by Frank Seekins
Editor’s Note: Dr. Frank Seekins has been a friend to PPF for more than 15 years. He’s traveled to Sudan with us and counseled pastors and evangelists on ministering to congregations impacted by trauma. Here, he shares with us the first of a multi-part series on how we can all experience victory over shame and trauma.
Almost all of us have experienced some degree of trauma in our lives. From accidental, such as a fall resulting in a broken bone, to intentional harm, trauma changes us.
The people of the Nuba mountains region of Sudan have been born into a cycle of trauma on a scale that is hard for most of us to fathom.
A decades-long campaign of racial and religious persecution and genocide has taken a toll on the Nuba people.
Aerial bombings of churches, schools, hospitals, homes and market places, as well as extra-judicial killings, rapes, torture, imprisonment, and forced displacement, loss of land and livelihood and other extreme abuses have traumatized individuals, families and an entire region.
It may be hard to compare these horrors with our own experiences, but we have all lived through trauma. There are two things that have been a large part of my personal and counseling life over the years. These things can turn trouble into power, because I know there is hope for all of us.
The first is how I experienced the closeness of God in real ways. God taught me I was loved and I was not alone – even in the worst of times. This became the greatest gift. It led to healing and redefined my life, because I know God is real and that He loves me!
As an adult, I have met people in Africa who have endured much worse than I, but who also had nowhere to turn but to God. Their faith humbles and inspires me.
When trauma happens, God can use it to produce men and women of compassion, power and wisdom.
The second is that we can break the curse of defeat. Let me explain.
Life and the Bible show us a trap that can haunt us for decades after a traumatic event is over. That trap is called the “shame of defeat.” But it may be a different kind of shame than we think.
Consider my enemies, for they are many;
And they hate me with cruel hatred.
Protect my soul, and deliver m;
Let me not be ashamed,
for I put my trust in You. Psalm 25: 19, 20
Let me not be ashamed! A crucial part of King David’s prayer in response to the fear of more cruel and hateful persecution can be misunderstood because of the word that is translated as “shame” in English.
THE SHAME OF DEFEAT
The English “shame” means to be embarrassed about something that would make you blush. But the Hebrew word, bosh, which is translated as shame means to become pale with terror because of a hopeless defeat.
Strong’s # 954. Gesenius’ page 109.
This shame prevents us from even trying to rebuild our lives. What can be even worse is that trauma can be passed down for generations, destroying families, cultures and countries. We are fighting this shame of defeat in Sudan.
The good news is that the Bible offers a solution in the safety and belonging that comes from trust. It is what I have experienced, and what powerful women and men in Africa live.
THE OPPOSITE OF SHAME
It may just be a coincidence, but if we take the Hebrew word for the shame of defeat and reverse it, it becomes the Hebrew word for ‘“return” or “restore”. The word shuv is literally the reverse of bosh (or shame) and it reveals a crucial truth.
The opposite of defeated shame is to come home where you are loved and whole. Strong’s # 7725, Gesenius’ page 807.
FROM WHOLE TO HOLY
We have the same concept in the original meaning of our word holy. Holy means what is whole or complete.
In the midst of the trauma of our persecuted family, we have the great privilege to be an instrument of God’s love and mercy as we provide food, water, medicine, safety and shelter to the Nuba. As we serve in a holistic way, we do more than just care for the body. we care for the soul. It is our privilege to share the same hope, comfort and consolation we have also received that can lead us to restoration and a whole life. That hope opens the heart and soul to trusting God and His love.
When we receive and experience God’s love, we now have a choice. We can return to God and life.
The Biblical concept of shuv, or a returning to where we are loved and made whole, is best seen in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
When he “came to his senses,” it was not because he saw just how bad life was. It was not about seeing just how bad he was. It was that he could return home.
It is comforting to realize that God’s love and power to restore us is readily available. We can turn to God, His ways, His Kingdom and His rest. We can return home where we are loved and where we belong.
In the Nuba mountains, the entire population has first-hand experience with trauma, as a result of a lifelong exposure to war, persecution and genocide. Every segment of the population has been impacted by trauma. But God’s people are playing a strategic role in directing the victims of trauma to hope and healing through the knowledge of God and His Word.
Trauma healing workshops sponsored by PPF are helping equip believers in communities across the Nuba mountains to better serve those who have been traumatized and offer them the tools needed to experience God’s hope, healing and restoration.