Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘Sexual Abuse’

Part 4 – Trust and Disappointment

Can we really trust God?

C. S. Lewis wrote, “If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were mighty He would be able to do what He wished.  But the creatures are not happy.  Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”[1]

Lewis was an agnostic professor at Oxford University when he began to ponder the possibility that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic (on par with a man who imagined himself to be a poached egg), or He was the Lord He claimed to be – the Son of God Himself.  Those possibilities served to jump-start his quest for truth … truth that mattered, not just “in the long run,” but in the eternal run.  Maybe you’ve read some of Lewis’ findings.

I found the quote above, “If God were good, etc.,” in one of his books, The Problem of Pain.  In that book Lewis tackles one of the big “whys.”  (You know what the Big Whys are, don’t you?  Why am I here?  Why do bad things happen to good people? etc.)  In The Problem of Pain he’s trying to wrap his mind around this question: “Why is there pain?”  He asks it in the context of three  theories –  that God is good and all powerful, that God is bad, or that God may be good but not all powerful.

Eventually Lewis arrives at a place where he can say that God is both good and all powerful, and because He is, and because there is structure and stability in the Universe, and because He gave Mankind the gifts of choice and freedom … there is pain.

One of the observations Lewis makes along the way is that we live in a material world in which “nature is fixed.”  

I understand that to mean that fire is fire, a tree is a tree, etc.  That is, the nature of fixed material things doesn’t change from culture to culture, language group to language group.  If we were living a world which varied according to our every whim, we would be unable to act in it.  There would be no stability.  No structure.  No predictability.  Think of a world where one day, for no reason, the law of gravity takes a holiday and then returns the next – but with no warning, ever.

Lewis makes this point, and I add my comments in parentheses:  “The permanent nature of wood which enables us to use it as a beam (say, for construction of a house) also enables us to use it for hitting our neighbor on the head.  The permanent nature of matter in general means that when human beings fight, the victory ordinarily goes to those who have superior weapons, skill, and numbers, even if their cause is unjust.” (my emphasis) (page 24)

I’ve observed, as I’ve lived my life and watched others live theirs, that almost every high has its corresponding low, almost every yes its no.  There is black, and there is white, yin and yang, earth and heaven.  There is order in the Universe.  Tao.  There is a balance to and in almost all things that gives our world its stability.

I write and believe “almost” because if life was totally predictable, there would be no mystery, only the unknown.  There are some things that defy explanation.

C. S. Lewis goes on:  “We can, perhaps, conceive of a world (only in our imaginations) in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became as soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound waves (radio, or television broadcasts) that carry lies or insults.  But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay, if the principle were carried to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter in which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted 

to frame them.  All matter in the neighborhood of a wicked man would be liable to undergo unpredictable alterations.  That God can, and does, on occasions, modify the behavior of matter and produce what we call miracles, is part of Christian faith; but the very conception of a common, and therefore stable, world, demands that these occasions should be extremely rare … Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.”  (pages 24-25)

For my friend’s, Ellie’s, sake, I wish there was never again the possibility of suffering.

Until the moment time, as we know it, ends, there will be suffering.

We live on a fallen planet, in a world where evil men can fly airliners into buildings in the name of Allah, where people who call themselves “Christians” can demonstrate at the funerals of murdered gay young men and disrupt the funerals of fallen soldiers, where politicians can lie, where policemen can choose to be corrupt, and where people who advocate abortion “choice” stifle free speech of conservatives on liberal college campuses.

I believe, one day, when time as we know it ends, Jesus will set up a Kingdom that will never end … and suffering will end.  He will “wipe away all tears.”

That’s a day worth living for.

Think about it.

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Problem Of Pain; (New York:  HarperSanFrancisco, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, © 1940; copyright restored in 1996), page 16

 

Rape and Abuse

The long term effects of rape and abuse confound and frustrate me.

I’m a former pastor who, from time to time, tried to help victims of abuse and rape overcome the affects those crimes had upon their lives.  Because I was a community leader (pastors still are), I was thrust into the netherworld of the human psyche – both the victim’s and the perpetrator’s. 

My training in pastoral counseling was broad and useful.  It was meant to be beneficial to my “clients,” both my congregants and the Man on the Street who might come by my office for conversation and prayer.  I felt my role was to provide first aid … to stop the bleeding long enough to get these poor, psychologically and emotionally wrecked people to better equipped individuals – “professionals” (if there is any such thing when it comes to dealing with human brokenness and pain).  

Nothing – no amount of education or training – could have prepared me for my conversations with rape and abuse victims.

That said, the reason I’m writing today is because I’ve been reminded of the continuing effects this kind of violence has on men and women.  Once again I’ve been painfully exposed to the long-term influence and power of abuse upon its victims.  Once again I heard (and most of the time I’ve heard), “If I had been smarter, this would not have happened.”  Or its variant:  “How could have I let (this or that) happen to me?” 

