My friend Heather Evans, whose life is a gift to many, has shared some of her soul-wrenching experiences as a counselor. I applaud her courageous walk with her Lord into dark places of the soul to find His redemption.
The Gift of Darkness:
Every client is a gift. Every client comes into my life for a specific reason. Hopefully their lives will be shaped and changed by our encounter, but God has designed it that each individual, whether meeting for a brief occurrence or working together for a period of time has something to teach me. My greatest influence, Diane Langberg, says that therapy is part of God’s resurrecting work. There is always a resurrection—and sometimes that resurrection is in me, the counselor. Every client teaches me—but some impact me more than others. What makes some extraordinary? Why do some get in, my soul, my mind and my bones in a way that I cannot shake?
Among them are countless survivors of sexual abuse. I don’t remember the first, but I know that slowly, over the course of 14 years in practice, the Lord has brought more and more lives to me who have been broken and shaped by the evil and darkness of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. They each have something to teach me, about the fragility of the soul, and about the hope and restoration of our God. They humble me, as they invite me in to places of shame, terror, avoidance, and falsehood.
Among those is Hillary, who taught me about resilience in coping with the sexual abuse by her stepbrother and the tragic death of her father. She taught me about the pure gift of faith, wisdom and insight that the Lord bestows to those He calls to Himself. Her depth and maturity amidst the layers of disorder in her family come only from her Heavenly Father.
There is Mikala, who has taught me about the long, slow process of healing. I am repeatedly reminded of the patience, grace, mercy of our God and how I am lacking in these qualities without His enabling power. I have needed His perseverance and staying power as I walk with her in the layers of brokenness of her mind and soul.
There is Kathryn, who teaches me about the courage that God provides to key individuals. In response to a family environment that did not protect, that does not value time for healing and works to protect an image, she has been gifted with astute judgment, advocacy, perception again that only come from her God.
There is Janelle. Janelle who has a smile that is striking, contagious and beautiful. A smile, that at one time masked deep pain, confusion, turmoil and entrapment caused by a male role model who deceived her and used her for his own selfish gain. First meeting her, she struggled with confusion and she resented weakness and vulnerability. She wanted to rebel against it. Even this determined resistance reveals her character and her beauty. She will always stand out to me because she is greatly gifted by God. She has walked through the pain, rather than avoiding it. She articulates herself in a way that reflects knowledge, depth and wisdom only given to her by God. She absorbs every resource or education provided to her. She maximizes her relationships with her support system. She embraces truth rather than rejecting it.
Janelle is endowed with wisdom and she wants to use it. She will leave an impression on the judge who reads her impact statement. It reflects not just pain and turmoil. It reflects hope and restoration. It reflects survival and healing that ultimately bring glory to our God. In six short months, she has come to a place of empowerment, ready to share her story to bring help, protection to others while glorifying her heavenly father. She asks questions that few others will consider because of her unique, sharp way of approaching life. Her smile now radiates healing, freedom, growth, true joy and hope.
In reflection, it seems that sexual abuse survivors have been greatly gifted by God. Of course they have experienced the curse of sin in one of the most painful, vulnerable ways. Yet, it is no coincidence that each has character, strength, resilience that stand out profoundly. Isaiah 45:3 tells us that there are treasures in darkness. What are these treasures? What thing of value can come from darkness? Perhaps an example of this is the life and light that shine forth in a life that has once been touched by unspeakable atrocities.
More than one sexual abuse survivor or sex trafficking survivor can recount for me specific memories of visions or revelations of the presence of God amidst their trauma. While sexual trauma leaves one with many questions, answered and unanswered, about God’s character, promises and presence in spite of their sufferings, many also can attribute their healing and their survival to Him. You see, God came near through His Son Jesus Christ. John 1 tells us that He came and dwelled among us. He left His throne and eternal fellowship with His father and entered in to our sin-filled world. He took on darkness as He hung on the cross and took the punishment and payment that the sin of His people deserved. He is there. He is present in the darkness. He is the treasure of the darkness. He rose out of that darkness when He conquered death through Resurrection. As He fulfills His promise to consider and respond to victims and the helpless (Psalm 10), they then join Him; they share and fellowship in His sufferings. They become treasures of the darkness.
In turn, I am privileged with witnessing this resurrecting, redeeming work and with meeting individuals that will forever shape me and change me.
*names changed to protect identity.