“You need to learn to trust men again.”
When she said this just moments after I admitted I had been sexually abused as a child by a man I trusted, I got mad . . . really mad! She didn’t understand the depth of my fear, disgust, anger, and helplessness. She didn’t even acknowledge my emotional scars.
As with many women, my scars of abuse felt unique. I was confused about what was normal and used a variety of defense mechanisms to get through life.
If you’ve been sexually abused, you may be coping in one or more of the following ways. You hide or keep people at extreme distances, afraid of being hurt again. You remain numb through adulthood. If married, you find it difficult to respond sexually. You fear biblical submission—afraid of losing control.
You may feel damaged, see yourself as a sex object, flaunt your sexuality, and descend into promiscuity and other sexual sins. Or like me, you pour yourself into being “good” or embrace ministry. You may not understand the power of the gospel and focus instead on pleasing God to gain His favor.
You might respond to your abuse with anxiety, depression, self-loathing, self-harming actions, fear of intimacy, homosexuality, indecisiveness, perfectionism, a need to control, eating disorders, or addictions.
Satan doesn’t care how we react to the sinfulness of sexual abuse . . . as long as we don’t turn to Jesus. The enemy knows that when we find our identity, security, and dignity in Christ, we can live in victory.
It took me awhile to get there, though. For years, I felt the need to protect my abuser and not hurt others who loved him. It was twisted thinking, but the enemy delights in warping thoughts. In high school, I had poor interpersonal skills. By college, I felt suicidal and alone. Abuse distorted my image of God and affected my ability to seek and trust Him. My confidence was shattered.
After college, I joined Life Action Ministries and began a journey with God that changed my heart and life. One day as I was singing “Do You Know My Jesus?” on stage with the team, I suddenly realized I knew all about Jesus, but I didn’t know Him. I left the microphone, went to the prayer room, and placed my life in Jesus’ hands.
The most astounding changes came as I learned to trust Him with my past hurts.
Lessons I Learned
- God loves me. Deeply and completely. The enemy loves it when I feel shame, condemnation, and self-loathing, but God’s Word says I am precious in God’s sight—accepted and valued (Isa. 43:4).
- God saw my abuse and did not condone it. Neither should I. I do not have to stay silent or bury the pain and trauma. The Lord hates all wickedness, including my abuser’s sinful actions (Ps. 11:5).
- I can pray for wisdom and entrust true justice to the righteous heart of God. He always has the last word—He brings justice to the unrepentant and great mercy to the repentant (Ps. 103:6).
- I know I can forgive others because I have been so greatly forgiven. Bitterness will only make my pain worse and continue to wound others (Heb. 12:15).
- I can pray for my abuser’s change of heart and repentance—that my abuser will seek the Lord, turn from wickedness, and learn to live a godly life so God will be glorified (Luke 6:28).
- I do not have to live in fear like a victim. Peace and victory come as I study and rest in who I am in Christ (Eph. 1:3–8).
- As I run to the Lord who sees, heals, and comforts, I can use what the enemy meant for evil to bring glory and praise to God (Gen. 50:20).
- I can learn how to communicate clear, pure boundaries in all relationships and speak truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
- I must be aware of the enemy’s schemes to control my responses and defeat me. I must saturate my life with Scripture and remember God’s grace is greater than the condemnation I feel (1 John 3:20).
- Knowing my thoughts will control my actions and responses, I must allow God to transform my thinking so I can make daily choices to please Him (Rom. 12:2).
- I will grow and heal as I rub shoulders with godly women who model how to respond with the pure love of Christ and trust the Lord to help me stand in dignity and strength (1 Peter 3:3–5).
- I can, as a member of the Body of Christ, be a part of holding abusers accountable—especially within the church (Matt. 18:15–17).
- I can also encourage those who still struggle toward freedom from the pain and insecurities that arise out of sexual abuse (Gal. 6:2).
Set Free and Healing
Second Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” I’ve discovered everything I need to move forward in grace and strength comes from abiding in God’s presence and the Word of God.
The path to thriving begins with God-focus, not self-focus. If we continue to gaze inward, we will always see our scars, but when we gaze on Jesus, we see His scars and remember He died to make us whole again. We can trust this One who loved us so completely.
I’ve grown in Christ, but it hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had many questions, and my heart screamed for answers. Satan wants us to believe God is not good and does not care, but our Father God is never blind to the sins that hurt His people. He grieves over all sin and hates it. Sometimes the Lord deals directly with others’ sinful behavior against us; other times, it’s just not time yet. In mercy, God gives even the most evil among us opportunities to turn to Him and repent.
My great comfort is that Jesus understands abuse. He suffered great abuse and even death to give us life (see Isa. 53). He brings hope for today and tomorrow and, most certainly, hope for dealing in victory with hurtful past circumstances.
I am free to love others sincerely and allow the Lord to work in my life and my abuser’s life now that I have been set free from the bondage that chained me for so many years,
Although Jesus said He came to give me abundant life (John 10:10), sometimes I resort to survival mode when I allow myself to feel ashamed. In those moments, I forget who I am—or rather, whose I am. Jesus bore my shame on the cross; I don’t need to bear it for one moment.
Though scars remain, God gives healing grace.
Father God, I ask You to bring victory and healing to those who suffer. Surround them with Your presence, help them see You as You really are, and show them the overcoming power in Your Word. Amen.
If you are struggling, you might also want to watch this video about a young woman who was sexually abused.