As an introvert, I tend to process things internally. I choose my words carefully, and I often think about my words before I share them. I’m also careful about who I share my words with. Introverts usually aren’t the first ones to speak up, but God still created us with a voice that is meant to be heard.
For so many years, I wanted to speak about something that had happened in my life, but I couldn’t. The shame was so overwhelming that it silenced me. I could talk about a lot of things, but the words I needed to say the most would not come out.
The people around me had no idea I was internally struggling with thoughts such as, “No one will believe you.” “No one will ever love you.” “You’re not worthy of love.” “God doesn’t really care about you.” “It’s your fault.”
I still remember the night when I first spoke the words that I had been too ashamed to say for years. My heart felt like it was about to explode when I shared with a friend that I had been sexually abused as a child. Saying those words out loud for the first time was terrifying, but at the same time I felt a sense of relief. Not only did my friend believe me, but my words were met with love and compassion, and our friendship grew deeper.
That was the beginning of God helping me find my voice. A voice that had been silenced for so many years. The first time I spoke was more of a whisper. It would be a few years later until I felt like God wanted to fully restore my voice, as I began to have a strong desire to share my story to help others. The thought of that scared me, but I knew if it was truly from God that He would help me and would show me the steps to take. And He did.
Those steps involved walking through the doors of several support groups for survivors of sexual abuse and walking into a counselor’s office. They were hard steps to take, but I knew I was headed in the right direction.
Each time I spoke the truth of my abuse, my voice became stronger and the shame and guilt felt less overwhelming. I began to realize that the thoughts I had internally struggled with for years were lies. The abuse was not my fault. I am valuable and worthy of love. God cares about me and has a purpose for my life.
Hearing other survivors’ voices helped me realize that they too had been struggling with the exact same thoughts and emotions, especially the intense feelings of shame and guilt. The enemy had convinced us that we were alone…that no one else would understand.
We were like islands, surrounded by a sea of pain. Just as God spoke creation into existence, when we used our voices, bridges started to form. Instead of feeling isolated, our words and stories connected us. These connections brought hope, joy, and healing. They allowed us to see there were other islands around us that still needed a bridge. I wanted to use my voice to start building more bridges.
In her book, You Are Free, Rebekah Lyons says,
“He’ll redeem what was broken. Then he’ll equip you to tell your story – his story – so that you might set others free. Freedom is not just for the freed. Freedom is a gift that’s meant to be shared.”
God has brought redemption to my story. Six years ago, He gave me the desire to help other survivors of sexual abuse, and then He slowly began restoring my voice. Because of the bridges and connections that God has orchestrated over the past several years, it no longer feels like I’m surrounded by a sea of pain (even though the abuse still impacts me today).
Now, not only can I share my story, but I have the honor of being a leader in my church’s Restoration: Beauty From Ashes group. The desire God put into my heart six years ago has become a reality. Watching Him restore the voices of other survivors is an incredible sight to witness.
If you are a survivor of sexual abuse and feel silenced, know that your voice is important. It is meant to be heard. Finding your voice is often a process. It may take months or several years, and that’s ok. Start with a trusted loved one, counselor, or support group. Tell someone.
And as your voice gets stronger, remember to look for the islands. Look for those who may feel alone in their pain. Use your words to build bridges and connect with them. Encourage them. Love them. Let them know that you’ll be ready to listen whenever they are ready to share.
What if God wanted to use your voice to help someone else find theirs?
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.