Everyone lives with bad memories from the past. It’s part of life. But some memories could be classified as traumatic. They’re the result of truly disturbing experiences like witnessing a horrific accident, being in the middle of a war zone, or seeing a vicious crime committed. Such memories tend to return, over and over, sometimes waking you up as flashbacks in the midst of what was otherwise a peaceful sleep.

The following is one person’s experience with a traumatic memory:

You never completely lose the memories of trauma, they say. And I know that to be true. Triggers come at the most unexpected times, even during a sermon at church. There’s not anything particularly different about the sermon. But at times it does lead one’s mind to reliving experiences in your life – experiences that resemble the biblical message.

The pain is overwhelming, yet you understand the message better than most will. Because it’s real to you. You live with it still. The memory is as tangible as this day itself.

The best relief is to write about it. You search for a way to right the wrongs. To make the world a better place. To expose evil, so that others will not also be hurt.

How can we, as supporters, help a friend with such memories overcome the pain? How can we help them forget?

Is that even possible? Isn’t it pretty well between them and God to sort it out? Wouldn’t they be better helped by a therapist? Yes, I believe that’s true. Professional care is called for.

But Christian friends have much they could offer that is out of range of secular care. We can offer spiritual care. We know what Jesus can do. We know the comfort he can bring to people who suffer—people like our friend.

We can share the apostle Paul’s words: Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, (Philippians 3:13).

Yes there are things we as supporters can do, even when we don’t fully understand our friend’s pain. You could show them the wonderful verse, Isaiah 43:19, passing along the hope God has for them.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

The secular book, The Body Keeps Score by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. says that neurological understanding explains how a traumatized brain can change when the mind, body and emotions experience life that includes healthy change and security. The very act of focusing on something new and promising will make a difference. We will not think so much about the past. It can happen when more positive thoughts fill our minds, when more engaging activities fill our time.

Could you help bring your friend to focus on activities that might take their thoughts off the bad memories? Can you turn their thoughts to more positive places? Would you be willing to spend some time with them?

The “new thing” Isaiah talks about in the Bible will become possible.

Remind them of the example Jesus set.

After the resurrection, forgetting how he had been hurt, Jesus carried on with what currently faced him. All that was on his mind was preparing his disciples for when he would physically no longer be with them. Paying no attention to how these friends had abandoned Him as He was led to the cross, He gathered them together, and proceeded to give them instructions on how to go out and take His message to the world. There was no time or reason to think of what was past.

Yes, it is hard to live in the present when traumatic memories keep haunting you. It’s hard to forget the past and carry on as normal.

God understands and offers compassion. His son Jesus was hurt too.


(I’m not a professional caregiver. Since 2006, I have given spiritual support as a peer to people living with all sorts of mental health issues. I write from the point of view of someone who has been there and understands—someone who wants to share the faith she has found in God.)
This has been Part 8 of the series, In the Name of Jesus.  For Part 9 go to Our Voices.