“Will this ‘hell’ ever end?”… “Will this darkness consume me and destroy me completely?”
I have asked these questions and hear some variation of these questions from most of my clients at some point. I have also seen many times on Facebook, whether via private messages, group discussions, in status updates or conversation threads. Likely the most common fear among victims who are working through past trauma and the impact of sexual abuse and violence, is that there is no hope.
To those who are struggling, I can tell you that it does get better. We do overcome the darkness–or, more accurately, the darkness has been overcome for us on the cross, and that gives us authority over it. Jesus restores, heals, breaks through our darkness and brings us joy, Without question, that is truth. We are not destined to ‘live’ in that place. This truth is a ‘living hope’ I share with all my clients.
Having said that, I have watched amazing warriors fight through ‘ups and downs’ time and again, even as they ‘matured’ in faith and in age. They have done hard battle. People of rock solid faith, who live passionately for Jesus, forgive past offenders, and love God. I have seen them wrestle with God over the evil…. Because of this, and because of my own journey–even if the darkness only strikes once in 2 years… 4 years… maybe even 10 or 20…the reality is we have a harsh enemy out to destroy our souls.
While the power of the past darkness is broken–and we are no longer bound to it–the enemy who brought the pain and trauma into our lives is most interested in our destruction. It seems to me that it is more important to believe and understand that Jesus is more than enough in the battle against darkness, and through the storm, than to believe the attacks will end and go away forever.
When clients ask me if they will struggle for life, I often respond with things like, “This darkness will end/break… You will not be a victim forever… It will get better… But I can’t tell you that you won’t have to fight these things again. I can’t promise you it will never come back–albeit maybe wearing a different mask.
Just how the attack plays out, and how we handle it, depends very much on personality, maturity in faith, as well as skills we have already developed, and so much more! For example, I recently had a woman tell me she doesn’t understand why some victims struggle so much, she simply hasn’t. I didn’t know her well, but told her of a testimony I had recently heard, of a woman whose struggled with explosive anger at home. When this woman went for help, and worked through her own childhood of pain and abuse–forgiving her abusers, her parents and her church–the power was broken and her rage ended. “Oh my!”, she said, “I do that too! I had no idea it might have something to do with the past!” So it is important to recognize that everyone struggles differently.
For some, the attacks come in powerful and oppressive demonic attacks. That is not something I have experienced frequently. And never to the extreme that some have shared. But I have had many attacks in other ways. Often it is in relationships, or in my identity–areas where I have been more wounded and vulnerable, historically. For you it may be completely different. But regardless how he strikes, the enemy will attack if we are of any use to the Kingdom of God. It is a reality we need to be prepared for.
In spite of this, what I know from experience is that Jesus is more than enough for every struggle, and He will use our testimony powerfully, if we let Him. I tell victims the truth about the battle because if he or she thinks it will miraculously disappear for life, then they feel like a failure when hell strikes and they are blindsided. The more they feel they have failed in fighting that darkness, the more they will be defeated. It leaves them utterly hopeless because they think, “Trudy said…” or “Trudy doesn’t struggle…” and they begin to wonder “What is wrong with me that I cannot be forever, completely free.”
The reality is, even if I am 100% free from the bondage of darkness,–meaning that I am no longer content to live in it and get out of it what I think I need, and I have invited Jesus in, and forgiven those who hurt me–the enemy will still try to blindside me in another way. And he will use the darkness from the past to attack me. It is all he has. If he didn’t know my past, he’d have nothing on me. So he has to go there. Even in a struggle that I currently find myself in, which is 100% disconnected from my childhood and isn’t about our ministry, the enemy has used the past powerfully to attack me, and tried to disqualify me for ministry. He’s lying. And that is the very thing that creates the battle. He is lying in ways that emotionally connect me to past insecurities and past pain.
In the battle my heart, at times, screams (silently, for the most part) at God, and struggles with Him over the impact of sin in my life, in the lives of my family, or the lives of friends. It is okay to feel abandoned or betrayed by God, and to tell him so. King David did.
New King James Version (NKJV)
Trust in the Salvation of the Lord
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
4 Lest my enemy say,
“I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
King David’s cry is pretty intense. “How long, God? Are you going to forget me forever, and leave me feeling as though you are intentionally hiding from me so that I am not able to get even a glimpse of Your face?” Without question, he felt abandoned by God, in a very dark and lonely place. He goes on to express the depth of anguish in his heart, that it’s a daily struggle. Clearly this is not an hour of battle with the Almighty, where he feels lost due to some moment of confusion. This is ongoing, with no hope in sight.
