Many years ago, prior to my marriage, I was sexually assaulted, raped multiple times by men I knew. I am constantly surprised that I still struggle with flashbacks and nightmares so often years later. But more than these memories, I am frustrated by how often these past events affect my current fears and view of the Lord. I struggle with fear of people. I struggle with frequent guilt and sadness that I’m afraid to share or to explain. I struggle with a lot of shame. Over what happened. Over my part. Over what people would think even now. Over how I responded in the midst of this trauma. My only hope through this has been the gospel.
He holds all things together
The gospel helps me with my post-trauma fears and to feel safe in the Lord’s control. The gospel helps with my fear that God was absent or didn’t care about what happened to me. In the midst of trauma and still now, I have felt alone and forgotten. But the truth is I never was and still am not alone. I know this because of God’s lordship.
He sees a way of redemption even in the midst of pain. He was with me in these attacks and is with me now. And because of his Word, I can be confident that the Lord holds the world together, not me. I don’t need to scramble to make sense of this in order to feel safe or secure. I can lie down and sleep in peace (Psalm 4:8) knowing that God alone makes me dwell in safety – the safety of his love, care, eternal securing, control. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Nothing is wasted. He promises to walk with me through dark waters and to be the shield around me: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you” (Isaiah 43:2). “But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high” (Psalm 3). He is also the one in charge of justice and mercy – not me.
Living in darkness
These attacks were sin done to me. Period. Things on this earth are sometimes ugly and hard. We live in a broken, fallen world — a world that is different than God intended. These assaults are the result of sin in this world. God is grieved by sin against me and understands my pain. Jesus too was violently assaulted as he went to and was hung on the cross, so he knows what I am going through. But more than his empathy, he is Lord.
And when I don’t believe God’s lordship, often I have responded and still do respond with sin of my own. When I live out of fear that this could happen again, that no one understands or is embarrassed by me, when I choose to pull away from people who love me in fear of how they could hurt me, I live with my hope in my physical and emotional safety. Safety is something that I can even worship. I’m tempted to place my hope in my circumstances being perfect and in the people around me being perfect. When I pursue these things I become trapped in darkness and forget all that God knows and provides. I live in darkness.
His marvelous light
As my Savior, Christ has died for every sin of mine. He has died for the sins of others — even the sins of those that sin against me. Because of his resurrection, my old self has died and Christ now lives in me. Instead of leaving me in darkness and shame, He calls me out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). He is my helper — what can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6). Yes, I understand intimately the reality of what man can do to me – but I know that Jesus offers me something no one can ever touch. He offers me a hope, forgiveness, to be called his people and to give me a special place in heaven. When I go to him, he forgives me of my sins of hoping in and resting in the safety and security I can create instead of resting in his awesome power, lordship, and love. He lovingly adopts me as his daughter and gives me the gift of eternal life. He crowns me with beauty and lifts me out of my shame.
Hope and security
I repeatedly need to remind myself that I can agree with the truth of God’s Word even when I don’t feel it. I can confess that I want to protect myself without his help. I can confess that this is scary and I am unsure and afraid a lot. By faith I can remind myself that God has prepared a place for me – and that is my hope and security (John 14:1-7). By faith I can remind myself that this is something no one can ever take from me. By faith I can say his promises out loud. I can speak them back to God. I can tell him I am having doubts and need his help. I’m grateful that I can go to him at any time and he’s always there to listen. The unexpected will continue to occur – but it is not unexpected to God. There is no Plan B he has to fall back on. The unexpected will continue to occur for me, but his faithfulness is sure.