When I was just a girl, I prayed to receive Jesus as my Savior. My mom was teaching a Good News Club, and I understood for the first time that I was a sinner and Jesus loved me enough to die for me. I went to Sunday School and grew in my understanding of who Jesus was and how He wanted me to live for Him, love others, share Him. I loved to learn – especially about Jesus. In elementary, junior high and the beginning of high School I would share with others who Jesus was, that He loved them and they needed Him in their lives. It was more than another religion – it was a relationship with the living God.
And then the summer after 9th grade, my sexual abuse occurred during the month of July. My faith was shaken. My wedding night 7 years later made me realize how much it had affected my view of God. Until then it had been building steam, creating fear, making me feel insecure about who I was and how to make sense of what had happened to me. I was terrified of intimacy, of being touched without warning, kissed for too long, watched when I dressed or undressed. My husband knew my story but I was not prepared for how my faith would become legalistic, controlled, approval-based, fixing myself and others to protect us all from harm.
What had I done wrong? Where had He gone? Why me? Was He really there? Did He really care? Could He protect me? I must have done something to deserve what happened to me. God was punishing me for something or He just couldn’t protect me. The belief I once held about Him being good, loving me, and caring, had been smothered by the lies of fear, anger, and bitterness. THEY controlled my heart. I cried out to Him, but could not figure out why I was not getting the answers I so desperately thought I needed. Right or wrong, I now felt it was all up to me.
This was a terrifying place to be for someone who was once so sure of her relationship with the living God. My abuse had skewed my perception of who God was. He felt distant and unreachable. How do I fix myself so I can have His approval again? How do I protect myself from getting hurt again if He can’t or won’t?
I will be the very best at everything I do – the best Christian, the best wife, the best Mom, the best friend, the best gardener, etc. Only the best. Anything less meant I had failed and could not measure up to God’s standard for me – a standard to be kept so nothing bad would happen again. Anyone who got in the way of that was a threat to the goal, and needed to be fixed so they could see the importance of being perfect. All this in the guise of serving the Lord and loving the Lord, which I really believed I was doing.
I was chasing after an illusion of God and not who He really was. My heart and mind were trying to make sense of my abuse AND a loving, caring, sovereign Savior. I was relating to Him from a very broken place, because I could not reconcile these two truths. It affected how I prayed to Him, how I shared Him with others, why I told others about Him. They just didn’t understand what could happen when you do something wrong and God seems to be punishing you. I thought, “He is trying to make me strong and fix my defects. You too need to do this list of things and you will be ok.”
But everything was NOT ok…
Enter Matthew 18 and the question, “How can you not forgive someone something they did against you when the Lord has forgiven you for more than they have ever done to you?” Grace and truth – the answer to all my questions – blew up my heart and all the broken pieces fell back into their proper places. I finally had the ability to clearly see Jesus as the avenger of my hurt, the lover of my soul, and the One who makes me acceptable to God – whole. Fear and bitterness washed away and I asked the Lord for forgiveness of believing the lies I had believed and acted on for so long. I surrendered my right to fix my situation, my life, my family, my world. I realized broken people do broken things – God was not pleased with the fact that I had been so wrongly hurt, but would rightly judge my abuser in HIS time and way. I felt a ton lighter, the sight of my Savior once again beautiful to me, and I headed out to ask forgiveness from those I had hurt along the way. I had spent too much time being controlled by fear and bitterness. I was ready for the freedom of grace, truth, and forgiveness.
Abuse distorts our view of the true and living God. Maybe it is time for YOU to examine the lies and distortions about who God is and who you are in Him, that have affected your ability to see He is actually good, truly loving, your Avenger, Savior, and Friend. Grace, truth, and forgiveness are waiting for you on the other side.