“My wife was sexually abused as a child.” If you’ve made that statement, or if you could make that statement, then you have likely also asked numerous “when” questions.
- When will my wife get over her depression?
- When will she start trusting me?
- When will her nightmares stop?
- When will she not always feel like hiding?
- When will we have sexual intimacy again?
- When will she stop being so angry?
Husbands are not the only ones asking “when” questions. Their wives who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse are wondering when as well. They long for hope and healing.
“When” questions indicate times of waiting, and none of us likes waiting. We are time-conscious, impatient people. Computer and smart phone developers make lots of money creating faster technology because they know we don’t like to wait.
How can we wait in a way that does not raise our anxiety or the anxiety of those around us? Since snapping our fingers or taking a pill or verbal insistence do not bring our waiting to an end, what can we do?
First of all, healthy navigation through waiting is not solely about what we do. If bringing our waiting to an end was about something we can do, chances are you’ve already done it. And your increased frustration level is due to all the things you’ve tried to do yet you are still waiting.
Waiting is an opportunity for development in what we can be. Instead of anxiety while we wait, there can be contentment. Consider this remarkable claim by the Apostle Paul: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). I know that your situation is tough and that whether you are a survivor of sexual abuse or the husband of a survivor, your situation seems unbearable at times. But consider the fact that Paul wrote these words while in prison. He was the victim of an unjust system and no date had been set for his release.
Contentment is not about being complacent. Paul was not the kind of guy who would say, “What will be will be.” To have claimed such a mantra would have been to resign himself to the godless stoicism of his day. Paul was anything but godless.
Contentment is independent of circumstances. So Paul could have said, “I have learned to live independent of whatever circumstances I am in,” or in other words, “I have learned that I don’t have to be controlled by circumstances.” Contentment means that our happiness is not dependent on what happens to us. Remember, Paul was in prison. Stop for a moment and feel the weight of the chains that bound him.
What was Paul’s source of contentment? After further amplifying on all the diverse circumstances in which he had found contentment, Paul said, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (v. 13).
The word Paul used for “strength” was the Greek word from which we get dynamite or dynamo. Paul wasn’t talking about dynamite. You know what dynamite does! It makes a lot of noise, raises a lot of dust, and leaves an absolute mess. I know some husbands who have been dynamite in their impatience.
Rather than being dynamite, we can experience dynamo. Dynamite is a power that happens once. Dynamo is ongoing power or strength. The key to our contentment is knowing that we can do all things through Christ who is Dynamo within us, continually infusing us with strength to endure and triumph over the circumstances around us.
E. Stanley Jones was an often-quoted Methodist missionary. He said, “I’m a happy man because my happiness is not dependent on happenings, but upon the joy of belonging to Him [Christ], whatever happens.”
As stated earlier, waiting is not solely about what we do. But here are three constructive actions you can take:
- Guard your expectations and assumptions
None of us can expect to go through life untouched by the frailties of human life. Though suffering is difficult to understand, it is against reason to think that we will escape the outcomes from the ruin that sin has brought upon God’s creatures and creation. Some suffer from cancer, some from Alzheimer’s, some from alcoholism, and some from the injustices that have been inflicted by others such as childhood sexual abuse.
Is it fair? No! But it is real.
- Don’t live a life of comparison.
The Psalmist David said, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways” (Psalm 37:7).
Is there some switch I can turn off so that I do not fret? Not necessarily. But I’ve learned that when I stop comparing my situation with others’ situations, the fretting often ceases. When we compare our circumstances with that of others, we are making a lot of assumptions about their situation. The truth is, we really don’t know their situation. Have you ever heard people telling about their family reunions as though it was the best event ever? Later on, however, if you are close enough to the person, you also hear that some of the relatives don’t get along and avoid each other. Your friend just didn’t want to make that the main thing when they first told you about the reunion; and that’s ok. But no family is perfect. No one and no family has the perfect situation. We all have messes that we are trying to clean up.
- Believe that Christ will be dynamo within you
“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NLT).