By Richard Doster, ByFaith.
In her new book, Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores, Diane Langberg says the church’s greatest mission field in the 21st century is trauma. Trauma is extraordinary, she says, “not because it rarely happens, but because it swallows up and destroys normal human ways of living.” We have a choice. “We can flit from one cause to another or, like Jesus, we can leave our place of comfort and enter into the suffering.”
We, the church, Langberg says, must become representatives of God to suffering people. ByFaithasked Langberg to tell us more about this mission field and how we enter into it.
In Chapter 1 you say that trauma is perhaps the greatest mission field of the 21st century. Could we start with a definition of trauma? And could you explain why it is such a fertile mission field?
Trauma occurs when suffering overwhelms normal human coping. Those who are victims of such things as rape, domestic violence, child abuse, trafficking, the violence of our inner cities, and war are often traumatized humans. They live with recurring memories of atrocities both witnessed and endured. The memories infect their sleep, destroy their relationships and capacity to work, torment their emotions, shatter their faith, and mutilate hope. The wounds of trauma are not visible; their effects are. If we look out unflinchingly on God’s world today we will see thousands upon thousands who live with violence in the home or on the streets. We will see humans trafficked like slaves for sex and for labor. We will witness soldiers and civilians terrified from the wars, others from natural disasters, and the major worldwide crisis of a throng of refugees fleeing trauma only to find it again in the journey and in the camps. The total number of those suffering from trauma is staggering.
People who are suffering long for help and comfort. It is an open door for the church to bend down, like her Lord bent down for us, and enter into the great traumas of this world with real help and companionship and comfort. As we do so, we will begin to see, like Israel of old, the trauma wilderness in which many dwell, the Valley of Trouble, becoming a door of hope (Hosea 2:14, 15). The church of Jesus Christ is called to bring light to dark places, love to damaged souls, and truth about who our God is — He who entered in so that we might know Him and be like Him. Trauma worldwide is a call to God’s people to become like our Savior, who was love stooping to the uttermost depth to deal with the poison of evil in this world and in men’s hearts. Such work often opens the hearts of people to the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. It did for us.