When you’ve been hurt, I believe there are two you need: validation and permission. Validation tells you that, yes, something painful has happened to you or you’ve struggled with something that’s taken a lot from you. Permission allows you to move forward when you don’t believe you have the right to.

Today I want to talk about validation. I lived in silence for years about my home life, mostly because I wasn’t aware that it was different from anyone else’s. I lived with a mentally unhealthy mother who was emotionally and verbally abusive, often withholding attention as a means of punishment, and punishment was unpredictable and came on a whim. I never knew when to expect it, so I anticipated it constantly.

Even after I learned that this was not normal parenting behavior, it didn’t make me feel any better. And for the longest time, I thought I wanted pity. It took me a few years to realize that pity wasn’t very satisfying and not especially forthcoming when no one knew what I’d gone through. Through years of therapy, I felt sorry for myself when what I was really looking for was acknowledgement that what I’d gone through was, indeed, abnormal and that it was painful. I needed validation so I could start healing.

As I said, though, validation is hard to come by when no one knows what needs to be validated. So often, we don’t talk about the pain of our past (or present, even) because we don’t want to appear pathetic or vulnerable. No one who has felt weak wants to appear weak. We want to appear fearless and seamless when we may very likely be very broken. We keep our pain in the dark, hidden.

But here’s the thing: There is no healing as long as our pain is hidden. Ephesians 5:13-14 tell us “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. I believe this is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” As long as our pain and any shame that goes along with it are kept in the dark, they’re in Satan’s domain. He can continue to use them to destroy our relationships and self-image.

But if we shine the light of Christ on what is hidden, we can be healed of that pain and shame. We can heal our relationships. Best of all, we can have a self-image that reflects who we really are – children of God. And how incredible would it be to see yourself as the child of God, rather than the child of a parent who hurt you? Ultimately, we have been made in God’s image. What a lovely, beautiful image that is!

So whether you endured years of unspeakable abuse or someone simply hurt your feelings today, don’t be ashamed or afraid to shine the light of Christ on your pain. It wasn’t your fault, and the one who hurt you can’t heal you the way God can. Let God dispel the darkness that Satan delights in. Let the Lord do a good work in you today and begin living the life he wants for you – a life that glorifies him.