by Claudia Barba
Originally published in the Jan/Feb 2012 edition of FrontLine.
If you have been abused, you carry a heavy load. Lugging the past around is exhausting, but no matter what some say, you can’t simply drop it. In the daylight, names and pictures, places and faces remind you of what you’re desperately trying to forget, and after dark, awful memories haunt your sleep.
Especially if you were abused as a child, before you understood that what was happening was not normal, when you were too weak to defend yourself, too young and terrified to find a way of escape, your tender heart may have been numbed for a lifetime. Those who betrayed you—by committing or by enabling the abuse—may have made it hard for you to trust again. You may be suspicious of those who say they love you, or you may find it difficult to love at all.
You may even be distrustful of God, who saw what was happening and could have stopped or prevented it but didn’t. You question why One who loved you would choose not to shield you. You memorize Romans 8:28 and try to believe it, but you wonder how any good could ever result from such evil, for you find no blessing in your memories, no escape from your heartache.
I can’t answer all your questions or even fully understand your suffering, for I have not been where you are. But I can stand beside you as a friend. Let’s move away from the bitter edge of your pain and look together for the good that can come from it. It’s true that “all things work together for good.” But the following verse explains what that goodis: “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Few life experiences have as much power to move you toward that goal as experiencing abuse and handling it as He did.
Jesus knows what it means to suffer for others’ wrongdoing. It doesn’t seem fair that someone should hurt you so deeply and then leave you wounded by the road as he goes on his merry way through life with no signs of guilt or remorse, no desire to make things right or recompense you for your loss of innocence. The abuser did the sinning, but you have done the suffering.
You are not sinless like the Savior, but you did not cause, deserve, or desire your abuse. Like Him, you suffered innocently. That’s what the cross was all about. He “did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22) but was tortured and left to bleed and die alone. Multitudes still pass Him by—all the way into eternity—without caring or even noticing that it was their sin that caused His torment. And while the Son was being “wounded for our transgressions . . . bruised for our iniquities,” the Father saw and allowed it to continue. “It pleased the Lord to bruise him” (Isa. 53:5, 10), not because He was cruel or unfeeling, but because He had a greater purpose in mind.
So when you come to Jesus with the anguish of abuse and your sense of separation from the Father, Jesus understands. Draw near to Him, knowing that He is “touched with the feeling of [your] infirmities” (Heb. 4:15). As you share in “the fellowship of his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10), you will gradually but surely grow into His likeness.
Jesus also knows what it means to forgive. If your abuser has asked you for forgiveness, you’ve already discovered how hard that is. Forgiving is expensive, for it requires forfeiting the right to retaliate. It also asks you to absolve guilt for something you can never forget. Even the death of an unrepentant abuser is costly, for with him dies any possibility of reconciliation. Death removes the abuser but not the pain, leaving you with the need to show mercy in your spirit toward someone who showed no remorse.
But Colossians 3:13 makes Him our model for forgiving: “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” How does He forgive? Fully, immediately, and unconditionally. When by His grace and in His miraculous strength you are able forgive like that, you do what is humanly impossible and take another giant step toward Christlikeness.
And as you grow into His image, you’ll be able to help other hurting women with insight and credibility, for you sense and understand their trials, just as the One who took on human flesh understands yours. The One “who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble” (2 Cor. 1:4) will swing open new doors of ministry for you.
Your past may always be a heavy load, but you can lighten it by shifting your focus from what happened to you back then to what the Lord is doing in you right now. Abuse is not good, but growing into His likeness is good. It is very, very good.
Claudia Barba assists her husband, Dave, in Press On! Ministries (www.ipresson.com). They travel full time, helping to plant churches in the USA. She also enjoys speaking to women’s groups and writing Bible studies, including Refresh Your Heart and When Christ Was Here, both published by BJU Press.
Due to the importance of the issue of child protection, we are publishing in serial format the entire articles on the subject appearing in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of FrontLine. These articles will be made available in downloadable format as soon as our serialization is complete.
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