What About the Victims?

Someone came to buy our stackable washer and dryer some years ago, and I was nervous about being the only one home. My nerves upped a notch when a man came alone. I was handling it fairly well until he mentioned he is a pastor, and my body responses kicked into panic mode – like an automatic switch kicks into high gear – “Run for your life!” My insides shook like a frightened puppy, and I wanted to cry.

Deep breaths… You’re stronger now. This is not the same one who hurt you many years ago. Help me, Jesus! As I zoned out and talked myself through it in a matter of seconds, my body and spirit calmed down.

Before he left, he started talking more about his church and what they believe. As God breathed power into my heart and loosened my tongue, I asked him, “So if someone would come to you and tell you he/she was abused by one of the pastors, what would you do?” Gulp! Did I really just dare to say that?!

He dodged my question…

In another instance, a sincere Christian woman said, concerning news of sexual abuse by leaders, “I don’t know why they bring all that up. It’s in the past. We’re supposed to forgive.”

Ouch! What about the victims? Where is the support for them? What about the victims who have never received justice? Who are still suffering and struggling from the trauma? What if the perpetrator is still using his power towards evil? Why are abusers sometimes protected while victims are rejected and silenced?

Some people and communities want to shove this important issue under the rug. Others may be well-intentioned, but they don’t realize that even if we make it to the process of forgiving, our bodies still subconsciously remember trauma.

It’s not easy to write vulnerably, but God is nudging me to speak up for those who have been silenced, those whose rights are trampled on, those lonely souls who inwardly cry out for validation, caring support, and justice.

“Speak out on behalf of those who have no voice,
 and defend all those who have been passed over.
Open your mouth, judge fairly,
 and stand up for the rights of the afflicted and the poor.”
Proverbs 31:8-9 VOICE

When any person or community is more concerned for the protection of the abusers than of the victims, it hurts. Big-time. When victims are ignored, not believed, or treated as the one who did the wrong, it hurts. Big-time. When Christians tell us we don’t have faith if we can’t forgive and forget and move on, it hurts. Big-time.

Love cares about the grief and suffering of victims who are hurting. Love cries with them. Love sits in the pain pit with them. Love protects  and defends them. Like Jesus does.

Jesus understands suffering more than anyone does. He bends low with us in our suffering and whispers, “I’m so very sorry.” His tears mingle with ours. He never dodges or minimizes our pain. He doesn’t treat mental and emotional pain as less important than physical illness. He doesn’t tell us we aren’t trusting Him if we need therapy or medicine. He blesses these means to help us through. He gives us grace and strength to work through the gut-wrenching grief of being robbed of the very essence of who we are. His never-failing compassion wraps us in the safe and cozy blanket of His love where it’s ok to voice our emotions. His caring support  gives hope that we can be restored to who we are in Him. Through His grace, we can become survivors and finally victory dancers as His healing works in us.

RAINN – Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network – Get Help 24/7 by calling 800.656.HOPE(4673)

What Is a Girl Worth? – Lesley’s moving review of Rachael Denhollander’s memoir of her journey of courageously fighting for justice for herself and other victims.

Cecil Murphey: Abuse Survivor“As long as I kept the abuse a secret, I still wasn’t free. But as I shared my experiences and what I had learned as a survivor, people resonated with those words, and I experienced healing.”

The Hope of Survivors – Support, Hope, and Healing for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Healing Is In Your Hand

When It’s Hard To Be Thankful

 

It isn’t always easy to be thankful, is it? When physical or emotional pain and/or losses overwhelm us, it can be hard to see through our tears or focus our minds on blessings right in front of us. 

Hagar was an alien and a slave. When her mistress found herself barren, she was given to Abraham to bear a child for her. But dissension escalated, especially after Sarah birthed a child herself. Sarah no longer wanted Hagar’s son around her son Isaac.

Hagar and Ishmael were rejected and sent away to wander in the hot and dry desert with only some water in a skin and some food to sustain them. But the water emptied…

She couldn’t bear to see her son suffer and die of thirst, so she put him under one of the bushes and distanced herself.

Dehydrated and devastated of hope, she sat down and sobbed. Did no one hear her and her son? Did no one care?

“What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.” Hope heralded in by an Angel of God.

Someone did care. She wasn’t alone. God heard Ishmael’s cries. He heard Hagar’s cries. He hears the cries of the needy.

“For He will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.”
Psalm 72:12

God lifted her drooping head and opened her tear-swollen eyes to see it. A well. Right in front of her.

Hagar got up, filled her water skin, and gave her son a drink.

