I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and as I have walked the journey of healing I have realized that there are those God called to walk with me. They entered into my suffering, my pain and helped me in the healing process. I had the help of both Biblical Counseling and friends, it truly took a community.
But there are others who tried to help, they tried to say the right things, but often added more pain. It’s not their fault. They didn’t understand. They didn’t know. I hope to shed some insight for those of you that God might be calling to walk with someone trying to journey through the healing process.
1. While the physical pain may no longer be there, we are experiencing much mental and spiritual pain. The physical pain of the abuse may be long gone but it’s important to understand that they still hurt. You may not see outward signs of hurt but the pain that is experienced deep within is real. Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma but if an adult is still suffering from night terrors, depression, if they have trouble feeling emotions, and avoids things that remind them of the abuse then they may be dealing with PTSD.
When someone is abused sexually it affects them in ways we don’t often understand. God created sex to be beautiful, to be enjoyed. Sex is to be between a husband and wife, through this intimate act they become one, they entered into a covenant. It was created to be deeply intimate so when it’s violent it tears they soul in a way that is ugly, and leaves deep scars.
2. Understand the experiences of every survivor is different. Just because you have a friend that was abused and seemingly has no issues or was healed easily doesn’t mean all survivors will be the same. The after affects of abuse will be different for the one that may have been molested once compared to one that was raped over and over for years. Both have been violated but the one who has been abused chronically will have much deeper issues and may take much longer to heal.
3. Our view of God is often seen through the lens of abuse. Seeing the truth about God is hard. It was very hard for me as I tried to reconcile a God who loves me and is everywhere to a God I saw that was just standing by doing nothing while the abuse happened. Many pray, and pray for it to stop, but God does not seem to hear. Yes we are believing lies, but it’s what we know and without being taught a right view of God we see God through the pain of abuse.
Plus when you are abused by a father figure you grow up believing that God is like your abuser. Our view of God is twisted and grossly out of focus. Even if we believe that God is good and loving it not believed personally. Meaning that God may be good and love others, but He is not good to me.
4. We need to see God’s love in and through you. Maybe you have walked along side someone already and you have spoke truth. They seem to understand who God is in their head but it’s not getting to the heart. The truth doesn’t seem to be changing them. There is a disconnect. Please be patient, keep loving them and speaking truth. But really embrace that He loved me was hard. It was hard until it was modeled before me. God used my husband and a few dear friends to show me the power of love. They modeled God’s love.
Survivors need to see Jesus with flesh on. So often we want to just speak truth, but we need to demonstrate love too. A survivor may have never been loved unconditionally. Love could mean pain, taking, and selfishness so it’s important that we see it modeled.
5. We need to see and understand the cross as it relates to our abuse. I can tell you from personal experience that this will come later in the healing process. While it is crucial to our healing process this is very hard. It’s hard truth to grasp. I remember when my counselor gave me the book When Gods Weeps to read, I almost threw it away. I didn’t want to read it. I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to understand God’s sovereignty. But I persevered and at the end of the book I still didn’t like it but I was better able to try to reason through it. Later I ask him why he didn’t give me the book earlier since it was so helpful. He responded by saying I wasn’t ready for it. It’s true I wouldn’t have been. So we must be careful at what point in the healing and at what point we are in the relationship we offer difficult truth.
Tread slowly and take your lead from the survivor. You can push, but gently and with love, lots of love. They must get to the point that they can wrestle with the truth of the cross because it’s there they are able to truly reconcile the truth of their abuse and a God who loves them and hates evil. It’s at the cross where we will see that the evil done to us is covered with the blood of Jesus. It’s at the cross we see the holiness of God and we struggle to understand why God let it happen.
We need to be allowed to struggle at the cross. It’s at the cross we will deal with our own sins. We see that we are great sinners. It’s where we will deal with being sinned against. It’s at the cross we see evil and what it cost Jesus. It’s at the cross we find the infinite love of God. We find forgiveness. Forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of our abusers.
As a reminder, if you are walking with someone who is a survivor just be Jesus with skin on. Love them and keep loving them. Don’t give up on them. It’s not easy, I know it’s not. At times I was fearful that my friends would give up on me if I didn’t “get it” right away, but they never did, they just kept loving me. They showed me Jesus. They loved me with the love of Jesus.