Trauma is filled with unknowns…but God is always there
Trauma changes people forever. God finds a way to help us grow through the challenges of life. He creates opportunities for that growth happens when we walk through the process of healing. When a tragedy happens, only the pain and sadness seem real. Sometimes for years. But our limited perspective of events and life in general is completely opposite of the way God sees them.
This truth came to light during a LifeSupport Podcast in which a pastor shared the story of the death of his son by homicide. It was a complete shock, and the family had a long journey ahead of them, full of unknowns. However, God miraculously created blessings from this tragedy.
Paul Johnson, the host of the LifeSupport Podcast, welcomed his wife, Wendi, onto the show so they could both share their story of their son Taylor, who was the victim of a shooting.
Paul and Wendi Johnson
Paul and Wendi were proud of their son Taylor.
The 21-year-old was just two weeks away from graduating from a school of recording arts. Taylor was talented and gifted and his parents could not wait to see what life had in store for him.
Taylor lived with Paul and Wendi until he into a place with some roommates. They would see him occasionally, sometimes he would just stop by quickly to get his mail that was still being delivered to his parent’s house.
Just one month after Taylor moved out, Paul and Wendi received the worst news they could ever imagine.
Their son had been murdered. He had been shot and that is all they knew for eight months, which seemed like eternity. The process of telling their kids, family and friends was painstaking.
During the podcast, Paul said he and his family had no idea what journey was set before them, or what the ripple effects would be from the tragedy. He described his family as being in a sort of ‘fog’ for months after Taylor’s passing.
After eight grueling months, an arrest was finally made in the case of Taylor’s homicide. Paul had a chance to sit down with his son’s killer. The young man’s name was Jesse, and he was just 23 years old. He told Paul he was sorry for what had happened and the two would end up hugging at the end of the interview.
Paul, Wendi and their three children agreed that they should forgive the man who took Taylor away from them. Although it was not easy, that is what they did. Not only did they forgive him, but they made it public at a press conference regarding the case. The case became a media frenzy and radio stations spread the word that a family was forgiving the murderer of their child.
Finally, the trial for Jesse arrived and that event in itself was a whirlwind of emotions. Paul and Wendi met Jesse’s parents, heard victim-impact letters, and received another apology from Jesse. Wendi saw that Jesse was just a scared 23-year-old kid who needed love and was crying out for something in his life.
Jesse was sentenced to prison, but that would not be the last time they saw him. They would visit Jesse in prison and share the Gospel with him.
Trauma changes people forever
As Paul and Wendi shared their story, they each gave some things they learned about themselves and God during that time in their lives:
- Don’t expect the same person to return – When a person experiences a serious trauma in their lives, it can change them forever. Before the trauma occurred, they might have been very outgoing or have particular hobbies they enjoyed. After the trauma, they might not be as outgoing or care for the things as they did in the past. This is not uncommon when it comes to trauma, and we cannot expect them to be the people they were before.
- Trauma survivors want the world to slow down – When a major trauma happens, a person’s world comes to a crashing stop. Nothing else seems to matter. However, other people around them continue with their lives as nothing happens. This is important to keep in mind when walking along someone who experienced a serious trauma in their lives.
- Trauma has ripple effects – It is always easy to see the immediate effects of a major trauma in someone’s life, but there are also a number of long-lasting effects that aren’t as apparent that can show up later in life. It might be a trigger or a memory, or something that is said by someone. Paul said his children are still suffering to this day from Taylor’s death.
- Think before you speak – When someone’s in trauma, it is very important to think before you speak to them because even if your intentions are good, what you say could hurt them even more.
- God is faithful – God is always faithful to those who are suffering or in trauma. As in Paul and Wendi’s case, He uses bad things that happen and can turn them around for good.
God is in every situation, no matter how good or bad it is
New opportunities arose for Paul after Jesse was sentenced to prison. He was given the chance to speak to different prisons about the Gospel and Wendi was given the chance to speak to different women’s groups. All of this happened because of the interaction they had with Jesse while he served his sentence.
Pastor Paul also now has a bigger heart for people that are walking through a similar journey.
We created lifesupportresources.org to help you start discussions about mental health, to help remove stigma so people can find hope and healing through God. We pray that LifeSupport helps you grow your church.
If there are other reasons you don’t share your struggles, we’d love to hear them and will treat your communication as confidential. Please email any comments to [email protected]