-- by Khumbiaklal Hauzel, Contributor
As an immigrant student who came here to the United States for my education, I was shocked to see grown-up men shouting and screaming in the streets of Chicago, as I never expected this thing in America. My curiosity forces me to ask who they are and why they are that way. So, the person I asked told me those people went to war, and when they returned, some had this after- effect. This is what we call in psychological terms post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is a psychiatric disorder for someone who experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. A couple of years ago, our conversation began to make sense and clear while watching a movie called “Thank You for Your Service,” which is based on actual events. This movie is about Sgt. Adam Schumann and his fellow soldier Tausolo Aeitei who returned home after a harrowing fifteen-month combat war in Iraq. It is a struggle to re-adjust to civilian life after the war and search for normalcy, with the effects of battlefield memories still lingering. The traumatic impact begins when Adam is asked by Amanda Doster, the wife of James Doster, who is from the same battalion but died overseas, to tell her how her husband died. From that moment, Adam started having nightmares and frequent flashbacks of the combat war in Iraq. While Adam put his infant son to sleep one day, he dozed off and dropped him off the bed. At that moment, he realizes he needs help, and his wife convinces him to seek help from an overburdened Department of Veterans Affairs. As Adam was seeking help for his PTSD, he was frequently asked about what happened back there in Iraq. He usually denied telling it due to guilt, so he kept running away from responding to that question. He even fled to the point where he almost shot himself. Why was he so afraid of telling, and what memories disturbed him? It was revealed at the end of the movie. It was the reason why James Doster’s death happened. James Doster took Adam's place on patrol day when their Humvee hit an explosive, and he died from the fire. This incident haunted Adam when he returned home. For this reason, he couldn’t answer Amanda Doster’s question. So, the primary cause of the PTSD was fear that he would be blamed and guilty that Doster’s death was because of him. Most importantly, he fears that Doster’s family will not forgive him because this wouldn’t happen if he were there. The fear of not being forgiven and Doster’s death being his fault haunted Adam. However, Adam confessed to Amanda Doster that her beloved husband took his seat while he was supposed to be there. She responded “James wouldn’t want this for you. He would want you to live.”
Her response impacted Adam so much that the unfixable got fixed, like where the death came back to life. Does this incident remind you of the first Adam? Who was made in the image of God and was without fear and lived in peace? It was the day death came into the world when he began to know what it felt like to be shamed and filled with fear. Fear was not self-existent. It resulted from disobeying the command from the one who loved us. So, from that moment on, part of our human nature was to feel shamed and driven with fear when our actions contradict our moral convictions. Therefore, by default, it is our nature to run away and hide to cover ourselves from our guilt rather than confess it. Like the first human, Adam, who hides and blames others for his sin rather than admitting it. Confession is difficult for a human being because it can always lead to condemnation and rejection. This same fear was the main reason the first Adam first blamed others instead of taking the blame, in the hope that he would be forgiven and blameless. However, that doesn’t work in the end. Instead, it creates a separation between God and us, building a deep hollowness in our hearts that needs fixing. Without confession, the step to forgiveness, our hearts and minds cannot rest. Many run rather than confess, to the point that they will use drugs that can make themselves emotionally numb. However, numbness doesn’t solve the problem. It only holds the problem for a moment. Where can we find the cure? That can bring back normalcy to someone who finds it hard to readjust from their emotional shame and guilt in the past. The drug is not far away from being discovered in the future, but it is already there in the past. At the time, no one believed that good would come from a man being crucified. Still, it was the day humanity could be forgiven and reconciled with God due to the death of an innocent man named Jesus Christ, where everything irreversible is reversed. The same thing happens to the character Adam in the movie when he confesses to Amanda Doster, where forgiveness reverses the irreversible in Adam’s life. It was the day the old Adam died, and the gave birth to the new Adam. All this wouldn’t have happened if Adam had not confessed and admitted it. Thus, PTSD tells us about our moral nature, where many traumas relate to guilt, shame, and regrets, which need forgiveness and understanding. Without it, we cannot be at peace. This shows us the relevancy of the Gospel because all humans long to be forgiven for things they cannot fix. It can be found only in the gospel, where your shame, guilt, and fear veil off like a dark cloud after a storm, which results in restoration. So, this is how PSTD revealed the relevancy of the Gospel, where one can only be healed and turn to normalcy with forgiveness.
Khum Hauzel currently serves as the International Church Planting Intern with the Central Kentucky Network of Baptists. He and his wife Candy have a passion to see the Gospel go forth to all nations. Khum is available to serve your church by raising awareness of the work of planting international congregations in Central Kentucky. He is also available to preach or teach at your church. Contact Khum.