (except for that four year old temper tantrum). It was the slow, and seemingly painless, tearing of the fabric of a family that left me emotionally shredded. I was four when the first rip occurred. It was not until I was almost forty that I realized the full impact that divorce would have on all my relationships, especially my relationship with God.
Please do not misunderstand the intent of my words. This is not about blaming or shaming. This is about forgiveness and acceptance.
The period to anyone’s story of trauma is forgiveness and every new chapter begins with acceptance.
I remember the exact moment when I forgave my parents. I was in my late twenties driving home to visit each of them for the weekend when the truth set me free. During a conversation between God and me, forgiveness helped me finally accept and take responsibility for my own pain.
Nevertheless, scars still have a way of becoming wounds again when future hurts trigger past trauma. Old anger festers long under the weight of expectations. When life would not go my way or I’d find myself wallowing in my own prodigal pig stye, I would throw an adult-sized temper tantrum slinging mud at the closest relational target.
Psychologically speaking, our minds often revert back to the first hurts. This is a subconscious event that by God’s revelation and grace, can emerge into conscious thought. Spiritually speaking, this is exactly the place where God longs to meet us —where first hurts emerge to receive the balm of everlasting healing.
There is a very powerful principle in Bible study referred to as the law of firsts. If you want to dig deep into a topic or concept, find out where it first appears in Scripture. Then let the Spirit wash you with The Word as you see God show up in every human experience.
Where does forgiveness first appear in the Bible? If I’m being really spiritual, I’d say in the beginning. Jesus is our forgiveness and he has been there since the beginning.
So as an adult, I resolved to take the mental and emotional journey back to my first hurt. I took inventory of my pain and my subsequent choices and behaviors throughout life. I had forgiven my parents, then I put in the work of forgiving myself. But after years of searching the depths of God’s grace, I realized that I had overlooked the very source of forgiveness.
Do I need to forgive God? Is this even okay to think, much less say out loud? Or am I just still a little bit angry with God?
Maybe this is the last chapter in our stories of trauma, shattered dreams, and broken hearts — letting God off the hook for not being who we expected Him to be.
Honestly, I am guilty of becoming angry when life isn’t easy, never mind when God doesn’t come through for me the way I wanted him to. Unmet expectations are the bitterroot of disappointment. Yet, accepting God’s authority in your life sounds a lot like King David when he prayed, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18 NLT)
Both forgiveness and acceptance require cross-bearing humility. They also require taking responsibility for your pain knowing that God’s will and His way will far exceed your emotional agony. Giving God permission to be sovereign in your life frees you to trust fully in His truth, and the truth promises to set you free.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and he has been there since the beginning of all our lives, all of our traumas, and all of our heartbreaks. In the garden as Jesus lamented his own emotional agony, he also resolved to trust in His Father’s sovereignty.
“‘Abba, Father,’ he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’”
Mark 14:36 NLT
Dear angry and hurting one, no one needs the healing that comes with the freedom of forgiveness more than the one bearing the open wounds. Who do you still need to forgive? Yourself, your family, your friend? Or do you just need to let go of your anger toward God?
Get mad, lament, release it, He can handle it. Then let God off the hook of expectation and place Him on the throne of sovereignty.
Let’s put the period at the end of your story of trauma. Forgive your family, forgive yourself, forgive the one who made you feel powerless, and allow the One who has the power to redeem it all reign and remain on the sovereign throne of your life.