He is not safe, but He is good. CS Lewis
The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender has had a profound effect on my life, but I recognize that recovery from abuse is often long and requires repeating the same work I’ve done before. I try not to look at repeating lessons like I’m too slow to learn, but rather as mining for gems of truth that continue to set my heart free.
Today, I’ve been working through The Wounded Heart Workbook. I have to admit I’ve picked up this book and put it down more than once. I’ve skimmed over it, and have not taken the time to dig as deeply as I should. I wasn’t ready, but the pressures of life I have felt lately are causing me to want to change and trust God more.
Below is an excerpt from the workbook, the questions Dan asks about trusting God, and my attempt to answer them. I hope it is helpful to you if you are attempting to deal with your own abuse. I believe dealing with reasons I don’t trust God are huge in my own healing, and everything I’m learning always seems to go back to this core issue…
…perhaps our most stubborn denial has to do with God, primarily regarding our future. What does it mean to deal with a God who has failed to protect us in the past or the present, and who promises no insurance against more suffering in this life? About our memories we wonder: Where was He?
It causes me to feel very unsafe. Safety is a core need of every human being. As a child who was abused I never felt safe and this lack of safety caused me to seek safety anyway that I could. It was more than my mind could fathom, that my father was an evil man who wished to abuse me. That felt insanely out of control and very unsafe, so my mind decided that if I was the problem, that if maybe there was something evil about me, then I could try to change myself and therefore my circumstances. There are a few times in my childhood that I recall God directing my eyes to a poem on the wall of my father’s bedroom, Footprints. I was given a strange comfort by reflecting on the words in the poem that promised me God was carrying me even when it felt like I was all alone. After the abuse I’d many times imagine the ocean and feel my body being rocked back and forth until I went to sleep. I clung to hope that the God I didn’t really know was with me. I think I’d have gone insane without this hope. But yet there’s this huge question that looms. He was there, but why didn’t He stop it, why didn’t He protect me. Why didn’t He strike my abuser dead? Why? Why? Why? And I don’t know. And I don’t think my mind can understand. The only nugget of truth that comes to my mind are Jesus words, In the world you will have tribulation, but be not dismayed for I have overcome the world. Then I see Jesus struggling and starving in the wilderness, being tempted by the devil, sweating tear drops of blood, beaten by the very ones he’d come to save, and hanging on a cross for criminals, yet totally innocent, and wondering where in the world His Father was. The injustice and the insanity of it all. I know that Jesus understands what it’s like to be innocent and abused. I do not understand it, but I know there was a reason and it was for me, for all of us who believe to be saved and one day be with Him forever in a place we’d never be abused again.
I also must look at the abuse by my former pastor and ask the same questions…
In many ways when I walked into my pastor’s office I was just like that little girl who felt unsafe. I came to believe this pastor was the strong father I’d always longed for who would keep me safe. When the red flags began to pop up and communicate to me that this man was not safe, it was more than my mind could fathom, so I decided once again it must mean that I was bad, and that if I could change things would be better. And my former pastor was very comfortable allowing me to take the blame. Where was God? He was there, too. Telling me He forgave me, telling me He loved me, offering me Jesus time and time again as the perfect Sacrifice for my sins, being faithful to me even when I was faithless and unfaithful to myself and everyone else, being lovingly patient until I saw the truth that I was being abused, that I didn’t deserve this, nor had I brought it on myself, that I could come to Him and He’d bring good out of the evil done against me and my family.
And I have to ask myself the same about the church leadership who abused me by not protecting me…
I’m hardwired to take too much responsibility on myself. After all, my church leaders that I went to to help me escape the emotional prison I was in with my former pastor, didn’t call it abuse but an affair. They told everyone what I’d done, took my job away, and in one breath said we want to help you, but in another breath, you didn’t listen to God and this is your fault. The confusion, the fear, the guilt, the shame, the anger, the pain, the loss, the injustice, the huge hole in my life from losing the body of Christ I needed so desperately. It’s all so very, very hard. I can not bear the thought that this was all my fault or I will die. I must look to God even though the pain feels at times as if my soul will be crushed. I screamed at God yesterday why have you forsaken us? Will the pain ever go away? The realty is He doesn’t promise no pain, no suffering, no sorrow…He promises tribulation, but He also promises He has overcome all of it with His own death and suffering and that there is real lasting hope that He is bringing good out of all of this pain and one day it will end with no more tears, sorrow, or suffering.
It’s my unseen hope. It’s my sanity. He is here. He is good. He’s holding onto me, and I will never be separated from His love.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.