In Spirit and Trauma, Shelly Rambo recounts a meeting with Paul Womack, a minister in New York and a military veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Womack lamented the church’s inability to address the intense grief he experienced since serving. Rambo writes:
“In the few moments that I spoke with Paul, I realized that he had a longing to have the sacred story meet his story. He wants the gospel—the good news—that he preaches and teaches to speak to his story and not erase it. He wants it to be heard for the truth that it speaks, a truth that he cannot fully bring into words.” (Shelly Rambo, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining, 2.)
I like where Rambo is going with this. I don’t think we handle trauma very well. It's tempting to "erase people's stories" with the gospel.
By focusing on the hope of the future, we can inadvertently communicate to traumatized people “You shouldn’t feel this way.” But the reality is that we often do feel that way, and until the return of Jesus grief and pain will remain normative parts of the Christian experience. The last enemy to be defeated is death and he is still fighting back hard.
But I love what Rambo says here—Paul wants the gospel to speak to his story; he doesn’t necessarily want people to re-frame ("erase") his story in light of the gospel (“You shouldn’t feel this way because gospel”).
What do you think about that? Is there a difference between re-framing people’s story according to the gospel and allowing the gospel to speak to someone’s story?