We have this hope, and it is a BIG hope. We need not hope in ourselves, in our communities, in our institutions, in our jobs. Our hope is bigger and in someone greater. Our hope is God, the ever-faithful, ever-present, and never-failing.
Each day headlines bombard us with new tragedies. Darkness is always waiting to overshadow our sunny skies. Yet, in any turbulent times of our lives, our nation, and our world, isn’t it good to know we always have this hope? 🙂
To those who have been abused and who find this page, here’s what I want you to know:
If you go back through my blog and read the posts in chronological order, you will see the posts follow the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. The process isn’t linear; it’s a cyclical looping through the five stages. The posts show me confronting some dark, painful experiences. Confronting pain doesn’t mean living in the past or being stuck in the past. (People like to use Philippians 3:13 to claim we should forget the past; however, that interpretation is obviously short-sighted when taken in context, as Paul confronts his own past in verses 4-9 of the same chapter.)
Confronting painful pasts paves a clearer, pain-free path to the future. It allows us to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
God did not promise a world without darkness. He promised that He would be our light through the darkness. He said he would keep us safe and lead us through whatever dark truths we had to face. We may feel small, unworthy, and weak. However, God has promised that with Him we are more than conquerors. He will stay with us, strengthen us, and guide us if we let Him.
Healing from abuse means journeying into the the darkness and confronting it head-on.
Suppressing abuses to our person, asphyxiates truth, chokes our spirit, and stymies our growth in Christ. The thing is, suppression never actually silences abuse. Abuse is destructive, and if it is not dealt with head-on, it screams through a host of unhealthy, damaging effects–eating disorders, mood disorders, post traumatic stress, etc.
There is no short cut to take. Pain begs to be felt. Healing from abuse is very similar to processing grief. Depending on how family and community respond, there can be secondary victimization (e.g., victim blaming, spiritual abuse, etc.), and different grief to process. Healing is an epic quest. It requires facing our brokenness and braving the dark truth for us to reemerge in newness and light.
The good news is God is our helper, our guide through–we have HOPE. We can never return to our pre-abuse selves, but with God, we can reemerge with a new identity in His splendor, stronger and more resilient.
When I began this blog several years ago, I did not understand this journey. Know, while this blog visits all stages of grief in some shape or form, I was never in total darkness. There was always light. Even in the worst moments, I had hope–and the worst, most painful moments ALWAYS got better. The journey to healing is an epic quest, but there can be great joy, love, and peace at the end of the journey.
At first, I was like the reluctant Odysseus beginning my epic quest, imperfect, unworthy, and preferring my false comfort avoidance. I resisted what God wanted me to do, but God had other plans, and His will would be done.
I would describe the “call to adventure” as dragged from anonymity into the public, kicking and screaming. I detested the task, and was angry and hurt over the exposure (my painful past was something I’d worked hard to lay to rest, something I’d spent years overcoming).
God wouldn’t let up, and I knew speaking to anyone, family members, church leaders, friends, would mean crossing that threshold into the unknown. Even though others knew the truth (even whispered about it), I knew my speaking my own truth would likely disrupt the universe and rouse a “how dare you” contempt. I weighed the ridicule, stigma, humiliation, and dishonor against the pecking of my conscience. I begged God to choose someone else. I knew once I spoke the truth (yet again), there would be no turning back. God set off a chain of events communicating He wanted me to speak, even if speaking meant leaving all I’d “known.” (See the cycle below).
It was scary crossing into the unknown. The community closed ranks (without communicating with me), and I plunged into a cold lonely valley, much colder than I had expected. There was no love in that iciness. This was a journey into the underbelly of life, a confrontation of what lies beneath the mask of perfection and everyday pleasantries.
It required the ultimate challenge: a trip into the abyss, a vast, expansive void beyond the comfort zone. It was free-falling off the side of a building with no social structure as a security net. It was a test of faith requiring full trust in God alone.
What I learned: unless we face the abyss, our life becomes a sad, angry, bitter shadow of what it could have been.
In the world of Star Wars, I guess this is like Luke Skywalker’s entering Dagobah cave and facing the dark side. That place of dark, damp cold and confusion is a test, like the long test of Job in the Bible. If a person entered the cave without the right faith, she could descend into bitterness, hatred, and, yes, sin.
