Four Foundational Responses
to Change, Uncertainty, or Trauma
Wanderers and sufferers,
Many Christians, even sincere and serious Christians, do not know what to do in times of significant change, uncertainty, or trauma. They might know the rudimentary go-tos, like praying about it or talking to someone trusted, but they often do not know the fundamental tactical responses that can repurpose a season of dark fog into personal metamorphosis. In other words, change, uncertainty, or trauma are the surgical tools for me to change Me permanently. This is basic New Testament Christianity. Suffering repurposed into personal evolution.
On a slightly different angle of the same topic, many Christians lose sight of the fundamentals of the born-again life as they start experiencing more and more kingdom blessings. They start to think dangerously, that they no longer need the cornerstones of the healthy Christian life. They think they have outgrown them, that fundamentals are only for infant and toddler Christians, that because they have raised the dead or healed the sick or prophesied accurately or made a lot of money or wrote a book or wrote eighteen books or saw an angel or visited heavenly places or whatever that the cornerstones of the born-again life somehow no longer apply to them. I hope you see the grave error, the apostasy, of abandoning the simple virginity that is in Christ (2Co 11:2,3).
So whether you honestly do not know what to do in a time of change, uncertainty, or trauma, or whether you have become spiritually cavalier, it is the ongoing foundations of the born-again life that keep you and I on the healthy, transformational path in God. Psalm 11:3 (NASB) says, If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? David's question here is rhetorical. If the foundations are inadequate or incomplete or nonexistent, even the righteous are powerless and hopeless to do anything else. The foundations, the fundamentals, the cornerstones have to be right and stay right.
The first foundational dimension in the born-again life is our spiritual life, and the commensurate action is grow spiritually. Our spiritual growth, our transformation, our sanctification, our maturation will continue until the Day of Christ Jesus (Php 1:6, 2Co 3:18). The dilemma of reaching high plateaus in our spiritual life is that our mind can misinterpret those high plateaus as if they are the final level of all spiritual maturity. We start thinking--at first subconsciously, then consciously--that we do not need to change all that much now that we have reached such-n-such plateau. Secular psychology actually has research and a name for this: end of history illusion.
The End of History Illusion
The end of history illusion was researched and formalized in 2013 by psychologists Jordi Quoidbach, Daniel Gilbert, and Timothy Wilson. They discovered, in subjects as young as 18 and as old as 68, that people pervasively believe that they have changed a lot in the past, but would change very little or not at all in the future.
We put Christian language on this ubiquitous psychological phenomenon and reword it like this: "God has changed me so much to get me to this level, but I don't need to change all that much from here forward." The end of history illusion in Christianese.
How could we ever think that, feel that, say that...when the God who is making us into His image is an infinity being? How could we ever reason that we have reached the end of our personal transformation history, when the God who is transforming us is literally omni-everything? Do we see how astonishingly dumb that is?
Growing Up In All Aspects
Ephesians 4:15 may be the most important verse pertaining to spiritual growth (NASB): But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Paul says we are under orders to grow spiritually "in all aspects". That means we cannot grow only in the parts of the kingdom we like or prefer or that fit our movement or background or culture or family or emotional issues. We have to cooperate with His spiritual growth projects in every single aspect of our personality and life, with zero hangups and zero excuses. I know Christians who want to grow in the Spirit's voice but not sound theology, or sound theology but not the Spirit's voice. We are to grow up in all aspects. I know Christians who want to grow more in their spiritual gifts but not humility and patience, or humility and patience but not spiritual gifts. We are to grow up in all aspects. The parts of the Bible you avoid, the parts you have not read in fifteen years (or ever), are the very areas you need to grow up in.
The second foundational dimension is our emotional life, and the commensurate action is heal emotionally.
The Department of Healing at Marah
The concept of psychological health for God's people was first introduced to Israel, right after the Red Sea deliverance at a place called Marah. At Marah there was water, but it was undrinkable because the water was bitter. Marah, therefore, literally means "bitterness". Moses, at the Lord's command, threw a tree in the water and it became sweet and drinkable. Then, at that very moment, Yahweh established a department of healing for Israel.
Exodus 15:25 (HCSB) says, He made a statute and ordinance for them at Marah... What was the statute and ordinance? That multidimensional healing was uniquely available to God's covenant people, as long as they stayed in obedient intimacy with Him constantly (v26). At Marah God introduced Himself as Yahweh-Rophe for the first time, which means, Yahweh who heals. The long truth is that Marah illustrates the bitterness in our soul, bitterness that came from waters we needed but could not drink because they were toxic. So much of our inner pain and life issues come from us not getting what we needed because the source was toxic. Hear the parables of the Lord!
Yahweh-Rophe Incarnates as The Healing Messiah
Isaiah 61:1-3 is the Messiah's First Coming job description (fulfilled in Luke 4:16-21). There is one phrase about evangelism, two phrases about freedom, two phrases about eschatology, and six phrases about emotional healing. Yahweh-Rophe is reemphasizing inner healing and mental health here. He is saying the department of healing established at Marah would continue through the incarnation and into the age of the Spirit in the church. He is reemphasizing that emotional-mental health is foundational to the covenant people. It is not a side-gift or a reward. It is foundational to the covenant people.
