The human mind can retain and recall some amazing details. It can also work against us when efforts are not made for defamiliarization in regard to ideas and beliefs that are unbiblical, unsound or unsubstantiated. Over and over Jesus aimed at making His disciples cognizant of the spiritual kingdom that He came to set up, but they couldn’t seem to lose the Rabbinical view that was in contradiction to the truth. It doesn’t seem to take a traumatic experience to show the gravity of the sin problem, the controversy that can potentially occur in our own minds, the need to understand the truth, and the repetitive effort that is required not to forget precepts and other good instructions for living.
Often our responses to trauma impact the mind significantly as we engage distorting, intrusive thoughts and memories, and develop thought patterns that are faulty and destructive. As a child I was very confused about family dynamics. I grew up in a loving home with my grandparents, but the lack of relationship with my father and mother had a significant impact on my mental health. It was not the physical absence of either parent (who lived separate lives all of my life) that seemed to create mental unwellness, it was the emotional detachment, the lack of interest and engagement in the things that were of interest to me, feeling as though I was always yearning for their love and acceptance, but sensing that I was not that important after all. Even today, neither of them can speak of any in-depth thought or interest that I have had or currently hold because they have never made any inquiries.
Somewhere along the line, I must have developed the idea that God was more like my absent parents and other family members who treated me cruelly. I believed He existed but I didn’t have any genuine interest in knowing Him, but I sought His blessings and wished I could do some of the magnificent things that are attributed to God. I didn’t think He showed consistent care for me if He had my interest at heart. I failed to see that I often went contrary to His laws, often seeming to go near to the precipice with the hope that I would not plunge into the abyss. I didn’t see how selfish I was, but I remember wondering why a God who is so powerful seemed to fail me. I developed my own understanding of what God was like, and adopted beliefs overtime that synchronized with deism, humanism, postmodernism, cultism, and spiritualism depending on the season in my life. In actuality I didn’t know what I believed even as a faithful attendee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In my mind, the teachings of Jesus like “turning the other cheek” (see Matthew 5:39) seemed to propose that I become a doormat, and I was struggling at an early age seemingly having a gene of that sort. I got tired of people taking advantage of me and decided to do things my way. In reality, I began to follow Satan; I was seeking the things of this world to satisfy the soul’s need. My mind was so prejudiced towards God, that though He sought so often to reveal truth to me, I did not comprehend it.
The path downward is very gradual. The more desperate I was to be loved and accepted, and to have a sense of importance in this world, the more I invited people into my life who Satan was using to tear down every fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist church that I had ever held. Truth and error was mixed up, and I found myself trusting impressions and ultimately, letting go of even “the old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16). Though God was trying to get my attention with the Sanctuary Message and through different prophetic insights, I was as a corpse in the pews on Sabbaths and at home in my daily, personal devotions. I had given up the power to reason, and depended even on the thoughts of others. I had trodden on Satan’s territory and life was truly a nightmare. The more I was seeking to be spiritual, the more I was being taken over by Satanic powers because the true God was essentially out of the picture. I found myself very often not caring to live and even thinking about how to end my life because of the battle with evil forces. I was lending an ear to the evil spirits that were tormenting me, and turning off the voice of God. Satan led me on until, mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted, he launched an attack on the Sabbath truth, seeking that I bow down and worship Him.
The same power was at work in Christ’s day leading the Pharisees and scribes to reject Jesus. Their selfishness and prejudice created a block in understanding the truths spoken by Jesus on numerous occasions. Jesus posed a threat to their popularity because of His knowledge of the scriptures and the positive impact His discourse had on multitudes, as well as His works of mercy that caused people to seek after Him. As a result, their minds were engrossed with foiling His mission, and ultimately, they created a plan that involved murder. This was the very thing that Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples for because He knew that the time for Him to sacrifice His life was nearing.
Jesus says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know” (John 7:17, ESV) the teaching that is from God. The Pharisees and scribes didn’t care to know the truth. Popularity among the people was more important than the unadulterated truth. It is also amazing how often Jesus had to repeat the same truths to His disciples because of their lack of comprehension, yet when Jesus was heading to Jerusalem to carry out His mission for humanity, it was as though they were oblivious to what was about to transpire. Truth had difficulty penetrating the hearts of the disciples, the Pharisees and scribes, and the same is true for many of us today because of some cherished sin, and a lack in the exercise of the will on the side of God.
The activation of the will to understand truth is the remedy for all — those who have experienced trauma, and those who have not. Trauma that occurred in childhood is likely to present more challenges in grasping truth and reality, and unlearning and disposing of ideas and practices that were adopted as coping mechanisms in response to the traumatic experiences, but there is power in the will. And Jesus has promised to be our Helper. “When we see Jesus, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, working to save the lost, slighted, scorned, derided, driven from city to city till His mission was accomplished; when we behold Him in Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood, and on the cross dying in agony, —when we see this, self will no longer clamor to be recognized. . . . We shall be willing to be anything or nothing, so that we may do heart service for the Master” (Desire of Ages, 2005, pp. 439, 440).