Tag Archives: Salvation

Beautiful in His Sight

“Figure of Christ” by Heinrich Hofmann (1884), Source https://i.pinimg.com/originals (PD-Art, PD-old)

Abuse frequently destroys the faith of victims, undermining our capacity to trust.  While we may reject God or despise Him, He loves and values us.  It can be difficult for us to reconcile God’s love with our experience.  But that love is real.

Let me try and explain what I mean.

Self-Worth and the Cross

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16).

As abuse victims, we were taught at an early age that we were worthless.  Our needs were insignificant.  Our feelings did not matter.  Our bodies were not our own.

These were the inferences we drew from our experience with those who rightly should have loved and cared for us.  God, however, sees things differently.  To Him, we are of infinite value.  He proved it by giving His Son, Jesus Christ over to a death on the cross for our sakes.

Our value is not governed by a predator’s opinion of us.  It was established for all time at the cross.  No one need add to it.  No one can detract from it.

God’s Unconditional Love

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Ps. 36: 5).

God’s love for abuse victims is limitless and unconditional.  The concept of unconditional love may be foreign to us.  We were taught that love was unreliable.  It had to be earned, over and over again.  Most of us paid a high price for a counterfeit version of love.

Sin and Our Relationship to God

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8: 1-2).

God’s love is not withdrawn when we make mistakes or fall short.  We grieve His heart at such times, but He does not turn away from or reject us.  We are His beloved children.  Even when our relationship with Him is rocky, He continues to love us immeasurably. Continue reading

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Full and Satisfying

Nativity scene at St. Viktor Church, Dulmen, Germany, Author/Source Dietmar Rabich (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Can the victims of abuse ever lead full and satisfying lives?  That depends, to a large extent, on how we define “full and satisfying”.

There is no question that abuse can kill.  Those of us who survive may be left with lifelong physical and emotional scars.  Abuse can leave victims struggling with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  Abuse can turn sex into a weapon, in the desperate search for love.  Abuse can lead to self-medication, with drugs or alcohol.

But that is not the whole story.  Not by a long shot.

“…even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself.  He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.”

– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

The psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning described his experiences as a prisoner at Auschwitz concentration camp.  He concluded that human beings strive for purpose, and that – whatever our circumstances – we have the ability to give life meaning through love, work, and suffering.

At first glance, that may not make sense.  Oh, most of us would agree that life can be given meaning by romantic love, perhaps brotherly love.  After some thought, we might be persuaded that life can be given meaning by work – even tedious or menial work, if done to support the ones we love.

Yet suffering? Not such a stretch as it might seem.  We recognize the concept of sacrifice in a noble cause (love of God, love of country, etc.), and sacrifice for the sake of a beloved.  Mothers who have lost a child will understand that their grief is, in part, a testament to that child.

How does this relate to abuse victims?  Well, we have certainly suffered.  That our suffering was not to any purpose makes it all the more cruel.  We were innocent victims.  Blameless.

And that is the place to start… Continue reading

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The Weight of Sorrow

“Compulsion is despair on the emotional level.  The substances, people, or activities we become compulsive about are those we believe capable of taking our despair away…Compulsive behavior, at its most fundamental, is a lack of self-love; it is an expression of a belief that we are not good enough.”

-Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love

For many abuse victims, food takes on an importance far and above its ability to nourish.  We eat our anger, stuff our guilt (misplaced though it is).  We use food both as a reward and a punishment.

The smallest morsel can set in motion a binge.

Weight issues feed into the sense of loneliness and isolation abuse victims already feel.  The life opportunities of which weight deprives us should be penalty enough.  But our losses generate regrets, and we carry those regrets forward, along with the pounds.

Purposes Behind Compulsive Eating

Like drinking to excess, compulsive eating serves two basic purposes.  While ostensibly numbing our pain, it actually recreates the emotional experience of abuse – our fear, our helplessness, our shame, our rage.  And it re-affirms (albeit in a dysfunctional way) that we deserve to have our needs met.

Self-Blame

“We had nothing to do with the reasons our parents abused or left or violated us.  We believed we did because blaming ourselves for the sorrow gave us some measure of control over it.”

-Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love

Though we were not abandoned, neglected, or abused because of what we weighed, weight issues become a “safe” focus for the emotions associated with our abuse.

We can now blame ourselves for the negative feelings the abuse caused, rather than blaming the loved ones who inflicted it on us.  But the least dieting failure feels like a sin, as well as a defeat. Continue reading

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Finding Ourselves

In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.   He created them male and female, and blessed them…” (Gen. 5: 1-2).

Each of us is made in the image of God, and each unique.  Abuse can bury that knowledge, along with our hopes and dreams.  We can lose ourselves – can feel so downtrodden, so crushed, that we believe we are worthless.  But that is a lie.

The challenge for abuse victims is to find ourselves again.  To find ourselves and reclaim our lives.

A song like Kelsea Ballerini’s “Miss Me More” may lift our spirits (a step in the right direction).  Even high heels and red lipstick may help.  Scripture, however, serves as a more reliable guide.

Accepted

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Rom. 15: 7 NIV).

In Christ, we are accepted.  After a lifetime of rejection, this is an astonishing experience.

Loved

“…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself…” (Eph. 1: 4-5).

In Christ, we are God’s beloved children, members of His own family, selected from the beginning of the world. Continue reading

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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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Voodoo

Voodoo dolls, Author Brendajos70, Source Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/7960800@N04/2959709431 (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

An outgrowth of the tribal religions of West Africa, Voodoo originated among Haitian slaves.  The religion varies from place to place, but generally combines belief in a chief god and many powerful spirits with ancestor worship [1][2].

Catholic saints and symbolism were superimposed on the Voodoo belief system, and Catholic hymns, prayers, relics, statues, and candles incorporated into Voodoo rituals.  Though many practitioners of Voodoo self-identify as Roman Catholic, Protestants for the most part consider Voodoo incompatible with Christianity [3].

Tragically, this attempt by slaves to cope with the cruelty and hardship to which they were subjected continues to create victims of its own.

Latarsha Sanders recently stabbed her 5 and 8 year old sons to death with a kitchen knife, subsequently telling Massachusetts police the violence was “Voodoo stuff” [4].  The older child was stabbed 50 times.  Sanders has no known history of mental illness.

Meanwhile, two sisters in a nearby community deliberately burned and scarred a 5 year old girl, and threatened to behead her 8 year old brother, in the course of a Voodoo ritual.

” ‘And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination…’ ” (Jer. 32: 35).

Many cultures have engaged in child sacrifice – the Canaanites, the Etruscans (predecessors of the Romans), the Carthaginians (contemporaries of the Romans), the Celts, the Maya, the Incas, and the Aztecs to name a few [5][6][7]. Continue reading

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Everyday Evil

Internet user on a cell phone, Author Raidarmax (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

A young teacher traveling on Southwest Airlines caught sight of disturbing texts by the passenger seated ahead of her on the plane.  Michael Kellar was casually planning with Gail Burnworth to molest two children [1].

Thinking quickly, the unnamed teacher took cell phone photos of the texts.  She then informed the flight crew.

Kellar was arrested in San Jose, CA after the plane touched down; Burnworth was later arrested in Tacoma, WA.  Kellar maintained that he had merely been fantasizing.  His texts, however, revealed the truth.

Kellar is 56 y.o. and Burnworth 50 y.o.  The children they were planning to molest are 5 y.o. and 7 y.o.  Both children were rescued by law enforcement.  Evidently, Burnworth had been babysitting them.

“Folks that are doing these sort of things are literally all around us.  We don’t know who they are…They need to be punished and they need to be kept away from kids.”

-San Jose Police Sgt. Brian Spears, Q13 Fox TV [2]

Evil can be found everywhere.  Many make it part of their everyday lives.  We must remain alert to its presence, and protect ourselves against evil, without surrendering our peace of mind.

That is a difficult task.  We can easily feel overwhelmed, and certainly discouraged.  It often appears that evil is winning the day.

But God will not allow that.  He remains in charge, even when all hope is lost.  The battle between good and evil rages.  However, the war has been won.  It was won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Be sure of this:  the wicked will not go unpunished, but those that are righteous will go free (Prov. 11: 21).

