Courage for the Broken, Wounded, and Defeated

Courage for the Broken, Wounded, and Defeated

We all have been acquainted with feeling broken, wounded, and defeated, and with those realities it's hard to believe we can find courage.

Many of us seek out help and have gone to the church as a refuge.  Unfortunately for some of us we have found ourselves feeling marginalized from when we needed to feel uplifted.  So many of us have felt like we don't know if we have what it takes to be brave enough to keep going or believe there is much hope.

What do we do with that desperate desire for courage when we fill broken, wounded, and/or defeated?  

Trauma-informed licensed, professional counselor and author K.J. Ramsey gives insight into gaining courage for the broken, wounded, and defeated by sharing lessons from her latest book, The Lord Is My Courage: Stepping Through the Shadows of Fear Toward the Voice of Love.

The church and the crushed and broken-hearted

It's often difficult for the church to draw close to the crushed and broken-hearted and be with them in their situation.  The American church has swallowed a story of self-sufficiency and efficacy.  We have forgotten that God entered this world a human being set on suffering and dying as a means by which love came down and brings us back up to rise - we have forgotten that that's the center of our story.

The church tends to view getting things done, and making the kingdom happen as the evaluation of goodness and faithfulness.  People who suffer are not necessarily getting a lot done because they are struggling and getting by.

K.J believes that the syncretism of the American dream combined with the gospel has made us devalue and desecrate the holiness of being human and that we are loved because we exist.  Our worth and place in the family of God is not dependent on how much we can offer but that we are here.  This is how the story of Jesus began before He did anything amazing.  Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, and the Spirit comes down like the dove and the Father's voice says, “You are My beloved, with You I am well pleased.”  These same words of God are there for us too, however, the church attaches beloved to getting things done and building the kingdom, but we do not realize that God is already building the kingdom within us.  I think that's why we don't draw close to the broken-hearted and crushed because we don't think that it's where the good stuff is, even though that's where Jesus is," says K.J..

Roberts shares that it was when he was raising his kids and not knowing how he was going to get by that he experienced true intimacy with God like never before. "We are in this unique position to receive something far greater because we are in the state of vulnerability," says Robert.

The importance of practicing anticipation of the shepherd's presence

According to K.J. the first thing we must know is to accept that our emotions are good. It is vital to consider emotions as e-motions, meaning 'energy in motion.’

Emotions are meant to move you into connection and safety.  Emotions are not a barrier, they are the meaning we ascribe to the sensation in our body that pushes us to find connection and safety in ourselves, others, and God.  Emotions are signals designed to move you into connection.  It is crucial to state this fact about emotions because many Christians have demonized emotions and the bodies in which the emotions are felt, however, that is not the scripture or God's view of emotions.

K.J. talks with us about practicing experiencing the Good Shepherd's presence.  She believes we don't have to be brave to be courageous.  Courage is a practice of risking trusting that there's a good shepherd who is with us no matter what, coming to seek us, looking out for us.  Courage is not dependent on your capacity to be brave; it is dependent on your willingness to practice seeking the shepherd even when you're afraid.  The cool thing about practice is that it doesn't necessarily make one perfect but makes a pathway.

Emotion as the architect of anticipation

Emotion is built on our past experiences and our family's past experiences and makes up our response to the world around us. "Emotion is anticipating based on the past, anticipating what the future will be and what we will do now in the present," says J.K.

Suppose we have experienced a lack of connection, love, and provision in the past.  In that case, we will bring it with us like a subconscious physical template for how we experience the presence and anticipate the future.

J.K. says we can learn in some practical ways to anticipate that there will be somebody coming to attune us, show us that our story matters, that we are not alone in our pain and struggle, and someone is coming to provide for us, our emotions change. The way we respond to our life with practice, the reflex becomes remembering God will be with us.  The very practice of courage can change how you anticipate what your future will be and experience what your presence is – it changes the pathway in your body and neural system.

The circular structure of Psalm 23 and courage

According to J.K., Psalm 23 is written in a literary style called the ring composition, meaning David tells a story unto its climax and then repeats the same story, repeating it backward, forming a ring circle. What stands out to J.K. about Psalm 23 is that the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand was written in the same literary style.  Jesus deliberately embodies Psalm 23.

What J.K. finds most stunning about the way Psalm 23 is told is that it is just like our lives: we come to a place of needing to trust again in a way that was hard for us in the past;  God invites us to try again. We are brought to the same places where we don't feel we're brave, but we're afraid and where we can practice trusting that God is with us.

