I’ve sat in coffee shops, on Zoom, in Instagram direct messages, and on my grey thrifted couch in my apartment, hearing a variation of the same story over and over. When women say the words out loud to me, taking a shaky breath before they plunge in, I feel a hundred different things: tenderness towards this section of their story, grief over the pain they’ve been caused, and pride for the step of courage they’ve taken in speaking their story out loud.
After I shared my article last year on (in)courage about beginning the journey of healing after experiencing sexual assault, I’ve talked to a lot of women (and some men) who share this sliver of my story.
Over and over, after these women have been courageous enough to speak their story out loud, they’ve often asked me, “But when does the pain stop? When will the healing kick in?”
I’m not a counsellor, and more than anything, I’d encourage you to find someone trusted to speak with. But for years, I felt this same way — frustrated with myself for getting sucked back into the pain, angry for “not being able to get over it.” I told this to a therapist once. I told her I felt broken because I kept feeling so much pain. Why wasn’t I healing the way I thought I should be?
I asked her if it would always be this way, and she told me healing can look like a spiral.
“Often we think of healing as one straight line. The problem with that is, we easily become discouraged because it seems as though we take steps backward,” she told me. Her hair was long and dark, her dress the same. “If we look at healing like a spiral then we can see we’re actually always moving forward. But just because we are in the spiral doesn’t mean we don’t feel the pain.”
I stared at the picture she had drawn — the shape of a spiral on the otherwise blank page.
“The spiral seems like a longer journey than the line,” I told her.
She laughed. “It is.”
Maybe for some of us, healing is more of a journey than a moment. I remember sitting in a hospital chemotherapy suite with my mom, seven years ago. I couldn’t comprehend how something that made her so sick could also be healing her. I wanted her healing to be the same as the woman in Mark 5 — for my mom to touch the hem of Jesus and be immediately healed. It ended up looking like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. My mother’s healing hurt.
I think healing often hurts. If your healing is anything like mine, then the spiral metaphor my counsellor gave might ring true for you. Often my healing feels like a spiral, looping round and round, some days feeling right side up, and other days feeling completely upside down.
But no matter what, I’m healing.
I praise God for the moments of immediate healing, but I’m learning to praise God when healing is slower too. Healing — whether immediate or long — is always a miracle.
It’s a miracle, not just because we are healing, but because Jesus is with us for every second of it. Healing doesn’t mean we revert back to who we were before. We carry those scars and those wounds along with us, even as we heal. Even Jesus, after He entered death and rose again, carried the scars of His past.
Healing is a miracle because Jesus never makes us do it alone. By His wounds we are healed, His scarred body covering ours, and I am reminded that in every moment of my pain, He was and is with me.
If your healing journey feels akin to a spiral, know this: Jesus is walking that spiral with you. You are still moving forward. You are healing.
I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Matthew 11:28-30, of Jesus asking, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
We can rest in Jesus, even as we walk through our spiral of healing. We can keep company with Him as we heal, linking arms with Jesus, knowing He’s already gone ahead of us. We are healing because Jesus is with us.
And no matter what, He’s never letting you go.Leave a Comment
Ruth Mills says
What a tremendous comfort Jesus with us really is. I easily take it for granted & have to confess my sin but the awe & wonder of His presence is amazing especially in our spiraled journey! Bless you sweet sister for your courage & encouragement.
Rosemary Gibson says
God is still speaking to us in modern-day words and voices. God knew the exact words I needed to hear this morning for encouragement to keep moving forward from my spot on my spiral path.
I’ve not suffered sexual abuse but I have suffered betrayal and infidelity and now multiple episodes of physical pain-as I move forward in my call to be an ordained minister. I don’t know where you are in this universe but thank you for the courage to write about your journey. You have been a blessing to me this morning. I’m going to share your story and words in an upcoming sermon if you don’t mind. Thank you and all of the blessings to you as you continue to write and encourage others.
Brenda M. Russell says
This is such a blessing this morning. October is Breast Health Awareness Month. Many have struggled with disease, disorders and disability and I happen to be a member of this Club. No initiation needed, just have breath in your body. See we live in a broken society which does not focus on matters that can take away a person’s smile and agility. The truth is somewhat disguised most days. For example, you look nice in that color, your hair is very attractive, your family must be very proud of your accomplishments and where are you going to college. These statements are not bad they are good comments. But just in case you don’t have the right answer one day, then what?
No one ever told me that life can be a very hard and seemingly unfair journey. I don’t recall being taught that even when you are in pain, you are learning something and someone else is watching you and they are learning something also. Healing can take a lifetime? I never even thought of healing that way. If we are Believers, we are Children of the Most High God. We have a great inheritance and reward being prepared for us because of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. So, I will have to look at being healed from disease, disorders, disability, carnality, jealousy, envy, strife, lies, emotional pain and abusive and toxic relationships.