We, too, may sometimes feel empty and hopeless. Spiritually parched. Physically exhausted. Blinded by the tears of our grief over the losses and struggles in our lives. How can we ever be thankful?

If we look into our discouraged hearts or at our bleak circumstances (or that of others), we will surely despair of hope. We won’t see the well of blessings God has placed in front of us. We won’t see that God really is good and is full of love and compassion towards us. We won’t see that He actually is for us, not against us.

God longs to be gracious to us. He tenderly lifts our weary hearts to see His bottomless well of love. He invites us to drink, long and freely.

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!”
Isaiah 30:18

Jesus’ love and compassion will never empty. They will always be more than enough for us. No matter what. He heard Hagar’s and Ishmael’s cries, and He will hear our cries. He didn’t forget them, and He won’t forget us.

Precious Lord, You know the heart of every person. You know the heavy burdens weighing us down. Please lift us and carry us through this Thanksgiving season and always. Open the eyes of our hearts to Your never-emptying well of love and empower us to drink from it. Send fullness in spite of empty places we feel and strength and peace amid the struggles of this life. Please help us to truly believe You are good, You are love, and You are for us. Thank You for Your patience with us and for never condemning us. Help us to express our gratitude to You by releasing our burdens into Your hands and trusting Your plan for us. Open our eyes, too, to see all that we still have and still are able to do. Thank You so much for Your unconditional love, Your endless patience with us, and Your ever-flowing and over-flowing grace!

“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
by Chris Tomlin

The Good Shepherd Cares About His Sheep

“The Lord Is My Good Shepherd”
Bernhard Plockhorst – 1825 -1907 (Public Domain)

Darkness crept in like a thief. Too late. Now they didn’t know how to get home. A staccato of fear pounded in their hearts as they huddled together. Exposed. To whatever and whoever may want to harm them.

Many years ago when we still had children at home, we raised sheep, and one night they didn’t return to our lighted yard before darkness fell. They never stayed out in the darkness, so I walked out to the front fence line of our pasture. There they were huddled together like one dark blot about halfway back in the pasture, desperately bleating, “Baaaaahhhh!”

“Here sheep! Here sheep! Here sheep!” I called. They calmed down and began to move in my direction. When I stopped calling, they stopped, so I kept calling until they found the lighted pathway back to home.

Isn’t that how life can go sometimes? We can be contentedly munching on the blessings. We don’t see the lengthening shadows of what lies ahead. And unexpectedly, losses of one kind or another blindside us and plunge us into darkness. We panic and flail because we can’t seem to find our way to the light. Fear abounds and we don’t feel safe anymore. We try to pull up the storehouse of God’s Promises we hold in our hearts, but we can’t focus. The darkness deprives us of discernment, despondency deadens us, and dread debilitates us. Which way is home?

The sheep cried, and we, too, can cry. Their protector heard them, and our Protector will always hear us. He hears the weakest cry and can see through the thickest darkness.

When the sheep heard my voice, they recognized me as one who cared. They couldn’t see me, but they trusted I would lead them to safety. Do we know Jesus’ voice? Do we realize how much He cares? So much that He even gave up His life for us? Do we trust Him to guide us home?

“My sheep listen to My voice;
I know them,
and they follow Me.”

John 10:27
“I am the Good Shepherd, and I know [without any doubt
those who are] My own and My own know Me
[and have a deep, personal relationship with Me]—”
John 10:14 AMP

The sheep got confused when they couldn’t hear my voice above their noise, so they sometimes had to be quiet. Likewise, when we’re crying out of the pain of darkness, we may sometimes have to be still and listen, to tune in our ears to our Master’s voice. Do you hear it now? Jesus stretches forth His scarred hands and pleads, “Come, come, come… Come, My sheep. Come unto Me, all you who are weary. I will give you rest. Come to Me, you who are in darkness. I will give you light. In Me is safety. I am your HOME.”

“Come to Me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said,
“I am the light of the world. If you follow Me,
you won’t have to walk in darkness,
because you will have the light that leads to life.”
John 8:12

Do you feel the most at home at Jesus’ feet? When darkness overtakes you, do you cry out? The Good Shepherd hears your every bleat of pain. Can you hear Him calling you? Do you hear the love and longing in His voice? Follow His voice. He can lead you back to the light. He can lead you back home.

I kept asking God what I should write for this week’s post, and I kept feeling the nudge to repost this post from three years ago. I don’t know why, but I’ll leave that to Him. I pray He will wrap you in His Shepherd’s arms of love and tender care!

Thank You, Good Shepherd,
for Your tender love and care!
Please help us to hear Your voice
and lead us to Your light!

“Shepherd of My Soul”