Dear Survivor: Your victories are worth celebrating.

Dear Survivor

Dear Fellow Survivor,

I’d like to share with you a victory I experienced this morning. I was able to work out at the gym and shower and dress in the locker room without falling into a spiral of mental and emotional turmoil.

Yes, that’s my victory.

I know it doesn’t seem like much. Countless people go to the gym, work out, shower, and dress in the locker room daily without falling into a spiral of mental and emotional turmoil. But I struggle with body dysmorphia because of the abuse I experienced. My mind constantly compares my body to other men’s bodies and finds my body lacking. Other men can trigger a fear response in me, even when they are some of my closest friends. So, for me, making it successfully through the gym and the locker room is a victory, even if, for most other people, it’s nothing worth noticing, much less celebrating.

Perhaps you have victories like mine. Perhaps after a lot of hard work, you can finally receive a hug from another person without your skin crawling. Maybe you can read a book again without flashing back to how the abuse you experienced happened while the person who abused you read you a bedtime story. Perhaps you can now go to bed without being terrified of the nightmares that might assault you when you close your eyes. None of these things seems at all remarkable to someone who has not experienced what you’ve experienced. But for you, these are victories—and hard-won victories at that.

They remind me of the victories of God’s people that the writer to the Hebrews celebrates at the end of chapter 11 of his letter: “There were others who were tortured… Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment… They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated” (Heb 11:35–37).

You may be a bit confused right now. How are these things victories? It sounds as if these people were just enduring; they were just surviving. That’s not victorious, is it? Well, God counts what these people did as victories. Yes, their enduring and surviving was a victory. It was a victory because God’s people endured and survived with the strength God gave them. In fact, God so valued these people and their faithful endurance that the writer to the Hebrews concludes, “The world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews 11:38).

My dear fellow survivor, your Savior values you and every victory you accomplish with the strength that he gives you. Jesus celebrates every hug you receive, every book you read, and every time you lay your head down on your pillow in peace, just as he celebrated the patient endurance of the people that the writer to the Hebrews talked about. He even celebrates every time I survive the gym and the locker room. I pray that you will join your Savior in celebrating all your victories, no matter how small they may seem. Remember that you belong to Jesus. And that alone makes your every victory worth celebrating.

In Christ,
Your Brother Survivor

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This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Dear Fellow Survivor