Throughout much of my late teen years and early twenties, I was often described as emotionally unavailable, aloof, and distant. These descriptions rarely came from acquaintances, they came from boyfriends and people who wanted to really get to know me. I found out in my late twenties that my refusal to let people in was a result of sexual abuse I suffered from my father as a child. This is my story of how sexual abuse counseling helped me learn how to be myself. I learned how to open up to others in meaningful relationships. But most of all, I found freedom, healing, and purpose.
In 2004, I began working in ministry for a church. One of the requirements was that people get to know me. As in me. I mean, I was kind and gracious in relationships, but the second anyone wanted to move beyond the surface, I either ran from the relationship or pushed them away. This would no longer be an option if I was going to connect with others in their humanity and inspire them to follow Jesus together. For months, I was able to avoid deep conversations, but two things happened. First, I got called out by a colleague who wasn’t going to leave me alone until I opened up and got real. Then, feeling trapped, I had a meltdown. Our team leader challenged me to go to counseling, and I reluctantly went.
After years of silence and secrets, I sat before a virtual stranger and opened up for the very first time about sexual abuse I had experienced from my father as a young girl. With every word, I had to mentally relive the abuse, and while those sessions were very difficult, I emerged with answers. I learned that after my trust, vulnerability, and innocence were damaged, I had shut down emotionally. But through sexual abuse counseling, I learned to trust again.
Here are three life-changing things I learned through sexual abuse counseling.
- Being vulnerable is less risky than being a fortress. While it’s scary to be vulnerable, to let people in, the reward definitely outweighs the risk. It was so freeing to know I didn’t have to hide this secret alone. Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT
- Real, lasting, freeing forgiveness actually is possible. I can let go of the hurt and forgive. Truly forgiving my father accelerated my healing process. … Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Hebrews 12:15 NLT
- God is still for us and He is still good. God didn’t cause my abuse, nor does He approve of it. Our spiritual enemy Satan caused my abuse. The Lᴏʀᴅ examines the both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence. Psalm 11:5 NLT
God was working a miracle of healing in me starting with the moment I began to let people in and started sexual abuse counseling. The counseling got me to a place where I could really begin to feel God’s healing presence working in me. Through counseling, I began to let God into my life at deeper levels than I ever had before. In fact, I had an encounter with God through opening up to Him in prayer that can only be described as a miracle—a true healing moment.
In 2007, I had the honor of joining my church on a mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I expected to bring light and hope to the people of Honduras. What I didn’t expect was for God to bring healing and hope to me. While on our trip, we took turns praying in a room we designated as a prayer room. During my prayer time, I began to pray for the children of Honduras. I prayed that God would protect them from all types of abuse. As I continued to pray, I felt God speaking to me. (I’m crying as I type this.) I felt Him say to me that while He didn’t cause the abuse—our spiritual enemy, Satan, caused it—He allowed it.
Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t always intervene when something really awful and completely unfair is happening? Like, send a lightning bolt or something? How could He allow it? I certainly have. And I suspect everyone who’s ever suffered sexual abuse has wrestled with the same thing. But, that night in Honduras, I truly felt I was being shown a glimpse of God’s heart for me. He certainly couldn’t explain to my human mind every reason why He didn’t miraculously rescue me. But, I felt His love for me just the same. He has set up a world where we have free choices. And He is loving on a level that’s different from human love. He loves us enough to give us free will—even when our choices hurt one another.
I felt God encouraging my spirit in a way I will never forget. I felt Him teaching me that even though He knew the abuse would be painful and hard to overcome, He also knew I would survive, and (because He created me) He knew out of the healing, a passion for my purpose would emerge. My purpose is to lead and develop the next generation of leaders to be fully devoted followers of Christ.
My healing moment with God sealed two important lessons in my heart forever, and I hope you’ll allow these two truths to bring healing to the deep questions you wrestle with, too.
- God can take my hurt and make something beautiful out of it. All things, even sexual abuse, worked together for good, to lead me down the path my heavenly Father has prepared for me. What our enemy means for evil, God can miraculously work for good. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT
- God’s healing love is real, and it never fades. God loves me. Period. No matter what I do, what’s been done to me, or how I feel, His love chases me every day. If ever I find any bitterness trying to creep back in, I remember this truth. God’s love heals. It is real. It is powerful. And it never ever changes.
Every single time I share my story, I find other people who have walked down this road. It’s a blessing for me to share my path of healing to encourage them on their journey, and it’s been a blessing to share my story of healing with you today.
P.S. In addition to that Bible Plan, if you’re not already in a LifeGroup, I’d like to challenge you to find one. Counseling helps healing, but biblical community sustains it. Find a Life.Group today.