The following is a report on the practical applications of Jan Coates' recent book, Set Free: Stories of God's Healing Power for Abuse Survivors, (Bethany House, 2006).
If you suffered abuse as a child, you know what it’s like to lose your innocence and hope. The horrible experiences from your past can contaminate every part of your life today, keeping you imprisoned in despair. But you’re God’s child, and He loves you deeply and unconditionally. The moment you place your faith in Him, He will begin to set you free.
Here’s how you can break free from abuse:
* Focus on the present. Know that it doesn’t matter who you were yesterday, or what you did. All that matters is that God wants to do something great with your life today. Understand that your past doesn’t have to define your present. Recognize that you can’t change your past, but you can prevent it from controlling you. Believe that you can find new hope.
* Discern truth from lies. Refuse to listen to lies that impede your healing process. Realize that you didn’t cause the abuse, ask for it, or deserve it. Know that you’re not a worthless person who can’t be loved. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your heart and help you recognize God’s truth. Read the Bible and ask the Spirit to renew your mind as you do. Embrace the reality that you are a valuable, beloved child of God. Surrender your life to God so you can begin your healing journey.
* Know that God wants to heal you. Understand that God is pursuing you with a desire to heal you. Realize that He heals because He loves you, so you can always count on Him to meet your needs, regardless of your circumstances. Remember that He heals in response to His promises, so get to know His promises through Scripture. Know that God heals because you demonstrate faith, so believe that He has the power and desire to heal you. Understand that He heals to bring you to Himself, so surrender to God’s work in your life.
* Pour out your heart to God. Don’t be afraid to talk with God openly and honestly about all your thoughts and feelings related to the abuse. Know that when you cry out to God, He will orchestrate the right circumstances in your life to support you. Remember that, even though you’ve been hurt by people you couldn’t trust, you can trust God completely. Consider finding a support group, prayer partner, counselor, or mentor to help you as you face the truth about your past. Write out your thoughts and feelings in a journal if that helps you sort them out. Admit the truth of what happened to you, and present your anger, disappointments, hurts, and desires to God.
* Invite God to search your soul. Ask God to reveal the deception you’ve been living with, and the sin that lives in your heart. Face the true condition of your heart so you can see your need for God.
* Release your burdens. Let go of your burdens and give them over to God, trusting Him to sustain you. Ask Him to heal you from the effects of traumatic memories. Refuse to seek revenge against people who hurt you, and trust God to bring about justice in His way and time. Understand that holding onto bitterness poisons your life and blocks your intimacy with God. Know that you must forgive your offenders and yourself in order to fully experience God’s love. Ask God to help you through the forgiveness process, and know that He will give you the power you’ll need.
* Claim your new identity. Realize that, regardless of what others have said about you in the past, you’re now a new person if you’ve begun a relationship with Jesus. Understand that the moment you accepted Jesus as your Savior, you became a permanent member of God’s family. Forget about other ways you once identified yourself, such as stupid, worthless, shameful, sinful, unworthy, rejected, evil, or unwanted. Embrace your new identity as God’s beloved child, with His eternal Spirit living inside you. Remember that who you are determines what you do. So let go of self-abusive behaviors caused by your old identity – like alcohol or drug abuse, physical abuse, promiscuity, poor health habits, or threats of suicide. Keep your focus on Jesus and your identity in Him, letting Him help you grow day by day.
* Embrace God’s love. Learn that, as part of God’s family, you can love freely without fear of rejection, violation, or pain. Remember that Jesus will never lie or leave you, and that He promises to love you unconditionally and forever. Come to Jesus just as you are, without waiting to try to get your act together. Know that He loves you the way you are, and that nothing could ever cause Him to love you any less or more than He already does. Develop an intimate relationship with God through prayer, reading Scripture, praising and worshiping Him, developing supportive relationships with other believers, participating in church, and taking time for quiet rest and reflection.
* Invite God to transform you. Decide to submit to God’s authority daily, trusting Him to do what’s best for you and obeying Him as He leads you. Accept your human limitations and rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to create a humble heart in you. Let go of your concerns, anxieties, self-sufficiency, and pride, and let God care for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and guide your life.
* Abide in God to be fruitful. Keep in fellowship with God so He will work in and through you to produce His fruits in your life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
* Invite God to use your experiences to bless others. Thank God for the healing He has brought you by making yourself available for Him to use as He works in the lives of others who are hurting. Know that God will not waste any part of your previous pain; He will use to bring about good as you share your testimony and reach out to others who need healing from abuse.
Adapted from Set Free: Stories of God’s Healing Power for Abuse Survivors, copyright 2005 by Jan Coates. Published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Mn.,www.bethanyhouse.com.
Jan Coates has worked in sales, marketing, and creative writing for more than 25 years. She is a speaker, has appeared on television and radio, and owned her own sales and marketing consulting company. As a teen full of shame and guilt from child abuse, she turned her back on the Christian faith. Then in 1982 a drunk driver killed her only child. Jan rededicated her life to Jesus on Easter Sunday, 1983. Today Jan and her husband are the parents of two teenagers who were adopted as babies. She and her family live in College Station, Texas.