“How long will my enemies be exalted over me? Consider and hear me… Enlighten my eyes…” Help me to see something I cannot see right now, so that I have some hope, “lest I sleep the sleep of death”. Do something… I fear this sorrow is threatening my very life…. I feel like I cannot make it, and it will take me to my grave, and be the death of me! Then what will my enemies say? They will rejoice because they have won, when they see me shaken, and lose my faith in You….
That raw heart cry, before the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, shows more trust than I have seen in any other human. But what amazes me even more, is where King David takes his conversation from here.
New King James Version (NKJV)
Trust in the Salvation of the Lord
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
5 But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
In verse 5 he ends his dialogue with God, by declaring his trust in God, and making a promise to rejoice in His salvation, and he does so before salvation has come! Then, by verse 6 he turns and takes authority over his own mind, as if commanding it to shift to that deeper truth. “I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.” And, just like that, the ‘rant’ is over. He has vented, dumped all his feelings–which has taken up most of the Psalm–and then turns his heart to a deeper truth, and takes authority over his own mind and soul.
Yes, I will struggle with God in hard times. When I see people like King David, and his writings in the Psalms–a man after God’s own heart–whining at times, if you please, or shouting, weeping until his soul is raw, or some other intense and real emotional moment with God about how bad things are–and he does it over and over and over again–it gives me hope in my struggle. When I see Elijah under a tree, begging God to take his life, I find hope in my struggle. When I consider Jonah being heaved–literally–onto dry land after his juvenile little escapade of running from God and swimming with fish, I see a God who goes with us through the storm. And when I hear Jesus telling Peter to ‘feed My sheep’ after cursing Him, then I find hope, in my struggle, that God truly uses us broken. Hope to believe that God is with me always and has a purpose that may actually include my struggle.
When I ‘get’ this, it doesn’t matter so much if I battle perfectly. Because I know that in the darkness, He is with me and has my back. Then I don’t fear the attacks, the battles, the pain… and I don’t fear the darkness because my future doesn’t depend on it ‘never happening again’–it depends on the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father.
Yes, we need to know it will get better and we are not victims of the darkness. (Even if it seems only to get better because we are stronger and more rooted in Christ, giving the enemy less access.) But we need to know that if it happens again, and the darkness doesn’t stay away forever, we are okay. And if we react poorly, there is nothing need to retreat in shame. No reason to hide our struggle. It is a stepping stone to deeper faith, and personal growth.
The greatest men of God, of all time, are recorded in His Word as acting in ways we would hardly accept from church leaders today. And yet they were key men of God. That is an amazing thought to me. And they behaved that way, as far as we know, without even having experienced sexual abuse and fighting those demons on top of these struggles.
We need permission to struggle, with the hope that it will not destroy us, and that maybe, just maybe, the struggle plays a part in God’s Kingdom. King David gives me courage. He has showed me more of the heart of God than any other human in history, (not including Jesus) because he dared to struggle publicly. Even Jesus Christ–fully God and fully man, wrestled with God in Gethsemane–albeit much more gracefully than King David or I–and gave us permission to go there.
By being vulnerable we will give another weary soldier heart to ‘drag on’ with a bloody torso, broken limbs, and gouged out eyes… Because sometimes that is just what it feels like. And it would be easier to cover ourselves with a heavy blanket and smile at the passing soldiers, as if all is well and we are merely resting. But when another soldier crawls past, bleeding and weeping, but pointing the way to the cross, and speaking words of encouragement, we are inspired to press on. Far more so than if we see soldiers marching by, not a cut, scrape or spec of blood, declaring it can be done.
It takes courage to expose the wounds, especially years into healing, when we should be way past that–at least so we believe. But we need to do it for the sake of others who are hopeless and struggling.
If you are trapped in the darkness, that is not where God wants you. There are some practical things that help break and overcome its grip, in every situation I have been involved with. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. These are not ‘miracle cures’ that will eliminate every struggle for life. We are humans, living in a fallen world. We have an enemy. All of that spells battle. However, if you will take these steps–if they apply in your case–it will break the stranglehold of darkness and strengthen you for the battle…
To be continued…
© Trudy Metzger
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER: GENERATIONS UNLEASHED ‘SHATTER THE SILENCE CONFERENCE’
To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church
(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)
Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”
Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series
Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series
Return to the First Post in ‘Abigail’s Story’ Series