Where is God in Suffering?

Today I want to share a few thoughts with you about God’s sovereignty and how I have understood it applying to my life when it comes to suffering and abuse.  I have known suffering and have walked the journey of healing from abuse. I can say today that I would not change anything that has happened in my Little Girl in Classroom 2000life, because I know that God has used it for His glory. I am often asked how I could say that knowing what I’ve been through. So this post is in response to that question. This is my response to “how can you have joy in suffering and where is God?” Before I share my thoughts just let me say that I realize that depending on what you are dealing with this could be a hard truth to accept. It was for me, it took quite some time before I could fully accept and trust in the sovereignty of God.

I do understand that no one would choose to go through tragedy or live with abuse. Unfortunately we live in a world filled with sinful man. God says that mans heart is evil and because it’s evil children are taken advantage of, they are abused. People, young and old die. God has given man a free will and sometimes there are victims of others sinful choices. Yet to say God isn’t sovereign over these areas goes against who scriptures says God is. God does not stand idly by and let things happen, He is in control, He is sovereign. Our destiny is not in our hands, or in the hands of other people. We are held in the hands of our heavenly Father, who controls everything.

One thing we need to understand is that “from the rise and fall of government to tomorrow’s weather to the exact location of every human being, the universe is under God’s control. He has the power and authority to do exactly what pleases him, anywhere he chooses to do it. God’s sovereignty is not only about power and position, but also about a plan.”(Paul D. Tripp) Scripture is pretty clear about God having a plan for this world and for each one of us. God calls us unto himself, He forms us into His likeness, and He is preparing us to live in eternity with him. To the human eye things may seem out of control, both in our individual lives and the lives of the world. But at any given time of the past, present and the future God is accomplishing His plan. His plan is being accomplished when we see “good” happening and when we see “evil” happening.

I know that there is evil in the world, and because God allows man to have a free will, and because of the evil choices of man, there are victims. Not only does bad things happen to people but evil happens to people. Evil happens to us and then we have to live in the aftermath of it. But to say that God is not sovereign over that is to not understand the God of the Bible. God is good, God is in control and God is sovereign over all things. “In God’s wisdom and sovereign will every trial in a Christian’s life is ordained from eternity past, custom-made for that believer’s eternal good, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Nothing happens by accident, not even tragedy, not even sins committed against us. Unless the Bible is wrong, nothing happens outside of God’s decree. Nothing good, nothing bad, nothing pleasant, nothing tragic. Every sorrow we taste will one day prove to be the best possible thing that could have happened. We will thank God endlessly in heaven for the trials he sent to us here. Truth is clear according to Acts 9:16; Phil 1:29; 2 Cor 1:5, Acts 14:22; Rom 8:17 (and others) the Christian is called to share in Christ’s sufferings. Simply put- Christians will suffer in this world. Evil can only raise its head where God deliberately backs away – always for reasons that are specific, wise and good, but often hidden during this present life. Satan has to get permission, he operates under constraints.” 1 (Luke 22:31)

Am I saying that it’s God’s will for a child to be repeatedly raped by her step brother or a step father? Absolutely not! What I am saying is that God chooses not to intervene with the free will choices of man, even evil men. But for those who surrender to God and trust in Him He will use these evil acts in our lives for good. He will help us heal. He will use it for good, for our good and His glory. That which man does to us in order to destroy us God can use for His glory.(Gen 50:19) 2

Unfortunately we don’t always know why, and as humans we think its our “right” to know why. Trusting God must be enough. The best answer we have is “God uses suffering to purge sin from our lives, strengthen our commitment to him, force us to depend on grace, bind us together with other believers, produce discernment, foster sensitivity, discipline our minds, spend our time wisely, stretch our hope, cause us to know Christ better, make us long for truth, lead up to repentance of sin, teach us to give thanks in times of sorrow, increase faith, and strengthen character.”1

So it comes down to this, I choose to trust in His sovereign will for my life whether I understand it or not. I must choose to walk in what I know is true today. The past and what I’ve been through needs to be seen as part of my journey that God has used to get me where I am today. Would I choose to be sexually abused? NO! But I can accept it as part of my journey to who I am today. I can accept it as I allow God to use it in the life of other women. In a few weeks I will be meeting with a young woman whose mother sold her into prostitution and because of the suffering I experienced I will be able to relate to her.

Each of us may have that event or circumstance we’d like to change, but instead of living in the past of guilt, shame or regret we need to live a life that accepts that God wasn’t caught by surprise. He didn’t take His hands off you at that moment. Trust instead in His sovereignty, Trust that all things work together for good to those who love him. All things – both good and bad, whether we have sinned or been sinned against.

