I heard a story, today, from someone who has a long history of working with vets who suffer PTSD. He recounted a story of sharing a personal loss with an older Jewish professor of his. His professor said to him, "This, too, shall pass." My acquaintance reacted poorly to his professor's response. So, his professor told him the background to his statement.
As a child, he said, his whole family was incarcerated in Auschwitz. They were separated by the Germans, and he became a servant to the officers. One day, he saw his father and older brother on the other side of a high fence. The young boy ran to the father and they touched hands through the fence. The boy was distraught, because he knew that his father and brother were in the area that led to the gas chambers. His father comforted him with that phrase, "This, too, shall pass."
Carrying on after trauma is an expression of faith in God. God didn't cause the trauma, but all too often, people made in God's image did and do horrible things that harm themselves and others. How do we carry on? How do we carry on well? Each new day can become an expression of new life and faith in a loving God who grieves for the children who live in and who create darkness, too. May the image of God in us reflect the image of the God whose love is steadfast and never ending. Paul's words to the Philippians come to mind:
“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal [of becoming like Christ in his death that I may attain the resurrection from the dead]; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul didn't just have positive memories of his Jewish credentials, but he also had memories of his participation in murder, and beatings, torture and threats to his life. "Forgetting what is behind" is difficult in itself. To forget what lies behind, we need vision, hope and faith that there is a future that promises healing, better days, and life as life is truly meant to be. Consider Elie Wiesel, today, who survived the holocaust and concentration camps to do wonderful work for the good of humanity, only to have millions squandered by Bernard Madoff. How we long for the promises of God (through the prophet, Joel) to be fulfilled:
"I will restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you."