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 STUDY ARTICLE 20

Providing Comfort for Victims of Abuse

Providing Comfort for Victims of Abuse

“The God of all comfort . . . comforts us in all our trials.”​—2 COR. 1:3, 4.

SONG 134 Children Are a Trust From God

PREVIEW *

1-2. (a) What example shows that humans have a natural need for comfort and an ability to provide it? (b) How are some children hurt?

HUMANS have a natural need for comfort and a remarkable ability to provide it. For instance, when a little child falls and skins his knee while playing, he may run to Mommy or Daddy, crying. The parents cannot heal the wound, but they can comfort the child. They may ask what happened, wipe away his tears, offer soothing words and affection, and perhaps apply some medicine or a bandage. Before long, the child stops crying and may even resume playing. In time, the wound will heal.

2 Sometimes, though, children are hurt in far worse ways. Some are sexually abused. The abuse can be inflicted on a single occasion, or it may go on for years. In either case, the abuse can leave deep emotional scars. In some cases, the offender is caught and punished. In others, the abuser may seem to escape justice. But even if justice is swift, the harmful effects of the abuse may last well into adulthood.

3. As mentioned at 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4, what is Jehovah’s will, and what questions will we address?

3 If a Christian who was abused as a child still struggles with emotional pain as an adult, what help is available? (Read 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.) Clearly, it is Jehovah’s will that his sheep receive the love and comfort they need. So let us address three questions: (1) Why may those who have endured child abuse need comfort? (2) Who can provide the comfort needed? (3) How can we offer comfort effectively?

 WHY IS COMFORT NEEDED?

4-5. (a) Why is it important to realize that children differ from adults? (b) How may abuse affect a child’s ability to trust others?

4 For some adults who suffered childhood abuse, comfort may still be needed even though many years have passed. Why? In order to understand, we must first realize that children are very different from adults. A child is often affected in ways that are quite different from the ways that an adult might be affected by mistreatment. Consider some examples.

5 Children need to form close, trusting bonds with those who raise them and care for them. Such bonds make children feel secure and teach them to trust others who love them. (Ps. 22:9) Sadly, abuse most often occurs in the home, and close family members and family friends are common perpetrators. Breaking a child’s trust in this way can make it hard for that child to trust others, even years later.

6. Why is sexual abuse cruel and harmful?

6 Children are vulnerable, and sexual abuse is cruel and harmful. Subjecting children to sexual acts many years before they are physically, emotionally, or mentally ready for sex within marriage can do great harm. Abuse can badly distort their view of sex, of themselves, or of anyone who seeks to be close to them.

7. (a) Why may a devious abuser find it easy to fool a child, and how might the abuser do so? (b) What may be the results of such lies?

7 Children are not fully developed in their ability to think, to reason, or to recognize and avoid danger. (1 Cor. 13:11) So it is all too easy for devious abusers to deceive children. Abusers teach children dangerous lies, such as the idea that the child is to blame, that the abuse must be kept secret, that no one will listen or care if the child reports the abuse, or that sexual acts between an adult and a child are actually normal expressions of sincere love. Such lies can distort a child’s thinking ability and perception of truth for many years. Such a child may grow up thinking of herself or himself as damaged, defiled, and unworthy of love or comfort.

8. Why can we be sure that Jehovah can provide comfort to those who have been hurt?

8 It is not surprising, then, that sexual abuse can cause lasting harm. How evil this crime is! Such widespread abuse is clear evidence that we are living in the last days, a time when many have “no natural affection” and when “wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5, 13) Satan’s designs are truly evil, and it is sad when humans act in a way that pleases the Devil. However, Jehovah is far stronger than Satan or his servants. He is never blind to Satan’s tactics. We can be sure that Jehovah is fully aware of the pain we experience, and he can provide the comfort we need. We are blessed to serve “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trials so that we may be able to comfort others in any sort of trial with the comfort that we receive from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3, 4) Whom, though, does Jehovah use to offer comfort?