Am I joyful that I was abused? No, but I can find joy in knowing that God will not let it destroy me. I can find joy in knowing and trusting in God’s goodness. I can find joy in who He IS!

 

1 Tada, Joni Eareckson ,  Estes, Steve. When God Weeps:Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty. Zondervan (October 1, 2000)

2  Story of Joseph can be found in Genesis chapters 37-50: “But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Gen 50:19-20

A Father’s Love

a-fathers-love_thumb.jpgEven before I was born I was loved deeply and very precious to my Father. The moment He fashioned me He fell in love. He had never seen anyone so beautiful. His beloved daughter. Tears fell down His eyes as He held me, His precious daughter. He watched me grow; I made Him laugh with the silly things I’d do. My tender heart caused Him to smile. How beautiful I was in His eyes.

There was also a sharp pain in His heart as He watched me, for He also knew what was to come. He knew I would not understand what was to be apart of my life. At such a tender age it would seem that people would want to destroy me. My Father would weep for the pain and suffering I would endure. He knew He had the power to stop my suffering; a suffering that would leave me numb and lost. He understood because His Son had suffered an even greater suffering for the sins of all mankind.

My Father knew I would someday grow to understand the suffering of His Son because of what I would suffer. I would see His suffering and understand the pain and the torment He went through to no fault of His own. He knew I would see the hope, and the beauty in His suffering. His beauty would then reflect in my face.

During my suffering I would feel so alone and abandoned. I felt alone not because He was not there, but because I could not see. I was blind to the truth of Him. I did not see that He had His arms wrapped so tightly around me, loving me.

As evil took over my body tears would run down His face, He would weep loudly and painfully. His groans would be so loud that all of heaven could hear. He would feel all my pain. He would feel the tearing of my soul and the tears that would not come. “Vengeance is mine He’ll cry!” “You will not destroy her! For out of evil I will create beauty. Out of ashes I will create a garland.” “Oh my child, I will not leave you.”

As I sit on His lap tears run down His face. He knows that His precious little girl will walk through years of pain that she will not understand until she is grown. He held her tightly and whispered, “My Beloved, I love you, I will walk with you.”

 

Originally written on Quiet Reflection in 2008.

You are Beloved

What truth are you believing today about who you are? Do you see yourself through the eyes of abuse, guilt, shame, sin or do you see your self through the eyes of God’s love?

I know sometimes it is hard. It’s hard to see the lies. You have looked in the mirror your whole life and heard the words,

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“you are unlovable”

“you are not worthy”

“you are not good enough”

“you have nothing to offer”

 

You have heard them and spoke them so many times that they sound like truth. They are words that SEEM like truth. But my dear friends they are lies. They are horrible, ugly lies that have been spoken over you.

Today acknowledge them as lies. Speak truth into those lies. Do not allow them to have one more minute of power over you.

Begin to speak truth to yourself today. Truth is found in the word of God. It can be trusted. Begin today with these truths…..

He called you BELOVED when you were not beloved. Rom 9:28

You are precious in His sight, Since you are honored and He loves you. Isaiah 43:4

You are so precious to Him that He collects your tears in a bottle. Psalms 56:8

… And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5

 

Believe them. Walk in them. As a child of God you have a right to claim them and hold on to them. They are truths written for you.

5 Things You Should Know About Sexual Abuse

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and as I have walked the journey of healing I have realized that there are those God called to walk with me. They entered into my suffering, my pain and helped me in the healing process. I had the help of both Biblical Counseling and friends, it truly took a community.

But there are others who tried to help, they tried to say the right things, but often added more pain. It’s not their fault. They didn’t understand. They didn’t know. I hope to shed some insight for those of you that God might be calling to walk with someone trying to journey through the healing process.

1. While the physical pain may no longer be there, we are experiencing much mental and spiritual pain. The physical pain of the abuse may be long gone but it’s important to understand that they still hurt. You may not see outward signs of hurt but the pain that is experienced deep within is real.  Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma but if an adult is still suffering from night terrors, depression, if they have trouble feeling emotions, and avoids things that remind them of the abuse then  they may be dealing with PTSD.

When someone is abused sexually it affects them in ways we don’t often understand. God created sex to be beautiful, to be enjoyed. Sex is to be between a husband and wife, through this intimate act they become one, they entered into a covenant. It was created to be deeply intimate so when it’s violent it tears they soul in a way that is ugly, and leaves deep scars.

