Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.Psalm 27:10
If there was ever a time for frank talk in the church about relationships it’s now. Too often those in ministry spend years perfecting the right formulas, obtaining advanced degrees, and developing a gospel-marketing strategy when what most people need is straight truth about the condition of our world and the hope beyond it.
Many survivors of domestic violence, childhood abuse, stalking, sexual assault, and other dark evils want nothing to do with Christianity. Millions of us have asked ourselves, “If God is good, how could He allow that to happen to me?” It’s a valid question. If we are to recognize and respect an omniscient being not only as our Creator but a loving Father, shouldn’t He be showing us more of what a loving father looks like?
Why God ever allowed evil into His beautiful garden is an ancient question. C.S. Lewis said that evil comes from the abuse of free will. If we had not been given the ability to think for ourselves and make our own decisions, we would essentially be robots who could never truly experience life or love. So we live as free-thinking, self aware amphibians, part seen and part unseen, in a world corrupted by our forebears’ temptations and bad choices. Whether you believe in the story of the Fall or not, evil exists, and we are surrounded by it.
As children untold numbers of us had abusive parents. They may have been psychological terrorists to whose standards we could never measure up. They could have been children themselves, unable to make adult decisions or sustain mature relationships. They could have been physically violent or sexually violated us. Although few of us could see it at the time, this dysfunction and abuse, these violations of our beings and boundaries led us into other unhealthy relationships. And in those new attempts to be loved we may have found something far more evil.
At first he appeared charming, exciting, interested in our hopes and dreams. Or she was irresistibly attractive, the belle of the ball, the one men fought over. We appeared to fall in love, we dated, we got married, and once we were legally obligated to stay the nightmare emerged in full force. The words cut, the blows came, the cheating started, and the money disappeared. Periods of violence were followed with apologies and seemingly cozy closeness until the storm cycle started over again.
In time we realized that this was not going to get better because our abuser felt entitled to behave in vicious and violent ways. They were also surrounded by people who told them they were doing nothing wrong. So we decided to formulate an escape strategy and try to make it out alive. We took the pets or children and fled to unexpected places in our bid to get out for good. There were advocates, court orders, police, and those abusers stalked us and prolonged court actions to maintain control.
In all this, we ask, where was God? Why do some live and some die? Why didn’t He stop this from happening in the first place? There are some answers that we might not get until we’re standing in His presence. The book of Job recounts a tale of horrific undeserved suffering and I’m sure Job didn’t get all his questions answered in this life either. I do know that, as T.D. Jakes says and I’ve quoted many times, He intends to turn your misery into your ministry. As your situation stabilizes and you reach a point in your healing at which you trust God to avenge these wrongs rather than yourself, you will be given opportunities to lead others out of abuse.
But where was God when he had a gun to your head and was threatening to kill the children? Where was He when he cut you off from the bank account and you had no money to start over? Where did the loving Father go when she was out all night with someone else and her friends were covering for her? It’s quite easy to see why survivors of these horrors and this extreme disrespect don’t believe in God, or don’t believe there is a God at all. They feel abandoned.
I don’t know why He allowed these things. He didn’t cause them, but He allowed them. It doesn’t seem right or fair, I know. Survivors wrestle terribly with this. But I promise you that you are still here, reading this, because you still have a mission on this earth. Your story is far from done. You have been through the fire and come out as a survivor with a unique perspective. Some people who haven’t been through it just aren’t going to get it. You do. And that’s what makes you so powerful. You have the kind of empathy– the ability to stand in others’ shoes– that can only come from those particular battles.
Where was God? He was right there watching your tears fall as you didn’t understand how someone could hurt you so badly knowing how badly you’d been hurt before. He was the one who gave you the strength to scream “enough!” and separate from the toxic relationship that was eating you alive. He protected you, He carried you, He connected you with the right people and the right resources. If you’re not there yet, please see our Resources page to get connected. Every ounce of strength, every rational thought, the very will to survive are gifts from Him. He intends to use every pain for His purposes, every wound to His glory. And if God is love, then what greater glory could our stories be used for?
Returning to the issue of our parents or the people who raised us, as in our romantic relationships we may have felt abandoned. Left behind. Not good enough. Unworthy. Rejected, spat upon, and like a terrible mistake. So when a person grows up feeling unwanted, tries to find love as an adult and finds themselves unwanted again, it’s easy to connect the dots between the childhood trauma and adult abuse. Unfortunately, it can be even easier to connect dots that aren’t there to God. We tend to equate our earthly fathers or mothers with our Heavenly one. “If my father treated me like dirt,” we say, “then God didn’t care either. He’s just as bad.”
God is good, all the time. We’ve heard that, correct? It can seem so cliche. We don’t want to accept an absolute truth like that given the dark spiritual forces in this world and the sadistic, homicidal choices human beings make. But when we stop tying God’s identity to our violators and experiences, when we acknowledge that He really is who He says He is, then we are free to fully experience His love. We are able to see ourselves as He sees us, worthy, fiercely and passionately loved, victorious. We cannot assign attributes and blame to God that are inconsistent with love if we wish to truly see and experience Him.
Do you see the chain reaction? Abuse and assault lead can lead to assuming that God does not care, is bad, or nonexistent. So we spend years mad at God, finding ourselves slipping deeper and deeper into a pit of hopelessness. Instead, take all of the unconscionable acts you’ve experienced, put them into a box, and set them on a shelf for a moment. Look at God only. Tell Him how you feel. He knows, but He wants to talk to you and He invented listening. And keep telling Him. Get it all out there. Then see what opportunities He gives you to move forward away from the pain. He speaks to different people in different ways. The more time you spend waiting for His answers, the more you’ll realize that He’s on your side.
For those who can’t get past losing a loved one to this violence or the injustices you have personally faced, I challenge you to do one thing today that will help others in similar situations. It might be a while before you decide to talk to God, but there is unquestionably one thing you can do today to make a difference for someone else. Give someone a number to a domestic violence hotline. Offer to listen to a coworker. Post a meaningful quote on Facebook. Or dream big. Start a campaign, a nonprofit, a petition. Do you see? He is using your pain to save lives even when you’re not ready to believe. You are doing His work.
One thing about God– He gave you free will. He doesn’t force anyone to believe in Him or love Him. That’s your journey, your decision to make. Your doubts and reservations are normal, especially if you’ve survived abuse and/or assault. Just know that as you scrutinize the details of your life looking for evidence of Him, you will continually find that He was there all along. Even if you can’t see that yet, you might very well realize that He’s there now and He wants you to stop others from experiencing the same things.
If you can run with nothing else, run with that, that you have been empowered to make a difference for someone else today. Then in serving others, you will find yourself showing others love, and realizing that the source of all strength, all good, all beauty, is Love Himself. It all leads back to Someone who has waited patiently to take your hand so that you may have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10).
No matter who your father or mother or guardian or husband or wife or attacker was, they are not God. The true God is asking you to run to Him and let Him love you as you were always meant to be loved.
A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
God sets the solitary in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;
But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.Psalm 68:5-6
©2019 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.