When a grievous situation persists beyond all capacity to endure it, victims of abuse can reach a point of hopelessness.
Those who have never been abused may wonder how that is even possible. Human beings were created with hope engineered into their genes. Each breath we take is a hopeful act. Each morning brings a new dawn.
But if each night brings with it the same terrors – groping hands, broken dishes and broken bones – we may abandon hope. Either that or decide hope is a sham – a delusion by evolution to induce our continued existence in the face of intolerable conditions, or the cruel hoax of an uncaring God who has long since abandoned us.
You can tell when a woman has given up hope. Violence will do that. Poverty will do it. You can see the light go out of a child’s eyes. Neglect will do that. Cruelty will do it, especially cruelty by those “nearest and dearest”.
Once hope is gone, it can be extremely difficult to restore. We dare not trust in the possibility that life may get better. We have been too often disappointed, too often disillusioned.
Two brothers in upstate New York, Christopher and Lucas Leonard, ages 17 and 19, were this week beaten so severely by their parents and the members of a so called “Christian” sect that the elder died of internal injuries . Bruce and Deborah Leonard have been charged with first degree manslaughter in the death of their son.
Most people will find this degree of cruelty and violence hard to grasp. It was certainly not, in any sense, Christian. Victims should not be misled by counterfeit religions labeling themselves “Christian”, but misrepresenting the brand.
Christianity does bear on the issue of hope.
While Job and others whose stories are told in the Bible at times lost hope, the word “hopeless” appears only once in the Bible (NKJV), in the Book of Jeremiah where Israel rejects God’s warning to forsake evil ways (Jer. 18: 12). Everywhere else, over 150 times, the word used is “hope”.
Hope is what God extends to abuse victims. The hope He offers is not a veneer of cheerfulness, to be plastered over their wounds. Nor is it a promise that victims’ scars will be erased. It is the very real hope their lives may yet be restored.
What God promises is that He will make it possible for victims to transcend their suffering; that He will reconfigure their lives in ways they cannot imagine while still in the depths of their despair.
God promises to give us beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning (Is. 61: 3). The exchange is prompted by His great love for us. That love is the antithesis of the harm inflicted on the Leonard brothers and other abuse victims…but the foundation for our hope.
“Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord” (Ps. 31: 24).
 The New York Times, “Glimpses Inside Secretive Sect after Killing at Upstate New York Church” by Jesse McKinley and Benjamin Mueller, 10/14/15, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/15/nyregion/lucas-leonard-beating-death-at-upstate-new-york-church.html?_r=0.
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