2. Understand the experiences of every survivor is different. Just because you have a friend that was abused and seemingly has no issues or was healed easily doesn’t mean all survivors will be the same. The after affects of abuse will be different for the one that may have been molested once compared to one that was raped over and over for years. Both have been violated but the one who has been abused chronically will have much deeper issues and may take much longer to heal.

3. Our view of God is often seen through the lens of abuse. Seeing the truth about God is hard. It was very hard for me as I tried to reconcile a God who loves me and is everywhere to a God I saw that was just standing by doing nothing while the abuse happened. Many pray, and pray for it to stop, but God does not seem to hear. Yes we are believing lies, but it’s what we know and without being taught a right view of God we see God through the pain of abuse.

Plus when you are abused by a father figure you grow up believing that God is like your abuser. Our view of God is twisted and grossly out of focus. Even if we believe that God is good and loving it not believed personally. Meaning that God may be good and love others, but He is not good to me.

4. We need to see God’s love in and through you. Maybe you have walked along side someone already and you have spoke truth. They seem to understand  who God is in their head but it’s not getting to the heart. The truth doesn’t seem to be changing them.  There is a disconnect. Please be patient, keep loving them and speaking truth. But really embrace that He loved me was hard. It was hard until it was modeled before me. God used my husband and a few dear friends to show me the power of love. They modeled God’s love.

Survivors need to see Jesus with flesh on. So often we want to just speak truth, but we need to demonstrate love too. A survivor may have never been loved unconditionally. Love could mean pain, taking, and selfishness so it’s important that we see it modeled.

5. We need to see and understand the cross as it relates to our abuse. I can tell you from personal experience that this will come later in the healing process. While it is crucial to our healing process this is very hard. It’s hard truth to grasp. I remember when my counselor gave me the book When Gods Weeps to read, I almost threw it away. I didn’t want to read it. I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to understand God’s sovereignty. But I persevered and at the end of the book I still didn’t like it but I was better able to try to reason through it. Later I ask him why he didn’t give me the book earlier since it was so helpful. He responded by saying I wasn’t ready for it. It’s true I wouldn’t have been. So we must be careful at what point in the healing and at what point we are in the relationship we offer difficult truth.

Tread slowly and take your lead from the survivor. You can push, but gently and with love, lots of love. They must get to the point that they can wrestle with the truth of the cross because it’s there they are able to truly reconcile the truth of their abuse and a God who loves them and hates evil. It’s at the cross where we will see that the evil done to us is covered with the blood of  Jesus. It’s at the cross we see the holiness of God and we struggle to understand why God let it happen.

We need to be allowed to struggle at the cross. It’s at the cross we will deal with our own sins. We see that we are great sinners. It’s where we will deal with being sinned against. It’s at the cross we see evil and what it cost Jesus. It’s at the cross we find the infinite love of God. We find forgiveness. Forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of our abusers.

As a reminder, if you are walking with someone who is a survivor just be Jesus with skin on. Love them and keep loving them. Don’t give up on them. It’s not easy, I know it’s not. At times I was fearful that my friends would give up on me if I didn’t “get it” right away, but they never did, they just kept loving me. They showed me Jesus. They loved me with the love of Jesus.

God Heals the Darkness

This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me. Ps 119:50

Deep inside the heart of many women there is a darkness that lies untouched. There is a hurt that has been left unattended, praying it will heal on it’s own if ignored. It will not be ignored. Instead it lies within, waiting for the right moment and then the memories rises up from the depths of the darkness to hurt once more. I know this hurt for I have been there. I know other women experience it for they have shared their stories. They have trusted me with the darkness of their souls, the hurts that scream out MP900438388_thumb.jpgto be heard.

Healing began years ago for me, but it’s only been recently that I have fully understood where and how the healing came.

I spent years trying to ignore, forget, forgive and pray my way beyond the painful memories that would not stop playing across my mind. I would seek counsel, read books, attend Bible studies and pour myself into doing good works. I would do all the things I thought I should, be a good wife, mother, friend and church attendee. I would pray, read my Bible and pray some more. I tried pursuing so many things-even God-in order to forget. Often I was left feeling empty and in the end the hurt would still be screaming for attention. Why could I not have that personal loving relationship so many seemed to have? What did I have to do to silence the pain? What did God expect of me? Why wasn’t God answering my prayers to forget?

