The Lord Is My Shepherd
I am mostly numb to Scriptures that talk about God’s protection. There, I said it. I wrestle with God on this every day, so I might as well say it out loud too. I don’t want to be numb to them and I do believe in and love God. I do believe there has to be a reason for the pain we are allowed to go through and a reason why God doesn’t always rescue or rescues much later than He could have. But I don’t understand that reason.
I used to beg and plead and beg again, over and over and over and over, over many, many years for God to either change my husband, change me or release me. For 17 years, none of that happened. All that did happen was a growing hatred of myself and belief in the lies my abuser fed me about myself. Lies that would cling to my soul and tear at my heart and mind for years and years to come. Lies that would cripple my ability to trust another human being again. Lies that jaded me to the life of joy in the Lord I thought I was supposed to have, as a wife and a Christian.
Abuse shatters many of the false assumptions that give us security (for example, bad things do not happen to good people; God will never let evil people harm me; if I pray, the abuse will stop; most people are basically good). Abuse causes people to feel unsafe and powerless. The world is increasingly viewed as hostile and dangerous. Hence, abuse survivors feel safer and more powerful if they avoid the vulnerability that comes from trusting others. Furthermore, shattered assumptions about the world often cause abuse survivors to become disillusioned, which in turn fractures trust and intimacy. (Mending The Soul: Understanding And Healing Abuse [*Affiliate link], Steven R. Tracy)
As Mr. Tracy rightly points out, many of the assumptions that people have, which comfort and help them through life, are simply no longer there for victims of abuse. We don’t look at Scripture or life the same way as someone who has not been abused. Many of us feel a disconnect when we read about God’s protection, especially those who still are or were trapped in the abuse for many years, with no understanding of why God did not come and rescue them. The sense of trust that God loves us enough to keep us safe was lost in the years of abuse we couldn’t escape from.
Judith Herman. author of Trauma and Recovery [*Affiliate link], explains it this way:
Traumatized people feel utterly abandoned, utterly alone, cast out of the human and divine systems of care and protection that sustain life. Thereafter, a sense of alienation, of disconnection, pervades every relationship, from the most intimate family bonds to the most abstract affirmations of community and religion. When trust is lost, traumatized people feel they belong more to the dead than to the living.
For me, I have been a believer in Christ and a Christ follower for many years, so I know intellectually that by God’s nature, there somehow was protection, even during the years of abuse. But I can’t see how. I can’t really connect with those promises anymore. I started to lose the ability to do that when I was ten, because that’s how old I was when I escaped an attempted kidnapping. Later, the abuse from my ex cemented my inability to believe in safety anymore, to the point where now I instinctively throw up my walls, any time those verses on protection are brought out. Numb. Disconnected from them.
The bottom line is that I know God intends and has plans to give me a future and a hope. But a man who had evil, selfish desires decided to attempt to destroy those plans and replace them with his own for nearly half of my life. I believe God can bring beauty from these ashes and in some ways, I am already seeing that he has and is doing that. I know Him as my redeemer, my savior. He opened my eyes to the abuse, He helped me leave it. He gave me courage to defy the culturally ruled ‘church’ and trust His Word and merciful character, so I could get out of the hell that was killing me. He is healing me now and will be, I am sure, for years to come.
I can see Him so clearly as my redeemer, my savior for all of these things and more, but I’m still trying hard to understand Him as my protector. That one is much harder for me today. And so I wrestle, because I want to understand that part of Him and justify it with the ugly hopelessness I experienced for so long, justify it with why other women die at the hands of their abusers, thinking they were honoring God in doing so, because their church or pastor told them they must stay. Where was their “wake up” from the fog? Where was that promise of protection for them?
In the end, I may never get the answer. In the end, I think I have to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and God thinks so much bigger than I can, and then I must wait on Him to help me learn to trust Him again. In the end, He must know far better than I can understand, how He has and will continue to protect me.
So while I may not feel the comfort of those verses right now, I can choose to believe that they are real, and I guess that’s what trust really is to begin with anyway. Trust is an action, not a feeling. Just because you fear, doesn’t mean you can’t learn to trust. Trust means you look past your fear and hold to God.
And that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m holding on and asking Him to fix me. For now, all I know is that I’m not letting go and I think for now, that’s all He needs me to do.
Psalm 23 in my words:
The Lord is my protector.
I have all I need in Him.
He lets my hurting heart,
rest in His Grace.
He walks with me,
through my pain
And helps me find peace.
He strengthens my heart.
He shows me the way He has for me.
A way that honors Him.
Even in my darkest times,
I don’t have to be afraid
Because you are right beside me.
You haven’t left me.
I am not alone.
Your guidance and protection
Comfort me and keep me safe.
You give me treasure,
In the midst of pain.
I learn and understand.
I seek less of me and more of you.
You give me wisdom and discernment,
More than I deserve.
Your incredible and faithful love
Will hold me and sustain me
Every day of my life,
And I will seek your face,