Silent Suffering

I’ve written in the past about the issue of sexual abuse and its impact upon those who have experienced it in some way or another. I won’t bother beating a dead horse regarding the devastation it causes in the lives of its victims, their loved ones, and society as a whole. Two quotes that I’ve read/heard in the past that have recently been on my mind are the following:

“Sexual abuse… it kills a child.” Spoken by a man who was >50 years old and 40 years removed from the abuse he suffered but still had a hard time remaining composed as he reflected on his journey through dealing with his past trauma.

“Sexual assault rips the fabric of God’s design for sexuality to shreds.” -Bobbie Jameison  Sexual Assault and the Hope of the Gospel

So I guess this is “part two” to my previous blog. The part where I attempt to capture being on the “bad” end of the spectrum in regard to how I’m currently viewing and dealing with things that have happened in the past. Previously, I wrote from a place of optimism and hope. Currently, I am attempting to return to that place, but will be honest and say that it’s been easier to default to fatalistic and cynical thoughts of hopelessness and anger instead of clinging to what I know is true.

I know that God is sovereign over every circumstance, that He rules and reigns over every moment of time: past, present, and future. I know that He is capable of healing all wounds and that, one day, all things will be renewed and restored to their former glory by the precious blood of Christ that was shed to redeem what sin shattered. These are truths I know, but that are very difficult to remember when I feel like God is neglecting me or leaving me to deal with something that it is too hard to endure.

And from what I know of talking to others who have dealt with the trauma of abuse in the past, this is a common experience. Why wouldn’t you wrestle with these thoughts and feelings when something as sacred and intimate as your own sexuality is violated? So let me validate anyone else who may be reading this who has struggled with these feelings or thoughts and reassure you that you’re not alone in feeling angry or betrayed or isolated. I think it’s safe to say that everyone who makes it to adulthood has faced some kind of circumstance that causes them to question the motives and intentions of those around them. Part of being human is coming to realize that other humans will let you down and even hurt you in ways that will have a lasting impact on your perception of relationships and those who enter into them with you. This is a normal aspect of development in a fallen world.

I would go as far as to say that, in a global economy that thrives from creating and feeding sexual cravings and addictions, everyone now experiences a hypersexualization at an age when they’re probably not mentally and emotionally prepared for it. This isn’t to say that everyone understands what it is like to experience sexual abuse; I just want to point out that our culture as a whole has become exposed to sex in similar ways that victims of sexual abuse are also exposed: unwillingly, overwhelmingly, and irreparably. How can you escape broken sexuality when it is literally pushed through every form of modern media and sold as shamelessly as candy? In an age where a whole generation has been raised on the mantra of self expression and freedom, of doing whatever makes you “feel” good, why would we expect that following such expressions to their extreme outcomes (the molestation of children, the rape of defenseless or inebriated men and women, the existence of the sex trade, etc.) wouldn’t lead to the overall degradation and deterioration of the souls who engage/are exposed to such behaviors?

Let me be clear: sexual abuse of any kind is just as suicidal and agonizing for the abuser as it is for the abused. Granted, each has to deal with the ramifications of the situation in different ways and it’s definitely easier to see how the consequences fall more heavily and unfairly upon the abused, but I would venture to say that no abuser will ever walk away from what he or she has done and not suffer magnanimous consequences of some sort whether they ever come to realize it or not. Even if their hearts are so hardened and their consciences so severed that they never feel guilty or torn in some way by the pain they caused someone else, they will one day stand before the One who sees and knows all and give an account for every work and deed. And God help them if that day comes before they ever repent of the evil they committed against Him and another creature made in His image.

In saying all of this, I’m trying as I have tried before to portray this reality as transparently and as genuinely as I can… I’m doing my best to admit that this is the main issue, the deepest pain I have struggled with in all of my life that has resulted from moments that I’m over two decades removed from. What does a good day look like? Just being able to acknowledge it, accept that it happened, and to ask God for the thousandth time to help me trust that there’s greater meaning in it. That it can be redeemed. But I don’t know that, since I first began remembering those moments and registering that they were wrong, a day has ever gone by (good days included) when I haven’t remembered that it still happened. Even on the best days, the days when I am able to wholeheartedly say “Thy will be done” and surrender those memories and that pain to God for Him to do with them as He please, I still have to remember it.

