Bearing the Burden of Abuse
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One of the most meaningful and beneficial ways in which we can help friends who have struggled with abuse is to help them build a better world inside of themselves, so that they may find recovery. The apostle Paul states: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Abuse threatens to destroy the relationships people have with God, other people (friends and family), as well as their own hearts, minds, bodies and spirit (Galatians 6:2).
Being a faithful friend to a survivor of abuse is one of the greatest gifts one can give to a child of God deeply in need.
While helping those who have been abused is a difficult and challenging task, the benefits of assisting suffering friends are immense. For those who help, there is the pleasure of doing a good and difficult deed, as well as the knowledge that one has helped a friend become closer to God, as well as being a better friend in return. For those who have suffered abuse, the assistance of friends can help overcome years of shame and to face the terrible price of sin in our lives, which is the reason Jesus Christ died. Realizing that God cares about us all individually is a special and a difficult task for those who have been abused.
It is important to realize that abuse is a terrible burden. On page 44 of On the Threshold of Hope, Dr. Diane Mandt Langsberg, an expert in Christian therapy for survivors of child abuse, comments that around 25 percent of women and 17 percent of men have suffered from some form of sexual abuse. This means that every one of us probably has several friends who have survived sexual abuse and are dealing with the damage in their own lives.
These survivors often carry with them grave wounds, including poor self-image, feeling that God is either helpless against evil or uncaring toward those who suffer, mistrust of others, an inability to establish proper boundaries, the fear of intimacy (including the inability to feel and show love and compassion to others), emotional numbness, excessive anger and irritability, and so on. All aspects of the lives of those who have suffered abuse have been harmed, and this is a burden no one should have to bear alone. As Proverbs 18:14 states: "The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?"
If one agrees to help those who have suffered abuse, though, one must realize that taking this burden can be a difficult task. Helping a friend who has suffered abuse means dealing with a lot of hurt and anger, as the pain of those experiences (often long repressed) is brought to the surface. There will be many times when watching the recovery of the friend will lead to a lot of deep revelations and uncomfortable moments.
Those who seek to comfort the abused must be strong and aware that survivors of abuse use many defenses (not entirely pleasant) to deal with the suffering, and one must be faithful and patient with those who are seeking to become whole for perhaps the first time in their entire lives. But in helping our friend, we follow the example of Christ, who has born all of our burdens so that we may become close to God. Being a faithful friend to a survivor of abuse is one of the greatest gifts one can give to a child of God deeply in need.