Have you ever encountered emotionally charged questions? How would you answer or respond to people who sincerely were victims of rape or abuse of any kind without trivializing their painful experience, and making God look malevolent?
Interesting question, I remember Michael Ramsden talking about this and he said firstly you need to establish if your the first person they’ve told; as this will have an impact on how you proceed. Then I’d see if they’ve had councilling and ask did that help.
How you put the next part into pastoral words I’m not sure, but for me God was there with them suffering as well and as Farther feeling pain. But because he gives us free will he cannot interview every time atrocities take place, because then we wouldn’t have free will.
Then I would ask them would they mind you praying with them, but would probably not lay hands on them as this may trigger memories for them.
Hope this gives you something to think on.
I appreciate your feedback @David_Cieszynski. Just want to elaborate on this. Do you remember the reason Michael Ramsden wanted to know first if you’re the first person told? Like how would that impact us on how we would approach the person? I’m thinking also on how you would ask them if they had counseling in a conversation?
Regarding your comment on God being with them in their suffering, it makes me think that maybe those people would take it negatively, in a sense that God just watched them and did not do anything when they were being abused. It will beg the question on what’s up with free will that God would allow it or prioritize it highly that He’ll choose that the person would be abused just for it to be established. This is one of the things I’m thinking of that we may have good intentions in saying something for a person, which may be considered damaging. There may be time for silence, but there are times when we need to say something, like for example if it was asked in public, which makes other people want to know how God would speak to this hurting person or their own hurts, or if the Christian worldview could really help the person in making sense of their pain. It’s challenging and I would want to learn more in seeing how you guys would respond to it.
Your comment on prayer is good. I believe that it would be one of the things that they would need best.
Greetings @omnarchy. I think @David_Cieszynski made a great point - if we are the first person someone has shared with and they have not seen a counselor - perhaps it is not the right time to try to answer their questions. If the abuse was severe, they may need nothing more than our comforting presence and the chance to speak with someone trained to deal with these very deep emotional issues.
A similarly charged emotional question is “Where was God on 9/11?”
I heard a minister give a response to this - it may have been Don Carson - but whoever it was only had a small sound byte to respond. And their answer was, “He was on the cross.”
I think this is a powerful response because it emphasizes that God Himself has suffered with us - He has endured pain and torment and abuse in a physical body and He, as the Good Shepherd, understands our pain.
I think another good place to look for an answer is in African American spirituals sung during the terrible oppression of slavery. I think it helps to have living examples of how people found hope in the midst of terrible suffering that had no apparent explanation.
The following hymn was titled “I’m Troubled in Mind”:
Oh, Jesus, my Saviour, on Thee I’ll depend
When troubles are near me you’ll be my true friend
I’m troubled in mind
If Jesus don’t help me
I surely will die
When ladened with troubles and burdened with grief
To Jesus in secret I’ll go for relief
In dark days of bondage to Jesus I prayed
To help me to bear it, and He gave me His aid
Another story that I think could be helpful is that of Corrie Ten Boom, who went through the holocaust. I think sharing her story more fully and then sharing some of how she endured would be healing.
Here is her poem “Life is But a Weaving” which expresses how she made sense of her terrible suffering.
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him
In the end, I think oftentimes victims of such terrible tragedies may suffer from PTSD and deep emotional hurt - so they need someone who is trained in dealing with those things to walk with them as they journey on the road to recovery.
Hi @omnarchy. Being in that kind situation will be very uncomfortable but what Michael Ramsden said (as mentioned by @David_Cieszynski) is very important because if you are the first person they’ve shared this painful experience, then it means that they trust you for willingly sharing some deep wounds that they’ve never showed to anyone else.
I have my own scar of experiencing such abuse and when i first shared it, it was because God was already prompting me to open up to my prayer partner. Her response was helpful as she did not say much but instead listened and cried with me. She asked questions that forced me to recall which lead me to acknowledge that those dark moments indeed took place. Most of the abused victims I know have tendencies to force themselves to deny that the abuse actually took place because of the sense of guilt or shame that they feel after it happened.
No magic words will ease their pain but it’s helpful for them to recall and be reminded to forgive the perpetrator over and over because the sense of anger will keep coming back (you may do this after 2nd or 3rd time he/she will open up). An ample amount of patience is very helpful for the one counseling as they have tendencies to keep repeating themselves especially as they do not usually want to share it to everyone right away (or to some case, ever). For Christian victims, remind them to not only open up to you but to also bring it up to God and let him speak His truth over their pain. For non Christians, a different approach might be helpful but still only in God’s love and truth they will find true healing so sharing the gospel will be necessary.
What helped me move forward was God’s love and acceptance as shown by my prayer partner. His Word sustained me during those moments that I had to wrestle with my past, alone but the faithfulness of a godly friend was a soothing balm to my wounded heart and distorted mindset.
Hope this helps. God bless you!