 WHO CAN PROVIDE COMFORT?

9. According to King David’s words found at Psalm 27:10, what will Jehovah do for those who are abandoned by their own family?

9 Those who have been abandoned by parents or victimized by people close to them may especially need comfort. The psalmist David knew that Jehovah is the most reliable provider of comfort. (Read Psalm 27:10.) David had faith that Jehovah takes in those who have been rejected by their loved ones. How does Jehovah do so? He uses his faithful human servants. Our fellow worshippers of Jehovah are our spiritual family. For instance, Jesus spoke of those who joined him in worshipping Jehovah as his brothers, sisters, and mother.​—Matt. 12:48-50.

10. How did the apostle Paul describe his work as an elder?

10 Consider an example of such familylike relationships in the Christian congregation. The apostle Paul was a hardworking, faithful elder. He set a fine example, and he was even inspired to tell others to imitate him as he imitated Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1) Note how Paul once described his work as an elder: “We became gentle in your midst, as when a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” (1 Thess. 2:7) Loyal elders today can likewise use tender, gentle words as they offer Scriptural comfort to those in need.

Mature Christian sisters are often very effective at giving comfort (See paragraph 11) *

11. What shows that elders are not the only ones who can give comfort?

11 Are elders the only ones who can give comfort to victims of abuse? No. All of us have a responsibility to “keep comforting one another.” (1 Thess. 4:18) Mature Christian sisters can be especially encouraging to sisters in need of comfort. Fittingly, Jehovah God likened himself to a mother who comforts her son. (Isa. 66:13) The Bible includes examples of women who provided comfort  to those in distress. (Job 42:11) How delighted Jehovah is to see Christian women today offering comfort to fellow sisters who struggle with emotional pain! In some cases, an elder or two may discreetly ask a mature sister if she is in a position to help a suffering sister in that way. *

HOW CAN WE OFFER COMFORT?

12. What are we careful not to do?

12 Of course, we are careful not to pry into matters that a fellow Christian prefers to keep private. (1 Thess. 4:11) What, though, can we do for those who need and want help and comfort? Let us consider five Scriptural ways in which we may offer comfort.

13. As related at 1 Kings 19:5-8, what did Jehovah’s angel do for Elijah, and how might we imitate the angel?

13 Offer practical help. When the prophet Elijah was on the run for his life, he was so discouraged that he wished for death. Jehovah sent a mighty angel to visit that discouraged man. The angel provided very practical help. He gave Elijah a hot meal and encouraged him to eat. (Read 1 Kings 19:5-8.) That account illustrates a useful truth: Sometimes a simple act of practical kindness can do a great deal of good. Perhaps a meal, a modest gift, or a thoughtful card would assure a downhearted brother or sister of our love and concern. If we feel uncomfortable discussing very personal or painful subjects, perhaps we can still give such practical help.

14. What lesson can we learn from the account about Elijah?

14 Make distressed ones feel safe and comfortable. We may learn another lesson from the account about Elijah. Jehovah miraculously gave the prophet the help he needed to go all the way to Mount Horeb. Perhaps at that remote spot, where Jehovah had made his covenant with his people centuries earlier, Elijah felt safe. He may have felt that he was, at last, far out of the reach of those who sought to do him harm. What lesson may we draw? If we want to offer comfort to victims of abuse, we may need first to help them feel safe. For instance, elders should keep in mind that a distressed sister may feel safer and more comfortable having a cup of tea in a relaxed setting at home than she would in a Kingdom Hall conference room. Another might feel the opposite.

We can provide healing by listening patiently, praying earnestly, and choosing comforting words (See paragraphs 15-20) *

15-16. What is involved in being a good listener?

