The percentage of incarcerated who have significant, unresolved trauma in their lives is extremely high. For men, in the mid 80 percent range, for women in the high 90s. There are over 2 million incarcerated in the United States.
As I was considering whether I wanted to become a facilitator of trauma healing groups at Douglas County Jail, my primary thought was whether I was capable. After all, it is clear that many, or maybe most of these men and women need therapy, professional help. A very wise person said to me, “Tony, do you think they’re going to get it?”
Well, of course they’re not.
But here’s the thing. The same may be said for the rest of us. Trauma in our fallen world is so common, so normal, that many of us are unaware of trauma in our lives; or better stated, unaware of the effect it is having. For those who have significant trauma in childhood, it is not surprising that a lifetime of brokenness shows up in relationship issues, addiction and incarceration. Damage often is done way before the realization that a person may need “therapy”.
While leading trauma healing groups I have heard stories that are, a number of adjectives come to mind, but heartbreaking may be the best. I do not know how folks walk around and function on a daily basis with what has happened to them.
It is surely by the grace of God. He is sustaining them.
And that is what a trauma healing group can do for a person. It shows them the grace of God. It reveals trauma in their lives (some of it unknown) and gives them a chance to face it. And it gives them an opportunity to place it in the hands of our Savior.
It’s easy, for me at least, when thinking of Jesus, to focus on the atonement. The theology. In other words, I’m a sinner in need of a Savior, and that’s what Jesus did when He died on the cross. He saved me! And of course, it is right to think on this. But we should also remember that Jesus spent much of His ministry healing people; He took are illnesses and bore our diseases. He healed the sick. He cast out demons. (Matthew 8:16-17) And when He saw people suffering, He had compassion on them.
Jesus says about Himself that He is gentle and lowly (humble) in heart and if we will but go to Him, we will find rest for our souls. (Matthew 11:29)
And when you see a person give their pain to Jesus, maybe for the first time ever in a trauma healing group, you witness the beginning of change and hope. There’s no magic cure and no excuses. There’s walking through your pain and suffering with God, who knows exactly what it means to suffer. He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5