When Victims Can’t Pray, Read the Bible or Trust God

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and particularly those who were violated in Christian settings, often struggle to trust God. Inevitably this plays into their ability to pray or read the Bible, or even receive biblical truth in the form of someone else quoting the Bible. And understandably so.

My goal when working with people, is to show them–in word and in action–that God is a relational God. Twenty minutes of prayer and an hour of Bible reading, as a religious duty, mean nothing apart from relationship.  Oh sure, it can be presented as ‘discipline’, but what is discipline in religious duty, apart from the kindness of relationship? I’m not interested in it. I can practice discipline in any one of countless other areas, if it is discipline I want to prove.

In learning to pray, I encourage conversational prayer. All the ‘Thee, Thou and Thine’ in the world, doesn’t reach or touch the heart of God, if it is spoken in religious distance. God is a near God. He is present. He is tender. He is a Papa, who wants to hear about our innermost thoughts, and our mundane things. He is like a good daddy or mama, who delights in hearing a child’s excited account of a day at the park, playing with Lego, or listens tenderly to the tears in recounting how the kitty got hit by a car. He’s not looking for deeply religious words that sound pious in right to the masses trapped in performance, but the real and genuine things of the heart–both good and bad. That’s prayer. And when we ‘chatter’ to God at that level, moment by moment, the religious performance takes on the scent of dead flesh, while conversation becomes the thing that breathes life into our soul.

When it comes to reading the Bible, one cause of struggle is the lack of understanding of God’s message, and the way truth has often been misrepresented. The voice of condemnation often associated with the Bible is tragically warped. God’s message, in every word, every story, every line is love. Humans didn’t do it well, always, that is a reality. But God’s message remains, consistently, a message of love.

And the matter of presenting it as condemnation is a thing of humanistic desire for control over another, which is demonic at best. God never granted one of us the right or responsibility to manipulate or control the mind of another. We do it out of fear, to the detriment of those struggling, and to comfort our own minds; we have done our duty, and hopefully the individuals will head our warnings for their ‘good’.

The damaging effect of this serves to drive people farther from the heart of God, and deeper into sin and guilt, rather than drawing them to grace, to repentance and to hope. The impact is devastating.

An individual struggling with pornography or sexual immorality, as a result of sexual awakening that started him or her down that path, hardly needs us to quote a Bible verse or two about immorality and hell, in hopes it will scare them onto the straight and narrow. They need us to walk with them through the pain, the confusion and the trauma, to bring the love and grace of Jesus to that deep wound. Even Jesus, the Holy One, did not come to condemn but to offer life. Who are we, in our religious sinfulness and utter humanity, to offer any condemnation at all? I have never seen a life changed for the good through that approach. I have, however, witnessed life after life, transformed by Love, and addictions broken.

And then this whole thing of ‘God the Father’…. That’s a painful one for many. God. That fearful word applied to this Cosmic Being who wields power over us, and who has been misrepresented by fathers, brothers, preacher, bishops, pastors, uncles. To overcome such association is no small thing. And to walk a wounded heart through that pain is a thing of time, patience and the constant reminder that “He can handle this struggle… He is not put off by your fear… He doesn’t judge you or push you away for it…” and then to show the heart of the Father in love, compassion and caring for their hearts.

Many things have contributed to my healing, but not one more so than discovering the heart of my Heavenly Father–my Papa; Abba Father–for me. It was a moment of revelation that brought tears and warmed my heart when it realized, “God likes me.” I understood well that He loves me. What would drive a man–even a God-man– to a cross, to die for a sinner like me, if it were not for love? Yes, that love was an undeniable thing. But in my woundedness I believed I was unlikable, even by other humans. Even with Tim in our earlier years, I knew I was loved, but at times my mind doubted that he liked me. How could he? I was too scarred. My emotional ups and downs too ‘ugly’.

But little by little, I discovered that Tim likes me; he delights in me and enjoys spending time with me. I make him laugh. I bring him joy and pleasure, just by being me. And that same discovery with God transformed my life. It was a specific moment in time, that the awareness consciously struck me, “God likes me”. And in that moment my spirit danced and my heart laughed. To think that the God of Heaven, the Creator of the Universe, likes me…

I no longer define God based on who my earthly father–or any other spiritual figure in my life–was or is. God was not made in their image; they were made in God’s image, and failed in their representation of Him. I do not need to fear Him, based on who they were, or what they did.

