We help lift shame when we take interest in all of our friend’s life by celebrating the good, supporting the hard, and being interested in the mundane.
- Warm, patient eye contact from a friend who knows you is a simple and powerful way to mitigate the effects of shame.
Fifth, redemption is as eager to see suffering comforted as it is to see sin forgiven, because it reflects the heart of a Good Father.
As you unpack the implications of the gospel with your friend, make sure you highlight God’s compassion for our suffering as much as God’s remedy for our sin.
- It may be helpful for you to review this article that briefly examines how the gospel speaks to guilt, shame and regret in unique ways for each experience.
- If you don’t feel as equipped on the suffering side of the ministry spectrum, consider this extended article on suffering or Ed Welch’s book Shame Interrupted.
A question that is likely to come up as you have these conversations is, “What do I do with the memories? I mean, I am grateful God has forgiven me for the things I did. And it is easier to receive God’s forgiveness now that I better understand his tenderness toward my suffering. But I can’t forget the things that happened and the things I did. I feel haunted by my past.”
- The best resource I have come across on this subject is Miroslav Volf’s book The End of Memory. It is a difficult question, so his book is not an easy read. But Volf’s book is the most rich writing I have found on the question of, “What do I do with my memories after forgiveness…memories of others’ sin I have forgiven, or my sin that God has forgiven?”
- A good resource more specifically written for the experience of abortion is Forgiven and Set Free: A Post-Abortion Bible Study for Women by Linda Cochrane.
Another question that emerges is, “How do we prioritize whether to focus on the sexual sin or abortion grief/trauma first?” Answering this question requires a triage model for care. My recommendation is that unless the sexual sin is actively (present tense) at an addictive level, begin with processing the traumatic experience of abortion, while providing accountability to mitigate any ongoing destructive influence from sexual sin.
If the sexual sin reached an addictive level, then the False Love study provides a gospel-centered, step-work process for pursuing purity that, if your friend is married, also has a complementing True Betrayal companion study (because we don’t want to assume personal purity, by itself, creates marital harmony after the pain of sexual addiction or adultery). However, if your friend’s struggle is with unrelenting guilt for their past sexual sin, a book like Doug Rosenau’s Soul Virgins is helpful.
As you move toward the more subject-specific part of these conversations, the guidance offered would need to be increasingly tailored to the unique variables of each situation. This is when formal counseling can be beneficial. Below are a few links to frequently asked questions in situations where personal or pastoral conversations may lead to a recommendation of formal counseling.
- How do I know if my life struggle merits counseling?
- How do I find a counselor who is a good match for my needs?
- What is the difference between meeting with a pastor and a formal counselor?
- How would the counseling provided by a pastoral counselor compare to a licensed counselor?
- How do I find a good counselor in [name of city]?
One final word: Don’t let the possibility that formal counseling might be beneficial intimidate you out of being a good friend or pastor. Often we think about “making a referral” as “passing the baton.” This feels awkward because it feels like abandoning our friend in their time of need. Instead, if formal counseling would be beneficial, think of it as “adding another member to your friend’s care team.” It allows you to play the supportive role of a good friend, without having to be an “expert” in an area that your life experience does not allow you to do so with confidence.
This article originally appeared here.