Lately, I’ve been receiving emails and messages from readers, thanking me for addressing the topic of sexual abuse on this blog. Despite being a survivor myself, I sometimes feel woefully inadequate to offer comfort whenever people share their stories (though I very gladly do). These feelings of inadequacy come from the place inside of me that is still wounded, from a pain that occasionally throbs so deep that I wonder if healing is actually a thing. I know that it is. I catch glimpses of it at times. It’s the moments when I sink into the dark that I start to wonder.
Today, a reader messaged me with her story. She said she had reacted so badly to her abuse, she now wonders if God has left her. It is a sentiment I hear often. Survivors carry so much guilt and shame that it’s difficult to believe anyone, especially God, would agree to stick around.
I remember when I felt that way. I was about 18 and stuck in a really bad pattern of medicating my pain through inappropriate relationships. Utterly consumed by guilt, I would crawl to the altar nearly every Sunday and Wednesday night, sobbing myself breathless as I begged God to forgive me once again. God, if you’ll just forgive me this once more, I promise I won’t mess around with that guy again. I’ll be good. I’ll do right. I’ll serve you for as long as I live. Sometimes, it didn’t take more than an hour for me to break that promise.
I listened to a Ray Boltz song while growing up entitled “Does He Still Feel the Nails?” The song suggests that anytime a person sins, Jesus relives the pain of the cross. Every time I messed up, I imagined Jesus wincing and cringing on his throne in heaven. It broke my heart. I really, truly loved Jesus. So why couldn’t I stop hurting him??
Then one day, it dawned on me: Ray Boltz had gotten it wrong. Very wrong.
Jesus rose in victory over sin. He defeated death, hell and the grave. He paid that price to bring me into his love. My failures weren’t torturing him or driving him away. Just the opposite: my brokenness was drawing him to me, like the physician who cannot stand idly by while someone lies bleeding in the street.
God spoke to me and told me to abandon the guilt trip. Just follow Him. Stop worrying about how much I was messing up and get on the path to healing. I needed help and He would get me there. However long that would take. He wasn’t going anywhere.
It was only when I accepted this grace that I was able to get free of that destructive cycle…and the shame it had heaped upon me.
If I have one word of advice for my fellow survivors, it is this: Don’t worry about God. He isn’t flinching in disgust at whatever dysfunction the abuse has thrown you into. He doesn’t need you to take care of Him or assuage His feelings. He is not served by human hands. His internal resources are limitless. You don’t have to carry Him; instead, He will carry you. The more broken you feel, the more He wants to attend to your wounds. He created you in purity, and that purity has not been lost. He can make you to shine with joy again.
Take as long as you need to heal. It might be years. It might be decades. Whatever it ends up being is ok. Your anger is ok. Your grief and questions and mistrust is ok. God is big enough to handle it. He just wants to love you.
Stop listening to the Pharisees who want to micromanage your response to the abuse and oppress you with more guilt. Their vision of God is so weak and petty, the don’t even hold out hope for themselves.
Fall into God’s grace. Simply be present in it. Don’t do; just be. You stand to inherit the earth.