Finding God’s Peace
After struggling to overcome post-traumatic stress in her own life, one missionary now makes it her life’s work to help others by leading a trauma-healing ministry.
By Pat Miersma
In June of 1971, I had my first nightmare after returning from 14 months as an army MASH nurse in Vietnam.
For 10 years this was a nightly occurrence, paired with daytime experiences of extreme startle reactions, excessive fears about our children’s safety, angry responses to loud and sudden noises, and more. But by far the most anguishing part of my post-Vietnam experience was the memories of the pain and horrors experienced by my patients—civilian and combatant, young and old, men and women, teenagers and children and babies. Especially babies.
As a Christian, I knew that God’s Word held the key to help me find what I needed. Isaiah 26:3 promises, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee” (KJV). I desperately wanted God’s peace. I wanted “rivers of living water” to flow from within me as Christ promised. I still believed God’s Word. I hadn’t lost my faith. But for eight years, no matter how much I tried with prayer, Scripture memory, fellowship, or other practices, God’s peace did not penetrate my heart. Even though I went directly to Bible school, became a missionary, and taught Bible studies, I couldn’t experience that peace as a reality.
I knew the passages on peace and suffering. I had memorized passages of the New Testament and many Psalms. I know that sustained me. But for those years I felt stuck at a gap between what I knew in my head and what I felt in my heart.
Blessedly, God used that experience to guide me onto a path that began to close that gap. He deepened my experience of him and his Word beyond what I had known the previous 15 years. That was a multilayered process that I am still in and still understanding.
Since 2002, I have been blessed to work with suffering people around the world, leading trainings about using God’s Word to heal the wounds of trauma.
Sometimes I’m tempted to think my healing happened because my “trauma” was so small and my “suffering” so insignificant compared to the life-shattering horrors I have seen so many people live through. But the Trauma Healing Scripture Use project has confirmed for me repeatedly that the power of God’s Word, the healing power of the cross, and the nearness of God as our true good, is available to anyone, no matter what.
This particular Scripture-use approach has been especially effective in helping people recover emotionally and spiritually in their healing process. Churches in the U.S. and other countries are using it in ministries to refugees, human trafficking victims, natural disaster survivors, and other traumatized people in their communities. It’s also been used by more than 170 language groups around the world.
I have watched hundreds of people and heard of thousands more in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere begin to heal from horrors so great I can’t write about them. One pastor said, “Those are things so evil that we can’t even say them with our mouth.” Even in those cases, I’ve seen people begin to live with the truth of their experience without letting it control their lives. I have seen people begin to forgive their persecutors. I have seen hatred fall and peace return.
Trauma survivors not only experience God’s peace, they become channels of his peace to others.
Pat Miersma is one of four authors of Healing the Wounds of Trauma: How the Church Can Help. She leads trauma-healing trainings around the world through her missionary service with Wycliffe Bible Translators through the Reformed Church in America.
Watch a video about how training in trauma healing ministry is changing lives.
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