When Life’s Raw Deal was Not Your Fault

my_badContinued from here.

If I was reading this blog series 15 years ago, I would have angrily responded with, “But it wasn’t my fault!! I was six years old!! It was NOT my responsibility or fault that I was sex-trafficked!!” And those words are true. They are not incorrect, but they are incomplete.

I was not responsible for being sex-trafficked as a child. I was, however, responsible for hating my child abusers, which Jesus said is murder. I was responsible for “punishing” the people in my life who tried to love me as I rejected them because of what had been done to me in the past. I was responsible for idolizing food, seeking relief from my pain through an eating disorder rather than seeking the arms of God for my healing.

Again, I would have reacted angrily to reading those words: “If I had not be abused, I would not have NEEDED an idol!! How dare you tell me that I am sinning for hating the people who raped me!! My life is one big train wreck because of other people’s evil choices!! How DARE you tell me that I am sinning by hating them for doing this to me!!”

If this is your reaction to what I have written, I say to you with much gentleness and tenderness – God’s healing is bigger than your pain. My heart was beyond broken. It was shattered into a million pieces, but God gave me a new heart. While I have not forgotten all of the pain I carried for decades, it seems like a lifetime ago – like the story of a dear friend from long ago who has since been healed. I feel separated from all of that pain and heartache because God has healed me, and He will heal you, too, if you will let Him. But you’ve got to do it His way, and that requires forgiving those who broke you, which I know is the last thing you want to hear, but it’s the avenue God uses to heal shattered hearts.

A friend who is having a difficult time forgiving asked me if I would forgive someone who murdered my child, and I said yes. She asked how I could do it. I responded that the alternative is to carry the weight of that anger and pain around for the rest of my life. It’s not worth it.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging under the words, “My bad.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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The Last Will be First

pity_party_catContinued from here.

I ended my last blog entry by sharing a deeper truth that God recently gave me in answer to my question from years ago of where He was when I was being raped as a little girl. His answer centers around this passage of Scripture:

Then Peter spoke up, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’” ~ Mark 10:28-31

In God’s economy, greatness comes from loss and suffering in this life. Jesus explained this when James and John asked to be seated on Jesus’ right and left side in heaven. We all want to be honored, but are we willing to drink from the cup of suffering that Jesus drank from? He was/is the Son of God, and yet he came not to be served but to serve and to suffer, giving his life as a ransom for many.

Are we willing to endure suffering in this life to receive honor in heaven? The truthful answer for most of us is no. We are so driven by our desire for comfort and control that we reject our Healer, blaming Him for the raw deal that life has thrown us. We made ungodly choices that brought us harm – or were victimized by the wrongful choices of others – and then we rail at God for the consequences of free will used for evil:

A person’s own folly leads to their ruin,
yet their heart rages against the Lord.” ~ Prov. 19:3

When I talk to people who have been given a raw deal in life, I repeatedly remind them that this is NOT heaven. We all want free will, but we also want God to magically remove the consequences of that free will. We cannot have it both ways. If we want to experience the freedom, joy, and peace of God, we must submit our free will to His.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace and a cat sitting together looking sad. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Encouragement for Those Who Got a Raw Deal in Life

dog_cover_faceI am one of those who got a raw deal in life. By the time I was six years old, I was being sex-trafficked, repeatedly raped as family “friends” made money off my body. Despite receiving Jesus as my Savior at age 8, the sex-trafficking continued until my family moved away when I was 11. It took me a long time to reconcile how a loving God – one I had given my heart to at age 8 – could be trusted. Today, I will look you in the eye and tell you with absolutely no reservation that my God is GOOD and infinitely trustworthy. I know that makes no logical sense, and yet it’s the truth.

How did I get there? One step at a time, choosing to believe God’s Word over my own experience. A huge sticking point for me was the question that haunted me for years: “God, where were you when I was being raped as a little girl?” One of the answers I received was that He was right there beside me, grieving that mankind would choose to use free will in such a vile manner. A later answer was that as He was right there beside me grieving, He was giving me the stamina I needed to survive the abuse without becoming an abuser myself as he constructed an exit strategy, which was my family moving away.

I have found that interactions with God are always multi-layered, which is one reason I enjoy reading the Bible so much. You can read a biblical story from a surface level, but there are always deeper meanings and nuances that the Holy Spirit enlightens as you need them. God recently led me to a much deeper layer of His answer to my question of where He was when I was being raped as a little girl: He was preparing great rewards for me because in His economy, the last are first. More on this in my next blog entry.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting next to a dog, both of them covering their faces with a hand/paw. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Experiencing God as More Than Enough

Continued from here.

If you will take that first step of faith – the first step onto the rickety bridge – then God will be faithful and show Himself to be more than enough in that area of your life. God’s ways really do work, but we must do things His way, not our own. While my own way might be to build another bridge, charter a boat, or find another way to cross the river, His way is to trust Him – to be completely dependent upon him to keep the rickety bridge secure while you cross over the raging river below you. It is when we step out in faith in our weakness that we learn the degree of God’s sufficiency for us.

I have learned this lesson in many ways in various areas of my life, but this doesn’t make the rickety bridges I encounter look any sturdier. No matter how much experience I have gained in crossing rickety bridges, the one I am currently facing always seems like the one that isn’t going to hold. This is why it’s so important to reflect upon all of the other rickety bridges that God has safely led you across. This is my favorite Bible verse for doing this:

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. ~ Ps. 9:4

Every rickety bridge that held me was a demonstration of God’s faithfulness. Because God was faithful before, I can believe He will be faithful again. As I meditate on God’s prior faithfulness, I lift up my shield of faith to block the enemy’s taunts about how this bridge could not possibly hold.

