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Holding Fast to Christ when Processing Sexual Abuse

by Frances Tibayan

 

Abuse is a sad reminder that God’s kingdom has not yet fully arrived. We know Christ has conquered sin and death, yet we are left with the emotions and consequences of other people’s sin. Healing from past victimization is really difficult. But not impossible. I was sexually abused for a period of my life during childhood but by God’s grace he helped me process and continues to heal me. Remembering God faithfully keeps his promise to help and protect you (Psalm 121) is essential. He gives us his truth in the Bible to stabilize us. He surrounds us with his body, the church, to help us heal with Christ as our hope. As you move forward with counseling, remember the process takes time. Progress is slow but change is underway (Phil. 2:13). As you begin to process, perhaps you find yourself in the counseling room or in your friend’s living room. Don’t be paralyzed by what at first seems scary. Talking, lamenting and looking backward (then forward) are tools God uses to help his people get through the trauma of sexual abuse.

Talk

Sometimes past memories flash before you. They can easily cripple you for days. What are you thinking as the past grabs your imagination? How are you feeling? What do you think about your thoughts and feelings? Talk to a trusted counselor or saint to help you process your thoughts. Let them help bear your burden by initially listening to you patiently (Galatians 6:2, James 1:19), and then reminding you of the gospel after hearing you out. Talking to someone clarifies your perspective and helps you process unhealthy or untrue thoughts. 

Cry

Unwanted memories flood in. It’s startling. Remember that crying is ok. A good cry is remedy for the soul (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Crying doesn’t mean defeat. It doesn’t have to send you to a dark place. Tears release those pent-up feelings you forgot about. Crying is also a starting point for biblical lament. Lamenting is taking your pain to God and crying out to him [1]. It’s asking him your questions in grief while at your core trusting God. Read the Psalms that show us how to cry out to God in frustration, anger, and sadness (see Psalms 12, 22, 42-43, 86, and 88, for example). 

Look

Look back to what God has done for you. God has loved us in Christ (Rom. 5:8). God has saved you and continues to help you walk in the good works prepared for you (Eph. 2:1-10). God hasn’t stopped working in you (Phil. 2:13) and he works all things, even past abuse, ultimately for your good and Christlikeness (Rom 8:28-30). As one pastor said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”[2] Oftentimes the Lord gets us to a healthy position before we begin to battle our past hurts. As you look back at the trauma with Christ, his Word, and his people, the future can look clearer, brighter, and more hopeful. Look forward to the fact that God will use your walk with him through suffering to minister hope to others in need of extra encouragement (2 Cor 1:3-6). You’ll look confidently toward the future grace awaiting you daily (Lam 3:22-23) and ultimately (Titus 2:13) because you know who holds you fast (Isaiah 41:10). 

Jesus the Messiah walks with you. Sometimes the past barges in and forces us to grapple with past pain. As scary as it seems, it’s good to talk to process your thoughts. As painful as it is, it’s good to cry out to the Lord. As blurry as it appears, gazing at God’s grace is life-giving. Let our Good Savior walk with you as you seek healing.

 


 

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dare-to-hope-in-god

[2] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-is-always-doing-10000-things-in-your-life