15 Be a good listener. The Bible offers this clear advice: “Everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak.” (Jas. 1:19) Are we good listeners? We might tend to think of listening as a passive act​—as if it means nothing more than staying still, looking at the person, and saying nothing. But good listening involves more than that. For example, Elijah finally poured out his anguished feelings to Jehovah, and Jehovah truly listened. Jehovah perceived that Elijah was scared, felt alone, and thought that all his work had been for nothing. Jehovah lovingly addressed each concern. He showed that he had truly listened to Elijah.​—1 Ki. 19:9-11, 15-18.

 16 How can we show sympathy and tender compassion​—which are expressions of love—​while listening? At times, a few tactful, warm words may show how we feel. You might say: “I am so sorry that happened to you! No child should be treated that way!” Perhaps you could ask a question or two to make sure you understand what the anguished friend is saying. You might ask, “Can you please help me understand what you mean?” or “When you said that, I concluded . . . Did I get it right?” Such loving expressions may assure the person that you are truly listening, trying to make sure that you understand.​—1 Cor. 13:4, 7.

17. Why should we be patient and “slow to speak”?

17 Be careful, though, to remain “slow to speak.” Do not interrupt to give advice or to correct the person’s thinking. And be patient! When Elijah finally poured out his heart to Jehovah, he spoke in strong terms, expressing anguish. Later, after Jehovah strengthened Elijah’s faith, the man poured out his feelings again, using the very same words. (1 Ki. 19:9, 10, 13, 14) The lesson? Sometimes distressed ones need to pour out their heart more than once. Like Jehovah, we want to listen patiently. Rather than trying to provide solutions, we offer sympathy and tender compassion.​—1 Pet. 3:8.

18. How can our prayers prove to be comforting to those who are in pain?

18 Pray earnestly with the one in pain. Those who are very low in spirits may feel unable to pray. A person may feel unworthy to approach Jehovah. If we want to comfort such a person, we may offer a prayer with that one, using his or her name. We may express to Jehovah how dear the downhearted one  is to us and to the congregation. We may ask Jehovah to soothe and comfort that precious sheep of his. Prayers of that kind can be profoundly comforting.​—Jas. 5:16.

19. What might help us to prepare to comfort someone?

19 Choose words that heal and console. Think before you speak. Thoughtless words can hurt. Kind words can heal. (Prov. 12:18) So pray to Jehovah for help to find kind, comforting, soothing words. Keep in mind that no words are more powerful than Jehovah’s own expressions contained in the Bible.​—Heb. 4:12.

20. Of what may bad experiences have convinced some, and of what do we want to remind them?

20 Past abuse may have convinced some that they are dirty, worthless, or unloved​—even unlovable. What a terrible lie! So use the Scriptures to remind them of their true value in Jehovah’s eyes. (See the box “ Comfort From the Scriptures.”) Remember how an angel kindly strengthened the prophet Daniel when he was feeling weak and low. Jehovah wanted that dear man to know that he was precious. (Dan. 10:2, 11, 19) Likewise, our anguished brothers and sisters are precious to Jehovah!

21. What future awaits all unrepentant wrongdoers, but what should we all be resolved to do in the meanwhile?

21 When we comfort others, we remind them of Jehovah’s love. And we must never forget that Jehovah is also a God of justice. No wicked act of abuse is really hidden. Jehovah sees all, and he will not let unrepentant wrongdoers go unpunished. (Num. 14:18) Meanwhile, let us do all we can to show love to those who have experienced abuse. Moreover, how comforting it is to know that Jehovah will permanently heal all those who have been abused by Satan and his world! Soon, these painful things will never again come up into the mind or heart.​—Isa. 65:17.

SONG 109 Love Intensely From the Heart

^ par. 5 Those who have endured sexual abuse in childhood may face challenges even years later. This article will help us to understand why. We will also consider who may be able to comfort such ones. Finally, we will discuss some effective ways in which we can provide comfort.

^ par. 11 Whether an individual who has suffered abuse should seek qualified professional help is a personal decision.

^ par. 76 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A mature sister comforts a sister who is in emotional pain.

^ par. 78 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Two elders visit the sister who is in distress. She has invited the mature sister to be present.