Welcome back as we continue our Survivor Series. This post is one that I have really pondered and prayed over. I so desire to honor the pain and heartache you feel today, in this moment, but I also know that pain without hope can quickly drown even the strongest person. I realize many of us facing abuse within the church also find ourselves wrestling with God in big ways. How can we not? The place that was supposed to be safe and full of Christlike love instead offered unexpected and life-altering harm. And many of us face further harm from these people as they respond in the most horrific of ways. It’s inconceivable that a place claiming to espouse Godly instruction and love can be the place of such egregious behavior.
Despite all of this, for me personally, taking my brokenness and heartache to the feet of my Heavenly Father was, and still is, the only way I know to survive, heal, and move forward. You may still be wrestling and figuring out how to trust God in your story, and that is ok. I will be sharing with you how and where I found glimmers of hope and encouragement in some of the hardest experiences of my life. I don’t know where you find yourself today or the details of the harm inflicted on your life, but I do know that this won’t be yours always. It may feel all-consuming at this moment, it may even feel like you will never find your way out of this valley, but the valley doesn’t own you. With time and intentionality, you can find peace and healing and once again thrive, but first, you must survive.
As the flashbacks and memories seem to barrage you at the most inopportune times, and real life seems to have halted to some surreal world that can’t possibly be your new reality – this is where we settle in to do the hard but crucial work. I know you want to find a way around it or would rather turn back and avoid it all together, but we must go through it… There is no path to healing that doesn’t include walking through the yuck.
As you are still fighting for accountability and justice, walking through will look different than when the fighting is finished and justice has or hasn’t been found… that’s when we find ourselves smack dab in the quicksand of grief and consuming pain with no fight to distract us. This is when the destruction is clear and the wreckage around us sits in our being like shrapnel. The wounds ooze and bleed, and the brokenness feels too much for any amount of first aid to be effective. Desperate to be whole and healed, we grab at whatever we can find around us… imagine a toddler with pudgy sticky fingers grabbing at stickers shaped like animals and scotch tape smeared with little fingerprints haphazardly attempting to tape back together the gaping, bleeding wounds, but these clumsy attempts can’t provide even a fraction of the true care needed.
This is where we need the precision of a top surgeon to stitch and repair with a skill only he can provide. As we take our pain and brokenness to God, He is able to provide the skill of the ultimate surgeon, whose love for us is so massive that He wants us to find healing and wholeness through Him. He grieves the pain you endured and hates the cost of this broken, fallen world on His people. But we are reminded that He can heal and redeem the most broken of stories… we see Joseph (Genesis 37-50) and the absolute heartache his early life brought, rejected, abandoned, wrongly accused, imprisoned, lied to, and used; but then God places him in a position of authority and power. Joseph literally went from a dungeon with no hope to the palace as the King’s right-hand man. Your story is one God longs to redeem and use for His glory. It doesn’t take away the pain and heartache, and it doesn’t diminish the wounds and brokenness, but rather it gives it purpose and wholeness that is not of this world.
I suspect you are currently facing the heartache of the abuse you endured, coupled with the rejection, abandonment, blame, name-calling, and labels thrown at you by people who claimed to love you and God. It’s overwhelming and almost inconceivable when you are already gushing from the wounds of your abuse. There is no salve for this outside of our Heavenly Father; there just isn’t, although it would be easier if there were. We know this behavior from others isn’t right. We know that we are a child of God, and He says that means something, but somehow others seem to forget the teachings of the Bible they claim to know.
The parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10 offers zero confusion that you do matter, that the wounded are of the utmost importance to our God, and that the people around you, including those in the church, are to help carry you, dress your wounds, offer food and drink, safe lodging, and the resources to nurse you back to health.
One of the hardest parts of your journey will be learning to break the hold of the “shoulds” in your story. It should have been different. They should have cared. You should have mattered. There should have been justice. There should have been accountability. They should have loved you. They should have been bold. They should have applied biblical truth. They should have been godly. For me, the release of what should have been and all that’s been said and done to me has only been found in the arms of God. His truth and His love for me offer the shield I need to break the hold of the past and sit in safety as I allow the wounds to scab over and eventually turn into scars. The scars will always be with me, but they offer strength and wisdom I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Luke 10 also reminds us of the greatest two commandments, love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Sadly, even in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we see the religious leader pass by the wounded person. In biblical times, due to the size of the path, they would have literally stepped over the injured man, and I suspect this is like your story today. Jesus commanded them to love you as if it was them wounded and bleeding, but for most of us, the religious leaders stepped over us while we bled out on the road. Everything about the way you have been treated is wrong, but sadly we can’t fix the ones continuing to perpetrate harm or complicit in the harm when they know better.
Eventually, your story will bring you to a place of soul-crushing grief. The cost of what’s transpired is a significant loss, and that loss brings profound grief. There will be days when the grief is so strong it overwhelms and pours out in the most violent of emotions. On other days, out of nowhere, a tinge of sorrow and tears will threaten your day-to-day operations. Some days it will sit in the background, hovering below the surface but not deep enough for there to be no conscious memory. You will live normally and, at the same time, feel it just barely out of reach.
The grief season will feel as if it drags on and may never end. A day will come when you’ve grown weary of the grief you carry, the weight of what’s been and what’s lost still permeating your existence. You will wish it was gone; wish you were no longer in the wilderness of the valley. You will want desperately to cut all ties to the ghosts of people past, following you everywhere you go. It is in those moments that we parcel out grace and tenderness to our own broken selves, remembering the cost and what’s been required, giving our bodies and memories time to heal and let go.
