Deliverance from intergenerational trauma and its emotions
Unexplainable anxiety, dread, depression, or hopelessness can sometimes be the result of inter-generational trauma. Research has shown that negative emotional patterns can be passed down through the genes of our parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents, as a result of their involvement in traumatic events, including war, persecution, slavery, bullying, murder, and so on. The aftermath of their experiences — and their subsequent decisions — can have implications on our emotional state too. Praise God that Jesus gives His people the “garment of praise instead of a faint spirit” so we can repair “the devastations of many generations.”
Isaiah 61:1-4 ESV The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
There are many things we inherit through our families. These are not just biological, societal, or financial, i.e. the things of this world, but more importantly, an inheritance that is emotional and spiritual.
We reap whatever our forefathers have sown, whether good or bad, because we have branched out from their roots.
Isaiah 11:1 ESV There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
If our previous generations worshipped God with all their hearts and forgave their enemies, He will faithfully shower all of us with His blessings. Our lives will go well.
Exodus 34:6-7 ESV The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Numbers 14:18 ESV ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’
If our families spurned God and worshipped idols and held on to hatred, condemnation, fear, unforgiveness, bitterness, and other forms of sin, we will reap the bad fruit of negative consequences. This is because iniquity gives Satan and his evil spirits legal right to come steal from, kill and destroy our families, down to four generations. Many aspects of our lives, including our emotions, will not prosper. Please see Breaking generational curses
John 10:10 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
The effects of trauma are passed down
Trauma can leave emotional and spiritual scars that mark our children, and our children’s children.
Research has shown that Black Americans whose forefathers came out of slavery and Jewish adults whose parents survived the Holocaust are more likely to suffer from anxiety and health issues, compared to other groups. This is because trauma can alter the expression of one’s genes, which is then passed down to future generations. Such epigenetic changes do not affect one’s DNA sequence per se, but they will affect how our body reads our DNA sequence.
According to Health magazine, some signs and symptoms of intergenerational trauma include:
- A lack of self‐worth
- Depersonalisation, or feeling detached from yourself and your surroundings
- Emotional numbness
- Impaired life skills (e.g. critical thinking, decision-making, or managing one’s time)
- PTSD symptoms (e.g. feeling socially isolated, having negative thoughts, or losing interest in hobbies)
(Source: Health, What Is Generational Trauma?)
Thankfully, such epigenetic changes are reversible.
When we sense negative emotions we can’t explain
As believers, we are called to abide in Christ so that we will bear much good fruit. The presence of bad fruit, such as unexplainable anxiety, dread, depression, or hopelessness, is evidence that our souls are unwell and that we ought to seek the Lord to restore us.
John 15:4-5 ESV Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Psalm 30:3 ESV O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
God, in His goodness, allows intergenerational trauma to linger, so as to alert us to possible family iniquity. As believers, we can seek the Lord for their ungodly roots, renounce our family’s sins, and stop it from continuing down to the next generation!
1. Seek the Holy Spirit for revelation
The first and most important step is to quiet ourselves down and seek the Holy Spirit for the roots. We need the Lord to restore us when our spirits are unsettled.
Generational emotions will more likely, though not always, be passed down through the women in the family. This is because every female foetus forms all the eggs she will ever carry in life, while she is still inside her mother’s womb. This means that a part of us shares the same biological environment as our mothers and grandmothers. Epigenetic changes in our grandmother’s body due to trauma would have affected our genes too. These changes are passed down inside the womb from generation to generation. Also, see The lasting emotional imprints from the womb
2. Pray to break generational curses
As the Holy Spirit brings revelation, we may find that there are people we need to forgive, word curses we need to break, and family sins we need to confess. There may also be evil spirits that have been oppressing our families that need to be expelled. Also, see Recognising and breaking word curses and Curses can be broken.
The Lord is faithful and will break our generational bonds and lead us out of darkness and the shadow of death into His light and freedom.
Psalm 107:13-16 ESV Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.
