When We Sink Beneath the Waves of Lies About Who We Truly Are

Do you feel ugly, insecure, and worthless?

It’s so easy to find our identity in the hurting words and painful actions of others toward us, isn’t it? Words and actions that steal our confidence and security in who we truly are. That make us feel we are unwanted, unlovable, and unusable.

Demeaning words, abusive actions, and the lack of loving attention we swallow as a child may become our own assumptions that we guide our lives according to. Assumptions that lie to us about the reality of who we really are. Assumptions that make us more vulnerable to further abuse as we grow older.

When we have been abused in some way, it’s so difficult to change our thought pattern, isn’t it? I struggled with this for many years. Still do sometimes. As I look back, I often picture myself like Peter who was invited to walk to Jesus on the water. How thrilling, right? But as he walked, he opened his ears to all the noise of the storm and his eyes to the tumultuous waves around him ready to swallow him up. He took his focus off of Jesus. And he sank.

Satan knows how vulnerable we are and he tries his hardest to distract us from Jesus and the truth of His love and our value in Him. He whips up the noise and tumult of the lies we assumed about ourselves. In our weakness, we often succumb to it and sink beneath the waves, flailing against the strong currents of worthlessness that suck us down, down, down…

Over the years I have often taken my eyes off of Jesus and closed my ears to His whispers of love. I often sank back into the lies and shame, those assumptions I made from past demeaning words and abuse. I didn’t think I would ever come up for air, but Jesus didn’t let me drown in them. He lovingly reached down and lifted me up yet again. He lovingly held my face in His nail-pierced hands and said, “My precious child, keep your eyes fixed on Me.”

Jesus, in His unfailing love and endless compassion, reached down, took Peter’s hand, and pulled him up in spite of Peter’s doubts and fears. And Jesus will do the same for us every time we sink. He never tires of lifting us up again.

God is so ready and willing to restore what others shattered in us and help us to see ourselves through His eyes. What HE says about us and what HE has done for us is what matters, and He can give us the grace to again and again fix our eyes on Him. He is not going to condemn us or stop loving us when we falter. He empathizes deeply with our pain and struggles.

“From the ends of the earth I call to You,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Psalm 61:2 NIV

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and the One who rescues me;
My God, my rock and strength in whom I trust and take refuge;
My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower—my stronghold.”

Psalm18:2 AMP

“The eternal God is your refuge,
and His everlasting arms are under you.
He drives out the enemy before you;
He cries out, ‘Destroy them!’”

Deuteronomy 33:27 NLT

God Cares About our Hard Questions

I grew up living in fear of God. No, not the fear that means revering Him, but the quaking fear of being pursued by an unapproachable, vindictive God who sought to harm me. I pictured Him as standing above me with a sword ready to strike me down and cast me into hellfire if I stepped even one toenail out of the way of what the church dictated.

I learned not to question God and not to question the ministers who were set in authority over us, because they were God’s messengers speaking for God. Spiritual, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse from a minister locked me in a prison with no way out.

BUT GOD…

Thanks be to God who broke the chains and did provide a way out. It’s an ongoing healing journey, but God has graciously led me to a way of love through Jesus, a love we didn’t hear much of. God is love. He delights to save us, not to harm us. He doesn’t want anyone to perish, and He doesn’t condemn us.

God doesn’t stop loving us when questions plague our hearts. It doesn’t mean we have a lack of faith or are being irreverent if we approach Him with them. He invites us to pour out all our confusion to Him, even though He already knows what is bothering us. He may not always give us answers here in this broken world, but He cares about our questions and uses them to help us in mourning our losses.

We can’t always trace God’s hand in events in this world and in our lives, but we can trust His heart. His arms are always open for us to run into and to be embraced to His heart of everlasting, unfailing love. He won’t always answer our questions, but it is His pleasure to give us grace to hold His hand and trust His heart and His infinitely higher thoughts and plan. He won’t always stop the pain, but He will bring beauty out of it in His way and timing. He won’t always fix what’s broken while we’re on this earth, but He gives us the courage to let go of our plans as we surrender to His control and remember His love never fails, no matter what.

We are not alone when we ask God “Why?”

  • When the Israelites wailed and complained and blamed Moses about their plight, Moses was frustrated and asked God, Why have You been so hard on Your servant?” (Numbers 11:11) It’s like he asked, “Here I am serving You, God, so why is all this happening? Why are You laying such a heavy burden on me?” God answered by qualifying others to help Moses carry the burden. The people were still discontent, but God strengthened him to carry on.

  • David asked, “Oh Lord, why do You stand far off? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1) He was in deep lament over all the sin and injustice against the innocent, the poor, and the helpless. It seemed God was unconcerned and hiding Himself. Though God didn’t directly mete out the justice right then, He did help David to focus on God’s faithful character as the Helper of the helpless. Someday there will be an end to all the oppression.

  • The prophet Habbakuk’s name means “he who embraces.” It was through grappling with tough questions that he came to a firm faith. In the first chapter, he asked God, “Why do You make me look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrongdoing?” (Habbakuk 1:3) His heart was pained that God wasn’t immediately exacting justice against wrongdoings. He learned that things don’t happen according to our schedule or our plan but only in the way and timing of God.

  • In the anguish of his spirit, Job asked, “Why have You made me Your target?” (Job 7:20) He lost all his children and his possessions. He acknowledges he is not sinless, even though he had a close relationship with God, but he can’t understand why it seems God is destroying him. Though Job didn’t get his children back and He would continue to feel the loss, God eventually gave him more children and more possessions than before. God restored his spirit and gave him grace to go on, and his faith became even deeper through this devastating trial.

  • The most remarkable question of all was by Jesus who took our place and suffered for our sins. In the deepest soul anguish ever, He cried out to His Father, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) He didn’t just “feel” like God forsook Him like we sometimes do. He really was forsaken. For us. Now even when it “feels” like God has abandoned us, we have the steadfast promise that He never will.

God gives us these stories and so many more to shine like beacons of hope that we are not alone. He will always be with us, even when it seems like He’s not.

Why God?

Before Austin sings this song, he shares how God showed him that it’s okay to ask Him the hard questions.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to Me,
all of you who are weary
and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.‘”
Matthew 11:28

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

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