Gasping for air from a night terror, Barbara wipes her sweaty brow and weeps again for the third night in a row.
She just can’t stop thinking about seeing her uncle at the upcoming family wedding. The same uncle who committed incest against her.
When will he ever just leave me alone?
Barbara wipes her eyes and heads for the shower. The children will be up soon, and there’s much to be done today, she says while numbing her heart.
Barbara’s story isn’t that unique.
In fact, if you listen carefully, it’s not even unique to childhood sexual abuse survivors.
How many times have you heard someone relate how they dread showing up to an event for fear that a co-worker, family member, or friend who has hurt them will be there. The thought of engaging in conversation with the person who has caused deep pain rouses anxiety, anger, and fear within the average person’s heart.
Some hobble through the event unscathed using coping mechanisms like drugs, alcohol, machismo, wall-flower-invisibility, humor, plastic-positivity, or rude behavior.
The depth to which the same coping mechanisms are anchored within soul appears to be unique to the survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
What once protected them from their abuser–or at least allowed them to endure without inflicting self-harm–still functions at a more sophisticated and acceptable level.
Let’s explore Barbara’s story.
Listen to how she coped with the abuse from her uncle. She might reveal how she doesn’t remember feeling much in her childhood.
Now as an adult, Barbara struggles with feeling a full, normal range of emotions within her relationships. Sometimes she feels like a drone, just going through the motions.
We all use some kind of coping mechanism. For Barbara, she numbs-out.
During times of turmoil and heartache, sometimes our coping mechanisms fail. For Barbara, miscarrying her first pregnancy caused her to come face-to-face with the raw and exposed pain of death. Even the death of her own childhood.
Until we, as believers in Christ, face our pain and name it for what it is, healing can’t take place.
Many survivors take the stance that because Jesus didn’t protect me, He’s not trustworthy. Others will say that a good God would never allow such things to happen to a child, especially such an innocent child.
Sin, the violation of God’s character and law, is the root of all sexual abuse. Sin exists within every person of flesh. We can’t side-step sin.
Jesus proves the only man who lived without sin. He is our hope.
The only one.
Stability of power, control, perfection, and hope exists within the God-man of Jesus Christ, alone.
The only lasting comfort Barbara will experience is through our forerunner, Jesus.
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 6.19-20a).
So how does one actually relinquish the pain to the person of Jesus?
Recall the incident.
Allowing the body and the mind to feel the pain through vocalizing it to the Lord in prayer is the first step.
Rarely is this process pretty.
In fact, it’s messy and often raw. Don’t bother to sugar-coat your conversation with the Lord. He knows your heart, and He knows your words before you speak them. Trust Him by being absolutely honest with Him.
As Barbara climbs into the shower to prepare for her busy day ahead, the Spirit of God gently nudges her, “Barbara, it’s me, your Savior. Trust Me with your heart.”
The shower water falls, her eyes clench shut, and she drops to her knees.
“O God! I don’t want to go to this wedding. I don’t want to face that man who killed my childhood. I want to be free of this pain, and I want to be a mommy who is free to love and laugh and play and guide them through a sweet childhood.”
Covering her eyes, while letting the shower water continue to fall on her back, she cries out, “Lord, forgive me for not trusting you with my emotions. Help me to feel and help me to trust You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
“My child, forever you are Mine and in My healing care.”
What’s your next step?
What coping mechanisms are you still using to limp through life? In prayer, ask the Lord to point out those safeguards you’ve put in place preventing you from wholeheartedly leaning into the bosom of Christ? Ask the Lord for a mentor or friend to come alongside you in this healing process.
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge (Ps. 51. 1-4).
Join me on the healing journey.
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