Introduction: The Way Out is Through
Learning objective: Participants will be able to describe a) how trauma may impact faith/beliefs, b) an overview of the life of faith journey, c) precipitating factors leading to spiritual distress, and d) steps to help move through the crisis of faith.
Last week, this nine-week series started with Kristin Cary’s (and others’) perspectives about the value of peer facilitator training. This week Kristin continues by addressing a crisis of faith experience, the Introduction’s primary focus.
“A crisis of faith in God, the church, men, institutions, the sacredness of marriage, and the family are widespread among partners and this needs to be a central normalizing factor in how we lead partner groups. To allow space for process, for anger, for struggle and for faith to die before it is reborn is crucial. Anger is a big sign of the crisis of faith erupting, along with distorted images of God and often isolation.
The best way to respond is to NOT give pat answers, to have space for each woman to speak her truth of what she is feeling with NO judgement, allowing her the dignity of her own experience while staying loving and supportive.”
By describing the peer facilitator tasks of acknowledging, understanding, normalizing, and providing a safe space where group participants can work through a crisis of faith, Kristin reflected the importance of the peer facilitator's foundational Christian worldview that aligns with trauma and crisis theories.
Experiencing a crisis of faith does not mean our faith is shallow, nor does it reflect spiritual immaturity. Instead, it’s part of the human experience. Working through the aftermath of sexual betrayal is confusing, painful work. The spiritual distress leading to a crisis of faith is often just as confusing and painful.
“The effects of trauma are experienced physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Many who have been touched by natural disasters or human atrocities view their spiritual distress as the most intense of these responses."
Dr. Judith Herman addresses the impact of traumatic events on faith… they “violate the victim’s faith in a natural or divine order and cast the victim into a state of existential crisis.”
How trauma impacts faith
We begin understanding trauma’s impact by remembering ‘faith’ is not a belief, it’s a spiritual gift. Romans 12:3 states we’re given a measure of faith and 1 Corinthians 12:3 describes the gift of faith. In interpersonal relationships, faith can be described as a sacred trust, the kind we fully enter into. The sacred kind of trust, that when broken, severely wounds the core of our being. Both types of faith – the Spirit’s gift of faith and the sacred faith that we place in our intimate relationships – can be shattered by betrayal.
And when shattered, we need safe people, safe, sacred spaces, where we can be seen, heard, validated, encouraged.
“If we aren’t able to identify our own crisis of faith it may be difficult to see in others. Knowing ourselves that it is completely normal will allow us to share our experience with the group, so they realize they are not alone." Brenda Petruska
“As partners, being aware of the Stages of the Life of Faith helps us hold in perspective God’s working in our lives. Such a strong tool to identify where we are in our relationship with Him. Knowing where a crisis of faith experience fits within the stages can be encouraging, especially when we find ourselves at 'the wall.' The distortions of God brought to light for me ways an individual’s views have been distorted. Understanding these distortions and helping partners find their way through them is extremely important to healing. Learning about the difference between grieving and lament was enlightening, many of us raised in the church have been taught to steer clear of such deep grief. As a facilitator, helping to normalize and validate partners’ pain, suffering, losses, and grief – while holding space for that in our groups is the beginning of healing." Rebecca
Rebecca mentions the importance of practicing lament while moving through grief. In a recent devotional, Daniel Grothe described an experience with a friend sharing his deep crisis. Daniel encouraged him, "You have permission to live the most difficult days of your life in the safety of our presence."
"What I told him is a pretty good description of what a Christian community can be when things are working as they should: a safe place. A Christian community should be a place that grants permission to feel the loss, permission to grieve, permission to be where we are, and permission to tap into the pathos of the God who feels."
Daniel’s article continues by describing the importance of incorporating the Biblical practice of lament.
"Lament is the act of speaking up, of maintaining a voice, of taking up our side in the divine human covenant interaction. Indeed, it cannot rightly be called a “covenant” if the stronger party (God) doesn’t allow space for the weaker party (us) to speak up. That sort of arrangement would only be tyranny. But because God is a covenanting God, we see Him giving us, the weaker party, space to voice our concerns and complaints.”
In Biblical practice, lament has always been both a personal and community experience. By intentionally creating space for lament in our groups we are giving others "permission to live the most difficult days of your life in the safety of our presence."
Next ADOH Peer Facilitator Training
The training includes attending 11 two-hour sessions, reading and completing exercises in the accompanying workbook between sessions, and actively engaging during the sessions. The cost of the training is $200. All applicants complete the "Interest Survey", are interviewed, and complete an application. Spaces are limited. If you are considering joining the September training, click here, complete the Interest Survey, and I will contact you to schedule an interview.