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.
Thank you for the continued correspondence. We continue to pray for you, and look forward to meeting later in the summer. Tell Bill and Camille that we appreciate the invitation very much and look forward to our visit.
So then, just two more letters. Here I just want to pick up some ends and odds, and then next time try to summarize the whole, putting it into one big picture for you.
First, I am very glad you are feeling stronger, and more importantly, doing better in processing the “waves” that inevitably follow after this kind of thing. The key to dealing with any kind of temptation is to realize, however permanent they present themselves to be, they are only transient. This is true of every temptation—whether it is to despair under the mistreatment of others, or the more straightforward temptation to go out and commit a sin yourself. The tempter wants you to think that there is only one way out of this “pressure,” and that is to succumb to it. But there is always at least one other way out (1 Cor. 10:13), and it may be as simple as the realization that you won’t feel this same way in the morning, even if you refuse to give way.
Once you have successfully “ridden out” what you called these “black waves” several times, you will grow increasingly aware of the fact that they can be ridden out. That is what I think you are now experiencing. There is nothing quite like the emergence of hope in what was, for years, a hopeless situation. You are starting to feel something like, “I can do this.” Welcome that feeling whenever it arises, but don’t grab for it. Wait patiently, breathe slowly, and thank the Lord. It is like watching a sunrise.
I don’t want you to trip over the fact that I used the word “temptation” to describe these bouts with despair. Temptation implies enticement to sin, right? How is it right or proper to tell a victim of abuse that her feelings about this are somehow wrong? How is that not blaming the victim and so on? Some of this goes back to previous letters (the issues of forgiveness, bitterness, etc.), but let’s leave that aspect of it aside for the moment.
God, your heavenly Father, invites you up into everlasting happiness. In His presence is fullness of joy. There is an endless torrent of pleasure flowing at His right hand (Ps. 16: 11). God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), and you are graciously summoned into that light. Anything that keeps us from responding to that invitation is a distraction, a temptation. It might be our lusts, it might be our grievances, and it might be our righteous grievances. But nothing should distract us or hold us back—further up and further in, as Lewis puts it.
In the resurrection, all of this, everything we have discussed, will be swallowed up by life. If your father repents and comes to Christ, you will be delighted to be with him there in that life. If he continues to reject Christ, and pursues his own damnation successfully, your joy will not be in the least diminished. God does not permit the damned to emotionally blackmail those who have accepted His cleansing and forgiveness. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4). So this is your upward call, and you should flee anything that tries to satisfy you with anything but Christ. Pursue joy, and shake off anything that would try to distract you from that pursuit.
This does not minimize or trivialize sin in any way. Part of the way we understand how great our Savior is can be found in understanding how great the sin was that He overcame. He forgives us for our own sins, and He also delivers us from the snares of the wicked (Ps. 38:12). We cannot glory in His deliverance by refusing to enter into it.
One of the reasons I emphasized your identity in Christ so strongly in my last letter is so that it will help you realize (and protect) your true individuality. When we turn away from our identity in Christ, we get swept away into other idolatrous identities, whether tribal, or denominational, or national, or ideological. There is an ideology of victimhood that has fallen into precisely this trap. Because of the degradation of our times, and because so many fathers and brothers have been corrupted by porn (not to mention other sources), the number of young women in your position is tragically not small. Many of them have found a voice together, and have formed an alliance based on their shared suffering—much of it unfortunately concentrated on smashing the patriarchy. But like all partisan or ideological groups, there has to be a shared platform. There has to be a party line on what should be said or done. And this means that victims who do not feel exactly the way they do must not be “true” victims, or are somehow traitors to the cause. I have seen approved victims viciously attack unapproved victims—when the sins committed against them all were very much the same kind of sins. As measured by what actually happened to them, they were all victims. But the “unapproved” victims are rejected, not because the crimes against them were spurious, but rather because their spiritual (and individual) reaction to the crimes did not fit in with the partisan agenda of that identity group. If your identity is in Christ, you don’t fit well into idolatrous guilds.
In my decades of counseling people, unfortunately I have dealt with not a few cases of sexual abuse, shame, and/or trauma. One of the things I have discovered is that these situations are stories that involve individuals. Different people are helped by different emphases, different voices, different approaches. A “one-size-fits-all” response in pastoral counseling is about as ham-handed as it gets. But it does not matter to some people if I know ten women who have found quiet healing in Christ, and who are flourishing in their families—because they do not seek out the limelight in order to answer very public “advocates” who pretend to speak for them. So you must not allow any agenda to pressure you into doing or saying things that you are not comfortable with.
You have told me several times in your letters that you have found my letters a real encouragement, a very practical help. But I can guarantee you that if you were to read portions of these letters aloud at a partisan meeting organized on behalf of approved victims, a number of my points would be shouted down under a torrent of recrimination. I would be called a number of things, up to and including a different kind of abuser. And you would be scratching your head—how could this be abuse when you found it so helpful? Well, it isn’t abuse, just gospel.
And whenever they get a bit too noisy, you may feel free to withdraw into the pavilions of God.There is no need to try to fix everybody else—if you have found peace in your individual soul, then enjoy that peace. God has given you a white stone, and you have a name written there that is known to Him and to you alone (Rev. 2:17). So worship God, love Christ, and love your people. There are turbulent spirits out there, and they do disapprove of your peace. Let them. Leave them be. They might heartily disapprove of you—but your peace is something that passes understanding anyhow. God will keep your heart and mind, and He will do it by means of His peace (Phil. 4:7). And whenever they get a bit too noisy, you may feel free to withdraw into the pavilions of God. “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.” (Ps. 31:20).
Cordially in Christ,