A couple of months ago, I was in a car accident. My van was totaled, but my daughter and I were not seriously injured. Whiplash, bruises, and soreness have become our daily battles, but those things will get better.
The emotional effects are the most difficult to overcome. I have counseled many post-accident and post-trauma victims. As biblical counselors, we know how to come alongside someone gently in the immediate days following trauma. We know how to eventually begin to target the heart when we see unhealthy and unbiblical responses to the trauma. When the trauma is our own, do we know how to "self-counsel" our own hearts? There is no trauma too big or too small when it comes to the need for counsel.
When we find ourselves repetitively dwelling on and reliving the accident details, condemning ourselves for the guilt we might bear for the cause of the trauma or accident, having panic attacks at the thought of re-entering normal life again, getting behind the wheel, or seeing the place where the trauma occurred, we must cling to the good counsel we offer to others by offering it to our own hearts.
One of the goals in biblical counseling is that the counselee would eventually be able to do self-counsel. Self-counsel means that when someone is struggling with sin or suffering, she can turn to God’s Word for answers. She can read, study, memorize and pray as she seeks to bring the gospel to bear on her struggle. In that process, God can reveal her heart issues, and she can focus on mind renewal as she repents of her sin. This is how we are all to live, every day, as self-counselors.
As I continue to recover from whiplash as I write this, I have found these things to be most helpful. This is good self-counsel for someone who has recently suffered any kind of trauma:
* Take every thought captive. Remember that every struggle we have begins with a thought. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to destroy the things in our thoughts that are not consistent with the gospel.
* Focus on what is true. Philippians 4:4-9 is a passage to go to often and consider it as sort-of a checklist. Run your thoughts through that Philippians 4:8 grid, and redirect your thought life.
* Rehearse the gospel. This phrase is not a cliche, it is life-giving. Thinking on the gospel recalibrates our minds and reminds us that we are no longer under condemnation, that we have been given a new identity, and so much more.
* Fight the fear with the knowledge of God's sovereignty. God is either in control or He isn't, and I believe He IS. Yes, even over my car accident. I do not need to know the why's or how's in order to trust His promises. Romans 8:28 keeps me from dipping too deep in to the "why me's".
* Know when your natural initial responses are becoming debilitating, and ask for help. Low grade temporary depression, for example, is common to most trauma victims. But debilitating depression requires intensive biblical counseling. If you are unable to function at home or on the job, spend most of your day isolating or sleeping, have turned to substance use to self-medicate, are unable to make decisions or get along with those you love, then it is time to ask for help. God's Word has answers you need, but we sometimes need someone to come alongside us and show us the way.
Some people say that "time heals" even trauma. I suggest that although that may seem to be true sometimes, it is only God who can truly heal a traumatized heart. Because of my self-counsel, I am struggling far less with the effects that the accident had on me.
To self-counsel, you must seek Him more intentionally, dig deep in to His Word - read it, study it, memorize it. Keep a meaty prayer life, stay in church and in fellowship with Christian friends who encourage you (and also admonish you as needed.) Serve in ministry at your church, putting others before yourself. And do not hesitate to call on a biblical counselor if you are stuck, and she will be glad to come alongside and offer help and hope. These are the things that helped me and I believe they will help you, too, regardless of your struggle.
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) "Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand
NOTE: this post first appeared on the Biblical Counseling for Women blog.
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