Your testimonies also are my delight; {They are} my counselors. My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Your word. Psalm 119: 24-25

The answer to my questions could be answered with just one answer. Know God. The problem was I didn’t really know Him. I knew about Him . I knew what others had told me about Him and I had even read about Him in the Bible, but I didn’t KNOW Him. I didn’t understand who He was or who He is. I didn’t know God experientially. I had only learned about God through others. I only thought I knew Him.

Healing came when I began to know God for myself. It began when I learned to study and understand God’s word for myself. Do you know what that meant? God spoke to me, Sharon, His beloved daughter. He spoke directly to me through His word and not through someone else.

God’s word began to come alive and every time I would read it I began to see something new. Truth began to penetrate my heart. The lies I believed about myself, my past and my God were exposed. God began to reveal Himself to me. He opened up my eyes to see His character, His love and His power. He began to show me who I was, and who I am because of Christ. He told me how precious I am to Him, how much He loves me and will always love me.

He began to help me see His plans and purposes for my life. God began to show me how He would use all the circumstances in my life for His glory. He would not waste anything. He wouldn’t waste anything good or evil. He could use my wrong choices, and the painful memories.

Oh precious sisters if I could ask one thing I would ask that you study God’s word and know it for yourself. Learn to study and allow God’s word to open up to you. Allow it to teach you, reprove you and heal you. Stop doing Bible studies that do all the work for you and study the Word for yourself.

It is only in knowing God that healing comes, and by know I mean you KNOW Him not just about Him. You need to know the God who is, the God of truth, not the God you think He is. Once we know God and study His words for ourselves then true deep healing comes. Oh how I long for each of you to experience the personal word of God spoken directly into your hearts.

If you don’t know how to study for yourself email me, I’d be happy to help! Or you can check out these links  A Guide to Inductive Bible Study or How to Study the Bible in 28 Days.

“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. Isa 43:10

A God That Heals

This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me. Ps 119:50

Deep inside the heart of many women there is an darkness that lies untouched. There is a hurt that has been left unattended. They have ignored it praying that it would heal on it’s own. It will not be ignored. Instead it lies deep within waiting for the right moment to rise up from the depths of the darkness to hurt once more.

I know this hurt for I have been there. I know other women have experienced it for they have shared their stories. They have trusted me with the darkness of their souls, the hurt that screams out to be heard.

Healing began years ago for me, but it’s only been recently that I have fully understood where and how the healing came.

I spent years trying to ignore, forget, forgive and pray my way beyond the pain of the memories that would not stop playing across my mind. I would seek counsel, read books, attend Bible studies and pour myself into doing good works. I would do all the things I thought I should, be a good wife, mother, friend and church attendee. I would pray, read my Bible and pray some more. I tried pursuing so many things in order to forget. Often I was left feeling empty and in the end the hurt would still be screaming for attention.

Your testimonies also are my delight; {They are} my counselors. My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Your word. Ps 19: 24-25

What did I have to do to silence the pain? What did God expect of me? Why wasn’t God answering my prayers to forget?

The answer to my questions could be answered with just two words. Know God. The problem was I didn’t really know God. I knew about God. I knew what others had told me about Him and I had even read about Him in the Bible, but I didn’t know Him. I didn’t understand who He was or who He is. I didn’t know God experientially. I had only learned about God through others.

Healing came when I began to know God for myself. It began when I began to study and understand God’s word for myself. Do you know what that meant? God spoke to me, Sharon, His beloved daughter. He spoke directly to me through His word and not through someone else.

God’s word began to come alive and every time I would read it I began to see something new. Truth began to penetrate my heart. The lies I believed about myself, my past and my God were exposed. God began to reveal Himself to me. He opened up my eyes to see His character, His love and His power. He began to show me who I was,  and who I am because of Christ. He told me how precious I am to Him, how much He loves me and will always love me.

He began to help me see His plans and purposes for my life.  God began to show me how He would use all the  circumstances in my life for His glory. He would not waste anything. He wouldn’t waste anything good or evil. He could use my wrong choices, and the painful memories.

Oh precious sisters if I could ask one thing I would ask that you study God’s word and know it for yourself. Learn to study and allow God’s word to open up to you. Allow it to teach you, reproof you and heal you. Stop doing Bible studies that do all the work for you and study the Word for yourself.

It is only in knowing God that healing comes, and by know I mean you KNOW Him not just about Him. Once we know God and study His words for ourselves then true deep healing comes. Oh how I long for each of you to experience the personal word of God spoken directly into your hearts through His word.

If you don’t know how to study for yourself email me, I’d be happy to help! Or you can check out this places. Precept. or Inductive Study Method.

 

“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. Isa 43:10