This is where we require intentionality in our days, bringing in little bits of moments or experiences that bring us joy… a walk in the fresh air, lighting a candle, journaling by the fire, indulging in a favorite treat, taking a bath, turning to gratitude and remembering those who have stayed and loved, no matter how few that may be… whatever your personal needs to offer margin and space for the weight we still carry, but also reminding ourselves that while it feels like this is for always, we will find freedom from the chains. He is our hope. Jesus walked this world and experienced similar heartache, rejection, and loss – his experience can feel distant and hard to grasp, but He knows, like really knows, and He is poised, ready to comfort and protect.
Even if we need to fumble in our attempts to trust or rely on Him, and we scream at God for our experiences, bringing it back to our Heavenly Father is THE path forward. He was the same God in the moments of abuse as He is today, and He will be the same God in the future when the valley is behind us. It’s insanely challenging to fathom this level of heartache and destruction here on earth, and there is no easy answer to the why of your story, but I assure you that God is grieved by the brokenness of the world he sees; He came so that you may have life. He loved you in the most sacrificial and selfless way possible. He is your hope. He is there to carry you, His tender loving mercies meeting you in the valley, tending to our wounds, and preparing you for fullness and more life on the other side. Deep inside of you is more bravery, strength, and resolve than you ever knew you possessed. Dig deep, keep your eyes heavenward and plot your course to the other side… I am here praying and cheering for you.
How about some Practical Steps?
I know all too well how hard it can be to take something as vague as “give it to God” and apply it to your life. Here are some tangible ways that I have invited God into my valley season.
Prayer: When you wake up in the morning and don’t want to crawl out of bed yet, pray. When the grief overwhelms you and you aren’t sure how to wade through the emotions, pray. When memories and flashbacks won’t stop and you are struggling to manage the work meeting or dinner making, pray. When you feel heaviness in your heart and desperately want to feel peace, pray. When the loneliness and sting of rejection feel too weighty in your presence, pray. Prayer has offered exactly what I needed at the moment I needed it; it doesn’t change the circumstances, but supernaturally it helps us through the everyday moments that feel too big. Prayer is the gateway to relationship and connection with our Heavenly Father, and it invites little bits of heaven into our everyday.
Bible Reading: Read and then read some more. Sometimes it will feel like a chore to open the Bible and read. Other days you will crave it with all of your being. It’s through the Bible that we learn so much about God and life. The more we read and learn about Him, the more we actually KNOW Him. And knowing Him allows us to discern what is of Him and what is not. When healing and hurting, knowing Him well will be a huge asset as you navigate bitterness, anger, and the ugly sides of heartbreak. I poured into Psalms, Proverbs, the gospels, and much of Paul’s New Testament teachings. God used my valley seasons to prune my heart, challenge and shift thoughts and perspectives that were wrong and remind me who He is. Even the teachers and leaders in churches can lose sight of the true God if they aren’t pouring into scripture with a heart so open that God can’t help but reveal Himself to them. An added benefit of pouring into scripture is that you will retain more than you realize and storing His word in your memory will benefit you for years to come.
Journaling: My mind felt like it was a constant merry-go-round, sometimes moving faster than other times, and when it wasn’t a merry-go-round, it was a tilt-a-whirl, moving from one thought or idea to the next. Trauma causes our brains to work in overdrive as they attempt to make sense of what transpired and file it somewhere. When it has nowhere to be filed, it keeps spinning out of control and that can affect memory, sleep, and so much of our ability to function. Journaling allows us to put these never-ending thoughts somewhere tangible and is so helpful as we process the big and small of our experiences. I’m also a huge proponent of prayer journaling. There is something special about writing down our prayers; they seem to flow out of us, and I often find that what starts as despair ends in gratitude and praise. Writing our prayers provides a tangible representation of our relationship with God and the faith journey we are on, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Much like the Psalms, it captures the realness of our hearts and is a beautiful way to engage with our Heavenly Father.
Worship Music: Turn it on while doing the dishes, driving in the car, when you feel extra low, when you feel like you can’t go one more day, and when you are sure that this is your always. I find that when I allow worship music into my day, I may even wake up realizing even my sleep included worship songs. It postures our hearts for praise, reminds us He is still on the throne and permeates our subconscious in a way that is mood-altering.
Counseling: If you have the resources and don’t already have a counselor, now is the time to find one. Trust an expert to walk this road with you. Show up real and honest, get vulnerable, and listen to the wisdom and experience of your counselor. For some of us, counseling may be intense and require some really hard work, but facing the hard and doing the work is so crucial to a future with health and healing.
Psalms 63 brought me so much encouragement during my valley season; I hope it does you too.
Praise God Who Satisfies
A psalm of David. When he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
1 God, you are my God; I eagerly seek you.
I thirst for you;
my body faints for you
in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.
2 So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
3 My lips will glorify you
because your faithful love is better than life.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
at your name, I will lift up my hands.
5 You satisfy me as with rich food;
my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.
6 When I think of you as I lie on my bed,
I meditate on you during the night watches
7 because you are my helper;
I will rejoice in the shadow of your wings.
8 I follow close to you;
your right hand holds on to me.
9 But those who intend to destroy my life
will go into the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the power of the sword;
they will become a meal for jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by him will boast,
for the mouths of liars will be shut.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Rachel Rae Anderson
Featured Image by Elisabeth25 from Pixabay
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