Saturday, October 15, 2011

on the power of words, and beauty for ashes

Seated, by Lord Frederick Leighton

Some time ago a dear friend of mine wrote to me about her struggle with depression. She had had an abusive past, and even now, as an independent adult, still has to deal with her abuser. For much of her life, since she was a young child, this parent had been harsh, tyrannical and unmerciful; he physically abused her for years, but, as she observed, the emotional abuse was what hurt and damaged her much more; sadly, that still happens in the present.

She told me that he would say the most cruel things he could think of, things that would hurt and demean; his inflated ego required that everyone around him be cringing and subservient. She had to be constantly careful of what she said, even of how she looked; it was a life of walking on eggshells. She did not fulfil the great plans he had had for her life -- despite all her striving -- and he told her she was a disappointment and a failure.

Growing up in such an atmosphere, having such things spoken over her life, almost guaranteed that my friend would struggle with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and a terrible sense of worthlessness. How true it is that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]" (Prov 18:21).

Indeed, the book of James has some particularly powerful verses about the tongue:

"Even so the tongue is a little member, and it can boast of great things. See how much wood or how great a forest a tiny spark can set ablaze!

"And the tongue is a fire. [The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth (the cycle of man's nature), being itself ignited by hell (Gehenna).

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea animal, can be tamed and has been tamed by human genius (nature).

But the human tongue can be tamed by no man. It is a restless (undisciplined, irreconcilable) evil, full of deadly poison.

With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who were made in God's likeness!

Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. These things, my brethren, ought not to be so" (James 3:5-10). Let us be careful, always be careful, what we say, and especially what we say to our children!

Thankfully, God is a God who heals and provides: my friend was born again not too long ago, and it dramatically helped her to overcome her misery and begin to find peace. Walking closely with God, learning His way of doing things, and turning to Him as her refuge and strength so that she no longer felt so rejected by her earthly father, helped tremendously.

She told me she still has "attacks", but she is so much better now than she used to be. Learning to ignore her father, to shrug off the slights and insults, and accepting the fact that if he wanted to stay unhappy, it was his problem and not hers, helped a lot.

Then recently, another friend told me a similar story. And yet another cried about how she had a hard time with anger and forgiveness. I realised that there are so many hurting people around, products of selfish, heartless, ignorant upbringings, with stories that would make any decent parent cringe and strive to avoid repeating in the next generation.

I suddenly felt drawn to look for and read Beauty for Ashes: Receiving emotional healing, a book by Joyce Meyer which had just been sitting unread on the kids' shelf buried under a pile of B's books. I opened the book at random (no, not like those people who randomly open their Bible hoping for a word from God, but because I didn't feel like reading right from the beginning), and read the following (as it turned out, the chapter was titled "Forgiving your abuser"). I thought I would share it, for the sake of anyone who knows the pain and despair of abuse.

"For many people, forgiving the one who abused them is the most difficult part of emotional healing. It can even be the stumbling block that prevents healing...

"First, let me say that it is not possible to have good emotional health while harbouring bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. Harbouring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die! Unforgiveness poisons anyone who holds it, causing him to become bitter. And it is impossible to be bitter and get better at the same time!

"If you are a victim of abuse, you have a choice to make. You can let each hurt or problem make you bitter or better. The decision is yours.

"... God does not bring hurts and wounds upon you, but once they are inflicted upon you, He is able to cause them to benefit you if you will trust Him to do so.

"God can make miracles out of mistakes!

"... One of the main truths the Lord spoke to me while I was dealing with the forgiveness issue was this: Hurting people hurt people!

"The majority of abusers were themselves abused in one way or another. Often those who were raised in dysfunctional homes create a dysfunctional atmosphere in their own homes.

"... Choose to do what you can do, and God will help you do what you cannot do. Do your best, trust God, and He will do the rest.

"... You sow good seed by obediently following His plan, which is:

- Receive God's forgiveness (and love yourself).
- Choose to forgive and release those who hurt you.
- Pray for your enemies.
- Bless those who have hurt you.
- Believe that God is healing your emotions.
- Wait.
(Beauty for Ashes by Joyce Meyer, p.135-147).

"[God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]

"So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?" (Heb 13:5-6).

1 comment:

Amy said...

Oh, Janice! I was struggling with this very issue today (it was surprising to me to realize that I needed to forgive my parent--I was unaware, but asked God on my drive to work to show me why I was so unhappy). This is what He told me "You must forgive her. You are poisoning yourself." I was shocked! And then to read this--a miracle. Thank you. xoxox.


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