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  • Sanyade Okoli

The Depth of Deep Issues

A story of God’s healing from the pain of sexual abuse


Some healings are instant, and some are journeys. From my experience, the healing from sexual abuse is a journey, a long journey. Not because God is unable to heal us instantly from the wounds but because the wounds, being so deep, have all sorts of far reaching ramifications.


I was sexually abused as a child by two different men. Over the years, I have observed that quite often people who have been abused were abused by more than one person. The first was an old (as in old gray beard) driver who worked for our family. My younger brother and I had accompanied our older sister to her school to collect her examination results. She went into the school to get them and left my brother and I in the car with the driver. Whilst we were alone with him, the driver made me kiss him. I still remember the feeling of his beard - scratchy. Afterwards he warned me that if I told anyone of it, I would die.


I remember the day I told my older sister. It was months later. I cowered in one corner of the kitchen as I told her, half expecting to drop dead as he had said. I didn’t.


Then I was sexually abused by a young man who went to the school where my mum had been a teacher. He came from a difficult background, so she had felt compassion for him and brought him home to live with us. He abused me for a period of time. I can’t tell you how long it went on for and how old I was exactly but I was definitely under the age of ten.


You see, that’s the thing about abuse. You bury it. You push down the memories, the pain, the emotions. Yet the fruit is there. You may not know the root, but the fruit is there - feelings of guilt, of shame, of fragility, and on and on. It’s there. It’s just that often enough you don’t know why you feel the way you feel. Sometimes you don’t even know how you feel; you just know that all is not well with you.


So fast forward to me being at university (I was probably about eighteen or nineteen) and I was having a conversation with a friend and she said, “So many women that I know have been abused.” And I replied in shock at her statement, “Really?! I don’t know anyone who has been abused.” As soon as I said it something dropped into my heart, “You were!”


A bolt from nowhere. I had gone from “not knowing anyone who had been abused” to remembering that I had been sexually molested, not once but over a period of time.


I think I must have continued to suppress the memories for another few years because the next thing I remember on the subject was telling my parents about it when I was about twenty-one. What I recall most vividly about that was my dad saying something along the lines of, “There, there; let’s not make a fuss about it. Westerners are the ones who make a fuss about such things.”


Please don’t judge my dad. We come from societies that are only now beginning to acknowledge emotional pain and mental health challenges, and the role they play in our lives. Until recently we didn’t talk about such things. We didn’t know how to deal with such things. They were the skeletons in so many homes yet left firmly in the closets. Causing all manner of havoc but left completely undealt with. The emotional cancers; all too prevalent but never to be spoken of. Too much secrecy! No more! The enemy works best in darkness, underneath the hidden things. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”


I choose light so that, like Jesus, I too can be the light of the world. So, for another few years I bumbled along emotionally. The memories and pain would come in waves and I would do what I had learnt to do so well over the years - suppress them.


Eventually, at the age of twenty-four I could keep the lid on things no longer. God, in His mercy, led me to a Christian group counseling session for women who had suffered sexual abuse (please note that I have deliberately been avoiding the label “victim”. For me, to use the word gives the abusers continued power over me and I choose not to do so).


My healing journey commenced through these sessions (about six to eight weekly sessions with nine or so other women) and continues today more than twenty years later. It was interesting for me to see that my first experience of God as a Healer was as a Healer of emotions. He showed Himself to me as one who cared not just about my spirit man but my whole being - spirit, soul, and body.


I cannot begin to explain in full how, over the years, God has gone into the very core of my being and poured out His healing balm. He has healed me, then healed me and then healed me some more.


For anyone who has been through the experience of sexual abuse (or any other painful experience for that matter) please take it to the Father. Don’t try to handle it alone. Don’t try to pretend it didn’t happen. If it happened, it happened but there is no experience and no pain for which Jesus did not pay the price in full.


Back to the story. So, from the group sessions I learnt for the first time that many aspects of what I had come to think as “my personality” where typical traits of people who had been abused. I was just blown away as I sat in a room with all these other women of various ages and backgrounds who had so many behavioral traits in common. Not because God had made us that way, but through our painful experiences we had learnt to cope in similar ways. One of such behaviors I remember was this ability to live in an “inner world”. A world where you fantasized about things, had long conversations with people in your head, had fights with people in your head. But it all remained compressed in your inner world.


I also learnt that the guilt I felt about my abuse was not mine. Despite having only been a child, the enemy had deceived me into thinking that I had been culpable in my abuse. That I was partly to blame. My fault. I had asked for it. I had wanted it. Of course, with such thoughts come shame. With shame comes the desire to cover one’s self, to hide, not to be seen. How the devil can lie ehn!


I am immensely grateful to God for the measure of healing and deliverance I received through those sessions. In hindsight it was interesting to note that the Lord led me to the sessions shortly after I started dating my husband. He had “checked it” and concluded that He had better start His healing work on me fast before I wrecked His beloved son, my life, and my destiny 😊).


