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Abuse and the Church

Where was God?

Abuse is a shattering, isolating experience.  It fuels the most basic and difficult questions about God.  Survivors, their families and friends may wonder, if God is a loving and powerful god, why did this happen?

Genesis declares that God created the world good.  Evil appeared in paradise to thwart God's good intentions.  Being presented with the reality of abuse has a way of ripping the veneer off life.  We don't minister in a rosy world.  We live in a world of pain and suffering, evil and death.  God never promises Christians will live trouble free lives.  Sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer.  God doesn't protect us from trouble; God protects us in trouble.  (Paraphrased from a sermon by Pete James on April 22, 2007.)

God is in the middle of our pain, our shame and our despair.  One mom writes:
“When my daughter was sexually abused, I used to play Amy Grant’s song, ‘Ask Me,’ over and over again.  She sang the words that burned in my heart.  After what was probably the 1,000th time listening to the song, these words finally sank in;”

Ask me how I know there's a God up in the heavens
Where did He go in the middle of her shame?
Ask me how I know there's a God up in the heavens
She said His mercy is bringing her life again
She's coming to life again
He's in the middle of her pain
In the middle of her shame
Mercy brings life
He's in the middle
Mercy in the middle

These words are just a beginning.  For more, visit Sally Culbreth’s "Committed to Freedom" website, especially the “why?” page:

What Do I Say?

God understands that a person sinned against can feel oppression, anger, even crazy.  And some often used "church" words, while helpful in other situations, can actually be more damaging to survivors of sexual abuse.  These comments include:  "pray more," "give it to God," "you just need more faith," and "forgive and forget."

While forgiveness is ultimately an important issue for survivors--it can only occur through an intentional process of healing which can take a very long time.  Noted author, seminar leader, and abuse survivor, Sallie Culbreth notes in her Responsible Care Training seminar, "If a careful foundation is not laid then potential for further alienation and deep spiritual hurt is very real."  God does not say that forgiveness means trust; or that it means forgetting.

God's Word

Scripture tells us that our bodies’ are a dwelling place of God and that any one who brings harm to another’s body is defying God’s will:

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him.  For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.  (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Jesus makes it clear that hurting children is especially offensive to God:

But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.  (Matthew 18:6)

At a time when abuse survivors are brokenhearted, spiritually searching and feeling abandoned, God offers these words of assurance:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
   because the LORD has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
   and the day of vengeance of our God,
   to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
   to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
   the oil of joy instead of mourning,
   and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
   a planting of the LORD
   for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
   and restore the places long devastated;
   they will renew the ruined cities
   that have been devastated for generations.  (Isaiah 61:1-4)

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