Have you ever had something happen so traumatic that you can’t sleep? Maybe you made a mistake, or you found out someone you care about is hurting. Or even worse, maybe you have lost someone you love.
Whenever something difficult has happened in my life, I try my hardest to stay busy, because it is usually the times when you stop and think when you are reminded of your trauma. But unfortunately, we all have to sleep, and that is usually the time when you can’t avoid thinking about what you don’t want to think about. So you usually stay up at night, turning in your bed.
On the Walking Dead this week, everyone is sleep deprived. Wave after wave of herds keep attacking, and consequently it is hard to tell those who are alive from the dead. People tend to act punchy and say things that they don’t mean. Others make mistakes. Some even see things that aren’t there.
But for Carol, she takes pills to stay awake. But if you watch carefully, you will notice that she is taking her pills even before the herds attack. We don’t know what the pills are, but they are probably caffeine pills or possibly prescription anphetamines that she picked up somewhere.
So, as people get tired, they also start to halucinate. Perhaps they are seeing things that aren’t happening. Or maybe they are seeing things that are real, but they assume that they are not. As a matter of fact, in this particular episode, there are things that happen to Carol that we don’t even know if they are real.
One such incident happens when Carol thinks she sees three Whisperers among the herd. So she shoots at one of them. Michonne rushes over to her.
Michonne: No sign of them anywhere. No traces, no tracks, nothing. You’re sure you saw three?
Carol: Yeah. I’m sure.
MIchonne: Carol how long you been taking those pills for?
Carol: Since I got back. It’s fine. They’re like coffee. We can’t stay out here.
Daryl: All right. Find a place with walls, hole up for a little while. Get some sleep.
While everyone else is sleep deprived, both Michonne and Daryl notice that Carol may have been taking her pills before the attacks happened. And they seem very concerned.
But it isn’t until later in the episode, when Carol finally sleeps that we see why she is taking the pills. In her crazy domestic dream where she wakes up and Daryl is cooking her some eggs, we see Henry sitting down at the breakfast table. Clearly this is why she doesn’t want to sleep, because she doesn’t want to be haunted by the loss of her beloved adopted son Henry.
Carol has had plenty of trauma to deal with in her life, and she has been able to cope remarkably well considering the sheer number of horrible things that have happened to her. But in tonight’s episode, we see that no matter how tough you are, you can never really escape your problems.
As a pastor, I often deal with people who have had significant trauma in their lives. Sometimes it is a divorce or a bad diagnosis. But most often, like Carol, it is the death of a loved one. In many cases, it is the death of child that has caused the most suffering. Personally, I do not know what it is like to lose a child, but I can not imagine a worse trauma to have to go through. But I have known people who went through this five or six decades ago and they still are suffering from it.
So I don’t give people pat answers about how time will make their suffering go away (it usually doesn’t). But there is something that I do say to people in these types of situations that I do know is true. I always tell them that they can find comfort in the presence of God.
Now if you don’t believe in God, I know that sounds like a pat answer. But I have long experience in these things. I am aware that a lot of things can help. Therapy helps. The comfort of friends can really help. Sometimes different medications can help. But in my experience, I have never seen anything help as much as learning to trust in God during the most difficult times. His comfort in the worst circumstances is something that you have to experience to really understand.
There is a Psalm that I look to when times are particularly tough.
1Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
Psalm 91:1-2 (NLT)
Jewish tradition tells us that this is a Psalm of Moses written right after he finished the tabernacle. In the Old Testament, we know that Moses led Israel out of slavery from Egypt in to the desert where they wandered for 40 years. During those years there were all kinds of terrible things thrust on Israel including, starvation, sickness, brutal attacks and death. Yet, Moses is still able to write this amazing Psalm about God’s comfort in the midst of hardships.
What Moses seems to be saying is that finding comfort from God is the only thing that brings perspective in the midst of our troubles. Later in the Psalm, he even says, “Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day (vs 5).
Moses seems to be well aware of the problem of trauma keeping you awake at night. But he also knows that taking comfort in God during these times can give you a perspective that nothing else can give. The promise here is that we can trust God always… especially when times are the hardest. And I don’t know about you, but to me that is very good news.
SEASON 10, EPISODE 3 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1) Why do you think that Michonne and Daryl are so concerned about the pills that Carol is taking?
2) Do you think that they are noticing that Carol’s problem may not be simply sleep deprivation? Why or why not?
3) Dwight compares sleep deprivation to drunkeness and says that people in this condition seem to have their inhibitions down. Do you see this as a good thing or bad thing? Why or why not?
4) Why do you think that Carol doesn’t want to dream about Henry?
5) Have you ever had something happen that kept you awake at night? What was that like?
6) Have you ever experienced the comfort of God in the midst of those circumstances? What was that like?
7) Do you agree with me that this Psalm seems to have been written through the lens of trauma? Why or why not?
8) The bible makes it clear that all we have to do is ask God to comfort us and He will. If you have never experienced God’s comfort in the midst of difficult times, are you willing to try? Why or why not?
Thom McKee Jr. is a husband, father, pastor… and film geek (and brother of Jonathan McKee). Thom lives in Northern California with his wife and two kids.