In this season of crossing the rickety bridge of the Christmas season, to avoid holiday depression, I must take a step out on to the bridge and believe that the same God who has carried me through so many other life trials is more than enough to carry me through this one. I am using the plan I designed from Lysa TerKeurst’s book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions to help me keep focusing my thoughts back onto God. I am fully dependent upon Him to keep this rickety bridge secure. My job is to keep walking and trust that God truly is in control, no matter what I feel.

[Graphic: Cover of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Courtesy Amazon.com.]

 

How to Turn Knowledge into Belief

need_a_rideContinued from here.

I knew the Bible very well for decades before I actually started doing what it says to do. I could give wonderful advice about how to live a godly life … I simply did not do it myself because, in my heart of hearts, I did not really believe it, despite what I knew. Perhaps this is why God’s Word says that it is impossible to please God without faith. Knowing a whole lot about God doesn’t get us to the other side of the river any faster than not knowing anything about Him at all. In fact, it can even be a hindrance because someone who does not know God has not spent years talking himself out of stepping out onto the rickety bridge.

The key to experiencing God’s sufficiency is simple and yet very difficult – you must take that first step in faith. What is that first step? You need to give away whatever it is that you need, which is counterintuitive but is the key to turning knowledge into belief.

Let’s say you need more money: give more to those in need. If you need peace, give God thanks for all He has already done for you. If you need to feel loved, do something loving for someone else. If you need to feel accepted and valued, be accepting and loving to someone who is different from you. If you need to feel joy, do something for someone else that makes that person joyful. If you need more time to meet your responsibilities in this season of life, spend more time with God. This is the spiritual principle of sowing and reaping, and this principle is woven into the Bible in many ways and many contexts.

When you give away what you need, you are taking that first step onto the rickety bridge. You are also planting a seed that will bear fruit in the future if you do not give up. I know this seems counterintuitive, but God’s ways are different from ours, and the principle of sowing and reaping is one that God created. Whatever it is you need, give it to someone else, and God will show you that He is more than enough to meet that need.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace driving a car and asking, “Need a ride?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Believing God’s Word is the Key to Experiencing His Sufficiency

lifeContinued from here.

The key to experiencing the reality that God is more than enough to meet whatever you lack is believing God’s Word over how you feel. Belief involves more than knowledge. I knew for decades that God was bigger than anxiety, but I did not experience God being bigger than anxiety until I started believing it. Believe something involves taking action in reliance on that belief.

For example, I might know that a rickety wooden bridge is sufficient to hold my weight as I walk from one side of a river to the other. I might see other people walk along the rickety bridge, which adds to my knowledge base that the rickety bridge is sufficient. However, whether I believe it is sufficient will dictate my actions. If I stay too focused on the rapids below the bridge, I might fear them enough not to attempt to cross the bridge. My choice whether to cross the bridge is based solely on my belief as to whether or not it is safe. I might be able to recite stories about other people who successfully crossed the bridge. I may even be able to tell you 10 specific reasons why the bridge is safe to cross. However, until I actually walk across the bridge, I don’t really believe it is secure, and I am missing out on the blessings waiting for me on the other side.

As I remain positioned on the same side of the river, I might become angry with the builder. Why didn’t the person who built the bridge make it more secure? Why isn’t there another way to cross this river? I might become envious of the people who cross it and receive the blessings on the other side, making excuses for why it was easier for them to cross the river on the bridge than it is for me. I might lie to myself and others about why I won’t cross the bridge, saying that I don’t really want to cross over, when the truth is that, in my heart of hearts, I don’t really believe the bridge will hold for me.

Either I believe the bridge will hold or I don’t. My actions will be based upon what I believe, not what I know.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking across a river with a bird under the word, “Life.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Believing God’s Word over What You Feel

feelsContinued from here.

When we lack something we need, it feels natural to align our thoughts with our emotions rather than trust that God is going to meet that need. This holds true even when we know God is able. For example, we read about Jesus feeding the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish, and we know that God is able to meet our physical needs in abundance. Even though we know this, when we look in the empty refrigerator and the depleted checking account, we react not based upon what we know but what we believe. Most of us believe what we see rather than what we know and react accordingly. This makes us double-minded and vulnerable to our emotions tossing us around like the waves of the ocean.

My natural reaction is to try to take matters into my own hands. I doubt that God is enough to meet my need, so I look elsewhere to meet it, which the Bible calls idolatry. When I seek out idols, God will let me do it for a while until I learn that idols cannot meet my needs.

For example, I needed unconditional love, but I didn’t think God was enough to meet this need because I wanted “someone with skin” to provide this. I sought it in marriage, parenthood, family, and friendships. God allowed me to experience disappointment everywhere I turned, and my breaking point was when my final two idols (my two best friends) left. I thought this would break me, and it did … it broke up my unplowed ground so it became fertile for sowing righteousness, and I reaped the fruit of unfailing love.

My experience and emotions told me that I was fundamentally unlovable. God’s Word told me that I was lavishly loved. As long as I followed my emotions, I experienced need. Once I chose to believe God instead of my emotions, I learned that God was more than enough to meet that need – so much that His love overflowed out of me, changing the dynamics of all of my relationships so that I no longer sought to receive love but, instead, to give it.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of an arrow piercing Grace’s heart below the word, “Feels.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]