Tag Archives: despair

Demons

“Litigatio Christi cum Belial” by Jacobus de Theram (1461), Bavarian State Library (PD)

My demons and I are well acquainted with one another.  We have grappled together for over half a century now.  Some days I tell myself I have won a battle.  But another always looms.  And my losses have gradually taken their toll.

There are many times I have hated myself for failing yet again – for the very fact the scars of my abuse remain.  Those are the most dangerous times, the dark mouth of hell yawning before me.

The temptation to give up, give in, can be inviting.  But a light of hope continues to shine, constant if at times faint.  It is the promise of Salvation. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

A Bed in Hell

Snow geese in flight at dawn, Bosque del Apache, NM, Author John Fowler, Source flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Rather than providing consolation, Scripture can feel like torture to abuse victims.  We hear promises of hope and protection as lies…or “proof” of our unworthiness.  After all, God’s promises were not kept in our case, were they? So it can seem to us.

Worse still, we may fear deep down that the fate “assigned” us was deliberately cruel because of our lack of worth.  This is torment, placing the blame for our pain squarely at God’s door.

But listen to verses 7-11 of Psalm 139:

“…Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me…”

This is what it means to be a child of God.  We are not spared suffering, but remain the focus of His care and attention at all times.

Our wounds grieve God. More than that, His hands and feet were pierced for our sakes.  We forget this when lost in our own sorrow.

Abuse victims have known the bed in hell.  For us, depression may be the form darkness takes.  Yet in the throes of that illness, we are not forsaken.  God seeks us out despite our anger, despite our despair, despite even our atheism.

Originally posted 11/17/13

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Blue on Blue, Part 2 – Despair

This is a highly personal post.  Like most abuse victims and many depression sufferers, I am well familiar with despair.  Having been grievously wounded, we cannot help but wonder whether God has turned His back on us, whether He exists at all.

There are Christian denominations which view despair as sinful.  Not all Church Fathers (influential early theologians) would, however, agree [1].  Neither do I, for that matter.  This post was written to demonstrate that the despair abuse victims experience is NOT sinful, even from that strict perspective.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Ps. 130: 1-2).

Depression sufferers often face condemnation from their well-meaning Christian friends.  Such condemnation is misplaced.  Depression should not be confused with despair.   And for despair to be considered “sinful”, certain conditions must be met.

Depression v. Despair

Depression can arise despite our circumstances.  Despair stems from our circumstances.  Depression is the manifestation of a medical condition.  Despair is the spiritual conclusion we draw about an eternal reality.

Both will make us unhappy.  Only despair, however, can be seen as “sin” [2].

Despair as “Sin”

When we despair – as most of us use the term today – we view our suffering as pointless, and God as powerless (or uninterested) to intervene.  This is situational despair.

For our hopelessness to qualify as “sinful”, we must have a genuine understanding of God; must be above the age of reason; must be in sound mind; and — in the strictest sense — must despair not about our circumstances, but about our Salvation.

Abuse victims (and depression sufferers) simply do not satisfy these conditions.

Judas and Suicide

Judas Iscariot’s suicide is often put forward as the classic act of despair.  The apostles had daily close contact with Christ.  Judas had experienced firsthand Christ’s infinite holiness, infinite power, and infinite love.

All these Judas is said to have rejected by his self-destructive act [3][4].  Judas viewed his betrayal of Christ as so heinous it was beyond God’s capacity to forgive.  He despaired, in other words, of his Salvation.

Abuse Contrasted

By contrast, the child who is daily abused and gives up hope is not guilty of the sin of despair.  For one thing, the child may not yet have reached the age of reason.  S/he may not, therefore, be capable of forming the necessary intent.

For another thing, a child who is abused is likely to have little or no understanding of God’s true nature.   S/he has no reason to believe in a just and loving God, so cannot be penalized for the failure to trust Him.  At worst, the child rejects a flawed image of God based on tragic experience with a hostile and painful world.

