This past weekend we had a guest speaker come to our church who carried a very special gift of healing, a man of God who said he has seen many, many blind people become healed. Jeff Barnhardt shared that for some reason he sees more miracles happen in this area of illness than anything else. The ironic thing is, this man of God has been blind since he was 23. “I don’t know why God hasn’t healed me yet” Jeff said with zero resentment “but I love, love hearing about those who have been healed when I have prayed for them!”
Friends, sometimes God doesn’t heal. This weekend Jeff laid hands on my father in law, who is also blind and said with such passion, “God is still good, he is always good and will always be good.”
With this in my heart as one of those mysteries, I want to introduce my friend Lisa Hall-Wilson as she shares a very vulnerable part of her heart and story and how even though God has not healed her PTSD she knows that He is still good.
When God Doesn’t Heal…
I sat in church listening to the man on stage sharing a testimony of how God delivered him from his battle with anxiety. His story was genuine, joy-filled, and shared articulately. I clapped, but at the back of my mind a small child’s voice spoke up and wouldn’t quiet down.
But why not me?
Haven’t I also prayed? Haven’t I also sung the same worship songs? Hasn’t my life also been disrupted and thrown into chaos? Why him and not also me?
Back Up Two Months…
Earlier this summer, I was reading a book that somewhat described how I managed life. The author talked about how some of us (maybe more of us than we’d like to acknowledge) live compartmentalized lives. We have a work self, a church self, and we drag home a tired family self at the end of the day. And those compartmentalized selves remain separate, they don’t spill over or influence one another.
Instead, the author encouraged readers to live fully integrated lives. Be the same person at work as you are at church as you are at home, but additionally, let what happens in one life or box spill over into the others. Live whole-heartedly was her battle-cry. It would mean that what you heard in church would change your work self, and maybe you bring your family-self problems to church and ask for prayer.
That all sounded lovely, but would that really work for me? I have PTSD. When people discover that you have a mental health condition, they look at you different, they treat you differently. I’ve learned to manage my PTSD by compartmentalizing my life. My anxiety stays locked in a box in my head. That’s my life, my leg chained to that blasted box keeping the lid tightly shut.
Even if I could never be free of the shadow that’s PTSD, could I really be free of the box I was chained to? Free of the fear that PTSD would escape its confinement and wreak havoc on my neatly ordered life? What if I could enter a new situation and not worry about how the hinges on that box rattle because I was accepted as I am? What would that be like? Could I really give up the box and just accept that PTSD is a constant shadow–a part of who I am?
Back Up One Month…
I had thrown open the lid to the PTSD box in a whole-hearted living experiment and that gave me the courage to finally try out Crossfit. It looked so fun and everyone I knew doing it raved about how great it was. And BAM! Third session in and my PTSD came out of nowhere and bit me. Hard. I had to leave and haven’t been back.
I beat myself up. How could I think I could live free of the box? That I could live without keeping one foot on the lid of that box? But the box had been thrown open and I couldn’t wrestle it shut again.
My anxiety crept into every aspect of my life. Driving with my husband, visiting the chiropractor, dropping off my daughter for out-of-town university. That 5-year-old’s voice was my constant companion reminding me that I wasn’t safe. My threat-level was sky high–constantly. I cried for four days and still can’t tell you why.
I had taken a two-footed leap onto the crazy train, at least—that’s what it felt like. The neat edges of my life were now frayed and raw. Was this really freedom?
Back To The Church Service…
I sat in that church service and listened to a jubilant man rightfully praising God for removing his anxiety.
Without miraculous intervention, PTSD is going to be my lifelong shadow—as limiting mentally as Jacob’s limp was physically. God was certainly glorified in that man’s story, no question. Many people listened to his story with tears in their eyes. And fair enough, it’s a remarkable story—but it’s not everyone’s story. There’s room for God to be glorified in my messy, broken (too broken to serve some say) story too.
Where’s My Deliverance?
God is there to accept the praise every step forward my anxiety says I shouldn’t take, because I’ve trusted that He’ll take that step with me.
God is there to accept the praise when I’m overcome with tears but wipe my cheeks and keep living anyway because I am not broken or forgotten or unlovable.
God is there to accept the praise even when I’m on the floor of the shower, tears streaming down my face, too ashamed to even let my family see my fear and self-loathing, because He loves me AS I AM. Not as I should’ve been if that trauma hadn’t happened to me.
Walking Ahead Anyways…
I remembered the story of the blind man Jesus and the disciples passed on the street (John 9). Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind, the disciples asked. Neither, Jesus said. It was so that the works of God could be displayed.
So that God would be glorified!
I can live with that.
So, I’m going to keep going with my whole-hearted living experiment. The toothless monster that is PTSD still shadows my every step and that’s going to make life more difficult – but I’ll be free of the box – free of the shame that’s not mine to own.
So, if you see me tearing up at odd moments, don’t be sad for me, don’t shy away from my emotion. Because I’m still sitting there and, in that moment, that’s what courage looks like.
Don’t hug me, but send me a quiet smile instead. Because even though there might be a terrified 5-year-old inside me screaming that we’re not safe, and she’s not crazy to think that because of the things she’s survived, I’ve also got my Lord sitting next to me – his own eyes filling with tears in sympathy. Because he was there in the dark all those years ago and He’s still here, walking alongside me. I might not be free of my shadow, but I am free and I’m never alone.
Give me a quiet nod because it’s OK to struggle. It’s OK because God is glorified in every step forward, no matter how small. He’s glorified in how you choose to live despite what’s happened, you are a mighty warrior because you keep living and loving with all your heart and mind and soul and strength.
Take heart, those of you who struggle and are still waiting for healing. I know you’re tired. Keep walking. Keep fighting. Just as Jesus healed the blind man he met on the path that day, just as that man shared his joy over the victory he was given, we’ll have our healing moment too all the same and God is glorified in both stories.