I have learned to suffer with joy.
This past October, in a talk that resonated deeply with me, President Russell M. Nelson addressed the members of the LDS church, speaking about Joy and Spiritual Survival. (click here to read full text) In our women’s support group I asked the members if they’ve had any success feeling joy during their journey of recovering from abuse. For the most part, everyone had a hard time attaching the word joy to their journey of healing. This is understandable as the pain that is a part of abuse recovery is excruciating! There are days, weeks, months and even years of agony and the depression and anxiety that accompany this journey tend to swallow up the aspects of our lives that can qualify as joy.
So how can we find joy? What are some things that we can do now, even in the midst of the agony of abuse, to find joy?
PRAY – Begin by asking God to open your eyes and heart to the moments that can fall into the joy category. – In Mark 9:17-27 we read a story about a father who brought his son to the Savior for healing. This son was burdened by something that was invisible to the eye, a burden of pain that could only be removed through the power of Christ. It had caused this boy and his family agony of mind and spirit and had been going on for years. Both the Father and his child must’ve been exhausted. The pain that they had both been experiencing had been going on for so long that there must’ve been days and days with no more than a glimmer of hope, and very often, no hope at all. Those years had been a trial of his faith. The amount of faith that he had this particular day was enough to get him to the Savior but he doubted if his faith was enough to be deserving of the healing that he was seeking.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
The memories of my abuse resurfaced when my oldest daughter was 6 weeks old, this past Saturday she turned 15. For almost 16 years I have suffered intermittently with feelings of fear, anger, anxiety, depression, uncertainty, self-doubt and wavering faith. There were days when I thought the pain would never end. More than once, I borrowed from the words of this father and in my prayers cried for help believing. I needed help believing that I would survive the trials that had accosted me. I needed help believing that the pain would end and that my children would be okay. I needed help finding joy and peace, and I needed help believing that I would find love again. Every single time I’ve asked for help believing, I have received it. In and of itself in the midst of so much pain and suffering, experiencing these answers to this specific prayer have brought joy into my life.
COUNT – One of our favorite hymns in the church is “Count Your Blessings”.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost
Count your many blessings name them one by one
And if will surprise you what the Lord has done
After you have prayed for eyes to see where joy may be hidden in your life, start a gratitude journal. Start by writing down one thing each day that you are grateful for: indoor plumbing, sunshine, a friendly smile, chocolate, music, etc. As you start developing this habit, your eyes will be opened to more and more things that God has sent your way in a merciful attempt at infusing your grief ridden life with joy. The more you do this, the easier it becomes until eventually, gratitude will be a way of life. The truth is that Gods heart is broken because of the pain that you are going through. He wants to ease your suffering and that’s why I can promise you that there are blessings in your life, there are tidbits of joy sprinkled throughout your days. Fear, sorrow, depression and anxiety mask those sprinkles, counting your blessings can help reveal them.
CRY – Wait, what? How do tears help us find joy? Tears are like a car wash for the heart. As survivors of abuse, there is a huge amount of pain and negative energy that clogs up the soul until allowed to release through tears or other productive forms of expression. I am grateful for tears – there are few things that make me feel better about life than the ability to have a good, honest cry. Don’t be afraid that once you start, you won’t stop. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel after giving yourself permission to acknowledge your pain through tears.
TALK – There are almost countless ways to find someone to talk to in this day and age. You may have a family member, friend, neighbor or fellow church member who you feel comfortable talking to, but that can sometimes be hit and miss. Childhood abuse is one of those subjects that makes those unfamiliar with that particular brand of pain, uncomfortable. If you don’t have someone who can or will sit with you, there are crisis lines, blog pages and online support groups that can lend support. During the darkest days of my healing, I felt incredibly alone and isolated. It wasn’t until I utilized social media support groups that I found the kind of support that I needed to heal. On the home page of this site you will find links to a few support groups that I started with the goal of helping others feel less alone. Any Facebook, Instagram or Google search will yield countless results, all of which will send you in the right direction when looking for online support
LEARN – Every moment of difficulty has meaning and is intended for the betterment of our soul. There are lessons to be learned and wisdom to be gleaned from your pain. Allow God to bless you with wisdom that will benefit you for the rest of your life. This is a simple choice with profound consequences. If you choose to open your heart and mind to Gods instruction, you will become more like Christ every day. You will become a beacon of light and strength to all who know you. Your suffering will sanctify your life allowing you to bless your children and your children’s children.
WAIT – If you aren’t feeling joy today, don’t give up. This journey of healing is so difficult and exhausting. Clinical depression is one of the most common experiences that accompany abuse issues and it snuffs out the ability to feel joy. Make the decision to go through the motions of praying, counting, crying and talking and choose to hold onto the faith that the flat feeling of depression won’t last forever. Be diligent and long-suffering, seek professional help and be willing to try new things. Different foods, exercise, music, art – these are all things that can help break the clouds that descend when depression takes hold.
In the darkest days of my healing journey, I was numb and had lost interest in all of the things that used to bring me joy. These 5 things are what taught me to feel joy, even in the midst of my suffering. I still have hard days and moments when I remember what I’ve been trough and all that I’ve lost it and it takes my breath away – but those moments continue to become fewer and further between. Through the power of The Atonement, I found a foundation of healing that continues to sustain me throughout each day. Christ is there to take away your pain but part of arriving at the point of being ready to hand your pain to Him is learning how to feel joy when things are still so difficult. It’s possible, I promise you this. Hang in there, you’re not alone! –Nicole
#sharegoodness #lds #breakingabuse