The abyss, the cave of confusion, killed my confidence in people. It revealed friends as foes, exposed people who I’d thought strong as fearful and cowardly. Worse, some people who I’d believed godly produced poisonous shadow fruits from cruel, self-serving attacks against me and my family members. Fruits called betrayal. Betrayal and disappointment tasted bitter and left me feeling very angry.
The devil was right there posing every challenge, offering every temptation. Anger and bitterness wanted to take root and resisting was hard. But seeing the fullness of a darkness I hated, I became more desperate for light. So I prayed, delved into scripture, and sought healthy objectivity, refusing to give way to Satan.
Death of dependency on people allows rebirth and power through Christ.
At this point, and after much wrestling with people’s expectations and conflicting messages, came revelation: My anger was born from pain, and my pain was born from love. Betrayal’s sting is sharper where there is strong love. Reason (a mind of Christ) helped me see these people were responding out of a need to protect their “binding” beliefs. What does this mean? It means they weren’t just protecting the person who abused me (as it seemed initially); their reactions were about protecting the “team,” the community. Binding beliefs overtook individual beliefs of biblical truth, fairness, justice, protecting our neighbors, and preventing harm. Their defensive reactions were survivalist, born from fear. My avoidance was survivalist, born from fear. I could empathize.
What I could not do is lie.
Some people actually wanted me to lie. Still want me to lie. And I cannot be a liar merely to give them false comfort. Lying is not reasonable.
I could not pray him better nor will him better, I could not be responsible for any additional harms, and I could not fix my friends’ “cognitive distortions.” I did not understand why it ever should have been my “personal” problem, my “private” responsibility. Expecting me to bear responsibility was not rational, legal, nor biblical. (The story of King David, Absalom, Amnon, and Tamar in the Bible shows how passing such responsibility on a non-consenting party has tragic consequences.)
That others wanted or want me to lie and bear that responsibility felt frustrating and pretty hopeless. How does one solve what seems unsolvable? The community could not grant the objectivity that truth (and God) required. This was the ultimate crucible challenge. Confusion flooded my mind with questions: What was right? What was good? What would make people happy? What would end pain? What would ensure safety? What would cause the least disruption? What would help and not hurt?
I wrestled with all of these. There were no easy answers. Had I been alone, despair may have overtaken me. However, I was not alone, and it turns out God is a much better problem-solver than me.
There was an Oracle of Wisdom–the Bible.
Revelation came from the mind of Christ. Truth cannot always please people. Truth and reason say no matter how often I forgive, my forgiveness does not fix what is broken in the person who harmed me (and who allegedly attempted to harm others, according to reports directly spoken to me by others who recounted details eerily similar to what I’d experienced without me relating those details to them).
People wanted “forgive and forget.” Cheap forgiveness at that. They wanted me to forgive 70 X 7, but they were wearing blinders. They forgot the necessary requirements of forgiveness from Luke 17: “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”
They couldn’t see through the lens of my experience, couldn’t see the person who had hurt me was still hurting, exposing to harm, trying to control and publicly humiliate. I could understand the root of their distortions, and I could forgive repeatedly, even 700 X 7 times, 7,000 X 7 times. I have never really held grudges, I accept humans make mistakes, and I am careful to consider multiple perspectives. However, even if I forgave 49,000 wrongs, I could not ignore truth nor pretend truth did not imply substantial risk for future harm.
I had HOPE, and I was never without light. God was always there.
I also had other helpers, “mentors.” Epic heroes often receive help from mentors during especially difficult trials. God placed such mentors in my path, and they boosted my strength and kept me pushing on (think of Katniss Everdeen’s well-timed packages from “sponsors” during the Hunger Games).
People sent amply-timed messages of encouragement and support. Some brave souls, shining the true light of Christ, withstood ridicule, kept communicating with me, shared scripture with me, prayed with me, offered me a smile, offered a kind gesture, sent me loving messages, showed me love. At my weakest, I saw God through these people. (I will forever thank God for these souls.)
When we overcome fear and conquer the abyss, we think and perceive differently–we enter harmony and are made whole.
