Sarah E. Miller, “Hope and Healing in Recovering from Abuse,” Ensign, Sep 2008, 36–39
As a child, Emma (name has been changed) was abused. Now, as a 33-year-old mother of four, she quietly weeps in my office. “I don’t understand,” she stammers. “I try to be faithful, pay an honest tithe, attend church, and serve in callings. Why do I feel so worthless? Why can’t I feel God’s love?” As a Latter-day Saint psychotherapist living and practicing in the United Kingdom, I have witnessed this scenario repeatedly over the years as I have counseled abused Church members in a professional capacity.
Many of my clients, like Emma, currently live faithful lives but continue to struggle with the effects of abuse in their past. In some cases, they perceive Heavenly Father as remote, stern, critical, or condemning. They assume that they “deserved” the abuse, that it was somehow their fault. In other cases, they feel as though their experiences place them beyond the healing power of the Savior. Church activity can seem overwhelming to these individuals, often because they compare themselves with other members and develop feelings of inadequacy. “What’s wrong with me?” they ask. “Why do I feel so unworthy?” Faced with ramifications such as addictions, self-hatred, mental illnesses, or broken relationships, they are eager to find hope and rest, but sometimes they are unsure about how to do so......
“Why Did He Let This Happen?”
Clients frequently come to me feeling angry or resentful, asserting that a loving God would never have abandoned them to a fate of abuse. They perceive a lack of divine intervention as an indication of their personal unworthiness. However, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “There can be some who choose willfully to violate the commandments and harm you. … [But] the Lord has provided a way for you to overcome the destructive results of others’ acts against your will."
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