Thank you for elaborating on @David_Cieszynski’s point, @SeanO and @sierra.lian. I appreciate it. If most of the abused victims as @sierra.lian had said force themselves to deny the experience, them opening up to someone for the first time may indicate trust, but would imply that it had not been dealt with yet properly, which may mean that it won’t be prudent to say something which could be taken as a miserable comfort or apologetic as Job’s friend did.
Then if they had counseling, we can then ask if it helped in some way to see how we would proceed. These are indeed good points. I appreciate your contributions. This reminded me of different aspects of a person which we need to put into account as we engage with them.
The answers may not be easy, and I pray that the Holy Spirit would teach us in saying the right words when the moment comes that we encounter other broken people who need our help. I like @SeanO’s point on God suffering with us. I think this may be @David_Cieszynski’s point as well when he said that God was there with them suffering as well, which I believe I may have misunderstood as evidenced by my comment about people possibly taking his response negatively.
The gospel reminds us that God is an insider regarding our painful experience, and is not someone who is detached on its multifaceted reality. Yet He is not merely someone who agonized and declared that the evil is something which we should be indignant about, He is also someone who made a way to truly wipe away every tear, and destroy its cause at the very root.
I’ll process this further. God bless everyone.
I have not read anything I disagree with and Michael Ramsden advice is very good. First know that this event is deeply imprinted on their life. It may have caused them to shun the cross or to cling to it–either way it influences their perspective on God. It’s influenced every human interaction they’ve had since. It’s not something they will ever “get over” or “get past”–it will always be a part of them. That does not mean they cannot be healed, but it is a key experience that they will carry with them always. There may always be triggers that cause pain.
If they indicate it happened some time ago, then know they have buried it deeply (or tried to). Think of it like a toxic site where poisons slowly but continually seep to the surface. If they are confiding then it’s possible God has finally prepared their heart for some healing. Or, perhaps the pain has become so unbearable they are willing to risk re-experiencing the pain to open the wound and let it heal.
If it’s a recent occurrence then their feelings may be very raw. A very important aspect is letting them know they are in control of what happens next. Do they want to talk about it? Do they want to seek counseling? Have they and/or do they want to report the crime to law enforcement? Do they need any medical attention? Would they like someone to be with them if they do? The crime perpetrated against them robbed them of power. It’s important that any and all interactions do NOT reinforce the idea that they have no control. Whatever preferences they express, honor them. It helps to re-establish the idea that they are back in charge of their life. These are small things with a great impact on the healing process.
No matter what, it is a critical moment that will require great discernment. These are potential questions and things I might say/ask:
- I know you must feel very vulnerable, but do you feel safe right now? Do you feel safe with me?
- Have you shared this with anyone before?
- Have you considered counseling?
- How do you want to proceed?
- I don’t know your pain, but I’m a good listener, do you want to talk about this now? It’s okay if you don’t.
- You and your well being are important to me and I will be praying for you. Would you like me to pray for you right now?
My desire is to help you, but I admit I’m out of my depth. But God is not. God is all about restoration. You were created in the image of God and you are highly valued. God’s plan for every person it that we be restored to the full potential he created us to be. I think we all experience brokenness, and I’m willing to bet that most of us try to keep it hidden–from the world and from ourselves. But it’s not hidden from God and maybe we’re together today so your journey to restoration can begin. I want to plant that seed deep in your heart so that it might grow.
What you have shared with me is safe. It’s between you, God, and me. If there is anything I can do other than be a good listener, all you have to do is ask. If you want to find a counselor with special training for this kind of trauma, perhaps I can help. If you need me to go with you, just ask. Even if I’m not there I’ll be praying for you the whole time.
I would definitely encourage the right kind of counseling (specialized in sexual assault or abuse), but don’t press too hard. (I can’t stress enough the importance of following the victim’s choices.) My personal experience in counseling (emotional abuse) was so helpful because I found out that things/feelings/coping mechanisms I was experiencing happened to others with similar abuse. Knowing that did not lessen any pain, but it was much less isolating. For me it was a key to stepping forward in the process toward healing.
There are many resources available on line for victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse. Many communities have hotlines and/or rape crisis centers available. Their advocates walk along side clients during medical, law enforcement, and justice proceedings. Many cities have victim/witness centers in their courthouses. As a society and communities we’ve come along way since the 1970’s to help victims be less victimized by the system. Police and other first responders have specialized training to begin re-empowering the victim from the first points of interaction after an attack.
From a Christian perspective I think it’s important to be very gentle in our interventions. Even with wonderful, agape motives we can do unintentional harm that would reflect badly on us, the church, and the victim’s understanding of God and the Gospel. For example, forgiveness may be a long way down the road in their healing process. Rachael Denhollander (gymnast assaulted by Dr. Nassar in the Olympic gymnasts sexual abuse scandal) said, “Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse because the way it is counselled is, more often than not, damaging to the victim. There is an abhorrent lack of knowledge for the damage and devastation that sexual assault brings.” Not every experience will be the same as hers, but great caution is needed.
