Come, let us return to the Lord. “For He has torn us, and He will heal us; He has wounded us, and He will bind up our wounds. He will revive us after two days, and on the third day He will raise us up so we can live in His presence. Let us strive to know the Lord. His appearance is as sure as the dawn. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring showers that water the land.” ~ Hosea 6:1-3
We were sitting on my friend’s couch, watching an American movie when we heard a loud but distant “boom” sound and then, from the window, we saw smoke appearing over the city skyline. The only thing that registered in my mind was that it must be a shotgun, as that is all the “boom” like sounds I had heard growing up in rural Midwestern USA. Unfortunately, the sound wasn’t a shotgun, but rather the third bombing in our city that year, as confirmed by a phone call that followed from my friend’s husband. Suddenly, all of our minds began racing and we were all struggling to hold back feelings of panic and anxiety. As is common in large-scale crises, the phone networks were too bombarded to work, but I was oblivious to this at the time as I tried in vain to call other expat friends from whom I could gain my bearings.The thoughts plaguing my mind were these- “Was this normal for this country?”, “What was life going to be like tomorrow, when I was supposed to go to work?”, “Was it even safe for me to travel home to my apartment – even though it was a ten minute walk away?”.
This scene was from my first year of living and working in a middle eastern country. I had arrived in-country about eight months prior to this bombing. Since I had “handled” the first two bombings, I thought that I could just “brush off” the third one and keep going with life, work, and language learning as I had attempted to do with the other bombings. I hadn’t told anyone but my roommate that I really wasn’t handling these terror attacks well.
After each bombing, I had nightmares. What I didn’t realize was that each of these acts of terror was a new “wound” not only for me, but for the people I saw and worked with each day. Not only was each bombing a wound that needed to be dealt with, these new wounds were bringing old wounds to the surface.
Thirteen years prior to this time, I had lost someone I was extremely close to in a sudden accident. I thought that I had “handled” that wound then and there, but It wasn’t until I was debriefing with a counselor friend after the bombing that the connection between my wounds was clear.
Through talking with my counselor friend and faith community, spending time alone with Jesus, and learning how to take better care of myself and others, did I start to find healing – healing from the “old” wounds of thirteen years prior and the “new” wounds from the bombings. During this healing process, I wondered why God would lead me to move to a far away country only to experience something like this, to be inflicted with more wounds from this fallen and sinful world?
I can see now looking back from today that I needed to be wounded in order to heal. I needed the wounds to see that I needed God. I needed wounds to see that I needed others, that I didn’t have to always “be strong”.
From the night of that third bombing, I can still hear my friend, Tina’s voice on the other end of the phone (when the lines were finally functional enough for me to reach her) – “It’s not a sign of weakness to be afraid!” and then she connected me with the counselor friend. Before Tina got off of the phone, she said she’d call a taxi for us – even though me and my roommate lived a ten minute walk away, we didn’t feel safe walking home. So I went home with my roommate, and then to my room, all the while wrestling with feelings of shock, grief, fear, and uncertainty. I woke up the next day, went to work, and then to my first session with the counseling friend. Looking back, these scene are as fresh as if they happened yesterday.
Since that time, God has brought healing into my life. He’s taught me that I need others and most of all, I need Him. Before I can offer life and healing to others, I needed His healing first.
That night, I learned that I can’t be strong all of the time – it’s okay to show weakness and reach out to others. My friend, Tina, on the other end of the phone had taught me that. Little did she know that she was the answer to my prayers for someone to talk to about the bombing and nightmares that I had been experiencing. She had been living in-country for many years and had been a friend I felt like I could approach with my fears. After that night, Tina would ask me how I was and if I was doing okay. I felt so blessed to have such a caring and comforting friend during that time.
Later, through the debriefing session with my counselor friend, I learned that I need to express my emotions and not just suppress them. I need to take time to feel sadness and grief and that different people will express emotions in different ways. It was during this time that I realized still needed to process the loss of my loved one that had occurred nearly thirteen years before. I realized it was ok and sometimes necessary to still feel sad, broken, tearful about that loss and about the new loss and grief that came after the bombings.
Though healing is a continual process, I’ve felt that a big part of healing from trauma is reaching out to others who have experienced trauma. During the days and weeks that followed the bombings, I felt a new kind of comfort and unity with others in my city when we would share our experiences from the night of the bombings. I quickly realized that I wasn’t the only one feeling pain and anxiety, and that I also seemed to be doing better than some of my friends. How good it felt to recommend my counselor friend to others or to sing or pray with friends who were struggling- really, we were all struggling but found comfort together.
What an incredible blessing it is to see God redeeming pain you’ve experienced as well as looking back and realizing that he hasn’t only healed, but also revived. He’s revived this country – since that bombing, there haven’t been more attacks in this city. Many individuals from here are awakening to new life in Him. Those of us who know Him are longing for the day we see this place and people completely revived in Him. He’s also revived a spirit of life within me and now I want to reach out to others. I feel a revived sense of hope in him and want to offer His healing to those around me.
As the words in Hosea say, let us return to the Lord, even when we don’t understand why He’s allowed us to be wounded, when we don’t think we’ll ever be whole or revived. We must come to Him in order for Him to bind up our wounds and how precious of a thought that the very hand of God is the one binding us up and His Spirit is reviving us again.
Author Bio: AM has many passions that include traveling, exploring new cultures and languages, cooking, music, and fitness. She currently lives in the Middle East.