Why Don’t Victims of Abuse “Just Get Over it?”
Should victims of abuse, if they are Christians, be able to “just get over it”? Are Christians immune to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Many Christians think so. I would suspect that some of our readers who have suffered abuse may have been given this advice from other believers: “Trust in Christ. Stop being depressed. Move on.”
Well, let’s take a look at Paul’s experience.
2 Corinthians 11:24-27
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
The Apostle Paul suffered horrific trauma, shame, accusations, and murderous hatred. Just consider the list above. And we know this is not a complete recounting of all of his trials. His life ended in execution.
Paul was granted remarkable enablement by Christ so that he was sustained in his Apostolic calling through every hardship. It would seem that the Lord grants all of His people strength and comfort and gifting in accordance with the ministry he gives each one. Paul wrote of an amazing and unique experience:
2 Corinthians 12:1-4
I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.
But even with this vision, did Paul completely escape all symptoms and effects of these traumatic events? Let him answer the question —
2 Corinthians 4:8-10
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
No, Paul felt it. But the Lord sustained him through it. His faith did not fail. He was afflicted, crushed, persecuted, and struck down. Christ Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane sweated profusely in turmoil, yet submitted to the Father’s will.
It is therefore a grave error – and unfortunately a common one – to think that Christians who suffer trauma, whether it be from abuse or accident or terminal illness or tragic loss, ought to “buck up” and get over it. Christians are strengthened by Christ so that we will never have our faith in Him destroyed, but He permits us to experience trials and traumas and their effects. Many times, even Christian victims of abuse need therapy and counseling and help from someone who really understands trauma. We should never tell a suffering Christian to just “keep on the sunny side of life.”