The Psalms are where I run when life is difficult, when trials come. In the early hours after my home invasion, I opened my Bible. My mind was unable to concentrate because I was still in shock; however, I knew where to turn—Psalms. I don’t remember if I read much of anything that first evening, but as the days passed, I kept reading. And I marked up my Bible, underlining the verses that spoke to me.
Eighteen times the psalmists describe God as good. And in five of those instances we are told to give thanks to the Lord because He is good. So what does His goodness look like when life is falling apart, and when we aren’t sure how we’ll make it another minute, much less another day? Well, it looks different in each situation. God’s goodness doesn’t change, but how He displays it varies.
Think about Ruth in the Old Testament. I’ve always loved the story of Ruth. Perhaps because my best friend as a child was named Ruth or perhaps because I love a good love story. Either way, God demonstrated His goodness to Ruth in multiple ways. In Naomi allowing her to travel with her, in their safe journey back to Bethlehem, and in the part of the story that many of us remember well—the provision of a husband and then a son for Ruth. Ruth learned to trust God, and along the way she saw His goodness to her. God’s goodness was displayed through Boaz providing extra food for her and Naomi, and ultimately acting as her kinsman redeemer. God was good to Ruth, in spite of the grief she must have experienced after losing her first husband and in spite of moving to a new country with new customs. Life wasn’t easy, but God was good.
Often we want to exclaim God’s goodness when the storm is finally calmed, when the path is straight, when the situation is resolved. However, we can look for His goodness while the storm is raging. During the storms of life, sharing a prayer request, rather than a praise, can become our default in a group setting. But how much more powerful is it to share God’s goodness on display with other people? How much more of an encouragement is it for others to hear of how God is answering prayers in the midst of difficult times?
After my home invasion, God’s goodness was displayed before I ever left South African soil. The men who broke into my home were caught, and the man who raped me died in police custody before I had to officially identify him. God’s goodness was on display through teammates who cared for me and who paid for my parents to fly halfway around the world to be with me. After I returned to the U.S. from South Africa, God’s goodness came in the form of free professional counseling from someone I trusted, in anonymous cards with gift cards inside, in countless prayers from people all over the world, including people who had never met me.
For all of the ways I’ve looked for and seen God’s goodness, there have been times when it’s felt as though He has abandoned me. When I’ve forgotten the truth—God is good! Once again, I run to Psalms because it’s there I find comfort in knowing it’s okay to cry out to God. It’s there I see how God wants us to cry out to Him in the moments when we are struggling to understand, to believe, to trust. God welcomes your pleas for mercy, your cries for understanding, your desperate prayers for wisdom and strength. He’s a good Father.
God’s goodness may not be evident to you immediately while you walk through trauma. But continue to pray for Him to reveal His goodness to you. And when He does, write down each and every demonstration of it. Each answered prayer, each encouraging text or email or letter, each unexpected gift, each moment with loved ones. These written reminders will build your faith, will encourage you to persevere, and will, of course, remind you and those you love of God’s goodness.
Even as a writer who journals regularly, I found journaling difficult while I was processing trauma. Thankfully, God has given us the book of Psalms. I didn’t have to come up with the words to express myself; the psalmists expressed them for me. And as I read Psalms, I found comfort and strength. I wasn’t the only one who had struggled through a trial. I wasn’t the only one who needed help. I wasn’t alone. But reading through Psalms after trauma wasn’t the same as reading through it normally. I struggled to concentrate; I cried as I read. But ultimately I related to the words of Scripture on a much deeper level.
Below are a few suggestions to keep in mind for reading Psalms while processing trauma:
1. Read slowly. You’re most likely in shock, so don’t worry if you are struggling to concentrate. Don’t force yourself to read an entire chapter.
2. Underline any verses or words that stand out to you. You might even want to write the date next to specific verses or use a certain color pen for all of your underlining as you read. Years later I find it encouraging and helpful to look back at the verses I marked and see how God heard the cries of my heart.
3. If reading a long book like Psalms feels too overwhelming, that’s okay! Choose one psalm and read it each day. Or even choose one verse to write on a note card and read every day.
I hope these suggestions help you remember God’s goodness even when you may not feel it.
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