This story is 3 of a 3-part series addressing the effects of sexual abuse and the power of healing through Jesus Christ.
Sexual abuse - An uncomfortable phrase for most of us and a horrific experience and reality for far too many. In Christian circles, these words are not talked about very much. Whether it is the fear of the unknown, shame, disgust, naiveté or something else, there seems to be a common theme of silence.
Yet when we see others struggle, we have a tendency to talk about that. Many who have been sexually abused find themselves dealing with issues involving drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, self harm and other forms of "acting out." These problems are typically more visible and therefore, by some, more acceptable to discuss with others. We often have a hard time talking about sexual abuse.
A wise youth minister once said to me, "There are always reasons why people do what they do." I think I understood that on some level then, but even more so now. Since having the opportunity to talk with so many hurting individuals, I get it. Our life experiences have a way of shaping us and sometimes, not necessarily for the good. After all, if you have been violated in some way or your trust betrayed, it doesn't exactly set you up for happiness. Thankfully, as I've walked alongside hurting individuals in their journey, I've also been able to see God's healing. But it doesn't usually happen in an instant.
Counseling can be scary. Opening up and sharing some of your deepest thoughts, experiences and feelings. Typically by the time an individual seeks counseling, they are hurting and struggling pretty significantly - even if only on the inside. And unfortunately, the journey toward healing can be painful as well. After all, ripping a band-aid off hurts even if you know that the wound needs some exposure to oxygen and salve in order to heal most effectively.
I'm not suggesting that we, as Christians, go around ripping people's band-aids off in an effort to help them heal more effectively. I am suggesting that we need to recognize the difficult and sensitive nature of sexual abuse and its aftermath and learn to promote and encourage environments where hurting individuals can begin to heal.
Counseling is one avenue where individuals and families who have been impacted by sexual abuse can seek and hopefully find healing. It will not be an easy road. It will likely not be a short journey. But by opening up and allowing those gifted by God to be instruments of grace and healing in your life, you can rediscover who God desires you to be, and the joy in Him that He wants you to find rest in.
Matthew 11:28-30 says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
So for those who have not personally experienced sexual abuse, do not shy away from those who are struggling. Do not be silent. If you don't know what to say, ask for God's Spirit to guide you as you support and encourage someone in your path who is struggling. Don't judge, but rather take the opportunity to be an instrument of God in someone's life. Encourage and support those who are struggling to seek counseling.
And if you need assistance in finding counseling resources or learning more about sexual abuse and how to help those who have been impacted, please contact me. Texas Baptist Counseling Services is always a resource for you.
For more information about sexual abuse or resources on how to seek help, visit www.texasbaptists.org/counseling or call Katie Swafford at 1-800-388-2005.
Katie Swafford serves as Director of Counseling Services.