This experience had opened me up to the concept of inner healing. Close to ten years ago the Lord then led me to take a few short courses at Ellel Ministries in the UK (Freedom from Fear and Dealing with Rejection). As I was there, I just knew strongly that we needed inner healing ministries in West Africa but the only place on the continent they operated was in South Africa. So, when several years later I was told about an inner healing training session being held by the Lapis Lazuli Ministries I signed up excitedly. They were teaching about the Bethel Sozo ministry and I just knew this was for me (see www.bethelsozonetworknigeria.org/ for more information ). I now serve with the ministry and am a big “Sozo Evangelist” (you can’t convince me that all the world’s problems can’t be solved by us all having Sozo sessions 😊).


Let me back up again for a bit. Having enjoyed my measure of healing for a long while, at the start of 2014 the Lord told me, “I am going to do heart surgery on you”. And heart surgery He did 😊. He first led me to read a book, The Wounded Heart by Dr Dan B. Allender, that had been mentioned in my group counseling session all those years ago, but I had never read. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who has been abused. For readers in Nigeria, I bought it at Laterna Bookshop. This book opened my eyes to the hydra-headed beast that sexual abuse is and all the various facets of our lives that it can affect. Better still, it exposed so many of the lies that we come to believe following the abuse and shares God’s truth. Again, I will repeat, there is no pain and no experience that, when handed to God, He cannot heal. None!


I remember sitting at a salon reading the book one day and pausing to quietly cry out, “But God, why did you allow it to happen?!” As soon as I said it, I heard back, “Because I told Myself, ‘I can use that!’”. It is important that I slay a big lie at this point. God never causes anyone to be abused. He can never and will never author such a thing. The violation of anyone, sexual or otherwise, is evil and in God there is no evil. For some reason however, He does not always stop such things from occurring. He knows why. I, on the other hand, know that He does cause all things - good and bad - to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I also know that He is an awesome Father who so desires to fellowship with us and invites us to come aside and ask Him all the questions we have on this and every other issue. He may not always answer our questions when we want and how we want but He is always good and always loving.


Later that year I had my first Sozo. I ended up reliving the experiences. I cried ehn! It went deeeeep and the tears flowed from the very depths of my soul. But they were healing tears. I asked Jesus where He was when I was being abused and He showed me that He was right there, feeling my pain. I thank God for the deep deep healing I received on that day. Going forward, the abuse and the memories of it no longer had power over me. I could talk about it and not cry. I could talk about it from a place of strength, to bring encouragement to others.


Fast forward to today. I was talking to the Lord about why I found it difficult to obey His leadings to share the things He asks me to share. As I searched my heart on the matter I realised that I had been believing the lie that I would be left exposed; vulnerable. That God would push me out there and leave me open to ridicule. I asked Him where I had learnt the lie from. Can you guess?! Yes, the abuse. I had sub-consciously believed that my dad had not protected me from the abusers (I also don’t use the word “my” with reference to the abusers as they do not belong to me) and had left me vulnerable and exposed to be violated. It’s important for me to state clearly that my dad had not actively done anything to promote the abuse... life happened. However, the experience had led me to believe the lie that God would leave me vulnerable and exposed; that He wouldn’t protect me from hurt or harm. Lies! So, what’s the truth? I shall tell you at the end 😊.


Think of abuse as clothing you with many layers, ugly raggedy layers. Some heavier than others. Some more obvious than others. Some more wretched than others. Layers nevertheless that dull the beautiful shine of the light within you. What the Lord wants us to do, invites us to do, implores us to do, is to come to Him. Come to Him as we are and invite Him to remove the layers. Don’t hide them from Him. Don’t wrap your arms tight seeking to hold on to the familiar rags. Allow Him, in His way and in His time, to remove them; layer by layer; in a way that only He knows how. And watch. Watch the beautiful butterfly emerge from the God-led process of metamorphosis.


So, what was my truth? I asked God and He led me back to words He had given me earlier this morning. He really meant it when He said that before I call, He answers. In this case, before I asked, He had answered; I didn’t even realize. That, my friend, is His level of faithfulness. As I received the words there was such a strong sense of God’s love surrounding me.


I love you.

I desire you so much.

Don’t be alarmed by all the changes.

The stripping away.

The changes here and there.

I am preparing you.

Get ready! Get ready! Get ready!

Enjoy the ride.

Don’t fear the twists and curves.


I had an image of me dancing with Him and Him saying:


Relax! Let go completely!

Allow Me to lead the dance. I am the Lord of the dance.

Together we shall create a beautiful dance that will bless all who see it.

Trust Me completely. Don’t be scared when I ask you to do things.

I am a good God.

I wouldn’t embarrass you.

I cover.


Look to Me and Me alone.

Your Papa!

The One who loves you.

The One who delights in you.

The One who takes pleasure in you.

The One who calls you His beloved.

The One who calls you His treasure.

The One.


You’ve read my story; you’ve read my truth. I now urge you to go to your Father in heaven and ask Him to shine the torch on the lies you have been believing due to the abuse and to reveal His truth to you. And of course, get a Sozo! 😉

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