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

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I Cried for You Today

(Originally posted in 2008 on http://www.Quiet-Reflections.com)
Recently God has allowed women to come across my path through this blog world that my heart bonded with because of similar life experiences. Today I sat and read the stories of two more women and my heart could not take anymore.

I sat and cried, for over an hour I cried. I cried for their pain. I cried for their loss of innocence at such early ages. I cried for the fear they felt. I cried for their aloneness. I cried for their loss of childhood. I cried for the tears they could not cry, the security they did not feel and the love they did not know.

LL0000A261I cried and mourned for all of the little girls who have had innocence taken from them so early in life. I mourned for those precious baby girls who would know evil in such a personal way that many will never have to know. Evil that penetrates body, soul, mind and emotions.

And then I became angry. I was angry at the evil these women have had to endure as precious little girls. At the hopelessness they have felt. I was angry at mothers who knew and yet kept their silence or did not believe.

As I sat there unable to sort through all the emotions of these lives I called my sister (spiritual sister). As I sat there talking with her through my tears I was able to see that while I mourned their losses, God had given me a beautiful gift. He has allowing me to mourn the losses of my childhood. I had not mourned quite like this before. This was good. This was more healing, deeper healing.

My counselor has tried to get me to go here. To admit the losses and to mourn them. She keeps telling me it’s ok to mourn, but I could not or maybe the truth is I would not. But today God used two women whose stories are similar to mine to allow me to mourn. There is healing in allowing yourself to mourn.

So today I cry – I mourn for my sisters who have had so many losses along this journey and once again, on an even deeper level, I mourn for my losses.

As I sit here, tears dried, asking God how can I help? What can I do? He reminded me of a truth He spoke to me several years ago when we first began this journey toward healing,hope and freedom.

He reminded me truths from Isaiah 61:1-7 from The Message….

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace— 
a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—
and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness”
planted by God to display his glory.
They’ll rebuild the old ruins,
raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They’ll start over on the ruined cities,
take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks
and foreigners to work your fields,
But you’ll have the title “Priests of God,”
honored as ministers of our God.
You’ll feast on the bounty of nations,
you’ll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble
and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled
and your joy go on forever.

Isaiah 62:2b-5
You’ll get a brand-new name
straight from the mouth of God.
You’ll be a stunning crown in the palm of God’s hand,
a jeweled gold cup held high in the hand of your God.
No more will anyone call you Rejected,
and your country will no more be called Ruined.
You’ll be called Hephzibah (My Delight),
and your land Beulah (Married),
Because God delights in you
and your land will be like a wedding celebration.
For as a young man marries his virgin bride,
so your builder marries you,
And as a bridegroom is happy in his bride,
so your God is happy with you.

My precious sisters, God gave me today the privilege of morning for you. My heart aches for what you have walked through. But this one thing I know, we were not alone in our abuse and pain. Our God was with us. I believe our Father in heaven mourned for our pain and cried out “you will not hurt my child and not suffer!” (see Matt 18:6-7)

I love you my sisters and I wrap my arms of love around you and I pray to our Father that he will continue the healing process in your lives as you seek HIS face.

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.