When it comes to memories of sexual abuse, or even of the wrong choices I made in my teen years, they are all but history, in the sense of replaying in my mind. Whether through guilt, through shame, or through regret, or even through nightmares, it seldom happens now.
The emotional flashbacks of the trauma of sexual abuse are even more rare, and, when they do happen, they no longer have the power over me that they once held. They are brief, recognizable and ‘manageable’. Because I am able to identify my feelings, I am no longer victimized by the memories.
The memories of violence are still more powerful. There are times, if I have been with my family, and witnessed an ‘episode’, no matter how small, that I have a ‘recovery period’, during which I feel more depressed and melancholy. A time where the past lurks, just below the surface, as if waiting to reach up and strangle me, in a vulnerable moment, and squeeze the life out of me.
What I want to share in this post, is some practical ways to overcome the oppressive memories, the voices, and the trauma. It is a process I continue to go through with the violence of my childhood, so I’m preaching to the choir here. In many ways I draw from my experience of overcoming the trauma of sexual abuse, to overcome the violence.
Some of what I suggest is counter intuitive, and requires deliberate action that is in direct conflict with what we feel. When Paul says we are to ‘take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ’, these actions are what have worked, and continue to work, for me…. when I do them. (Admittedly, there are times I surrender to the darkness, and I’m too stubborn to take my own advice.)
The first life-changing bit of advice I have to offer, I learned from an evangelist at Countryside Mennonite Fellowship. When an attack comes, praise God. It takes the power away from the enemy’s intent, when he brings an accusation, a traumatic memory, or any guilt trip.
The reason that praise disempowers the enemy is found in Psalm 22:3. It tells us here that God dwells in the praises of His people. Different versions use different words, such as, enthroned, or inhabits, but they all mean pretty much the same thing. My favourite, when I think below the surface, is ‘enthroned’. God is lifted up. He is glorified. He is given authority through praise.
Now let’s go back to the dark memories, the trauma, and the accusations and guilt. If the enemy’s attacks inspire us to praise God, it accomplishes everything he hates. It takes away his power. How long will he hang around and torment us, just to hear us praise Jesus? Just to watch us give God the glory for victory? Not that long.
The other part of that is that God doesn’t share space. He does not cohabitate with the enemy. Pure evil cannot stand in the presence of pure good, pure truth, and pure holiness. One has to go, and as long as God is enthroned, or ‘given power’, He won’t be the one ‘out’. He never leaves, never forsakes us. We choose to whom we give the power, the ‘voice’ in our lives.
That praise, in the middle of trauma, can be something as simple as our tears, turned heavenward, in a cry for help, for redemption. It can be a very broken praise, that comes in the form of sharing our deepest pain and fear with God. It can be a prayer. Or a song. Maybe a whisper that says, “I’m confused. I don’t understand. I’m hurting. I feel I cannot make it…. But I know that You are my God, and I love you. Where I don’t know how to trust you, teach me to know you as my Papa. Where I struggle with unbelief, help me believe.”
In the very act of crying out to God, in fear, in anxiety, in doubt, we worship Him. We say, “I trust You”, when we give God our emotions, all tangled.
The second life-changing bit of advice is: Declare truth over the lies. If the enemy tells you that you are worthless, tell him, “God died to save me. God. The Creator of the universe. The Highest Being. He died for me. He saw value in me. I have worth.”
If you hear voices in your head telling you that you will never make it, your life is worthless, or you’ll not amount to anything. Don’t take it lying down. Remind the enemy that God has a good plan for your life. That the very thing he keeps tossing at you, God will use to launch you into your purpose. Praise God, and don’t surrender.
Whatever darkness comes your way, worship God, and give Him praise for the redemption that is yet to come. If you find it impossible to see the redemption, praise God. Let faith be your certainty. Redemption that you see and feel, requires no faith at all. What we cannot see, you can accept as reality, because God is good. And if in that place of uncertainty, you choose to praise God, the enemy loses power.
Little by little, the truth sinks in, and we stop believing the lies. The darkness loses its power, and the past loses its grip. Little be little, the freedom Jesus offers us instantly, becomes our experiential reality.
We remain victims only as long as we give the past power. Working through the trauma takes time, but while we work through it we don’t have to remain victims. We have been given the right to be free, as the children of God.
The old reels just keep on playing… until that moment when they lose the source of power. When you find the source of power, and you invite Jesus to unplug it, they stop, one by one.
© Trudy Metzger
Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series
First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series