While one-on-one conversation and prayer by phone or email is a better way to walk you through the healing process, the initial steps to healing include the following (although not necessarily in order or exhaustive!):
1. Ask God for forgiveness. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” By asking God for forgiveness, you are asking Him to cleanse you from your sins—whatever they may be—related to the pastoral sexual abuse or not. Asking for forgiveness from God does not change the fact that the pastor (or spiritual leader) is responsible and that you are a victim of abuse and exploitation. It does, however, open the avenue for the Lord to hear your prayers and to work in your life. In Psalm 66:18, King David states, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” In many cases, although a victim, lies were told, adultery was committed, false witness was borne (albeit all under the context of abuse)…these are all things that we must confess and for which we must seek God’s forgiveness. There is never any harm is seeking God’s forgiveness at any and at all times.
2. Accept God’s forgiveness for yourself. What we mean by this is for you to allow yourself to accept God’s forgiveness and believe that you have been forgiven. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Once you’re forgiven, there’s no need for you to continue to beat yourself up over your past experiences or behaviour. Jesus has promised to give you a new heart and, when you confess and repent, you become a new creature in Christ. You may also want to read this article about forgiveness.
3. Tell your spouse (unless your spouse is physically abusive and to do so would place you in imminent danger)! For tips on how to handle this, see “How do I tell my husband?”
4. Trust completely in God. This should actually be number one but, considering the type of abuse you have just suffered, you will no doubt have mixed feelings about God for a while still. Psalm 40:4 says, “Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.” And, Psalm 118:8 declares, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” God understands your anger and pain. He is patient and He loves you. ALWAYS!
5. Immerse yourself in God’s Word (the Bible) and let Him speak to you through it. He will heal you spiritually and emotionally. John 6:63 tells us, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” And, in Matthew 4:4 Jesus says, “…It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Here are some additional Bible Promises and Other Quotes!
6. Forgive your perpetrator. Please note that this does NOT mean that you should reconcile or maintain a friendship/relationship of any kind with the person who abused you. Forgiveness means letting go and allowing God to vindicate you and bring about justice in His time and way, as well as punishment for the person who has harmed you. In many cases, reconciliation is neither helpful nor appropriate. Forgiveness is a process and, if you ask God to make you willing to forgive, He will help you. Do not allow others to pressure you to forgive if you are not ready.