As important, the abused child despairs of his/her situation (not his/her eternal Salvation).  Hell is here and now.  If anything, unfounded accusations – in reality, out and out lies – about the child’s responsibility for the abuse and overall lack of worth may make death appear inviting.

Depression and the Will

Finally, adult or child, our capacity to sin is reduced when our will is compromised as, for instance, by the brain chemistry associated with depression.

God is hardly likely to condemn us for the sins committed against us, or the scars stemming from them.  That, at least, is the opinion of this lawyer.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15: 13).

[1]  Augustine believed that despair was not a sin.  Thomas Aquinas argued the point, seeing despair as a variant of pride.  Aquinas, however, distinguished hopelessness about our Salvation from hopelessness about our situation.  He explained that a physician might despair of curing a patient without committing sin.  Aquinas conceded that God could forgive despair, by way of a miracle.

[2]  It should be emphasized that not all Christian denominations view despair as equally sinful.  Unlike Catholics, Presbyterians and Baptists reject outright the concept of “mortal” sin, i.e. sin so serious it has the potential to cost us our Salvation.

[3]  Suicide has frequently been described as the “unpardonable” sin (Matt. 12: 31-32).  This though is an error.  According to Scripture, it is speaking against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven.  Since the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove when Christ’s divinity was revealed (Matt. 3: 16-17), the consensus now seems to be that the unpardonable sin actually signifies rejection of Christ’s offer of Salvation.

[4]  Even those who never publicly acknowledge Christ as their Savior may accept Him in their hearts, during their final moments.  “But do not forget this one thing dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3: 8).

ANYONE WITH THOUGHTS OF VIOLENCE OR SELF-HARM SHOULD SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Fairy Tales

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith from The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, Author Jessie Willcox Smith, Source http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34339 (PD)

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith from The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, Photographer Jessie Willcox Smith, Source http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34339 (PD)

“Once upon a time…”  When we were children those were magical words.  They called up a world of fairy godmothers, princes slaying dragons, and wishes come true.  A fairy tale promised excitement and adventure.  Best of all, we were guaranteed a happy ending.

Andrew Lang compiled hundreds of fairy tales into The Fairy Books of Many Colors.  I devoured these as a child, one color after another – The Red Fairy Book, The Yellow Fairy Book, etc. – as fast as I could lay hands on them.  I simply could not get my fill.  Yet I could not have said at the time what the fascination was for me.

Psychologists have long argued over the meaning and usefulness of fairy tales.  These universally loved stories can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

The explanation that comes closest to my own experience is that fairy tales allow children to confront and deal with their fears and concerns – whether of abandonment (Hansel and Gretel), death (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), rejection (Cinderella), etc. – in symbolic terms, so that those fears and concerns are reduced to manageable size.

Children get the satisfaction of slaying their own dragons…from a safe distance. Continue reading

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Hope

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.

Counterfeit Christianity

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 [1]. 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.

Real Hope

Christianity does bear on the issue of hope. Continue reading

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A Bed in Hell

“Iron Maiden”, ancient instrument of torture, Palacio de los Olvidados, Granada, Author Dorieo Wikimedia Commons (license CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rather than providing consolation, Scripture can feel like torture to abuse victims.  We hear promises of hope and protection as lies…or “proof” of our unworthiness.  After all, God’s promises were not kept in our case, were they? So it can seem to us.

Worse still, we may fear deep down that the fate “assigned” us was deliberately cruel because of our lack of worth.  This is torment, placing the blame for our pain squarely at God’s door.

But listen to verses 7-11 of Psalm 139:

“…Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me…”

This is what it means to be a child of God.  We are not spared suffering, but remain the focus of His care and attention at all times.

Our wounds grieve God.  More than that, His hands and feet were pierced for our sakes.  We forget this when lost in our own sorrow.

Abuse victims have known the bed in hell.  For us, depression may be the form darkness takes.  Yet in the throes of that illness, we are not forsaken.  God seeks us out despite our anger, despite our despair, despite even our atheism.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Religion, Sexual Abuse