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Living with Abuse

With the publication of the Murphy Report at the end of 2009 the ugly subject of abuse was once again in the spotlight. But clerical abuse is only the tip of the iceberg. 29% of abuse victims are abused by close family, and 60% are abused by someone close to the family. The problem is far wider than often we want to recognise. And more people are wrestling with the trauma of abuse.

An article this length is too short to give detailed help on living with abuse, but let me say 3 things:

Justice: Something deep within us yearns for justice. We can’t simply let the past be past, and move on. Or forgive and forget, as some would put it. But confrontation is rarely satisfying; following the legal channels rarely provides long-term satisfaction. So where do we turn to, particularly if forgiveness hasn’t been sought, or the hope of earthly justice is gone?

What if you could have confidence that one day justice would be done? That is the assurance God gives. God is a God of justice who will open up the great records of our deeds, who will leave no evil unpunished. He is a God who will demand the full price for every wrong act. Though it is delayed, it will come. Trusting this enables you to deal with the resentment, and to know that you can leave it in God’s hands. He will deal with it.

Meaning: Memories linger and resurface unbidden. Part of the reason is that the mind is searching for meaning and purpose in the pain. Talking to someone is good because it helps allay fears, and it can put to rest troublesome questions. Discipline is also required to keep our minds from jumping back constantly into the same old tracks. But yet, where do we find meaning in it? Can we find a good purpose amidst the pain? As a pastor, the only place I can point to is to God’s word where we see that God has the power, and the willingness to bring good out of the bleakest of situations. We need to keep taking our minds there.

Cleansing and Acceptance: When we have been sinned against it leaves a stain on our lives, something that often makes us feel dirty and second rate. Not only that, but at the heart of much abuse lies the issue of insecurity, the desire to be wanted and loved—and after abuse, the feeling of “Who would want anything to do with me?”. The insistent and wonderful answer of the Bible is that almighty God offers to cleanse us not only from sins that we have committed, but from those committed against us. And he wants us, and will accept us and love us, not as second-class citizens, but as his own precious and beloved children.

Much, much more could be said, but these are pointers to where I believe the deepest and most lasting help can be found.