On Not Throwing Away What You Do Have

The situation described in the following letters continues to be entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.

Dear Gabrielle,

Greetings again. I am very glad you decided to write me, even if it felt like going against your better judgment. Maybe we can get into that part of it later on.

But the first thing that I would want to address was, fortunately, the centerpiece of your letter. The theology of anything is always the foundational aspect of every subject, and this, one of most evil things that can happen, means that we have to grapple with the theology of evil, the problem of evil. In brief, how could a good God let something as bad as this happen?

You came into this world a defenseless girl, and while you were in that defenseless condition, your father began to prey on you. Not only did he molest you, grievously, over the course of years, but I also saw in the court records (which Camille sent me) that there was a good deal of gas lighting going on—trying to make you feel like you were causing it, or somehow deserved it, or that you were the one to blame. Given the evil that had your father in its grip, what was it that had God in its grip? Why did God put you in that home, with no defenses?

From your letter, I see that you want to believe, that you want to be a Christian, but that you have no answer to this taunt when the enemy throws it at you. “So, you are going to pray to Him again, are you? Let’s hope He answers more promptly than all those times late at night when you prayed that your father would never come to your bedroom again.” I would guess that something along those lines has been thrown at you more than once.

This is a problem that—on a practical level—needs to be answered in stages, not all at once. And the first stage is this. There are certain things you know about this tragedy, and there are certain things you don’t know. An example of something you know is that your father’s treatment of you was evil. An example of something you don’t know is why a loving Father in Heaven would allow an earthly father to behave that way. So you know that your mistreatment was evil, and you don’t know why God would permit it. And this would lead to my first bit of counsel. Don’t sacrifice what you do know on the altar of what you do not know.

This is what I mean. There are many questions that are swirling around in your heart and mind because of what your father has done to you. The one thing you must not do is gratify those questions (which is not the same thing as answering them) by surrendering the one central thing that you do know—that your father’s behavior was evil, as measured by an objective standard outside all of us.

This might draw a protest, where you might say that you are not about to give any room for justifying your father’s treatment of you. But you might recall that in your letter you mentioned that some of your friends at school were urging you to “throw away the Scriptures, the headwaters of the patriarchy that must be smashed.” I am glad you are not currently listening to those voices (although you do feel a tug from them). But the prospect of going along with them, condemning your father (along with all other men) as the source of all evil, certainly does not feel like it would be excusing your father. How could a complete rejection of him, along with the Christianity he pretended to represent, be something that exonerates him?

It is because a relativistic rejection of anything is, by definition, not a complete rejection. If you were to deny that there is a God, on the basis of your father’s abuse of you, what is the first thing that happens? If there is no God, then what is wrong with a father doing what your father did? If the response is that he is going to spend the rest of his life in jail, this only reveals the sinfulness of getting caught.

If there is no God, then it is certainly true that you can then give free rein to your hurt, resentment, hatred, bitterness, and malice. Just open that valve. There is no God to tell you that there is anything wrong with any of your responses. But—and here is the catch—neither is there a God who can tell your father that there was anything wrong with his lusts.

This means that you must not give an inch to any philosophy that would, if adopted by your father, exonerate and justify him completely. You must continue to say that what he did was wrong—truly, completely, fully and totally wrong. It was wrong by an objective standard that existed before the world was created, and was outside the reach of his manipulations. It was wrong because it was a violation of fatherhood.

So what you know now is something you must take care to cling to. If you do, then there will come a time when the answers to your other questions will start to come into focus. I trust that we will get to some of those in these exchanges. The Christian faith provides tough answers to tough questions—the kind of tough questions that a messed up world can generate. But every form of relativism is a boy’s philosophy, giving you license for certain emotional reactions while simultaneously giving license to all the behaviors that might provoke such reactions. Relativism is a liar and a cheat.

In short, if you reject God because He didn’t intervene to stop what happened to you, then what you are actually doing is surrendering to what happened to you. You would have to stop thinking of your father’s behavior as bestial and evil, and simply relegate it to the realm of the foolish—and foolish only because he was caught.

Your Aunt Camille has told me about the courage you displayed when testifying. But there are other realms where courage is required also, and the intellectual realm, the realm where there is true authority in argument, is one of them. What I am doing here is pleading with you to be courageous across the board.

So then, in summary, we know that your father’s abuse of you was wicked and sinful, and we know this because God the Father in Heaven condemns it in His Word. We also learn from Scripture that God allows sin to exist for a time, that He does not judge it immediately, and that He has wonderful reasons for delaying that judgment. In the meantime, while we wait for Him to put everything to rights, we place all our questions on the altar of what we know (that God is infinitely good and that such behavior is therefore evil) instead of going the other way around. We refuse to place this one certainty (that this behavior is evil) on the altar of our questions. For once we have done that, there is no stopping the spiral down into madness.

