Today I’m going to get real and raw about a time in my life where I was overcome with PTSD and anxiety. I asked over and over where God was in the midst of that time and it wasn’t until now, years later that I have gleaned some insight and wisdom as to how God was at work.
If you are going through anxiety, especially as it relates to trauma and flashbacks, then keep reading to understand where God may be at work in the midst of this difficult time.
I was in college the first time I had a flashback. At the time, I had no idea what it was. In fact, even in the midst of Psychology classes where I learned about these very things, I couldn’t identify the gripping attacks of anxiety and memories that slowly derailed my life.
In the midst of those flashbacks, I would call out to God, begging Him to help me. Pleading with Him to stop the attacks that I knew were not of Him.
But over and over again, I experienced flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, painful memories, anxiety and eventually depression.
This led me to question…
Where was God in the midst of this anxiety?
Didn’t I have the authority to call on Jesus and cast Satan out?
Shouldn’t God rescue me from this pain if I’m praying with enough faith?
I felt abandoned by God. I questioned my salvation. I felt alone and eventually I turned to anything and everything else to rescue me from this agonizing anxiety.
As you can probably guess, nothing I sought out was enough to heal me until I returned to God. And as you can also probably guess, I did come back to God, asking for the same healing and eventually finding tremendous restoration and redemptive healing in my life.
Because of that gap in time where I called out to God and yet was not healed, I now understand a little bit more of the healing process.
Yes, sometimes God does miracles and will heal us overnight. But many times, it takes a slow redemptive work in us to bring us to a place of healing.
So let’s look at some tough questions that were hard on my heart during this time of my life. I hope you can find some encouragement here.
Asking the Tough Questions: Why Doesn’t God Stop the Attacks?
Over and over I prayed in the midst of the anxiety and flashbacks for God to rescue me. I prayed with confidence that He would. And this is a huge part of the heartbreak that led me to doubting every part of my faith and salvation.
But as I look back I see that God allowed this painful trial so that I could truly find healing. It wouldn’t be in rescuing me from that momentary anxiety, but in pulling up the roots and strongholds that had so deeply embedded themselves into my life, that I would find true healing.
I now see that these flashbacks that I considered an attack of Satan were merely a result of a fractured mind and wounded heart. I could not stop the flashbacks and anxiety until I found healing within my heart and mind.
In the years following, I began seeking out healing in books like Beauty for Ashes and the Wounded Heart, in therapy and counseling and in friendships and mentorships.
Through these, I saw chains break and restoration within my heart and my relationships.
I now see that to merely stop the flashbacks and anxiety would have been like giving pain pills to someone with a broken leg. Until you did something to fix the leg, the person would forever be crippled.
God did not stand there watching me suffer, but He carried me through that time, with His heart breaking as well. He sympathizes with my pain, just as He sympathizes with yours.
God is a loving Father who desperately wants you living free and completely healed. But He knows this means that you sometimes need to walk through the painful memories and actively pursue healing in your anxiety.
So why didn’t God stop the attacks?
Because He knew I was ready to begin walking again. He knew it was time to step forward in healing and that without doing so completely, I would be forever crippled.
If you are experiencing PTSD anxiety, I would encourage you to pursue as many roads to healing as possible. Surround yourself with people, resources and professionals who can help you walk through the healing process.
It isn’t easy. In fact, it is one of the hardest things I have ever been through.
But I can tell you that the healing and restoration that I am walking in today is nothing short of a miracle.
God did save me from the attacks. He saved me from Satan’s grasp. He did this by walking with me through the trial - even when the pain was so great that I did not feel Him there. And He will walk with you too as you cling to Him.
So How Can We Find Healing?
PTSD is characterized by anxiety, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and painful memories as a result of trauma.
I am not a medical professional (and this is where I remind you to seek out professional help if you feel you need it), but what I am sharing here comes from my own personal experience.
How to Deal with Anxious Thoughts?
As much as I want to say stop anxious thoughts (which is what I typically recommend and strive to do with my day-to-day anxiety), with PTSD it’s a little different.
This is because your anxious thoughts are driven by painful memories that, most of the time, require facing.
It took me years and years to truly face some of the memories that triggered anxiety. And even still, I struggle to face some of these memories.
But the only way to truly stop anxious thoughts as it relates to trauma is to find a way to cope with them and come to peace with them.
For this, I HIGHLY recommend therapy (specifically therapy over counseling). But as a supplement to therapy, I do recommend finding resources like books and workbooks and friends and mentors to encourage you and walk with you.
As you begin to find healing, you can then find ways to cope with those anxious thoughts as they come up.
Flashbacks Lose Their Power
For me, I began to find peace in some of the most painful parts of the memories. And as I did, I realized that the flashbacks that once crippled me began to lose their power over me.
They would still come up, the anxiety and memories would take over. But immediately, I’d say (sometimes out loud) the very things that I needed to remind myself of in order to claim that peace, and they would be nothing more than a slideshow of sad memories. Their power and realness would fade and I would not be overtaken.
I would encourage you to pinpoint what it is that triggers you and what it is about those anxious memories that overwhelm you. When you do this, you can find a way to claim peace and to step into the present moment when this anxiety begins.
Bring Yourself to the Present Moment
Reorienting your mind when it tries to take you backward is a powerful way to halt the gripping anxiety. Remind yourself of where you physically are.
You can take notice of your senses - what can you see, smell, taste, feel, hear. You can say out loud where you are and what you are doing.
Do what you can to bring your mind to the present moment and this can help when anxiety threatens to take over.
So where is God in the midst of PTSD and anxiety?
He is walking beside us.
I love to picture Jesus literally sitting beside me. I love to picture his look of compassion and his hand on my shoulder as a reminder of how much he cares.
If you are experiencing anxiety, especially PTSD anxiety, pray that God would show you where you can seek healing and how you can begin to overcome.
He wants you to live healed, restored and renewed. He wants to sanctify you and bring you to His glorious redemption.
As much as I’d love to give you a 3-step plan to overcoming, it really takes a miraculous work in your spirit in order to truly find healing.
But God wants this for you. And I do too. So cling to Him and continue to seek Him. He will bring you healing.
Take the Next Step in Healing with These Devotionals: