A Note from Chris Adams: Secrets are fun as a child, when you know something no one else does. Or maybe when it’s a secret between best friends and no one else. But messy secrets are not fun. They lead to confusion, fear, strongholds, and shame. Today Dr. Deb (First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA) shares what we can do as leaders to help women move past the secrets to healing.
People living messy lives do not like the people who know their secrets. The messier the lives, the more this is true. Fear of their secrets, dysfunctions, issues, sins, and mistakes being revealed may fuel an animosity toward the ones they have sought help from.
Sometimes, we want to un-hear the secret.
Sometimes, we may not even remember the secret. Life gets busy.
Sometimes, we do not understand the magnitude of the secret.
And let’s be honest: the people who come to see us for counseling are often not in the healthiest of places.
Ministry gets messy.
Why am I writing about this? Because women living in fear of their secrets being revealed are tempted to attack the secret holders in their lives. The attacks may be through gossip, pumping up a rumor, or a targeted swaying of influence. The attacks are not based on anything we have done. It’s simply because we are the secret holders.
It may not seem fair, but ministry is messy.
As leaders, here’s how we can be prepared for handling secrets:
- Stay prayed up.
- Remember this is not about us. We serve because we have been placed in a position to serve, have been called, and are equipped to do so. We do not serve for our self-promotion, how it makes us feel, or personal motives. We serve out of love of Christ and the earnest desire to see others come to know Him.
- We cannot prevent or predict what women in unhealthy places will do. Accept that. Unhealthy people do unhealthy things. Sometimes we get hurt.
- Understand how secrets work.
- Unhealthy secrets turn toxic. Just like mold in a dark, dank, and drafty basement, secrets grow and take over when shoved into darkness.
- Secrets do not have power, but they become powerful when used to manipulate and control others.
- Secrets bring fear with them. Fear of others knowing failures, shortcomings, and sins and thinking poorly of us.
- Unhealthy secrets are attractive; they hold power and are easy to share. But secrets are confidential, without a time limit or expiration on their confidentiality. They are only to be shared when someone is at risk of harm.
- If the secret is beyond our expertise to help, makes us uncomfortable, or puts us in a compromising situation, refer the secret giver to someone. Referring is not an admission of failure. It comes from a desire to find the best-qualified help for the person and all concerned.
Possessing messy secrets can be a burden. If we find ourselves being held captive by secrets we are keeping for others or fearfully walking on eggshells when we speak for fear of hinting at a secret shared, we have a secret problem. Help women seek out counsel to discover how to become free of the secrets, take some time away to refresh spiritually, and pray, asking God to give the freedom of forgetting the secrets.
Messy secrets come with ministry. But with prayer and balance, we can keep the secrets without the secrets keeping us captive.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.