It’s been my experience on many occasions that rape’s victims seem to think they are at fault in the matter and that they brought the violence upon themselves.  The abused many times take responsibility for the actions of the abuser, saying, in effect, “I let this happen to me” (emphasis on I).

That may or may not be the experience of other pastors, counselors, or mental health professionals.  I’m saying, authoritatively, that this has been my experience … and it has and continues to sicken me.

In my thirty-three years of being a pastor my joy has been to preach about Jesus.  I’ve had the privilege of sharing the love of God.  The most loving thing I’ve done is lead people to an understanding that God has a solution for the sin they, themselves, are responsible and accountable for.  The Word of God says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  It also says, “The wages of sin is death” (eternal separation from a holy God who cannot look upon sin, or have it in His presence).  But that same Word says, “But …”  (I love it!)  “ … the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

The good news (Gospel) in a nutshell is, “Jesus took my sin upon Himself, dying in my place, so that I might have eternal life … and if I believe that, and ask God for Christ’s death to cover my debt to Him (‘the wages of [my] sin’), I can be forgiven of ALL my sin and sins.  As a result I can be made (by God’s work, not mine) clean (holy), and be assured that I am ‘saved’.” 

I’ve watched people accept this Idea, this His-story (sic), this Truth, and I’ve watched God’s LIFE permeate their entire beings – bringing freedom from addictions, guilty pasts, and the lies of our enemy – Satan.  I’ve then watched as freed people joyfully live out their days!

Many times I’ve led rape and abuse victims to this loving Father God, the One who commissioned His Son Jesus to provide salvation, and watched as He changed MUCH of their lives while giving them assurance of eternal life.

But (and here’s a frustration of mine) many of these same folks continue to struggle with the memory of their physical and emotional rape.  [NOTE:  I’m not suggesting that God, when He saves a person, takes away bad memories.  In fact, 99.9% of the time He does not, I believe because He wishes those bad memories to become the springboard for empathetic ministry to other victims.]

Here’s the crux of my frustration:  On an intellectual and psychological level, these victims have never quite gotten to a place where they could say, “I didn’t do this to me!  I don’t have to take responsibility for anything but my sin, and in this case I didn’t sin … I was sinned against!”

I realize now that I am way over my head, and that much of what I’m writing will be fodder for critics of God’s amazing grace.  Still, I must write, “Oh, how I wish I could somehow magically transform the mindset of these wounded people by saying something, or by waving a magic wand over their head and heart.  I wish the truth of what has happened to them would come into clearer focus.”

Today, my purpose in writing on this subject is not to suggest a quick fix or religious version of “Abracadabra.”  That would be insulting, and insensitive.  I’m writing to express my ongoing disturbance – that victims of past violence continue to live with a kind of self-imposed “responsibility” for the crimeand that’s a LIE.  I’m also writing to suggest a way to break the power of the LIE.  I believe the only antidote for a lie is truth. 

Further, I’m saying that one dose of the truth may be adequate for one person but not for ninety-nine.  I’m saying that for most victims, repeated doses of TRUTH will break the power of any lie.

Jesus said, “The TRUTH will set you free,” and I believe that.  And the five-fold Truth I’ve gleaned from my experience with rape and abuse victims is this:  At some point, if a victim is to experience real freedom from the violence of their past they must BELIEVE (1) that they didn’t do to, or bring this violence upon, themselves!  And they must believe (2) that God didn’t WILL that terrible experience for their life, but (3) because people are selfish, and because selfish people have a mind and will of their own (“freedom to choose” being one of the first gifts God gave mankind in the Garden), God is NOT the One they should be angry at or distant from.  They must accept as fact that (4) Satan puts the thought into the rapist’s head (tempts him or her) that being violent against someone else will lessen their own pain.  Satan puts the thought into the abuser’s head that hitting someone will undo the damage done to them.  And victims of rape and abuse must believe that (5) when a person is deceived by such lies, and acts out, the perpetrator is responsible for making that choice and the resulting action … and by extension, Satan is a coconspirator in the crime.  (NOTE:  I don’t think it’s a sin to be angry at Satan.  Just keep this in mind:  he’s a powerful adversary.  Refrain from taking him on in your own strength!)

When I hear abusers say, “She MADE me do it,” I know the abuser bought a lie of Satan.  (And for those of you who don’t believe in a real Satan, just a few thoughts to ponder:  One, Satanists believe.  Two, God knows there is a real Satan … he visited Jesus in the desert, and Jesus said He saw Satan fall from heaven.  Three, wishing or thinking he does not exist is not very bright – you’d be denying empirical evidence found in the world’s daily newspapers.  There’s more, but I just include these three.)

I’m inviting comment, of course.  This is a very emotional topic.  If I’ve written anything that has offended any reader, my intent was not to stir up pain and anger but to bring my experience, my thoughts, and the love in my heart to the public square for consideration.

THINK ABOUT IT.