8.5 min
By: Pray Tan

Journey Together: Creating a Safe Space for Each Other

Healing from the wounds of the past is important for our well-being. But it’s hard to open up when you’ve had a horrible experience or a shameful past. How can we be a safe space for each other in the church community?

I suffered from abuse and horrors that I was fearful to share with anyone. Every story of trauma is unique, but there is a theme that runs through all of them—fear of stepping into the light, and the fear of not being believed when we do.

Recall the story of the paralyzed man in Luke 5. He suffered in pain, without hope for many years. When hope did come in the person of Jesus Christ, he had no ability to reach Jesus by himself. And so he probably imagined he would continue to languish on his sickbed—alone and in need—just as he had for years.

Yet help did come, in the form of four friends who sought to bring him and lay him before Jesus Christ, believing for his healing. It was no easy feat. Because of the crowd, they had to carry him up to the roof, break through the tiles, and assist him down, right in front of Jesus to receive forgiveness and healing.  

And did you notice that Jesus saw their faith? It wasn’t the man on the mat who had faith. His faith isn’t even mentioned. Instead, his friends had faith in what Jesus could do for him, and they were willing to do for their suffering friend what he couldn’t do alone: Get him to Jesus.

All of that hauling, carrying, lifting, peeling back the roofing, and doing the hard labor and the balancing act of lowering a friend from roof to floor—all of these take time, patience, and rolling-up-the-sleeves kind of hard work. And it can be grueling. 

But as the church, we’ve got to carry one another to Jesus. We have been called to share our burdens with one another (Galatians 6:2). We need to be patient with each other and realize we need more than an “I’ll pray for you” memo. We need to have the grit and determination to get each other to Jesus for healing and recovery.

People who are broken long for a safe place and an opportunity for freedom, but many have silently stuffed their pain and hid—believing the lies of the enemy that it was their fault. 

“I am worthless.”

“I deserve the abuse.”

“No one would believe me.“

“This is too shameful.”

“The church would make a public display of my story.”

“I am beyond help.”

So, they have suffered in silence.

I suffered for long years and I knew that I couldn’t fix myself, but God provided a safe place for me through a small group of people in church. And when I felt safe, I wanted to create a safe space for others who are struggling as well.

Maybe I can’t fix my friend, but I can help to carry them to Jesus.

How can we be that safe friend for the broken and wounded?

  1. If you know someone who has suffered from any abuse, ask how you might walk alongside them. Ask them how the church can better help them. Encourage them to consider seeking professional help for their trauma.
  1. “You can’t expect a drowning person to manage their rescue.” Be sensitive to that fact. Don’t demean someone’s helplessness. Remember with compassion that they are drowning. 
  1. Be prepared for—and committed to—the long haul. Finding healing from abuse is not possible through a “quick fix.” Walking with a wounded soul will not be easy. It requires time, patience, and much grace. 
  1. Realize that your abused friend will likely have a skewed perspective of God and may even be angry with Him. Don’t preach to them, but in creative ways, introduce them to the wonder and goodness of God. Love them as God loves them because God’s heart is for the broken and oppressed.
  1. Allow them to experience “normal” with you. You can have fun online meet-ups with no pressure of a serious conversation or a quiet meal with meaningful and affirming conversation. Let your hangouts be organic.
  1. Demonstrate respect and compassion to them, not debilitating pity that demeans them even further.
  1. Don’t view them as a “mission” or  “project.” They’ve been used and should never be used again—especially not in Christ’s name.
  1. Be careful to assist them in their recovery without encouraging an unhealthy dependence on you. Be on guard that you do not function as a “savior,” but rather continually point them to the ultimate Source of fulfillment, Jesus Christ.
  1. Cultivate an environment which shows to those who are hiding that it is safe to be open. We need to be trustworthy with the information given us in confidence.
  1. Lastly, as hard as it is for us to look in the mirror and admit our own trauma and sinfulness, we need to look. We need to see what we’ve missed or what we’ve hidden. We need to wake up to the fact that pride can easily invade our heart to minister. We need to operate in humility and grace so that we can be sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.

I pray for the day when everyone in the Church will take up the mat of those who suffer from trauma and abuse and carry others to Christ—because the traumatized are often too weary to make it alone. 

Because of the gospel, each one of us has experienced receiving unconditional love and acceptance regardless of any guilt, shame, or pain we have experienced in the past. We also have the assurance that our value and significance will not change regardless of any shameful experience we may still experience.  

The gospel is precisely the reason the wounded and the hurting should see the church as a safe place—where men and women can step into the light without fear of judgment or abandonment.  

About the author
Pray Tan

Pray loves to read, dresses according to her mood, and aims to help people help themselves. She’s a volunteer at Victory Fort and is a product of campus ministry.

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