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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Tuesday, March 2

Jesus came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue... and they took offense at him....And he did not do many deeds of power there because of their unbelief.
—Matthew 13:54f

Every life has trauma. Many of us suffer repeated traumas. There is an ancient spiritual tradition that the strength of our souls is uniquely created by our particular experiences of woundedness.

Paul's mysterious "thorn in the flesh" became for him the catalyst for his remarkable confidence that God's "power is made perfect in weakness," helping make him the resilient, courageous apostle he was.

In 1955 a couple of psychologists studying the lives of people who had experienced terrible trauma coined the term "post-traumatic growth" to describe the "flowers of hope and renewal that can grow from the ruins of a catastrophic event." The psychologists studied people "who have survived an astonishing range of trauma—triggered by events such as death in the family, being held hostage, sexual assault, or medical emergency—[people who] report coming out of the experience with positive results.” 

It is not unusual for someone whose internal world view has been turned upside down, or whose external circumstances have been upended, to launch a spiritual struggle that takes them to new places. When we are forced to ask questions like, "How could God let this happen?" and "Where was God?" we open ourselves to new possibilities for growth.

In his memoir Walking, Matthew Sanford tells the story of his recovery from an auto accident when he was 13. His father and sister were killed and he was left paralyzed. Today he is a paraplegic yoga instructor who says, "I think that I'm a better person than I would have been."  

What gifts can you claim because of your own experience of trauma? The question requires deep searching with clear eyes and a soul strengthened by God’s presence in adversity.

Ground me in your peaceful presence within, O Christ, and give me the wisdom and courage to face my storms and tides with sure confidence in your abiding care. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2007.