In my post, A Little Leukemia, I discuss the rebirth that can occur from confronting darkness. The abyss is a crucible. In my own crucible, I felt battered. Distraught with grief, I was exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Avoiding people and places associated with my pain was easier than confronting and feeling the pain.
The person who abused me publicly resurrected old wounds, making avoidance nearly impossible. Yet, confronting the truth meant dousing those wounds in disinfecting light. Disinfectant is good for healing, but it stings like a beast at first. I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to endure, but I did. Bit by bit. I just kept moving, pushing forward despite uncertainty.
I kept my (single) eye on God and trusted He would fill my whole body with light. He did. I had perfect vision when He was my only light. With Him, I overcame each hard moment, each day, each negative emotion, each uncertainty. I developed new, healthier ways of coping (rather than classic avoidance). I embraced good and bad feelings, and I challenged negative thoughts (as a teacher, I called these “thought holes”).
In the “abyss” I found freedom and clarity.
God helped me see boldness is not haughtiness.
Confidence is not arrogance.
Assertiveness is not pride.
Truth is not egoism.
Modesty is not timidity.
Obedience is not repression.
Humility is not embarrassment.
Abnegation is not shame.
Sanctification is not confining, hindering, inhibiting, limiting, silencing, barring, decreasing, fettering, bridling, handicapping, encumbering, restricting, preventing, embargoing, stopping, dodging, avoiding, recoiling, shunning, eluding, escaping, detaining.
Sanctification is encouraging, aiding, liberating, supporting.
When one is sanctified, she is not vetoed, imprisoned, prohibited, rejected, repudiated, indicted, corrupted, adulterated, nor defiled.
The sanctified woman is empowered, endorsed, approved, blessed, dedicated, anointed.
I survived the “abyss” and had arrived at “atonement.” I was “at one” with God, and I could see who He wanted me to be. I could finally embrace the journey.
When “atoned” and reborn, we are ready for the return.
This is the BEST part. Freedom allows me to be who God created me to be. Released from others’ dominating and restrictive power, I may heal and allow God to develop my spiritual strengths. I may grow in Christ, serve Christ, and be a worthy disciple.
I am no longer shackled to another’s sins and evil deeds: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin….”
I am not responsible for, nor secret keeper to, another’s sins: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace…[B]eing then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.“
I can speak truth about evil, criminal deeds, knowing it is not the Lord’s will for his servants to conceal crime, knowing good servants of God do not use their “liberty” for a cloak of “maliciousness,” knowing truth honors God: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (1 Peter 2: 13-17).
(I can love and still acknowledge that the abuser’s making a trophy out of my name was a dark, evil deed of which he must still feel conviction and repent if he hopes to see heaven. For salvation cannot take root in unprepared soil. God can forgive all, but He will not forgive unless we confess all in lowliness and humility with a broken, contrite spirit. Truth is the necessary disinfectant. Withholding truth would damn this man’s soul to Hell. I have forgiven this man, but my forgiveness is a selfish thing that only serves me. My forgiving this man will not make him holy. Speaking the truth in love allows this man the chance at true holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.)
I am strengthened: “I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118: 5-6).
I can serve God freely and do His work without shame: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4: 18-19).
No other person shall possess, own, dominate, control, castigate, shame, devalue, nor destroy me, for I belong to God (who defends and protects me): “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” (Isaiah 43: 1-2).
We have this hope…
We don’t have to live in fear, for God is with us in triumph and tragedy. He catches every tear, and He never leaves us alone. No tear is cried in vain. From our pain, He creates purpose. We can rest knowing, not our will, but His will be done.
The epic journey through pain makes me think of “I Have This Hope” by 10th Avenue North. Take a listen at the link below.
Blessings and peace,
The Lesser Lights
As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?I don’t want to live in fear
I want to trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedyI have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let goBut sometimes my faith feels thin
Like the night will never end
Will You catch every tear
Or will You just leave me here?But I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go
So, whatever happens I will not be afraid
Cause You are closer than this breath that I take
You calm the storm when I hear You call my name
I still believe that one day I’ll see Your faceI have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fireYou’re with me and You won’t let go
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