It is not unusual to see “TW” (trigger warning) on a syllabus or on social media to alert readers that the content may include references to issues, ideas, or stories that could trigger trauma.
Joseph’s family got no such warning when they found themselves standing in front of the brother whom they had sold into slavery. Joseph got no such warning when his family arrived in Egypt, convinced that there was no possibility that he would be alive. He even tested them in their stated purpose to find relief from the famine.
Eventually the trigger of being reunited with his family and his oppressors sets off the trauma physically. Joseph weeps so loudly people cannot help but notice, and his brothers are silent in their terror. Trauma changes us not only spiritually but physically, affecting our thoughts, feelings, and bodies. Living out our faith, even in times of deep distress, must include space and grace for a physical response.
But what happens next is not quite what we have come to expect from the TWs of today. Instead of silence, resistance, or separating into opposite “sides,” there is love, forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation, healing, and restoration. There is space for the pain of trauma to be acknowledged in a visceral way, and there is space for Joseph to name the trauma and to name his process of healing in front of his family.
While Western methods of therapy and counseling are most often focused on individual healing, this example pushes us to consider how God can bring about the healing of communities.
Help me heal from the deep wounds of trauma, O God, so that I respond not from a place of pain but from a place of love and hope. Heal our communities from the deep wounds of trauma so that we can be an example of a healed and healing body. Amen.
Joseph had experienced betrayal by his brothers and then had been sold into slavery. At the time, he no doubt felt abandoned by God. However, after God raises up Joseph in Egypt, Joseph is able to provide for his family in a time of drought. Although others have acted with evil intentions, God uses those actions for good. The psalmist offers a similar encouragement. We struggle in the real challenges that face us, but we believe in a God who can carry us through them. In First Corinthians, Paul explains that God carries us even through death to resurrection glory on the other side. Jesus teaches us to respond to evil with mercy. Because we believe in a God who will ultimately bring justice, we do not need to serve as judge and executioner.
Read Genesis 45:3-11, 15. How would considering your children’s children to seven generations change the way you make decisions?
Read Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40. What is your relationship to the land where you live now and the land where you lived as you grew up?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50. How do you live out the characteristics of God’s imperishable realm?
Read Luke 6:27-38. How do you respond to Jesus’ call to love your enemies? How does your community of faith follow this gospel requirement?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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