God, the Highest Being, the Creator offers me His identity, invites me into conversation, and into relationship. That is Amazing Love. It is healing grace…

And that is why my hope, when working with survivors of abuse, is to always lead them gently to the Father’s heart. To offer anything less would be a grave injustice, when healing ultimately comes from Him, at that deep spirit level.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

 

Angry at God? Feeling Condemned? What if God Can Handle It?

To be angry with God isn’t okay. Or so I’ve been told throughout my life. We must reverence God, and resign ourselves to His will, and simply accept what He does, without question. Or so they say. And for many years I was afraid to be angry with God. So I wasn’t. Or so I thought…

mad at God

Even so, when people struggled with anger, and expressed it, I said, “God can handle it… He’s not afraid of you, or what you feel.” And I believed it. At least for them. But my real belief was that I had no anger towards Him.

That all crumbled one beautiful summer morning, when all seemed right in the world, except the storm clouds brewing in my heart….

I was in ministry, and we all know people in ministry have it together and always trust God. Except when we don’t. We’re just humans, after all, trying to love God by loving others.

I was in Scarborough for ministry-related purposes when it all came down the pipe. It was a blend of things that collided, leaving me undone. And in that spontaneous moment, anger I didn’t even know was inside me, pushed from a place deep within and I yelled at God. My thoughts  were, If nothing good can come out of the hell I’ve been through, then this is not worth it! That pain was all for nothing! And in that moment I was certain nothing good could or would come out of those years of trauma, and God had let it happen anyway.

It all happened so fast, so spontaneously, that my dignity was the farthest thing from my mind, as a dark reality that had been inside of me for over 30 years spilled out. In a ‘mini-series’ of flashbacks, scenes from childhood flashed at lightning speed through my mind, so that I could not contain it. And, right there, pulled over on a street in Scarborough, I yelled at God.

Of course my windows were down because it was summer, and my A/C wasn’t working. A man stopped and looked at me suspiciously, and I mumbled, “Shuffle along… nothing to see here”. And he did, God bless him. He didn’t wander over and ask if he could take me to the nearest psyche ward. And I sat there, in gut-wrenching sobs, letting that buried hell wash out of me.

At length I was empty of tears, and composed myself to drive home. But my words haunted me. My anger haunted me. What if that was it? What if God was done with me? And where had that anger come from? What if, on my ride home, God would let some semi truck run over me, flatten me out and show me that He is bigger and doesn’t have to take my anger lying down? Crazy thoughts raced through my head…

Fear, so powerful I felt nauseated, washed over me. If only I didn’t have to drive…  But I had to, and I did, my heart numb from pain, fear and grief. As I drove, I tried to talk to God. I tried to say I’m sorry for yelling–because I really was sorry–but everything fell flat. No affirmation from God, no feeling of being forgiven. Only the heavy reality that I had yelled at the Almighty; the One who constructs the Universe with a simple command. I, a minuscule fragment of that Universe, had yelled at the Creator. And the only comfort my heart could find was knowing that God is good, that He loves me and my little meltdown had no power to change that.

I was never more relieved to pull into our driveway. God hadn’t struck me  dead; I was home, safe and sound. Gradually, in resting, the shock of my yelling wore off, and I realized that this anger had burned deep inside for years. I had determined to always reverence God, and never, ever yell at Him or even allow myself to feel angry. Besides, how could I be angry with a God who has given so much? And with the realization that the anger had been there all along, another awareness settled more powerfully: I am His. I am loved. He can handle the truth. And He forgives.

But it wasn’t until I read the story of King David bringing the ark of God to the City of David, where Uzzah drops dead for inadvertently touching the ark, that I discovered the Bible addresses this thing of anger at God.  In 2 Samuel 6:8 (rewritten using the words and meaning of the original text): “And King David burned with anger against God, because of His outburst against Uzzah…”

King David burned with anger against God… Let that sink in for a moment!

We’ve translated it to ‘was displeased’ or ‘was angry’ but the original word וַיִּ֣חַר  means to burn with anger or be kindled with anger. King David was angry with God. Still, God honoured his request to bring the ark to his city; the anger didn’t disqualify him. God didn’t knock him flat. In fact, He called King David a man after His own heart.

