My grandpa served in WW1, my dad in WW2, brothers and cousins in the Vietnam War and Cold War, cousins and nephews in the Gulf War and many campaigns on the War on Terrorism. Thank God, all returned home from their service, but not all returned home unscathed.
Firstly, for those reading who have served or are serving in the Armed Forces or as First responders, or family members of those who have served –thank you for your service! Your sacrifice to make America and the world a safer place is deeply appreciated.
A beloved nephew has wrestled with PTSD since his return home. Flashbacks and nightmares have haunted him. I may not completely understand his trauma and pain, but I can relate to it.
I have friends who for other reason are almost terrified to go to sleep at night for fear of what they might dream; and that anxiety makes it near impossible for them to fall asleep in the first place – let alone sleep restfully and peacefully when sheer exhaustion overtakes them.
I’ve had seasons of my life when I feared going to sleep at night – afraid of what I might dream or worse still, remember. I think this is one of the cruelest schemes of the enemy … the stealing of our sleep. And since he steals while we are in a diminished state of consciousness, we are powerless to do anything about it. Or that’s what I used to think. (More about that in the next post … probably the next post).
Right now, I’m reading Mark Batterson’s book “In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day (How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars)”. I’m only a few chapters in because I am finding so many nuggets of truth and wisdom that I want to chew on each one a while before moving to the next chapter, lest I overlook the very truth that I need to overcome the lions facing me today. Chapter 4 is entitled “Unlearning Your Fears” and it perfectly complements what the Lord put on my heart for this post.
If you’ll recall, at the beginning of this series (Of Dreams and Nightmares), I described two of my recurring dreams as “processing dreams” and “veiled remembrances”. By the time I was dreaming those dreams, I’d already been equipped with enough Scripture by Counselor John to know and trust that if Jesus allowed me to remember something, He would be there with me in the remembrance to help me deal with it. (Isaiah 43:1-3,13; Isaiah 54:4,14,17; Psalm 91; Philippians 1:28; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15, 1 Timothy 1:7). So even though I had some anxiety about the possibility of remembering something terrible that I didn’t really want to remember, I also wanted to know the truth about my past and understood that some of that truth might come by allowing my psyche to release fragmented memories of things that happened decades ago. With that understanding, I tried to embrace the process of remembering/processing, and I was able to lay my head down on the pillow at night and sleep because I had greater confidence in Jesus’s love for me than I had in any dream to derail my sanity (which was of course the taunt of the enemy – that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the truth or the lie he served up masquerading as the truth).
But there is more to the healing process just remembering, because if remembering alone brought healing then why would so many people need medication (physician or self-prescribed) to help deal with nightmares and night terrors, PTSD, panic attacks? Remembering nightmares would actually be a good thing, because those nightmares with their fragmented and sometimes veiled menories would be the process to healing, right?
“Almost like a hard drive with a computer virus, our minds have infected files. Irrational fears and misconceptions keep us from operating the way we were designed to. And if those fears and misconceptions aren’t uninstalled, they undermine everything we do.
Half of learning is learning. The other half of learning is unlearning. Unfortunately, unlearning is twice as hard as learning. … Unlearning is twice as hard, and it often takes twice as long. It is harder to get old thoughts out of your mind than it is to get new thoughts into your mind.”
~Mark Batterson, In A Pit With A Lion On A Stormy Day
Com’mon … that makes no sense whatsoever!
Remembering in and of itself does not bring healing. Remembering alone often feels like we are reliving the moment over and over again, it induces fear and terror and heightened anxiety.
No, my friend. It’s the remembering and processing while being overshadowed in the knowledge of how deeply we are loved by God that brings healing … for it is only by the power of His love that we can un-learn the fear that is tethered to those memories and allow faith in Jesus to over-write our memories and re-write our stories!
“Half of spiritual growth is learning what we don’t know. The other half is unlearning what we do know. And it is the failure to unlearn irrational fears and misconceptions that keeps us from becoming who God wants us to be.
The invalid in John 5 is a great example of the importance of unlearning. He had been crippled for thirty-eight years when Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well. But the man believed here was only one way to be healed:
“I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
This man made an assumption that may have cost him thirty-eight years! He had only one category for healing. … In a sense, he was imprisoned by what he knew. But Jesus uninstalled that mistaken belief with one sentence: “Stand up, pick up your sleeping mat, and walk!”
Now, here is what you need to see. Jesus didn’t just set this man free physically. He set him free cognitively. Faith is unlearning the senseless worries and misguided believes that keep us captive. It is far more complex than simply modifying behavior. Faith involves synaptogenesis. Faith is rewiring the human brain.”
~Mark Batterson, In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day
Mark goes on to explain that just like a computer’s memory periodically needs to be defragmented, our computer-like minds also need to be defragmented. And the way to do that is to upgrade the Operating Systems of our minds by downloading Scripture into our minds and spirits. Because when we read and meditate on Scripture (the Words and unshakeable Promises of God recorded for us), we are recruiting new nerve cells and rewiring neuronal connections. In short, “we stop thinking human thoughts and start thinking God’s thoughts!”
I’m really holding myself back folks – I’m tempted to quote the entire contents of Chapter 3 for you, it’s that good! But hopefully by now you get the gist.
STEP 1: Visualize Jesus with you in the circumstance.
STEP 2: Download a Superior Operating System
If we want to overcome the torment of dreams and nightmares, be it the result of PTSD or some other condition or experience, then we must (a) defragment our minds from the corrupt material that is playing/replaying in our heads (during waking or sleeping hours) and (b) download a Superior Operating System to overwrite fear altogether! And that superior SOS is the Word of God!
And with that, I’ll pause and allow you to chew on all this … maybe even go out and buy yourself a copy of In A Pit With A Lion On A Story Day 😊 and read it before my next post and the continuation of my story.
As always, I’m eager to hear your thoughts and reactions to this post – please drop me a comment below. Praying sweet sleep over you, with a calm and defragmented mind renewed daily by the Power of His Word living in you.
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