Thursday, August 6, 2009

Comforting Victims of Sexual Abuse

Your greatest need as you begin to deal with the pain of sexual abuse is for others to comfort you. In a time of deep sorrow, our greatest comfort comes when others sorrow with us. One major way God shares His comfort with us is through other people. The apostle Paul wrote, "God . . . com­forts us in all our troubles, so that we can com­fort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

What is comfort? Maybe it will help to see first what comfort is not. Comfort is not a "pep talk" urging you to hang in there, tough it out or hold it together. Comfort is not an attempt to explain why bad things happen to people. Comfort is not a bunch of positive words about God being in control and everything being okay. All of these things may be good and useful in time, but they do not fill our primary need for comfort.

People comfort us primarily by feeling our hurt and sorrowing with us. Jesus illustrated the ministry of comfort when His friend Lazarus died (see John 11). When Jesus arrived at the home of Lazarus's sisters, Mary and Martha, He wept with them (see vv. 33-35). His response is especially interesting in light of what He did next: raise Lazarus from the dead (see vv. 38-44). Why didn't Jesus simply tell the grieving Mary and Martha, "No need to cry, My friends, because in a few minutes Lazarus will be alive again"? Because at that moment, they needed someone to identify with their hurt. Jesus met Mary's and Martha's need for comfort by sharing in their sorrow and tears. Later He performed the miracle that turned their sorrow to joy. We receive comfort when we know we are not suffering alone. Paul instructed us, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Rom. 12:15). When you experience sorrow, people may try to comfort you by cheering you up, urging you to be strong, or try­ing to explain away the tragic event. These people no doubt care about you and mean well by their words. But they may not know what comfort sounds like. Hopefully, there will also be someone around who will provide the comfort you need. You will sense God's care and concern for you as this someone hurts with you, sorrows with you and weeps with you.

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