When I was a teenager, I remember my times of despair and I remember asking myself the question “Is there no balm in Gilead?” Granted, I was a very religious child. But I sincerely asked that question, which is in the book of Jeremiah. And I remember really longing for an answer from God.
Several years ago I wrote a book entitled, The Survivor’s Voice: Healing the Invisible Wounds of Violence and Abuse. Some people in my family were upset that I would so publicly talk about being abused by my father as a child. But, like every adult survivor of childhood abuse, I had to find my voice and tell my truth. An adult survivor knows that what has the most power to continue to destroy is keeping the secret. When you speak your truth, you are finally on the long journey of healing.
You see, those invisible wounds of abuse never go away. They may transform into scars of the soul, but you will never in this life be completely without them. That is why it is so important for survivors of abuse to open up the place of deep hurt and allow a healing balm to enter.
And what is that healing balm? It is two things: the comfort and understanding of friends and family who know, believe, and understand your truth; and the divine healing that comes from a loving and compassionate God.
The 30th Psalm speaks of that kind of divine healing with these words, “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,”
Adults who were abused as children must mourn their losses, not just once, but throughout their lives. They mourn the loss of innocence. They mourn the loss of critical family relationships. They mourn the loneliness that comes with keeping a secret for decades. They mourn the spiritual and emotional harm they have suffered. And some will mourn the inability to bear their own children because of so many years of chronic abuse.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the healing balm that is available for those who mourn:
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit;
So they may be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
– Isaiah 61:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Survivors of child abuse, please remember that “there is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole.”
Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?
– Jeremiah 8:22 King James Version (KJV)
Listen to the words of the hymn “Balm in Gilead” on YouTube: