“Your faith has made you well,” Jesus says to a woman who seeks out his healing presence. “Go in peace, and be healed…” (Mark 5:34). Many people who have suffered as a result of disease, divorce, death or other tragedies speak to faith’s capacity to heal and comfort. In her first book, Women Healing from Abuse: Meditations for Finding Peace, Nicole Sotelo highlights resources from the Christian tradition with the hope that they may provide spiritual healing to women who have suffered from different forms of abuse, whether they be economic, emotional, physical, and/or sexual.
Sotelo—who also serves as a contributing editor for BustedHalo.com— reports that approximately one-third experience some form of abuse. Many resources such as support groups, crisis and counseling centers, and shelters already exist for women who have experienced abuse but as important as these places are, carving out some prayer time during the day can also help women on the road to recovery. This spiritual approach is one that Sotelo chooses to highlight in her book. What originated as a master’s thesis at Harvard Divinity School is now a sensitively written, structured resource that offers numerous options for someone who wants to focus their prayer life on healing.
“This book is created so that you may come to experience the power of prayer and begin to pray in a way that will help you to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually,” Sotelo writes.
or protect us.”
Sotelo’s slim volume features four weeks’ worth of prayers that can easily be incorporated into a daily practice. Each daily prayer includes a scripture passage, scriptural reflection, an invitation to personal quiet time, a prayer and a suggested practice or action. Her sensitivity, deep spirituality and theological knowledge are on full display in all of these reflections, and the connections she makes between scripture, abuse, and healing are especially masterful. In one of the early reflections she reflects on the scriptural passage in which Jesus enters the disciples’ locked room after his death. Just as the terrified disciples sought a safe place, she writes, so do victims of abuse. “The only one to enter the sanctuary was Christ, who brought them the gift of peace. As women who have experienced and witnessed suffering, we need to find safe space like the disciples.”
Sotelo also highlights the experiences of many biblical women such as Hagar in the Old Testament and Mary Magdalene, women whose stories are often forgotten or misinterpreted in mainstream Christian faith communities.
Women Healing from Abuse is especially sensitive to those who have experienced pain as a result of church teachings or scripture passages. Sotelo reminds readers that, though they may feel distant from God during this debilitating time, God is indeed present in the midst of their pain.
“It is important to remember that what happened occurred at the hands of the person who abused you and not by the will of God,” she writes. “God’s presence remains when others have failed to stand with us, respect us or protect us.”
Having known several faith-filled women who have suffered from the emotional and spiritual aftermath of abuse, Women Healing from Abuse promises to have a significant impact on those who seek healing in its pages, in large part because it reflects an author with a generous and empathetic heart as well as a theologically trained mind. I hope to see many copies in parishes, campus ministry libraries and bookstores.