My girlfriends and I talk about what we are learning in our Bible studies all the time. However, when my study is called “A Path to Sexual Healing,” sharing with them involves a little more trepidation. I’ve been really open about the study with a handful of friends, which is about a handful more than I expected. Perhaps because it is so powerfully impacting me that it is what’s on my mind and on the tip of my tongue. Perhaps because I am vulnerable and need to talk it out. Perhaps because sharing our pain with one another is part of the healing process. James 5:16 tells us to “pray for one another so that you may be healed.” I don’t know.
It probably seems safer to keep the study a secret, and the enemy certainly encourages me to do so, but my friends have been amazingly supportive. No one has asked me what happened when I was younger. They don’t know the details because that’s not the important part of our conversations. Instead, they jump to encouraging me to press into God on this journey and remind me of His faithfulness to heal. As if that isn’t amazing enough, God has used their comments to make big impacts.
One friend gave me a forgiveness prayer that has helped me in multiple ways. The prayer helped me discern where I’ve truly been harmed and where I’ve just have a bad attitude. God has used the prayer to lead me to a deeper understanding of who I need to forgive and who I need to seek forgiveness from. It has prompted introspection and put words to my heart’s desire to forgive and be healed. The prayer also introduced me to the idea of holding resentment toward God.
That same friend built me up as she acknowledged the difficulty of confronting the past – the hurt, the anger, the energy required – especially while mothering kids and loving my husband. Bits of insight and healing come at the most random times. I’ve actually started cat napping to recharge after especially taxing journaling sessions. I was comforted when she reminded me that God knows I have kids, His timing is perfect and He provides for all my responsibilities while I am resting in Him.
Another friend reminded me that some parts of this journey are for me and God alone. My husband, who is my best friend, has been by my side to celebrate the “ah-ha” moments, to draw me out as I turn inward and to pick up the slack as I go on this journey, but most of the details of the memories that have come back are for God and me to process alone. My husband needs to know the impacts of the baggage and how God is leading me, for sure. However, on the day that memories came flooding back and I was so angry that I would have told anyone anything they wanted to know about my past, my husband was super busy at work and arrived home really late. God didn’t even give me the chance to vent in an unhealthy or damaging way…He was my only audience and He was enough. He IS enough. Ultimately, the healing journey is about leaning on Him more and more.
Another day, feeling lost and discouraged in not knowing how to identify the full extent of the impacts of my abuse and the self-protections that are so deeply ingrained in me, a friend reminded me that my job is to follow the Holy Spirit guiding me to those things. He does the excavating while I listen. God isn’t asking me to do anything that He isn’t equipping me to do. He has prepared every aspect of this journey. What a relief!
God has used relationships to inject truth in my path in less direct ways, too. In the span of three days, as I was wrestling with extending forgiveness, I was pointed to the parable of the unmerciful servant by three people who not only don’t know one another, but they each referenced the passage in conversations that had nothing to do with my Bible study. In the parable, the servant was forgiven an impossible debt, but refused to extend forgiveness to another for a much smaller debt.
“Then the master called the servant in, “You wicked servant” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master handed him over to the jailer to be tortured, until he should pay back all that he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:32-35
The servant was ungrateful despite being released from a debt that he could never repay, just as I cannot repay by debt to Christ. Yes, God had my attention.
Though it may seem easier to go into hiding and get lost in my own head than to display my hurt and be real about walking through a challenging time, hiding is not God’s best for me. Part of embracing my journey has been inviting friends to view and speak into it. God has used friends to lift me up, point me toward Him, and encourage me to press on. I’ve been blessed with deeper friendships and experienced God’s love in new ways by being open. We are all connected in the Body. We are all called to live in community and shouldn’t walk alone. Someone else may not be part of every detail of our journey, but the entire journey isn’t taken alone either. God uses our relationships to affirm us and speak truth to us.
Stories of friends helping friends follow the Lord’s leading through difficult terrain are all over the Bible. All of us are designed to need friends to help us walk through our hurts and celebrate our victories. Believe me, I know that opening up to someone is scary and it can be really hard to share your story that is filled with brokenness and hurt. The enemy will reinforce that fear again and again. However, isolating ourselves is limiting our willingness to accept God’s blessing and healing. As Christians secured in Christ, we should cast aside the fear of embarrassment or judgement often associated with talking about sex, embracing sexual healing, or seeking accountability for our sexual purity. We have the freedom to talk about all of these things in healthy ways that not only glorify God, but also allow us to receive the blessing of deeper friendships.
What is holding you back from sharing with your friends? Will you ask God to embolden you to start a conversation? You’ll be blessed if you do!
If you missed Part 1, then you can read it here.