Healing doesn’t happen all at once. Sexual trauma runs too deep, is much too complex for simple remedies.
We have no Star Trek sickbay or magic tricorder to bind up the wounds, erase the battle scars.
And would we want to if we could? Would we walk away, pretend it never happened, we were never assaulted violated… hated… berated… made to feel shame and doubt?
Could we ignore the very truth of what we know was wrong… evil… the vilest of all? Could we simply walk away and cease to bear witness for those who come after? Or maybe for those violated before our own innocence was vanquished but are yet to heal at all?
If we could be healed completely in an instant, in the blink of a selfish, knowing eye…
But to do so meant leaving our sisters, our friends, our daughters, even strangers, without the hope of their presence?
Could we? Should we?
Because to heal 100 percent I think is to forget every ounce, every moment, of the pain and struggle.
And to forget is to lose compassion. So perhaps it is worth the ups and downs of scars that appear healed but sometimes, more often than we’d like, bleed tears of understanding helping others feel not so alone.
Often I pray for complete healing. For years I prayed to forget. But then I remember that without my wound I am not me.
Without my wound the scarring of my heart and soul, I am powerless.
Trigger Warning: This post involves rape. If you are sensitive, please tread lightly. It is not my intention to cause more pain, but to show how God can use even our worst trauma for good.
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV)
We moved from my childhood home in sunny Southern California to a one-traffic-light town on the outskirts of a Washington rainforest right before I started eighth grade. I made new friends, quite different from my old friends. And I met my first boyfriend.
When you’re fourteen, they call it puppy love. I thought it was real because he claimed he loved me, too. He was older and cute in a rugged sort of way, with shaggy long brown hair and a scruff of facial hair, not quite a beard and mustache.
One day he asked me to go for a walk, just to talk. The biting cold drove us indoors to his house. In my naiveté, I never saw it coming. At the tender age of 14, my 105-pound frame was overpowered and violated. Without a second thought, he crushed my spirit and devoured an innocence I can never redeem.
It can sound like a platitude, or worse, this oft repeated verse:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28, NIV
Surely, Paul didn’t mean all things? He couldn’t have meant the rape I suffered? God certainly can’t bring any good from the suffering, shame, and depression that followed me for decades after?
Or can He?
Even now—as a powerless, frightened little girl lives in me and I sometimes struggle with deep despair, doubting God’s blessings—God reminds me I am His beloved. He has empowered me to survive any trial. I may feel powerless and frightened, but the truth is He will not allow me to be utterly destroyed.
Trauma and loss are inevitable for all of us. I’m not alone even in this dreadful experience of sexual assault.
When I consider my experiences in the light of God’s purposes for my life, I see the blessing. His bigger plan becomes less fuzzy, if not clear. I see how my troubles drew me closer to Jesus as my only refuge.
The path my life may have taken—had there been no pain, no loss of innocence—is one in which I may have never understood my need for a Savior. When all is well, what does one need saving from? But I did need to be saved from a darkness that grew deeper with each successive trauma I experienced. I desperately needed rescuing so I could live this wonderful, light-filled life He gave me.
I like the woman God has shaped me into, even if suffering was required for the Potter to mold this piece of clay. God did not plan or desire my suffering, but He certainly used it to develop in me the compassion, mercy, and humility that have become my hallmark. In all my experiences, He worked for my good because He loves me. He has called me to use my experience to give hope to others.
Do you need this hope today?
It’s just a story away. I’d love if you would share your story so that God can begin to use it for good, too. If you don’t know how to even start writing your story, check out my guided poetry journal, which you can request here: https://anotherfearlessyear.net/i-believe-you.
I’ve been thinking a lot about tears lately—in part because Pastor Bryan pointed out to me how many hits my post titled God Keeps Your Tears in a Bottle has had, in part because I’ve cried more than a few tears this year, and in part because I’ve been listening to Johnny Cash’s Cry, Cry, Cry in my car all week—and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all here.
People cry for a lot of reasons.
Earlier this year my sister died of breast cancer at only 61 years old. I cried, a lot. It’s normal and even helpful to shed tears over the death of a loved one even if we know where they are going when they die, because it allows us to express the grief we feel over not having them in our lives any more here on earth.
I remember a time I had a previous boss say some very cruel things to me in front of other people. She accused me of having done things I had not based on motives I did not have. I was very angry, hurt, and frustrated. And I cried, a lot. I didn’t cry in front of her, mind you, but afterwards I did. And it was good to express that anger to others.
Just yesterday I experienced unexpected tears.
