We talked about trauma recovery and why it’s important for people like Jocelyne in July’s Mission News.
On one hand, it’s complicated: family relationships, genetics, personality and life history are so different from person to person. Though we can identify broad patterns in people under similar circumstances, their day-to-day needs and struggles vary widely.
On the other hand, it’s simple: Hurting people hurt other people, and only the Gospel brings the healing that breaks that cycle.
How does God see people who are suffering the effects of abuse and other trauma?
Consider Psalm 34, which talks about how God saves, heals, and protects “the righteous.” But who are “the righteous”?
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. … The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.” (Psalm 34:18,22)
These verses hint at what the rest of the Bible teaches more clearly: Being righteous – having the joy of an intimate relationship with our Creator God unhindered by the guilt and shame of our sin – is actually a gift from God claimed by faith in his son Jesus. It isn’t something we can achieve through our own efforts to do good things or avoid bad ones. (See Galatians and Philippians 3:9.)
When we realize how helpless we are, our scarred, broken hearts and downcast spirits are prepared to receive God’s mercy, which is expressed in Jesus’ sacrificial love for us. When we are brokenhearted, crushed in spirit, we can truly “take refuge in him” and not our own abilities.
There, he shows us he was near all along.
Brokenhearted, crushed in spirit
Jocelyne’s childhood was a mixture of abuse, neglect and instability. Feelings of loneliness and worthlessness from those early years didn’t just disappear in adulthood, and early exposure taught her to use drugs to cope.
She still did her best to live normally: She graduated from high school, held jobs and tried several times to get clean for her children’s sake. But it wasn’t a matter of “just quitting.”
“I wasn’t a believer, wasn’t working a program, I didn’t go to any meetings or anything like that. So I was sober, but I was unhappy. I started using prescription drug medication again, and it was a really dark path.”
When her stepbrother died from an overdose, that “dark path” on pills was the only way Jocelyne knew to escape, albeit temporarily, from the pain of her grief. She also tried meth, which “just took hold of my life,” and she ended up in a domestic violence situation.
“I can’t see myself today as that person. All I can see is a hurt, hurt, hurt little person.”
Step by step
In her misery, God was closer than Jocelyne could have imagined. Step by step, he was leading her into his grace and healing.
- She moved to North Idaho in 2013 to try to get a new start. Without heart change, the new start didn’t solve her problems like she hoped – but she connected with people who would be a huge influence later on.
- Her social worker, a Christian, knew what she really needed and arranged for her to check out the UGM Center for Women and Children. Jocelyne went to an orientation and was accepted into the program, but she blew off her move-in date because she had relapsed.
- Jocelyne went to church weekly because the foster family that had her daughters would be there. “I wasn’t living well, but still would show up and go see my babies. At that point I didn’t realize – now, I understand that I was just saturated with love and Jesus, not even knowing that it was going in one ear and not out the other, it was going in one ear and into my heart and later would be discovered when I got clean and sober.”
- Living in a secular, 28-day rehab center after hitting rock bottom, Jocelyne had an encounter with God, an overwhelming feeling of “peace and excitement and joy.” She told her counselor, “I do not know what is going on. I don’t think people should be this happy. Something is not normal.” Her counselor there, another Christian, explained it by telling her about Jesus and how “everything that I’ve ever done, ever will do, it’s all taken care of at the cross.”
- When she left the rehab center and had nowhere to live, Jocelyne found a business card from the UGM Center in a pile of random junk in her storage unit. She called and arranged a visit. She wanted to tell them she’d met Jesus, but she knew better than to expect another welcome to join the program after blowing it off earlier. Even the intake counselor went against her own inclination when she accepted Jocelyne again. “If it were up to me, I’d say no,” she told Jocelyne. “But God’s telling me yes, so I have to listen to the Lord.”
- Jocelyne’s Christian social worker and rehab counselor both left their jobs within weeks of working with her. Now, she sees that God kept them in their positions long enough to put her on the right path.
“I really feel like everything’s been strategic and been orchestrated perfectly, because there are things that come full circle now, and even though it’s taken three or four years for them to come full circle, God was faithful. … It was all part of the plan.”
“I fell into his arms for rest”
Jocelyne took refuge in God and what he could do in her through the recovery program. “When I went through the doors of UGM, when I surrendered to the Lord, and I fell into his arms for rest and allowed him to work in my life, step by step, phase by phase, God grew me in ways I never could have imagined.”
After finishing the program and moving into her own place, Jocelyne’s faith was tested again by a notification that her employer had to lay her off. “I had this bad moment,” she says. But then what she learned and practiced at the Center popped into her head: Slow down. Call out and reject that lie that you’re worthless. God has already opened so many closed doors for you.
Even before her old job ended, God gave Jocelyne another job she loves, where she has opportunity to grow. And with each step she takes in faith, he’s giving her a chance to give back – as a productive employee, a healthy mom, a sister in Christ.
“My heart is for women in recovery because it’s just so sad, especially when it affects people close to you. … I was that person, and I never want to be that person again.”
Because of the Gospel applied through the recovery program, Jocelyne is the person described in Psalm 34: “Those who look to [the Lord] are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. … Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
Like Jocelyne, everyone who is homeless or struggles with addictions has a story, and it takes an effort to look past labels like "homeless" or "addict" to see the person God sees. Click below to request our free Lose the Label study guide.