3. Turn ashes to beauty
We can then ask our Heavenly Father to fill us with good things, and redeem our intergenerational trauma, and transform them into praiseworthy testimonies. May we be witnesses and examples of the power of Jesus Christ to set us free from captivity — as the following testimonies show.
Psalm 107:6-9 ESV Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Testimony 1: Intergenerational trauma from war
“I have not had a good night’s rest in a long time. I wake up tired no matter how long I sleep and I feel exhausted all the time. I felt that life was being drained out of me.
A sense of fear was building up and my chest was becoming increasingly heavy and burdened, like something was about to burst out. I had severe aches and pains all over my back, neck, shoulders and arms. At night, I woke up many times trying to shift my sleep position in an attempt to alleviate the aches in my upper body. As I slept, I felt fear brewing in my subconscious and I would wake up feeling the fear intensified. At times I felt like someone or something was trying to kill me.
One day, as I shared all this with my friend, we prayed together to seek God for revelation. As we prayed, I sensed that the fear was related to my family. My friend saw a picture of a small woman hiding behind a rock fearing for her life.
This triggered a memory of when my grandmother told me her story about living in China during the Japanese invasion. She resented the Japanese soldiers for being so brutal during the war and inflicting pain and suffering on Chinese civilians. My grandmother’s judgement and resentment of the Japanese soldiers unknowingly opened the door for a Samurai spirit to enter the family and cause trouble down the family lineage.
I prayed on behalf of my ancestors to repent of judgement and resentment against the Japanese soldiers and commanded the Samurai spirit to leave me and my family. As I prayed this, I felt something build up in my chest and then push its way up and out. Later that evening, I realised that the fear dissipated and I felt much more peaceful at heart. Praise God!”
Testimony 2: Intergenerational trauma from slavery
“My small group was studying a book on Generational Iniquity; sins our ancestors have committed and are passed down to the generations. In the Bible, we saw the iniquity of deceit and lying in the lives of Terah to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau.
For me, I saw the curse of poverty, broken relationships and rejection.
One evening, I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal the generational iniquity in my earthly blood line.
The Holy Spirit showed me a long line of young boys wearing queues (long braids). Some were crying, the others suppressing their fear. They were being sold as slaves.
I saw hatred, murder, bitterness in their eyes between the boys and the slave masters. There was the feeling of inferiority and hopelessness. The vision was filled with evidence of poverty, deprivation, cruelty and hard-heartedness from the clothes they wore to the words that were spoken.
I saw the slave-masters cursing the boys and their generations to only ever be good enough to be slaves. I saw the terror and hate in the eyes of the boys.
It immediately made sense why my father and us, his daughters, consistently had issues with our leaders at work. The feeling that we were looked down upon, cheated, made used of, and eventually, felt hatred and resentment towards the leaders.
I prayed a little more and asked the Holy Spirit if there was anything else to reveal.
In a dark room lit by lanterns, I saw a prostitute. She was beautiful and broken by a lot of empty promises from men she relied on to save her.
Inner vows were made of never trusting men, of finding her own way to get out through deception. I heard curses of no future generation, of women never having husbands. I saw blood, vows and shame, I sensed the spirit of suicide.
I was a little confused because these two visions were different yet I didn’t see the immediate connection. But it also made sense to me and called forth a thought in my mind that I always had but never wanted to recognise. In fact, I pushed it aside every time.
Whenever I met a man that I needed to trade with whether it was to buy vegetables from or to negotiate a multi-million business deal, the disgusting thought of “I will sleep with you so I can get what I need” would appear. I abhorred this and would squash it in my mind in a split second but I had never confronted it.
With these two visions, it made sense why there was evidence of poverty, inferiority, submission to authority with underlying rebellion and broken relationships in my family despite being successful in earthly terms … we couldn’t hold on to it or break out of this prison.
That evening, I confessed this generational iniquity, renounced all the curses over me and my future generations.
Since then – I felt so free!
I’ve not had those thoughts of having to trade my body and have been able to bless the leaders in my life. I can testify that the fear of not enough or the habit of not keeping to a budget has left me. I am living life free of the sins of my forefathers, not as a slave to men but a daughter of God.”
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