June 2, 2014
One of the most difficult parts of my job as a psychiatrist is listening as people tell personal stories of abuse they have endured. Many women are abused by their husbands, and at times, husbands are abused by wives. The most disheartening stories are those of adults, and especially those of children, talking about the physical or sexual abuse that was perpetrated on them as a child.
Abuse takes many forms, but it is always debilitating. It cripples the direct victim, but also harms the abuser as well as the people who witness it. When kids witness abuse, it is especially devastating. In the United States alone, husbands and partners batter 3 to 4 million women each year. Three million reports of child abuse are made every year, just in the United States. But experts estimate the incidence of abuse and neglect is five to eight times greater than reported. Many children suffer from this hidden epidemic. While these are U.S. figures, the same problems exist around the world, often at much higher rates.
Abuse is a sin that dishonors God and disrespects His creation of life. Psychological abuse and spiritual abuse inflict critical damage beyond the terrible aspects of physical and sexual danger. But the most chronic and destructive damage is the resulting distortion the abuse has on our lenses. Consequently, we are unable to see life accurately, to see from God’s perspective. We need eyes that see the truth. But abuse contaminates and significantly obstructs proper lens development.
Abuse also erodes confidence and self-esteem. We begin believing what we hear about ourselves. We think that anyone treated violently and abusively must deserve it. These beliefs are often accepted early in life and become part of the initial lenses through which we see and process all information. Even if abuse occurs when we are older, the intensity of the experience makes it a formidable opponent to seeing ourselves as God sees us, our God-image.
Abuse communicates: “I am worthless” … “I am an object to be used by you whenever you want” … “Dignity, respect and honor are not for me” … “I don’t deserve anything in life” … “I’ll never accomplish anything” … “God doesn’t love me” … “Evil is stronger than God” … “I will never have peace.” These distortions and interpretations form the foundation on which abused victims build the rest of their lives.
Today ask, “How do I see myself?” “Is my self-image based on other people’s words and actions toward me? Or is it based on the truth of God’s Word, a God-image?” God knew you before you were even born. He created you, and His workmanship is wonderful. Let Jesus help take your focus off yourself and begin the process of training your eyes to really fixate on Him. He is able to heal your eyes so you can see yourself as He sees you. Whether you believe the lies of a victim mentality or you believe the truth of Christ’s victory, it’s your decision, so chose well.
Yes, as I wrote above, hearing reports of child abuse is the most difficult part of my job. On the flip side, being able to help abused kids and adults is a great blessing God has given me. I’ve had the honor of helping victims in my private practice as well as in Iraq and Uganda—two regions devastated by terrorism, trauma, abuse and violence. You can also help; many people in your life may hide the secret of past abuse, so please be a safe person for them.
Dear Father God, thank You for this reminder that You formed me and made me—and that Your works are wonderful. I must admit, though, sometimes I don’t feel as though I’m wonderful at all. In fact, sometimes I feel as though I don’t deserve anything good. It is hard for me to erase the abuse I experienced, so help me see it through your eyes, forgive the perpetrator and focus on You more clearly. Help me to grasp the fullness of what Jesus did for me. Help me know Your peace when those victim tapes start to run in my head so I can push them out and play Your wonderful psalms instead. I pray this and all prayers in the name of Jesus Christ. And all God’s children say AMEN!
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14
For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Matthew 13:15,16