And on the bad days, it’s all I can do to try and forget. It consumes me. It enrages me. And I live it all over again and again and again. Here I am at 26, trapped in a 6 year old body, stuck in moments that have long passed. Hearing the same things. Seeing the same things. Feeling the same things. I can’t stop it. I can’t change it. And I know that no one can erase those memories. And no experience can replace them or make them go away. But on the worst days, I feel numb to all of it and settle to say, “I don’t care what is true. I want my way. I want to do what I want. I will find my own way to heal.”

In reality, what that translates to is: I will be my own god today. I will do whatever I want with whoever I want and will attempt to take into control what has never been in and will never be in my control to continue allowing myself to be deluded by the thought that doing what I want will solve all of my problems and right every wrong that hasn’t seemed to be “righted” yet.
On those days, I’ve noticed, nothing and no one else matters but me. I want to lay in bed and cry all day. Or find a random guy to come lay in bed with me, knowing that would make everything infinitely worse but really not caring because, again, the focus is me.

Some days, I have laid in bed and cried a lot. By the grace of God, I have yet to invite any guy to join me for that. But when I allow other godly women to enter in and remind me of truth, when I pray my weakest and most simple prayers, and when I open God’s Word, the only light that can penetrate such darkness faithfully shines through.

Are those days still agonizing? Hell yes.
Have I cried to the point of not being able to cry anymore, feeling physically miserable, and still feeling no sense of resolve or trust in the Lord? Same answer as before.
Have I said or written every four letter word under the sun or beaten the shit out of something because I’m so pissed off and have no idea how else I’m supposed to handle such intense emotions and memories or express to the people around me how I feel when my mind is reeling and my heart is breaking from trying to process what happened?

But even in the midst of so much darkness and evil and psychological torment, the beauty and hope of the Gospel is still able to be seen.

I’m saying this as someone who constantly desires to give in to my own selfish desires. I want to do what I want. I want to drink until I pass out or sleep with whoever whenever or, worst case scenario, kill myself so that I don’t have to deal with any of it anymore.

And yet, the promise of a Savior captivates me. When all I want is to give in and let go, He still holds onto me.

Even on the days when I do give in to desires that I know won’t fulfill me or make me whole,
He still holds me.
Christ holds me.

He has held me through every moment. Even the worst ones that I’ve asked Him to obliterate from my mind. Could it be that He allows them to remain so that I may remember how faithful and steady His hand has been through all these years? That it is His touch and no other that has been so definitive and loving and benevolent… that He alone has loved me selflessly, expecting and asking nothing in return simply because it is His nature to love. I am only able to reciprocate such affections because He has shown them to me.

It is only by His grace that my heart and mind are slowly being restored, reshaped into entities that are used for His purposes, not mine or anyone else’s. I can see how He has used multitudes of people to show me that it is possible to trust and hope and believe that not everyone intends to hurt me. Each person’s life is only defined in relation to one Person, no matter what else anyone has said or done to them. He alone can breathe life into deadness. He alone can heal the deepest wounds and mend the broken heart.
On the bad and the worst days, this is the truth I have to cling to, the Gospel I have to remember and repeat to myself or ask others to remind me of.

God is always good and able to salvage even the tiniest shards of all that sin has shattered. This, I must pray to be reminded of and to have faith to believe.
This is the greatest hope the suffering soul must stake its survival upon.
So even in the midst of the deep sorrow and confusion that result from my own sinfulness and the sinfulness of others, the peace and comfort of Christ transcend my agony and His radiant nature illuminates the dark night of the soul.

God is good. Life is hard. Now and forevermore, I am held.
May every day lead me to a greater understanding and adoration of the precious blood of Jesus that makes redemption possible in any circumstance.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36

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