Recently I had a memory flashback of a painful event in my life. For several long minutes, it was as though I was actually present in the time and place of the trauma—reliving every emotion in vivid technicolor.
Later, over a cup of coffee, I mused over this occurrence with a dear friend who is a Christian counselor.
“Why,” I wanted to know, “would I have a flashback of an event that has been fully dealt with—one in which there has been complete forgiveness and restoration, and that has been used by God to bring such good in my life?”
I went on to share my response to the flashback, how I had prayed about the incident, re-affirming forgiveness and searched my heart for unfinished business. I could find none.
“Sometimes,” my friend said, “a traumatic event can cause soul damage. When a painful memory resurfaces, we need to take time with God—in the moment or aside later—to receive His healing into our hearts.”
As I pondered her words, I realized that my response to the flashback had been (typically) to take action. Working out what I could do to fix it, it had not occurred to me to simply receive what Jesus had already accomplished for me.
Receiving God’s Healing when Painful Memories Resurface
‘He restores my soul…’ (Ps 23:3)
If something has triggered the flashback of a traumatic memory, here are some thoughts to help you process it:
1. Take the Position of Trust
‘He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.’ (Is 61:1)
You can be assured that if God has allowed pain from the past to resurface in your life, it is because He desires to bring a deeper level of healing to you.
A flashback can also be our inner self’s means of letting us know that it is ready to face and deal with any buried pain.
2. Re-Establish Forgiveness
‘Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ (Matt 18:21-22)
A good analogy is that forgiving again whenever you recall a painful event is like keeping a wound clean so that it can heal. This may mean simply re-affirming the forgiveness you have already given.
3. You Don’t Need to Handle it Alone
‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.’ (Gal 6:2)
Sometimes we can work through hurts privately in our personal relationship with God.
However there are times, especially relating to situations of trauma, when we can benefit from others’ help. This could be through a simple discussion, someone to pray with, or Christian counseling.
4. Receive God’s Healing
‘He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.’ (Ps 147:3)
There is something significant that can take place when we allow God to minister to us in moments of reliving the pain. We can receive God’s comfort right there in the very place of the trauma. We can experience His redeeming power. 
Take time with God to receive His healing. This may be either in the moment that you recall the pain, or in time aside later.
You may want to:
- Acknowledge and release the hurt to Him
- Consider the heart of the Father to you in the situation—His compassion, comfort, and unconditional love; His complete acceptance, along with His desire to heal you and bring good to your life
- Listen to anything He may want to tell you about the event. The Holy Spirit may lead you to further forgiveness, or repentance, or He may simply want to show you something about the situation from God’s perspective
- Thank God for His healing and receive it by faith
- Be still in His Presence.
You may not feel that anything significant has taken place, but you can be assured that God has brought healing to you.
5. Affirm God’s Word
‘Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.’ (Ps 119:105)
Once you have done the above, even if it is an issue that requires a long-term journey such as counseling, you do not need to dwell on negative emotions or thoughts.
Instead, allow God’s Word to feed your perspective. I find the Psalms a helpful starting place—the Psalmists acknowledge pain in its reality, but always lead you back to a position of faith in God.
The One Who Sees Me
Hagar was a slave who was abused and mistreated. Pregnant and alone, she fled into the wilderness. There, the angel of the Lord appeared to her, bringing comfort, instruction and prophecy.
Genesis 16:13 tells us,
‘She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
Life’s experiences had sought to rob Hagar of her God-given identity. Abuse had sent her the message, ‘You are a chattel, a despised slave, a usurper.’ Now God spoke into her very identity and destiny: ‘I know you, I love you – and I have ordained you to be the mother of a nation.’
In the darkest place, Hagar received a revelation of God as One who saw her pain, and Who had a purpose for her life which would not be thwarted by the pain.
This experience with God gave Hagar the courage to face her fears and fulfil the future God had planned for her.
Like Hagar, we too can know God’s healing and redeeming power. We can know His presence, comfort and love for us in the midst of our pain. We can receive our identity from Him. And we can be assured of the Father’s intent to overturn what was meant for harm and bring us into His purpose for our lives.
Remember, you are God’s beloved son or daughter. He loves you unconditionally and beyond measure. He is sovereign, He is faithful, and He is Your Redeemer.
 From the counseling perspective, Jean Battersby says,
‘God invites us to allow His comfort and validation to be experienced and sensed IN the relived traumatic incident. Psychologically this allows us the experience of comfort and safety, in a moment that originally was overtaken by fear and disempowerment. Recent neurological understandings explain the way the anxious or traumatised brain can change (neuroplasticity of the brain) when the mind, body and emotions consistently absorb and experience comfort and safety over-ruling the traumatic memory. For people who have experienced trauma, it seems to be healing in itself for the person to realise that God sees and knows the meaning and extent of the pain and that He offers deep compassion, empathy and healing.’ Jean Battersby, Relationship and Trauma Counselor
© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching
Enliven Ministries: in the David McCracken Ministries family