If there’s one thing I’ve learned about pain and suffering in this life it’s this—it can hold us down and keep us stagnant or it can propel us forward to greater things, richer relationships and a deeper closeness with God. Think of suffering as a stepping stone that transports us to a better place, a place you would have never gotten to visit otherwise. A chance to be a better version of you. A chance to encounter Christ in remarkable and unimaginable ways. And if your trauma has left you feeling far from God, know that the Bible has much to say about emotional trauma. God actually understands more than you realize.
Whether you are on that stepping stone presently or you have moved to the other side or maybe thought you were on the mend and now you feel back on the shore, think of it all as a process. A process of moving you from brokenness to wholeness, from familiar to new. And remember it is just that—a process—a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end, and that means back and forth, not always linear. If you stick with it and don’t give up, there is a treasure waiting for you on the other side. I can promise you that.
Maybe you want to heal, but you just don’t know how. I can tell you that healing itself is rather complex, but beginning the process is actually quite simple.
There is only one thing you need to do and that is to make the decision to live in Christ’s image—even in the pain, even amidst the confusion and the anger. Even while you are holding onto bitterness and unforgiveness. Before you understand it all, before you get justice. It means moving forward, albeit blindly, trying simply to do the “next best thing.”
Every morning when I crawl out of bed, I ask the Holy Spirit to show me what He wants me to do, what my next best move should be. And then I listen. I may not hear an audible voice, but I do get a sense or a nudging. If I go one direction and feel it is not right, I choose another path until I feel a sense of peace. He may tell me to wash the dirty dishes in the sink or He may suggest I sit with my Bible or He may recommend I stop to play with one of my children. In those early days, it might have been the suggestion to simply go back to bed.
When God told me to read books about therapist/clergy abuse, I read. When He told me to vent my emotions on paper, I obeyed. If I sensed certain relationships were no longer healthy for me, I heeded God’s warning. If I felt Him nudging me to try a new group or engage with a new friend, I accepted the challenge. When He suggested a new church, we found one.
In time, I noticed things were changing. I saw a new person emerging. I was crying less. I had more energy. God rekindled my passion for photography. My home was more peaceful. My marriage was stronger, more connected. God was moving me from that familiar broken place to a place that was new to me—one that was fuller, richer.
Healing from sexual abuse by a therapist or clergy or any type of abuse or affliction for that matter is challenging. I didn’t want to move on because it seemed I was letting those who hurt me off the hook. If I was no longer angry, I believed I was accepting their behavior.
As you read this, keep in mind it’s taken me years, six in fact, to get to where I am now. See an earlier post to get an idea of how I was feeling in those early days when the abuse was fresh: https://amynordhues.com/how-to-survive-and-thrive-after-a-therapist-abuses-you/. When we hang on to the pain, we are re-victimizing ourselves. And we’ve been hurt long enough.
So take that leap if you haven’t. Step off the shore and onto the first stone if that’s as far as you can go. Be patient with yourself and give yourself as long as you like. Sit down and rest if you need. But please don’t stop there. There is so much awaiting you on the other side. More than you could even think or imagine. I am rooting for you, your Heavenly Father is rooting for you, and I know you will make it.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Eph 3:20 NLT
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.