I might say something like this…
______ I have asked similar questions you have shared with me in my life. It is my understanding from what I have read in scripture is that GOD gave every human being a free will. It was not HIS heart for you to have these terrible traumas in life. His will was for you to be loved and covered. And those who hurt you made a bad (evil) choice.
Scriptures say we have an enemy, Jesus of Nazareth (YAHshua) told us the enemy comes to kill steal and destroy.
James tells us…
Jas 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
Jas 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Jas 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Jas 1:16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.
Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
I believe with all of my heart YHWH never meant for these things to happen to you… and sadly HE gets blamed for what the enemy is doing.
When issues happen as you shared, they cause a breach between us and GOD, questioning HIM and even getting mad at HIM. It causes a breach with others and even ourselves causing shame, guilt, un-forgiveness and so much inner conflict. Jesus/ YAHshua told us to Love YHVH, love your neighbor as you love your self. When we have been hurt it causes a breach and separation in all three areas.
If it is ok. I would like to stand in the gap as your sister and pray for you and share some words to bring restoration for your heart, would that be ok? ( yes)
(Name) On behalf of your your father, mother, family, persons etc… I am so sorry for abuse, or attack, etc that hurt you so deeply, I am sorry for the silence and the junk that left you stranded on the inside, will you please forgive me. (do not wait for an answer) _____ today, I want you to hear these word for your heart, I love you, you are so precious to me, i am proud of you, you are a good daughter or son. (Ask may I give you an hug).
Sister, brother, YAHshua/ Jesus said we are to forgive those who hurt us, this does not mean we are dismissing their actions… We do this to be in right relationship with HIM… We are told to forgive so we will be forgiven., this is the beginning of healing… Can I lead you in a prayer regarding any un-forgiveness that might be there due to what you shared and to forgive God/Elohim self or others? (If yes)
Father in heaven, I choose Abba to forgive ________ for _. I forgive you GOD., my self and other people. I repent and renounce any faults/sins of un-forgiveness, resentment, retaliation, anger, hate, violence, rage or bitterness, rejection, fear, self bitterness etc that I have held in my heart against you GOD.my Self____Others, (name them) etc
I ask to be forgiven and for you to heal my broken heart.
Thank you for forgiving me.
(pray for them)
Abba, I pray for my sister/ brother. According to your Word, the LORD rebuke you enemy from coming against this child of the Most High in Jesus/ YAHshua’s name. ____ I declare over them … Isa 54:4 Fear not; for you shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
Isa 54:5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
Isa 54:6 For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.
Isa 54:11 O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
Isa 54:12 And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.
Isa 54:13 And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
Isa 54:14 In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.
Isa 54:17 No weapon that is formed against you _____ shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is your heritage as a servants of the LORD, and your righteousness is of HIM, saith the LORD.
I speak peace over you and release you to HIS love and healing In YAHshua’s name.
Here is something… I have meditated on I feel it would also touch you. http://www.fathersloveletter.com/
Love covers a multitude of sins.
Of course a pastor, a counselor or the law as needed.
I have read good advice in this thread. I can add a little more to the conversation. Is the perpetrator still alive? This would be a question to ask after serious and intense prayer. The dynamic changes for an abused individual when the perpetrator passes on leaving the situation unresolved. There is a transference that occurs, a transference of irrational hope and rage from the perpetrator to, well, everyone else.
The reason for this is once the perpetrator is gone, there is no hope to retrieve from them what has been taken. I am speaking from personal experience. I experienced sexual abuse as a young child.
It is important to understand one thing if you become the first person someone chooses to disclose their very deep secret to. What is happening is profoundly spiritual and soulful. There will not be any easy answers to provide. There will not be a formulaic response that will work outside of the Gospel itself. The individual opening up is beginning a long process, a long delayed conversation with Jesus Christ and God. Forgiveness is the only option, but it will take a long time.
Should someone choose to make you the first to know, consider this. God will always provide. He will place the right person in the right place at the right time. You will be that right person. Simply love them. Remind them of the Gospel and Blood of Christ. Pray intensely for them. Speak words given from The Holy Spirit. The rest our Lord will handle. Whatever ideology of philosophy you think may work will not be adequate, will not fulfill the need. Simply be there when they need you. Perhaps professional counseling may arise as an option, or perhaps the wounded person’s journey of forgiveness will find its way to the Cross, and become complete. Be a rock for them, they need it.
This is a very important and very complex area. We need to proceed with prayer, wisdom, and integrity.
One factor is that in many jurisdictions in the United States, and perhaps internationally, it is a legal requirement to report abuse to the police. Whether or not it is legally mandated, we should do everything we can to protect a child or victim of abuse by involving the appropriate authorities on their behalf. In contexts where the police are not reliable, consultation with independent leaders of integrity and wisdom may be needed to find another institution or route to protecting the victim.
I would recommend pursuing professional advice in this subject - the stakes are too high for us to give you our best but non-professional judgment.
Here are some resources recommended by the CDC: