It’s also #DomesticViolence awareness month.
When I add up the sum total of my girlfriends in the 20+ years since high school – I can think of only three who have not experienced some form of abuse or assault. The vast majority have experienced some form of deeply painful life journey. But the women I know are also survivors whose anguish neither silenced nor embittered them. Rather, they have been emboldened to become a voice for others who haven’t found theirs yet.
They are my heroes.
My sister and brother survivors.
They are my tribe.
More than any other month of the year, October reminds me of how each of us has a story to share. When each of us reaches that point in healing from the past, we begin to realize that we are called, maybe even commissioned, to turn around and let our light shine for other people to see.
When I was nine, our church had a sermon series on Isaiah 60:1-3. I still clearly remember the pastor starting every sermon by proclaiming “Arise Jerusalem, let your light shine for all to see, for the Glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.” Kind of like that children’s song “All Around the Neighborhood, I’m Gonna Let It Shine”. Today with social media and technology, you and I can shine so much farther than just our local neighborhood.
Isaiah 60 is a map showing us how.
Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the Glory of the Lord rises and appears over you. All nations will come to your light and mighty kings will come to see your radiance. (v2)
What does that have to do with us in contemporary times today? When you are living an authentic testimony, when you are living your story as God has provided it to you, people are drawn to that.
People are drawn to real stories of real people who have been through real junk and real pain and have traveled through to the other side; where we are not bitter and angry and hateful and resentful and ornery about it, but we have allowed God to transform our greatest pain into our greatest story.
God transforms pain into power as a conduit for His greatest blessings.
That is what Isaiah 60 is all about.
Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home, your eyes will shine, and your heart will thrill with joy, from around the world will come to you. Vast caravans of camels will converge on you. The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense. (v4)
This symbolic wording is talking about recompense, about restoration after you have experienced the pain. It’s talking about after the suffering has transformed you into someone who is willing to give back, someone who uses your testimony and your story to help others, to bring freedom. You remember, Isaiah 58 talks about bringing freedom to those who are in prison, to those who are into emotional bondage, to those who are in slavery.
In other words, he’s talking about a prison break! When we share our stories with others, when we proclaim liberty to captives — it brings salvation and healing and joy to our own souls in return.
Some people don’t grasp this biblical point. Some insist that, “If you’ve experienced trauma, you’re damaged goods. If you’ve been abused, and you see red flags in other situations, you must be paranoid. If you were ever assaulted, you should let other people do the talking, because your judgment is probably skewed.”
But Scripture rejects that perspective. Throughout the Bible, God empowers people who have experienced terrible trauma and survived profound pain; He lifts up those who have been delivered from difficulty. He specifically calls these survivors to minister to others who are suffering similar things. God equips those who have suffered for the purpose of comforting as they have been comforted.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. … For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. (2 Corinthians 1:4-7)
Apostle Paul says we experience God’s comfort, for a specific purpose. Why? So we can turn around and comfort others the way God comforted us. When we experience God’s comfort, He calls us to turn around and share that comfort forward, to pass comfort on.
If we haven’t experienced His comfort, we won’t know how to share it forward.
The logical inverse of this implies that if you have NOT been comforted by God for the pain someone else is suffering, then you’re limited in giving them comfort because you have no experiential capacity to share.
So what about those who shut down survivors of trauma, or domestic violence, or assault, or abuse, or emotional pain. What do you say when you see someone else telling survivors “Hey, you are way too damaged to help other people!”? What about those who try to silence discerning advocates by implying that they’re “paranoid because you went through that, and now you work with abuse survivors which just gives you secondary trauma.” How should you respond?
Start by pointing back to scripture where God says, “We comfort others the way He has comforted us.” Remind those who refuse to see danger signs, that part of God’s purpose in giving comfort, is share it. In other words, those who haven’t been through it personally should be called to recognize their limited outsider expertise.
Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth but the Glory of the Lord rises and appears… (v2)
Why? Because you are letting your light shine through what you have experienced.
When you do that…
regardless of the detractors,
regardless of those who say “You have no right, because you went through [whatever you went through] and it colored your opinion and you see the world as a broken and dangerous place.”
(Read Shine, My Darling – part 2)
Catch the YouTube podcast of this teaching here:
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and this post is one of a series providing resources addressing DV in the faith community. Increase your knowledge and understanding with fact videos, articles, live presentations, bible studies, and encouraging music playlists from Sarah McDugal on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.
More than anything else, I want to support you in your journey toward emotional healing as you leave your wilderness behind and learn to #liveWILD!