I was reciting the prayers of the people in church, which I’ve done many times. Our church has many prayer concerns for members, family, and friends with health concerns and more. Towards the end of the prayer I began to lift up prayers for a church member’s brother-in-law who is a pastor back in New York because he is faced with conducting the funerals of two teens who had been killed in an accident last week, and with comforting the families of three other teens who are in critical condition.
I unexpectedly had tears in my eyes and my voice cracked praying for these teens and families that I don’t even know. But they were good tears because they touched those who heard my prayer and I know they touched our Lord, too.
I have cried tears of loss, anger, indignation over an injustice, frustration, compassion, and even of joy. I sometimes cry tears of regret when I hear a beautiful song about the sacrifice of Jesus, knowing it is my sin that required him to suffer.
Tears often serve a purpose, as expressed in this poem that I wrote recently:
Tears of sorrow, anger drench my soul course without end eroding pain, anguish
Where once only aching occupied my heart now is a deep empty ravine carved by a river of tears
Tears of forgiveness water my soul’s riverbed allowing flowers of love to flourish and grow
Peace arises in my heart held aloft by God’s promises the fragrance of sweet alyssum blossoms of my soul
I think the saddest tears of all, though, are the tears of major clinical depression. These tears are so sad because the one who cries them doesn’t know what purpose they serve.
I remember when I was suffering from depression sitting in a chair and just crying. When someone asked me why I was crying all I could say was, “I don’t know.” And I truly didn’t. The tears didn’t wash away pain; they only seemed to make it all the worse.
In the midst of such tears, there is One who knows their purpose.
Romans 8:26 says: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Through prayer God can sometimes lead us to an understanding of the purpose of the tears of depression, and ultimately to healing. Often the wounds are so deep it takes years and a great many groaning prayers to heal. But we must accept our weakness and our need for God’s Holy Spirit to intercede for us.
For me, after much prayer of my own, the blessed prayers of others, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit, God led me to an understanding of the purpose of my tears. They were tears of anger and unforgiveness; they were tears of lament that I had allowed myself to remain in bondage to the sins of another for so long.
With God’s help, the tears did lead to healing once I truly understood why I was crying.
May You Know His Peace,
Linda has a good blog that touches hearts worldwide.
“Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others. Your greatest ministry will most likely come out of your greatest hurt.”
Nothing I can say will cause your pain to go away. Any words or counsel are nice but weak when applied to that grievous wound or disability. Fellow believers will want to guide you, they mean well. They love Jesus and their hearts are good. I know this.
But it can be like two Tylenol to a man with a broken leg.
Pain, in every way I can think of, is always evil. It raises its head to either nibble at our edges or devour us completely.
I have friends who struggle with migraines and others with Lou Gehrig’s disease. A few friends have been incredibly injured, and a few others have impaired disabilities. Two or three have severe diabetes. One has a painful degenerative hip syndrome. Also, I have a dear elderly saint in her later stages of Alzheimer’s. One of my friends has cerebral palsy.
I must tell you I also walk in chronic pain and am permanently disabled. My own discipleship hasn’t been easy. Pain has only shown me my need to invite His powerful presence of Jesus, and to become fully His. I’m learning this.
We who hurt deeply are given the option of becoming truly gentle people.
Gentleness is not an easily given gig– the lessons can be rude and hard and even with possible tears. Faith lifts the rough veil of this ugly circumstance and finds the merciful God beaming with love.
And we are taught the hard reality of human beings. Looking eye to eye we connect with people and grasp their struggling lives. We see their needs and want to alleviate pain. We want to serve and give and love, finally.
Love shows me how it should be done; and suddenly a profound mystery, I’m loving like Jesus! I’m doing what He would do. Our hearts swell at this revelation. We understand.
And our hearts will decide that issue. Is it real?
So few really understand and discern, and even fewer can help you. Love them all. Love Jesus. Stay broken, gentle, and faithful to Loving Father.
A few years ago some asked me if I had the faith to be healed, they challenge us, “where’s your faith, brother?”
Hmm. But what about having faith in God even when you stay sick? To actively trust the special kindness of Him no matter what?
If you had never known afflictions in your own life, how do you think that you can properly touch those ‘nail-scarred’ hands which Jesus meets you with? And the apostles, and all those martyrs from every generation in an unbroken line of suffering.
And what about their crosses?
“Ah, afflicted one, your disabilities were meant to unite with God’s enabling, your weakness to combine with His power. God’s grace is at hand –sufficient– and at its best when human weakness is most profound.”