Thank you for responding. I hope that in your next letter you might expand your question about the meaning of forgiveness. This is important because a lot of Christians misunderstand what is actually involved in biblical forgiveness. And for you in your situation, I understand, it is no trivial point.

Cordially in Christ . . .

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Conserbatives_conserve_little
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Conserbatives_conserve_little

I One of the chief arguments that a professing Christiam (wolf) would use against the child would be obedience verses. How can you testify against me and be obedient to the Fifth Commandment? . In Fact there are a lot of blockheads in a lot of churches who try to cover up sexual abuse in churches because they don’t want to believe it is true so strongly, they are willing to pretend the abuse isn’t happening, despite evidence given in court. So what is a victim to do? How can they testify and not violate the Fifth Commandments? There is… Read more »

insanitybytes22
Member

Hmmm. I do not wish to sound unkind or accusatory here, but I cannot imagine that letter actually speaking to a victim of abuse in any way, shape, or form. In fact,it would infuriate me. It is like an intellectual, theological response to what is really an emotional, psychological,rhetorical problem. Male or female, victims need to hear, “I believe you. I am sorry that happened to you. It is not your fault. You did not deserve this. You are not alone.” To leap immediately into, “you can not be mad at God, you should not hate men,and you cannot reject… Read more »

Susan Gail
Member
Susan Gail

We would love to hear your specific response to the problem of evil. It is high on the list of issues girls in this situation grapple with.

insanitybytes22
Member

Well, I think God makes it quite clear how he feels about child abuse in Luke 17:2, “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” I think His words about vipers and white washed tombs also gives us an idea of how He feels about people who use religion to abuse, confuse, and persecute others. So sexually abusing a child and messing with their mind around issues of faith is a pretty grave matter, a major sin. As to… Read more »

adad0
Member

Memi, one quick thought. Jesus said “go and sin no more” even to the woman being dishonestly railroaded for “adultery” right in front of Him. (Where was the guy?)
Again, God always says the best thing! ????????

Which was not “How are you feeling?” He knew everyone was feeling crappy.

insanitybytes22
Member

I hear you A-dad, but I can assure you with some certainty that telling an abuse victim the tale of the woman about to be stoned for adultery, is the wrong course of action entirely.

adad0
Member

Well Memi, I hear you as well. Let’s ride this one out, as we always do. John 8 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” I see the woman as abused, certainly by the Pharisees, if not by the missing… Read more »

Susan Gail
Member
Susan Gail

Thanks ME. Now ask yourself how satisfactory that answer would be to a girl like the one this blog post is writing to. Would it seem trite and sentimental? Would it hit the spot? Hard to know, right?

jsm
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jsm

“leap immediately into, “you can not be mad at God, you should not hate men,and you cannot reject the Fatherhood of God,” is insensitive to say the least. It reveals one’s priorities, one’s agenda, so to speak. ”

That agenda is not letting the sin of the abusive father cause further damage to the girl by affirming her desire to blame God.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I think so much depends on timing, which we are not going to know because the whole situation is hypothetical! I think it would be both insensitive and useless to tell anyone in the early stages of dealing with grief, anger, and betrayal not to be mad at God. That’s when we pile on the love and sympathy, and I am sure Pastor Wilson knows that better than most. But I agree with you that there comes a time for emotional damage control and for gently discouraging attitudes that will keep someone in permanent victimhood.

insanitybytes22
Member

I’m pretty sure that just about anybody who suffers some kind of major trauma is going to be mad at God, perhaps even hate men for a season.

In the act of protecting the girl what you’re really doing is shaming her for her feelings. She will likely repress her feelings at that point, which will then cause her anger to fester into hatred.

The thing about God is that if we are angry at Him,He already knows. It is not as if we can offend His delicate sensibilities by admitting and expressing it.

jsm
Guest
jsm

That’s not the point. Just because someone has been hurt does not justify every emotion or thought they have. There comes a point where proper care for a victim warns against fostering bitterness and blaming God. It’s not for God’s sake as if we are trying to keep from offending His delicate sensibilities. its for the care of the victim’s soul.

insanitybytes22
Member

“There comes a point where proper care for a victim warns against fostering bitterness and blaming God.”

I’m trying to think of one single time in my life when someone warning against fostering bitterness or blaming God would have been useful or helpful in some way.

Nope, can’t do it.