[1]  ABC News, “Man arrested after Southwest passenger says she saw him texting ‘molesting children’ police say” by Julia Jacobo and Alex Stone, 8/3/17, http://abcnews.go.com/US/man-arrested-southwest-passenger-texting-molesting-children-police/story?id=49020167.

[2]  Washington Post, “An alert airline passenger exposed a suspected child predator after glancing at his texts” by Kyle Swenson, 8/4/17, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/04/an-alert-airline-passenger-exposed-a-suspected-child-sex-predator-after-glancing-at-his-text-messages/.

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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Extra! Extra!

First page of Book of John, part of illuminated manuscript known as Athelstan Gospels (late 9th or early 10th Century), British Library (Cotton MS Tiberius A.ii) (PD)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The news comes crashing toward us at the speed of light these days.  We cope with it as best we can – ignoring some things, shrugging off others, arguing over (or worrying about) those that strike closest to home.

We can at times be grieved by the news, even wounded by it.  More often, in self-defense, we develop calluses.  Occasionally, we dare to hope.

  • Catholic Church Sex Scandal.   Catholic Cardinal, George Pell, the third highest ranking official at the Vatican, has been charged with multiple sexual offenses by Australia [1].  These involve more than one individual, and are believed to extend back decades.  Pell will be returning to Australia to mount a defense.
  • Mother’s Boyfriend a Threat.  Michael McCarthy, convicted of second-degree murder in the 2015 killing of his girlfriend’s two year old daughter, has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a Massachusetts court [2].  Evidently, Bella was killed because she did not want to go to bed.  Testimony indicated she had been harshly punished before.  Both McCarthy and Rachel Bond, the girl’s mother, were heroin addicts at the time.  McCarthy will be eligible for parole in 20 years.
  • Opioid Epidemic and Child Abuse/Neglect.   Tragically, incidents of this kind are becoming all too common.  The nation’s opioid epidemic is having a direct impact on children.
    • In urban areas, the number of infants born drug-dependent quadrupled between 2004-2013 [3A]. In rural areas, that number increased by a factor of seven, stretching limited hospital and medical resources to the breaking point [3B].
    • As might be expected, the children of addicts are entering foster care at an alarming rate [4].  Often these children live in deplorable conditions for an extended period before the system takes notice.  Trash and vermin, illicit drugs, and drug paraphernalia fill the home.  Milk and food are absent.
  • Preventing Hot Car Deaths. Meanwhile, Bishop Curry, an 11 year old Texas boy, has invented a device that may aid in preventing the deaths of children left unattended in a vehicle [5].  When the “Oasis” detects a child inside a vehicle alone, it texts parents and police while blowing cold air until assistance arrives.  Toyota is exploring the possibilities.

Continue reading

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Beautiful in His Sight

“Face of Christ” by Claude Mellan (1649), Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (PD)

Abuse frequently destroys the faith of victims, undermining our capacity to trust.  While we may reject God or despise Him, He loves and values us.  It can be difficult for us to reconcile God’s love with our experience.  But that love is real.

Let me try and explain what I mean.

Self-Worth and the Cross

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16).

As abuse victims, we were taught at an early age that we were worthless.  Our needs were insignificant.  Our feelings did not matter.  Our bodies were not our own.

These were the inferences we drew from our experience with those who rightly should have loved and cared for us.  God, however, sees things differently.  To Him, we are of infinite value.  He proved it by giving His Son, Jesus Christ over to a death on the cross for our sakes.

Our value is not governed by a predator’s opinion of us.  It was established for all time at the cross.  No one need add to it.  No one can detract from it.

God’s Unconditional Love

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Ps. 36: 5).

God’s love for abuse victims is limitless and unconditional.  The concept of unconditional love may be foreign to us.  We were taught that love was unreliable.  It had to be earned, over and over again.  Most of us paid a high price for a counterfeit version of love.

Sin and Our Relationship to God

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8: 1-2).

God’s love is not withdrawn when we make mistakes or fall short.  We grieve His heart at such times, but He does not turn away from or reject us.  We are His beloved children.  Even when our relationship with Him is rocky, He continues to love us immeasurably. Continue reading

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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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