The Divine Change We Need

By Joshua Andrews

God is not a God of trauma, but a God of love, joy, peace, and unity.

You do not have to be a clinical counselor to see the effects of trauma in people living within your community. If you have walked upon this earth then you have experienced the human condition of grief, pain, suffering, and also love, peace, and joy. Clients who sit down with a mental health professional do so because they experience emotions that, to them, are beyond the norm and life has become very hard and even unmanageable. When life becomes unmanageable due to grief, pain, or suffering, you start to experience a drought of love, peace, and joy.

Clients discuss life situations that they desire to change so that they don’t feel bad anymore or make others feel bad by their negative actions and thoughts. Clients, and I dare say all of humanity, simply want to live a better life with better relationships so that tomorrow will be a better day. Sometimes we all need to change our structure of life and start to perceive with a different vision than what we have been handed growing up.

Most, if not all, clients enter into a therapeutic relationship because they have lost vision of how today, let alone tomorrow, could possibly be better. Clients hear the voices of their past and present screaming that they are no good and will never amount to anything in this world. Traumatic events of their past creep into their present as a self-fulfilling prophecy of worthlessness. These traumatic beings of the past (parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, sibling, teacher, take on a ruthless force in the person’s mind, body, and spirit. Some give in to these lies and view ending their life as the only viable option as they cry out to God but only hear the voice of a perpetrator and not the voice of our loving creator.

In my own personal life, I have experienced the highs and lows of life and I used to believe that God was in control of all of my experiences, if not in control then allowed them to happen. I received scripture spoken out of context as the only truth but the only thing it brought to me was confusion, chaos, and a lack of understanding of the true nature of God. I can remember time and time again people quoting Billy Graham’s wife Ruth, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

This idea of a perfect God only accepting perfect people who live perfect holy lives was engrained into me and frankly scared me half to death. I viewed God as a monster who not only killed his one and only Son for the sins of the world but, I guess, it wasn’t good enough because he was coming after me and needed more pain and sacrifice to satisfy some deranged pleasure. I viewed holiness as a burden to constantly bear knowing I would never be enough for this domineering and angry God. I can’t tell you how many times I asked for forgiveness and for Jesus to be the Lord of my life all to feel not good enough the next time any guilt revealed itself.

Life experiences have a way of truly making you think about cause and effect, power and control, freedom and determinism, and how God fits into all of it. I have come to understand God differently over the years of my journey on earth because I believe change is necessary. Change is necessary because humanity never stops developing, growing, thinking, or experiencing emotions. All of humanity, even the most reclusive, experience life changes that affect their individual understanding of self and community. Change should not be thought of as a proverbial “four letter word” to be avoided but an evolutionary reality that can benefit the collective whole for better future possibilities. Change of behavior, change of emotion, change of knowledge, change of beliefs, and change of perception within relationships; all these changes contribute to a change of life.

I have come to embrace Open & Relational Theology as a way to see life and God with an improved vision. I believe this vision enables me to see God as an all-embracing love that engages with creation in a moment-by-moment existence. I view God as guiding and encouraging creation to cooperate with God’s essential nature of love. This loving nature enables me to say God never wills for any evil to occur, in fact, God never allows any evil to occur because if God had the power to stop evil, God would stop it. What loving God would allow trauma, wrath, evil, homicide, genocide, violence, etc.…to occur when it could be avoided?

I see God as a divine dance partner, as Richard Rohr has written and spoken about, who genuinely desires to be involved in every aspect of our life with the fullness of love. Clients who receive this view of God no longer have to accept God was punishing them, hating them, or teaching them a lesson through a violent event. Clients can now see God as one who desired none of the pain and trauma to happen but is a God who suffers and experiences all the emotions with them. God is our dance partner that never guides us wrong and is always available to help us up when we do fall after rejecting God’s divine guidance.

I see God as the one who will never leave us or forsake us, especially during the darkest valley of our life. A God who never predetermines a future action and never forces us to choose one possibility over the other, yet a God who desires all to walk in God’s love and experience the peace that passes all understanding. I see a God who desires good mental health for all of humanity and seeks to help us overcome familial, religious, financial, and societal traumatization. This is the God that I have chosen to accept, worship, serve, and proclaim to all in hope and I am glad that there is one less trauma-inducing being to handle.

Clients who receive this new type of vision can appreciate that what they were once labeled in the past is not carved into stone in order to label them in the present. The future is yet to be realized and the only event we will know for sure is God will be with us and love us in the present to make tomorrow a better day. God is not a God of trauma, but a God of love, peace, joy, and unity.

Joshua Andrews is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. He earned his Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary with additional Master of Divinity & Doctor of Ministry classes. Josh is currently a Doctor of Ministry and Theology student at Northwind Theological Seminary focusing on overcoming religious trauma through Open & Relational Theology.

To purchase the book from which this essay comes, see Love Does Not Control: Therapists, Psychologists, and Counselors Explore Uncontrolling Love