Try to imagine a pedestrian getting hit by a bus and the bus driver jumps out, leans down, and says, “Hey there! I’d like to warn against fostering bitterness and blaming God.”

jsm
Guest
jsm

Clearly since you have never experienced a helpful warning against bitterness then we must throw out all the times scripture warns against bitterness. Your experience must be the filter which we all use to interpret scripture. In your silly analogy there would still come a point in time for the person who got hit by the bus if they were inclined to be angry at God and bitter that simply saying, “I understand, I believe you, I am here for you” is affirming their bitterness and is not in any way caring to the victim.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Even in purely human terms, there comes a time when our loved ones have to gently prod us to move on. “It is awful that you were hit by the bus, but your physical wounds have healed. It is time to open the curtains and reconnect with the world outside, or this event will ruin the rest of your life.” “You need to struggle against your grief because your children feel they have lost you and they still need you.” None of those things feel helpful to the sufferer in the moment, but they still need to be said.

Billtownphysics
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Billtownphysics

That is a very poor analogy to what is being done in this fictional letter.

Susan Gail
Member
Susan Gail

Not sure that is a necessary response. Depends on where the heart is. I don’t think there is any honest way of dealing with this girls that won’t cause her to be uncomfortable.

Mark Hanson
Guest
Mark Hanson

But often we need to pass through discomfort – even pain – to come out on the other side with healing and (later, maybe) joy.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

> “I believe you. I am sorry that happened to you. It is not your fault. You did not deserve this. You are not alone.”

All five of those are in the “letter”, mostly implicitly.

> one’s priorities, one’s agenda

What do you suppose those are? It reads to me that his main concern is her spiritual wellbeing.

> Divine patriarchy

What’s that?

Bike bubba
Guest

One thing that comes to mind is that if indeed one in four young ladies, and one in six young men, is the victim of some degree of sexual misconduct, we might be blessed to hear from some of them who were indeed badly hurt by said misconduct. For my part, while I haven’t suffered PTSD as a result of misconduct, my brother and I did have a situation where our male babysitter acted out the grooming a teacher was doing with him and other boys in our school–no touching or rape, thankfully, just early grooming. We informed our parents… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

ME, surrender to Christ is exactly the answer. Surrender to things such as pity, false memories brought forward by shrinks, or blaming others or blaming God is the wrong course of action. Do we trust God to allow things to happen in our lives as Job did, or do we trust ourselves, our friends, secular shrinks and so on? Proverbs tells us that God works everything out even the wicked for a day of disaster. Years ago I watched my replacement and 9 others crash right after takeoff and be almost completely burned up in the fire. A friend was… Read more »

insanitybytes22
Member

“Surrender to things such as pity, false memories brought forward by shrinks, or blaming others or blaming God is the wrong course of action.”

I totally agree. And there are all these sharks circling around victims, grooming them so to speak, with a refinement and skill that would put most pedophiles to shame.

So I really want to see the church in general take up the cause of families, healing, abuse recovery. Unfortunately, we’re often really, really bad at it.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

> He has wonderful reasons for delaying that judgment.

Needs filling out, which I’m sure you’re getting to. I always wondered how we should approach the problem of evil with hurting people and this seems good. Very good.

David
Guest
David

Dear Doug, can you write about whether or not God is actively governing earth? If so, is it possible to know in what direction God is leading or misleading humanity? If Christianity is universal, what is God’s plan for the people outside the clans of Jews and Anglo-Saxons? Put it another way, why a person born on an outskirt island of Japan should believe in Jesus? I really really hope you would say something about the catholicity of Christianity (if there is such thing). Thanks a lot!

adad0
Member

Dave, it’s fine if you ask Wilson things, I do anyway. But Wilson himself would conceed that he is not actually as smart as God. God Himself spoke pretty well to your question, per below! ; – ) Romans 2 11 For God does not show favoritism. 12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who… Read more »

Wendy Dibble-Lohr
Guest
Wendy Dibble-Lohr

Jesus was crucified. There’s an innocent victim of severe abuse. God can empathize. And He did bring good out of it. Psalm 88. Go ahead and dump on God. He can take it. ‘Throw/roll your burdens upon the Lord’–they are real, true burdens–‘and He shall sustain thee,’ which may not mean He’ll make the burdens vanish right away. (Andrew, husband of Wendy; improperly touched by teenage boy when I was 7 or 8. Which reminds me, I was guilty of not violently rejecting his advance–his sin was much greater, but mine was nonzero–and my parents hadn’t taught/trained me that such… Read more »

valerieab
Member

Could you number these so it’s easier to keep track?

Douglas
Guest
Douglas

This post is missing the “Letters to a Broken Girl” tag