Week 2: Change the Roots, Change the Fruits

THE BOTTOM LINE – My current symptoms are connected to past trauma that has happened to me as well as past decisions I’ve made. My soul may be wounded.


Life can be hard.

You are fully aware that no one promised you a rose garden. For many of us, life seems to be hard more than it’s easy. Most of us don’t like this fact. 

Did you know that Jesus actually promises us that we will experience hardships? In John 16:33, He tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Good to know, but...

Have you ever asked these questions:

  • Why would God bring me into a world with so much pain?
  • Why doesn’t He just take my suffering away?
  • Why did He even create me if He knew I’d have so much trouble and trauma in my life?

You are not alone in asking these tough questions. Asking them helps us start understanding the roots of our trauma. Traumatic experiences evoke “Why?” questions in most people. Pain puts dark glasses on us all, making it more difficult to see the light in the world – and we want to know why. Why would an all-powerful, loving God allow this?

Consider this: around the world an estimated 255 babies are born each and every minute. That means that during our hour-long meeting, over 15,000 children will start new lives.

What’s wrong with these parents?

Don’t they realize they are bringing these children into a world of great pain and suffering? Yes, many children are conceived “by accident.” But when a pregnancy is deliberate, it’s because even though the parents know the world can be a hard and dangerous place, this knowledge is offset by love. They deeply desire to create bonds of intimate, heart-throbbing, selfless love that will last for decades with these amazing little creatures and will provide a sense of purpose and legacy like nothing else can. Parents want to share their love with their children.

1 John 4:16 tells us that God is love. If mothers and fathers can’t keep their love from overflowing into the conception of a new child, it’s no wonder God the Father – whose core identity is love – is so prone to create new children into whom He can pour His love. He knew you would experience trouble in this fallen world, but He also knew you were born with the potential for great victory and goodness. And you still have that potential – the last chapter of your life has not yet been written. Your very existence is a concrete expression of His love and belief in you. But something hampers this potential. Much of the difficulties we experience in this world come because of man’s free will. To be sure, the roots of a lot of our problems are what we would call “natural trauma,” among them earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, drought, gravity, viruses, and aging. Most of these traumas are beyond our ability to control or anticipate.

But another entire class of afflictions, known as “malevolent trauma,” is a result of humanity’s free will – the chance to make choices, good or bad, and then bear the consequences. Some of these bad choices include war, murder, assault, rape, terrorism, theft, kidnapping, and child abuse. There are also choices we make that boomerang  affliction back on ourselves – alcoholism, drug dependency, lying, cheating, risky behavior, and harboring bitterness. 

In this session, we’ll be focusing on “malevolent trauma” – what others have done to you, or what you have done to yourself.

One might think, “Sure, I’ve made some bad choices in life, and others have made choices that harmed me. But if there is a God, and if He loves me, why doesn’t He overrule them?” In order for free will to be actually “free,” God must allow us to experience the consequences of our decisions. Otherwise, we become puppets, rather than the crown of creation made in His likeness, choosing to love and obey Him. It’s only in the presence of free will – and the consequences – that true love can grow between God and man. But as we’ll see, most of our afflictions are the fruit of somebody’s bad choices, which has the effect of dividing us from God and from each other.


Trauma happens when someone or something wounds us. Trauma is undeserved. It is the mark left by a terrible event. Trauma has a way of lowering our defense system, leaving us susceptible to future attacks. Much like pneumonia weakens the immune system of an elderly hospital patient, trauma lowers our God-given spiritual defense systems. With our defenses down, we may find ourselves under siege.

The root of malevolent trauma has been around as long as there has been free will. It resides in the soul of every person. It’s called sin. This is a term many hip, modern people view as archaic and irrelevant, but the reality of it surrounds us. There is the potential for great good in each of us, but there is also the potential for great evil. The very idea of sin proposes that there are standards of attitudes and behaviors that are in line with the rules of right and wrong which God has put in each of us, and when we break those rules it’s because we wanted to.


When we decide to sin, to go against what we know deep down is right, it always ends up hurting us or those around us in some way. Some in our history have taken sinful actions to their very limits, seemingly without any conscience – exterminating six million Jews, or starving 20 million Chinese, or killing 2,977 innocent people with commercial airliners. But that’s not how most of us operate.

More likely, we weigh the pros and cons of a decision, but then decide to engage in sin anyway. What usually tips the scale is the promise of immediate gratification, or the hope that the potential reward is worth the risk. In the end, the results are the same – we hurt ourselves or others.

Without a doubt, as a first responder, you have witnessed the harmful effects of sin a multitude of times. You are probably also aware of the harm your own sins have caused. But you are not alone in this. Not by a long shot. 


All of us are familiar with physical wounds. We also have a pretty good idea how to heal these wounds. They are usually easy to spot, and treatment is relatively straightforward in most cases. But the pain generated by a physical wound can be intense and very distracting. Psychological wounds – wounds of the mind – are a little more difficult to diagnose and treat. But they are no less damaging. A broken leg can totally heal in a few months. But an “unseen” psychological wound can affect a person for a lifetime.

The American Psychological Association classifies PTSD as an anxiety disorder, so it’s not a stretch to call it a psychological wound. But what if malevolent trauma didn’t just wound the body and the mind? What if it also wounded the soul?

Most people believe that humans are made up of a body, a mind, and a soul or spirit. Though definitions vary regarding what a person’s “soul” is, for the purposes of this study we’ll refer to our soul as our most central essence, where our identity resides, the part of us that relates to and responds to God and provides stability, character, honor, vision, and ambition to our lives. It’s our decision-making center, informed by our minds. It craves love and generates it too. It’s the part of us that will endure through the inevitable experience of physical death.

Could your soul have been wounded by events that gained access to you by one of the six gateways we covered last week? How has this affected you? How can these wounds be healed? The answers to these questions are what Firstline is all about.


We’re all familiar with the basic workings of a tree. Water and nourishment are sucked up by the roots which then provide the raw material to build more roots, the trunk, branches, leaves, and fruit. The leaves generate energy through photosynthesis to keep the whole system running. The seeds in the fruit perpetuate the species. The edible fruit is a bonus to all us fruit-eaters – part of God’s incredible plan of ecological homeostasis. The key to the whole system is the roots, and the soil they are stuck in. All the other elements of the environment can be optimal, but if the roots are trying to pull nourishment from poor or contaminated ground, the whole tree suffers and the fruit is tainted. This provides a good analogy for our lives.

Last week, we looked at some of the symptoms that trauma generates our the lives. These are representative of the fruit of our lives when our roots have been damaged. You were asked to note some of the symptoms – fruits – that concern you the most.

But what “roots” produced those “fruits?” What are the elements in the soil that are feeding your roots? During this week’s course meeting, you will be asked to consider the soil of your life and list some of the damaged roots and toxic soil that have kept you from producing the fruit you desire.

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