In reading Bible stories, and simply in doing life with God, I am convinced that He longs for authentic relationship with us, not performance. He longs for us to trust Him with our pain, our grief, our joy and, yes, even our anger… but not to stay in anger. And, I, for one, need God too desperately to stay angry. While I yelled out of spontaneous desperation, I wouldn’t have if I had not first trusted Him and felt safe. And God, in His kindness, met me there in that grief and loved me.

He has give us permission to call Him ‘Abba Father’; “Daddy”, an endearing term reserved for intimate relationship. And every good parent longs to know their child’s true heart. Even the anger.

And God is a good Daddy…

crying child

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

When Life Disappoints

It’s an easy thing to write about trusting God, and share all kinds of happy thoughts, when life is good. But what about when life disappoints? When you’re fairly certain God opened a door, and just as suddenly it swings shut. Maybe even pinching your fingers, or slamming you in the face

That’s when trust requires faith.

For the past several years I have wanted (almost desperately) to study. But always the doors have closed, before they even opened. The advantage to that was that it never hurt too much. No fingers caught, no bruised nose. Eventually, I laid that dream down, intending not to revisit until my children are fully grown.

And then it happened… the door cracked open again, and I stepped in. Yes! This time I actually got in the door. Just the front door, but in the door none-the-less. I signed up to ‘audit’ a class, with the option of completing for credit, on the condition I register for full time next year.

This would have been completely impossible, financially, except for one thing. The Seminary will fore-go (or cover) one third of the tuition cost, if one third of the cost is sponsored, and as long as the student pays one third. On top of that they have payment plans that don’t rip people off, and that’s how they help students follow their dreams in ministry.

That’s a bit more manageable, for someone like me, being in ministry and raising a family. I felt hope rise up. But there was one catch….

They encouraged me to enroll for one class and see what I think. In the meantime they would see what they could do about ‘the catch’ in the plan. The sponsor must be a church, not a person, not a business. I have businesses, and individuals who believe in me enough to sponsor me, from time to time, and I have not exhausted the list of possibilities. I was quite confident I could raise $7000. No problem, I thought. So they said they would see if they could work something out.

I started studies, and immediately fell in love with it. I knew I would. I’ve always loved studying. Even exams. As long as I get to choose the topic. Throw some trigonometry or calculus at me and my tune might change, or I may doze of altogether. But anything to do with English, Science, Religion/Faith, or Politics, and I’m right there.

So when we jumped into studying Second Temple Judaism, and learning about Alexander the great, and how he ruled from 356BC to 333BC…. and how he conquered from Mesopotamia to India with an army of 35000 men… and how those men trusted him with such loyalty that they would line up and march over cliffs to show that allegiance and strike fear in the hearts of kings… and about Josephus… I was so excited. Several years of intense study for a Masters Degree. Yes! Couldn’t wait!

That’s when the door swung shut, suddenly. I learned, that, having looked at their policy, the Seminary cannot accept donations from people willing to sponsor. The donation must come directly from a church, to them. A local congregation has to believe in me enough to put up $7000 for me to have them sponsor a matching amount, and leaving me with the same.  My heart sank.

First off, many churches don’t want to touch a ministry like mine. It’s probably the most awkward ministry that exists, and it disrupts ‘image’. No, the work I do, thrives in the secular world, far more readily, where social justice is fought for, than in ‘the church’, where acknowledging such things is still quite scary for many, if not most. (God bless the churches who dare to go there–I am connected to a small handful.)

(I learned a few hours later that they would also accept multiple churches going together to sponsor that portion. But it has to be churches, and one church would need to be willing to collect the money and send payment.)

I ran the list of churches that I know who are comfortable with this topic. I had a few. They exist. But not many that I know. And to follow all the CRA rules and make it happen ‘above board’ is the next hurdle, with no easy solution.

It’s hard, when life disappoints, and the dreams you could almost taste and feel, wake you up to a new reality. I haven’t given up. Not yet. Not even on the sponsorship thing.

They say, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.” But I say, “Where it is God’s will, there is a way.”

And since I believed with every ounce of my being that this was God’s will, and that He was opening a door, I can’t let it go ‘just like that’, without another step forward, and another prayer. I will see what creative ideas God sends my way, and give them all I have.

Then, when I have done everything in my power to follow this dream, if the door still swings shut, then I will let it go. But not a moment sooner. Because even when life disappoints there is reason to give our best, to go as far as we can, and not lay down and die.

But always, always, we must choose to trust God, no matter the outcome, if we want to live in the fullness of His blessing.

©TrudyMetzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

Return to First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series