“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.”—Psalm 34:18,19
You are brokenhearted. And you are here.
That is an important step. So many victims of abuse construct their own coping through self-determination. The fact that you are here, seeking what God says about your struggles—that’s powerful.
I speak from experience, from my own incredibly painful trauma story. I have traveled a road of bitterness, anger, walling off, pride, and other-centered contempt. I’ve been through mental health treatment that involves Christ in the journey and completely surrendered my will to him. I assure you there is much hope, comfort, and peace awaiting you.
Acknowledge the real enemy
Abuse is the emotional, physical, sexual, and psychological act that occurred and was endured. Trauma is the automatic impact that occurs within the abused individual. Clinical expert Pia Mellody further defines trauma as “anything less than nurturing.” In that sense, living in an imperfect world means we face trauma every day. The enemy desires to claim our hearts, minds, bodies, and especially our souls. He’s at war, and we are the prize.
Framing trauma this way helps us see how entwined our spiritual, physical, psychological, and emotional needs are. In a war for our well-being, there is only One who is able to rescue us; enrich our lives and relationships; provide the people and tools to heal us; and bring us to eternal, perfect, and lasting survival with him in heaven. Jesus.
Now before you dismiss this framework as simplistically “praying away our troubles,” know that mental health treatment has an important role in healing. It’s important, though, to approach treatment acknowledging that we are dependent upon God for success. In The Wounded Heart, Dr. Dan B. Allender explains, “The enemy is the internal reality that will not cry out to God in humble, broken dependence. It is the victim’s subtle or blatant determination to make life work on his or her own by refusing to acknowledge or let God fulfill his/her deepest longings.”
Here are common methods of self-determination (believing you can control your own destiny/managing things on your own):
• We make excuses for the perpetrator.
• We minimize the damage.
• We develop self-contempt (self-pity, helplessness).
• We develop other-centered contempt, finding fault in others.
• We blame.
• We seek revenge.
• We control through perfectionism.
The deep concern, according to Dr. Allender, is that we make a “commitment to never be hurt again” and that “creates a hard, inflexible exterior” that “leads to the loneliness that the hardness was developed to avoid.”
Methods of self-determination are lies that the devil and our human nature tell us will work. Instead, they keep us trapped in our pain, wreak havoc in our relationships, and keep Jesus at a distance. We are essentially saying, “Jesus, you are not strong enough to handle this, so I have to take matters into my own hands.” Or, “Jesus, my problem doesn’t show up on your radar, so I give up on you.”
Jesus’ message is so much greater than anything we do through self-determination. Jesus reaches through to our souls. He “saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). To involve Jesus in our healing means to develop a faithful trust—not the kind that relies on God to keep our world intact. “That is not biblical trust,” Dr. Allender says. “Trusting God involves the loss of our agenda (self-determination).”
Ponder this: Do you believe God is committed to your deepest well-being? That he has the right to use everything that is you for whatever purposes he deems best? That surrendering your will and your life entirely to him will bring you deep joy and fulfillment?
If your answer is yes, I’m not going to tell you life will be easy. But I encourage you to continue walking in faith. Move forward using the tools Christ will lead you to use, relying on him to fill you with true healing, relational health, and joy.
Teri Scharpen is a licensed marriage and family therapist for Christian Family Solutions.