Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Help and Healing from the Great Physician

Healing from abuse requires forgiveness. Granting forgiveness is often not easy to do; it seems doubly difficult in the case of abuse. There has been an injustice; the perpetrator has inflicted hurt, even pain; and the consequences typically are long lasting. How can someone forgive? the answer: only by the supernatural grace of God. Indeed, He forgave so that we might be able to forgive as well (Ephesians 4:32). Jesus understood that the very people who crucified Him were not understanding criminals, but ignorant savages. Had they really understood whom the were nailing to the cross and seen the true motives of the leaders of the Jews, their guilt would have multiplied. But their ignorance and their own victimization at the hands of others makes their actions less malevolent. We will not always understand the reason for abuse. At times, the person's actions may have been selfish, an overuse of power at one's disposal. At other times, there may have been mitigating factors, but we must still love. And there are times when the specific reason will never be known, or the abuser was confused as to why he or she acted so wrongly. It matters little; one does not need to know the perpetrator's motive in order to forgive. Through His grace and forgiveness the Lord enables us to forgive, even as He commands us (Ephesians 4:32). When authorities-those who are in charge and whom we often respect-abuse us as children, that abuse can make us think strange things. We may think we indirectly caused the abuse-our stupidity, our disobedience, our failure made the person attack us. Satan lies to abuse victims; he tells them those very things that keep them mired in confusion and fear. It is up to counselors and those in the church to reveal the truth. As always, truth and love together can bring healing. I saw this in Harley when he visited my office. It was difficult for him to speak because he kept sobbing almost out of control. He unfolded his story one layer at a time as he told about growing up in an abusive home. It was a familiar scene: His father was an alcoholic-an abuse victim himself. Usually he would spank Harley, but at other times he would get in his face and scream. Typically he would yell cruel, cutting things: "You are a piece of garbage; you are utterly stupid." Harley said, "It was not the spankings that wounded me. It was the screaming that wounded my soul. The yelling and what he yelled were what lodged so deeply in my being." As we prayed,the Holy Spirit brought the lies to the surface, which we were able to dispel with God's truth. Step by step, Harley came to the freedom that is only found in Jesus Christ. The beautiful thing in it all was that God took Harley and put him into a loving local assembly of men who were willing to listen to him, encourage him, and help him mature in Christ. As God brought the truth about being made in God's image and being a child of God into Harley's life, he found true healing. Harley says, "I am not the same person I was a year ago. I know who I am in Jesus Christ. I am very glad to be alive and to know I have a place assigned by God in His kingdom." I have never in all my counseling years encountered a man or woman who was bitter and wounded because of biblical discipline, which includes spanking. However, I have come across many who have been wounded deeply because they were yelled at and called names; that is not discipline at all. It is verbal abuse that attacks the child's very identity. As parents we have a responsibility to treat children as they were created, "fearfully {that is respectfully} and wonderfully made" by the Creator. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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