From schoolwork and peer relationships to meeting high parental expectations or living with conflict in the home, childhood can be a very stressful time. No surprise there. And yet scientists have discovered a difference between stresses caused inside and outside the home.
Researchers measured levels of cortisol–a hormone that is produced when under stress–in children’s saliva. Health records and interviews provide a reliable picture of the negative effects of unresolved stress: Persistently high cortisol levels can be especially damaging in children. When stress continues over days, weeks, or years, many of their developing systems are put on hold, sometimes causing permanent damage. Unusually high cortisol levels from constant stress slow physical growth, delay sexual maturity, and can slow the growth of brain cells.
However, the cause of higher cortisol levels has surprised researchers. Living in poverty, schoolwork, or conflict with peers raises cortisol levels very little. According to researchers, “what really does affect them are family issues. When a family experiences some sort of trauma–father and mother have a scary fight, a parent leaves, or a parent strikes a child out of anger–there is a physiological effect on the children. Their cortisol levels rise and stay high.”
One of the best-selling books on trauma is titled, It Didn’t Start With You. When we begin to understand the unconscious imprint and the impact our families of origin have on our lives, we quickly realize how true that is.
Last Sunday we began a new teaching series called Turning Trauma Into Triumph based on the biblical story of the life of Joseph. If you missed last week’s message, click here to watch or listen. We began by looking at a genogram of the previous three generations that proceeded Joseph and noted some of the traumatic patterns that were evident in his ancestral family. Unfortunately for Joseph, he experienced the worst of the worst of his family’s darkest tendencies.
The message last week was a view from 30,000 feet of Joseph’s genealogy. This Sunday we will zoom in for a close-up of his immediate family and the stresses and strife that he lived with daily. Buckle up for a wild ride!
The message last Sunday seemed to stir something inside of many people, more than usual. As a communicator, seeing something resonate with so many people makes me curious—and grateful! What was it exactly about that message that struck such a deep, emotional chord? I’m no counsellor or therapist or a social scientist, but I think I understand a little bit of why people are drawn to Joseph’s story.
Sir John Lenox said it best: “[The story of Joseph] is a masterpiece of storytelling. Elegant use of simple, flowing language carries us into a world that seems at first glance utterly removed from our world, and yet, as we think our way into the narrative, it rapidly becomes a penetrating searchlight into the complex psychodramas of our own lives.”
“Thinking our way into the narrative” is precisely what I hope we can do as we review the remarkable life of Joseph that in more ways than we can imagine, point us to Jesus, who is the ultimate solution to family stress. Looking forward to continuing the trauma-to-triumph journey this Sunday. Plan to be with us onsite or online…and invite a friend. After all, everybody could use some help dealing with the stress in their family.
Loving the Journey,