What a Journey, you know what, that’s why Jesus walks this journey with us every day and every step of the way. I am really learning so much this morning. I know it’s new to me and I need a new perspective because that can assist me in walking a better path and embracing all my opportunities of blessings and encouragement along with kindness.
God is so wise. He even conceals matters that we are not ready to believe.
Thank You Lord for teaching me to be a better student of Your Grace and Mercy. Amen
Kellie Johnson says
This is beautifully written and I will use the illustration with others that you’ve shared here. I’m a visual person and the journey of healing moving along like a spiral is just perfect. May I even add that a trip down a spiral can bring dizziness and confusion and feel scary because you don’t know what feelings or emotions can come around each new turn. Thank goodness God not only travels the road of healing with us, but He knows that we need to keep moving through it-a spiral won’t let you stall for long. Thank you for this!
Love this! Thank you for sharing, Aliza!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Aliza thanks you for sharing your story again. I love you for being so honest. I don’t know if anything happened to me when I was only at toddler. Not 50. But every now and then it used to come to mind. Did this happen or not. Was just in my mind. But my Husband said something must have happened. For it to keep coming up to your mind. Then I shared my story of how I feel with our Salvation Army Offer. She was so good to me. I told her what keep coming to my mind. I don’t know if it just me I told her or did it happen. My Salvation Army Offer said. She believed it something could have happened. Or it would not keep coming into my mind. So a good few years ago I can’t remember how many. She came out to our home. Prayed with me. Said no matter if it happened or not. Your going to have to Forgive the person. Even if it just in your mind. Or it did happen you are telling what God has put in your mind. To get you healed from it. So I did what my Salvation Army Offer said. I prayed for God to help me forgive the person. Even if it happened or didn’t happen. So I remember feeling so much better after that. It felt this weight lift of my shoulders. My Salvation Army Offer said. Dawn you not forget what is in your mind about this. Even if happened or didn’t. But you be glad you have forgiven the person. You will with God help be able to heal. I think it could be the reason I never wanted kids. Now married 28 past in June this year to a brilliant man. Who lovee for who I am. I know God put us together. He said if you don’t want kids that is ok. We both got either that is all that matters. I was so touched at him saying this. Since my Salvation Army Offer prayed with me and talked to me about it. Plus had me forgive the person. Even as I said if happened or it didn’t. It just was something in my head. I have healed well. I don’t think about it at all. Or it doesn’t come into my head anymore. But I never forget the things that I think happened that came into my head. I am very grateful for my Salvation Army Offer. For being there and Praying for me. Telling me what I needed to do. To get the healing I needed. I am better person for it. God is good all the time and all the time God is good. As God helped me heal. Thank you again for sharing your story. Keeping you all incourage in my prayers. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
It is hard knowing my healing won’t be complete until I leave this earth since I lost my soulmate over nine years ago. And grief is a spiral but learning that joy and grief can coexist in the same heart really helped me! Thanks for sharing and bless you.
Dear Aliza, well said and well lived (it sounds like)! So glad you heard the right words when you needed them most. May you be richly blessed as you “spiral” forward!
Beautiful post. I love your image of “linking arms with Jesus,” just as we might with a really close friend, because, He wants to be close to us as our friend!
Praying for you as you continue to heal.
Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving next weekend.
I love the spiral concept. And it is very true healing is a path of ups and downs and some times we wish we had never started the process. It is like opening Pandora’s box at times. I think facing reality and allowing ourselves to experience our feelings in a health way is what brings about healing and personal growth. It leads us to God’s path for us.
Gary Walbert says
Powerful and so very true.
Becky Keife says
Oh, Aliza. This is painful and beautiful and hope-giving and true. Thank you.
Kenneth Nek says
Beautiful encouragement! Thank you for pointing us to the Saviour as we are weak and wounded. For He is our strength and healing.
Nancy Ruegg says
I wish I’d known about the spiral metaphor years ago as I wondered also, “Why do I keep getting sucked back into the emotional pain? What is wrong with me that can’t just put this behind me and move on?” Such wisdom your counselor shared with you. For most of us healing IS a journey, not a moment. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Aliza.
Beth Williams says
Great post. Filled with life/hope giving information. Thanks for writing.
Heard a preacher say this: ‘Often God is more concerned about the battle He wants to win in us than the battle that we want Him to win for us.” Maybe healing is taking time because God is working in & through the pain. I think God is trying to heal your whole body-heart, mind, soul as well as the disease or other affliction. There may be lessons to learn like patience, perseverance & trust. Know this God is with you every step of your journey. He understands your pain & walks along side you. He feels your sadness, anger, frustration. Your complete healing is a miracle. Jesus will do it with you & for you in His perfect timing.
Wow I really wanted to hear this.am really struggling to heal from the loss of my mother,but now I understand it’s a spiral journey, each day at a time.