“When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine.” Job 7: 13-15 NIV
Given that Job had been through a set of traumatic losses, it is perhaps no wonder that he began to exhibit the symptoms of what we might well recognise today as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Two of the worst parts of this distressing condition are the reliving of the trauma, like a waking nightmare, and what we call night terrors, which are horrifically realistic nightmares, of such power that shake and scream in your sleep. In a bad phase, getting any real rest, let alone refreshing sleep, is nigh on impossible. I can’t help but feel this is what Job is describing here, it sounds so similar.
In any case, there is no rest from the horror of what he has been through. We might think he is mistaken in attributing this part of his suffering to his body, as it seems a straightforwardly mental disorder, but this is not the case. More and more we are finding that the body holds the memory of traumatic events and replays them, reacting in fight or flight modes. An episode triggered by a memory (this can be anything, even a song, a phrase, sound or taste that has some kind of connection to whatever happened to us) is intensely physical as well as emotional and mental. Trauma sufferers experience their pain holistically and it is one of the reasons it is so horrendous.
Another effect of great suffering and loss is that we lose our hope. “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end without hope,” says Job, “…and my eyes will never see happiness again.” (Job 7: 6-7 partial NIV). Thankfully as we read Job’s story, we find that it does have a happy ending, since the second half of his life is doubly blessed and he receives a great deal more than he ever did before. But, perhaps tellingly, there is no mention of healing. I personally believe that Job’s wholeness is restored by and in his encounter with the Living God. Such an encounter, which chooses to meet us where we are without answering our myriad of questions; which chooses to show us the great I AM in all the Lord’s glory (and therefore goodness), is powerful beyond all measure and redeems all our suffering, perhaps just as much by a healing of our perspective as of our wholeness as physical, mental, emotional and spiritual beings.
Photo from morguefile
If you or someone you love is affected by PTSD do check out the help available via your medical practitioner/GP Here is a useful link: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/#.V2P6m8vSnIU