Sometimes the sins of others can steal our peace. Perhaps you were abused as a child and cannot shake the sense that this experience still defines you. Or perhaps you were betrayed recently by someone you trusted. What should you do? How can you discover God’s peace?
We know what doesn’t work—repressing the memory, pretending it never happened. As Miroslav Volf, the author of The End of Memory, points out, “An unexpressed traumatic experience is like an invasive pathogen.” Left to fester, it will make us sick.
Volf goes on to say that however we have been sinned against, we must remember the offense rightly. Among other things, that means we should neither downplay nor exaggerate what happened. Why? Because truth is the only thing that gives access to the event, the memory of which needs to be healed. Distortions perpetrate the hurt, spreading it to others and enabling it to lodge more deeply in our souls.
This work of remembering is difficult to do alone. It helps greatly if we can confide in a trusted, mature Christian. Ultimately, our memories of abuse or mistreatment need to be placed within the context of the central memory of our faith—the memory of Jesus’ death and resurrection. At the foot of the cross we remember that both we and our abusers are sinners. The Resurrection reminds us that we have a good future—one that even our abusers may come to share, provided they repent and seek God’s grace.
If this all sounds hard, it is. But what is the alternative? A life less than it should be, hemmed in by bitterness and fear? If you are haunted by sins that have been done against you, ask God to help you take the first step by remembering rightly. Seek him and he will provide a way to heal.