It is in the repetition of being invited to trust that we become resilient.  The circular process of feeling we're back at the same spot again means we’re not being caged but being brought into a bigger story and given the possibility of changing how we see ourselves and God.  The circle is we're being brought back to the place where we can be strengthened, and the circle ends up enlarging.  

The role of congruence in courage

J.K. defines congruence as the state of being where our insides match our outsides, and our outsides match our insides.  In other words, the truth of your experience on the inside matches what you express, and what you express matches who you are inside.

Most of us were taught to be incongruent from when we started learning how to walk as babies.  We were taught to be big boys and girls and not cry when we fall trying to walk.  We're trained to shove down the sense that we're not okay and to instead say, I'm okay, and keep going.  The body holds all the stories of our bodies lacking being cared for adequately.  The more we live at a distance between the truth of our needs to be cared for and externally living as though we don't need it, the divide ruptures our ability to be present and kind in the world.

Congruence is another word for wholeness.  It's talking about our whole self being connected.  
“Who I am with my best friend or husband is the same as who I am in a book," says J.K.  It's being the same self all the way through and being honest with oneself about their experience.  For example, this honesty might be accepting you are not finding peace, safety, and comfort in the church.  Instead, you're feeling used, having to put a big smile on your face to be accepted, and shove down your story of struggling because people don't know how to respond to you.

When we shove down our stories that we experience as true and just put a smile on our faces, we're living incongruently and teaching our bodies to suffer.  This perpetuates circles of stress and illness in our bodies and makes us people who can't be present and extend kindness.  We live incongruently; we are not honest.

How can single parents stop shaming themselves for their sensitivity and see the value in it that can empower them?

Robert believes that single parents often walk around feeling like they are broken, needy, and an inconvenience for people.  Single parents try to overcompensate and act like they have it all together.

J.K. shares how she can relate to the feeling that she's too much because she is a woman with a disability, several diseases, complex trauma history, and is very sensitive.  She often feels she is not enough for the world around her or her family, however in learning to honor the way God made her body and made her sensitive; and honor the signal of her soul that tells her she's sad or overwhelmed God draw’s her back into the rhythms of life. "It is in this honoring my body and hearing her speak her internal language of sighs, groans and tears that I have learned to see myself not as too much or not enough but always beloved," says J.K..

Therefore, J.K. says there's a need to shed the storyline of shame about ourselves because God has named us beloved through Christ.  Through listening to our bodies, we will be able to receive our needs and when our stress is released and relieved, we become more resilient and okay.

The kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God and courage

Psalm 23:1 says, "the Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing."  No one can relate to not having gone through lack and scarcity. It's a self-surveillance system that is always serving, evaluating whether we are safe enough or not.  When we lack safety, we sink into a state of stress, so the experience of the scarcity of safety, including relational safety, is what keeps us stuck or causes us to fight-or-flight.

“The embodied storyline of scarcity, whether you're good at memorizing scriptures or not, you are responding to the world around you from either the storyline of scarcity or the storyline of abundance,” shares J.K..

Remembering and paying attention to the bad and valid of our story will make it more possible to return to a place with our nervous systems where we can experience our lives as a place where God is present, people care about us, and we matter.

The kingdom of darkness uses the silent subconscious story of scarcity to distract us into living our lives in fight-or-flight or shutdown and spiritualize a way of living in which we look out for just Christians.  We call it holiness when it's actually not believing and not living as though there is enough love in this world for every person.

Darkness distracts us in subtle and silent ways, and the kingdom of Christ is where we're shown God entering the world and suffering.  God in a body who bled, cried, died, and then was raised.  There's this strange place where we are shown communion in the places where we're crushed, and where I lack nothing can only be true right in the middle of lack.

Christ is among us, but we only tend to look for Christ when we reckon with the fact that we're experiencing lack and we don't have enough.  The way the body works; our nervous system is constantly scanning within and around us for safety.

The way the nervous system picks up on safety that says we're okay and can connect and be aware of the abundance around us is only possible through relationships.  We have ingested this toxic lie that we're self-sufficient, and we have to hold on to goodness because someone will take it away from you.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made to come back to a place where we can experience the truth of “I lack nothing because the Lord is my shepherd."  Through the sound of another human’s voice, the sight of eyes that are kind, and a look with love - these things can bring our bodies back to feel okay enough to show up to our lives.  It is only in and through relationships we can show up, because the God we worship is relationship - Father, Son, and Spirit.


The Lord Is My Courage: Stepping Through the Shadows of Fear Toward the Voice of Love


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