Casting, Vomiting All Anxiety on Him
Times of change, uncertainty, or trauma are golden windows for deep psychological healing. The dark fog and painful triggers pull up deeper emotions that need to be vomited out in the presence of Yahweh-Rophe. 1Peter 5:7 words it this way (NASB): ...cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you. We read this and think God wants us to tell him when we get impatient in traffic. No beloveds. Casting all our anxiety on Him means grieving out and vomiting out all our anxiety on Him, all of it, every last drop, especially the visceral subconscious anxieties that come from going a long time without water that is sweet and drinkable. God knew this would not always be easy, so He inspired James 5:16 (HCSB): Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. Traumatized psychologies can heal when we open up to praying Christians who are ahead of us spiritually. You are not being strong or spiritual by holding in all that emotional feces and living in emotional constipation. Your soul needs to eliminate all that cathexis onto Yahweh-Rophe and a brother or sister ahead of you in the journey. Then and only then will supernatural therapy happen in you.
Inner healing and health is foundational to the born-again life. In times of change, uncertainty, or trauma, heal emotionally.
The third foundational dimension is our intellectual life, and the commensurate action is expand intellectually. This does not mean the academic study of galaxies and bacteria, but spiritual and practical intelligence. Scripture calls this wisdom, and Proverbs 4:7 says wisdom is "the principal thing" (NKJV) or "the first thing" (YLT).
The Principal Thing? How?
How can wisdom be the principal thing? Is it above God's own glory? Above worship? Above "my house shall be called a house of prayer"? Above "and the greatest of these is love"? Above personal sanctification? Above snatching the lost from a real Gehenna?
Solomon is not saying wisdom is first qualitatively, he is saying wisdom is first chronologically. Nothing is greater or more important qualitatively than God's own glory. But we cannot understand or act on that glory properly without wisdom about that glory. Just ask Uzzah, who mishandled the glory and was killed because of it (2Sam 6:6-9). See how wisdom comes first? Neither is wisdom greater than prayer (our direct lifeline to God), nor is wisdom greater than love (God's very nature), but both prayer and love will not work right without wisdom first. Have you ever prayed wrongly and your prayer life got nowhere? Have you ever loved wrongly and your so-called "love" only created more loneliness or emptiness or problems? See how wisdom comes first? Wisdom gives us prerequisite understanding and technique about any dimension or course of action. Wisdom is not the principal thing qualitatively, but chronologically. It should, ideally, precede all action.
The Foundationality of Spiritual & Practical Intelligence
Do you see how spiritual and practical intelligence is foundational to the born-again life? Do you see how many Christians run in a hamster wheel for God and not really get anywhere? Without wisdom, without prerequisite understanding and technique on any matter, we spend a mind-boggling amount of energy, time, and pain only to see frustrating results. For this reason Jesus said, "But wisdom is justified by all her children" (Lk 7:35 NKJV), i.e., wisdom is proven as truly wisdom by the results it produces.
The fourth foundational dimension is our relational life, and the commensurate action is reconfigure relationally. Of the cornerstones we have looked at so far this one is perhaps the least understood, least explained, least practiced.
If we are growing determinedly in God, if we are healing psychologically, if we are expanding in intellectual wisdom, your relationships will be the first external element to be affected. The effect can be positive and our relationships can improve greatly. Or, the effect can be negative and our personal evolution will stress or break our relationships. Why the variable impacts? Your personal redesign will usher in three relational paths.
Helpful vs Hard vs Harmful
The truth is, some people will love your personal redesign, while others will hate it (even though they might still be fake-nice to you). As you reconfigure personally your relationships will automatically reconfigure as well. Those relationships will clarify into three kinds: helpful, hard, or harmful.
The relationships that remain helpful and healthy blessings are greenlight relationships ("Go"). Keep investing in them. The relationships that remain or become hard are yellowlight relationships ("Slow"). Slow the pace of the relationship, take one or two steps back, ask the Spirit for new approaches in relating with this person. Keep in mind, hard does not mean harmful or dangerous. This was Euodia and Synthyche (Php 4:2). The relationships that remain or become harmful are redlight relationships ("No"). These are truly dangerous. Scripture tells us to never allow a person close enough to undo what God is trying redo in our physical, mental, and spiritual space (Ps 101, Ro 16:17,18). With these types of individuals there is no middle ground. They are so overwhelmingly and overpoweringly toxic that the only option is to get away as far as possible and intercede for them at a distance.
The Foundationality of Ongoing Relational Reconfiguration
Throughout our lives we will have less than five super-longterm confidants and beloveds (spanning decades). The majority of our relational world will consistently be reconfigured. The successful restructuring of our relationships is foundational to the born-again life. It can make or break our overcoming and abundant life. We have to be graceful and strong to invest in helpful bonds, slow down for new strategies in hard bonds, and quickly amputate harmful bonds. If you can get good with God at these three, you can have this foundation layer firm and immovable so God can build something awesome on top of it.