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Preserved by Purpose: Spiritual PTSD and Life After Warfare

The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that sometimes the hardest thing to deal with isn’t just the battle in a war but might be what happens afterwards.     As a result, the news is full of stories of soldiers and their families who have struggled to transition back to normal life after the life changing trauma of war.    Because of the impact of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), the military strives to provide more specialized services to current soldiers and veterans.    These stories show that it’s not just enough to prepare soldiers for war battles, but there also has to be preparation for life after the battles.

Shewanda Riley

But the question remains:  How do soldiers successfully readjust to the “usual” after unusual experiences that come from being a soldier in a war?  Pretending that things haven’t changed won’t work because things are not the same.    Psychologists who deal with veterans who struggle with PTSD say that one of the biggest issues is the readjustment from the chaos and uncertainty of war to the peace and consistency of normal life.   Often, those suffering from PTSD struggle to honestly admit that things are different.   Once they do so, they can then decide if different is good or bad and most importantly, how that will impact their lives moving forward.

In terms of spirituality, Christians also deal with some of these same issues of readjustment after spiritual warfare.   Christians often talk (in some cases brag) about being ready for war with satan.       But how many of us can honestly say we are ready for what happens AFTER the spiritual warfare battle?   Even if we “win” the battle, we may end up battle weary, scarred, wounded and traumatized.      Or, we may lose the battle but learn an even more valuable lesson about how to deal with disappointment and loss.      However, like soldiers with PTSD who deal with psychological and physical trauma because of their experiences in war, I think those of us who have experienced any kind of spiritual warfare can identify with the lingering effects of warfare.

As Psalm 55:17-18 reminds us, “He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me,” one key to surviving spiritual warfare is having the faith to trust God.   After a spiritual warfare battle, I think God wants us to have a renewed respect for His sovereign power and His unconditional love for us.   Even though spiritual warfare can be life altering, spiritual PTSD for Christians doesn’t have to stand for post traumatic stress disorder.     I’d like to think of spiritual PTSD as standing for Purpose, Strength, Trust and Discernment.     For the next few weeks, we’ll look at spiritual PTSD and how it can impact your life after a spiritual warfare battle.


Shewanda Riley is a Dallas, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.”   Email her at preservedbypurpose@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.

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