April 8 2010

Questions about Suffering (and Taking Your Calls)

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  1. Dear Dr. Brown,
    When the Chruch neglects something it can sometimes feel like it is because no one cares so I thank you for addressing suffering.
    As a child after I was beaten and I would go cry on the back steps of the house where my family lived with an Aunt and I would beg Jesus to come and save me. I was comforted by a voice that would whisper in my ear always saying the same two sentences, “you are loved,” and “everything is going to be okay.”
    I never connected the voice as being in response to my cries and so I grew to hate God because I thought He first hated me.
    At age nine I determined that God must have created me so good people would have someone to hurt. In my mind the good people were those doing the hurting and the bad people were those who were being hurt. It appeared to be so because the ones doing the hurting were not suffering and so I figured they were the blessed ones. Since I was especially careful to do good and not misbehave but yet was beaten and told I was a worthless waste of human flesh anyway, then I assumed that even though I did good, I was bad on the inside, defective somehow. Born wrong and there was nothing I could do to change it. Told that I was created for sexual purposes I was a child filled full of dirty secrets and I dreamed of what it must feel like for those who were clean.
    Fast forward thirty-three years after my first beating and I can now hold my head up and say that my mother once threw a bucket of human waste into my face. I no longer have to lie to myself saying it was the mop bucket. I can say that the one who was supposed to love me unconditionally beat me blue black purple yellow and bloody. I can now look people in the eye when they speak to me and not put my head down because I think I’m not as good as other people. I can admit that it was one time, two times, three times raped because, finally, their sin is no longer my shame.
    When I used to go speak in the prisons I would tell them about when my mom beat me bloody and then days later had me put on my shortest dress and go without stockings because she said she wanted everyone to see my candy stripes. That’s what she called the lash marks that covered my legs. Then she took me to the Church where I had gotten saved and she marched me right up the center aisle and the people looked at me and looked away real fast. The weight of my humiliation was staggering.
    I tell them how after it got dark the Church people broke boxes of food and left them on our front porch and then they crossed back over to the other side of the street.
    But then I stress to them that God’s people are not God because so many who have been hurt have been hurt by those who claim God’s name. God is not the cause of our suffering. He is the remedy.
    There was a woman I met at the first Church I was a part of and I opened up to her about the things I had suffered and I told her that God had spoken to me and I now knew that the voice I heard as a child was God telling me that I was loved and everything was going to be okay. With a look of total yuck on her face she told me that God would not come near a nasty home such as mine and that the voice I heard was a demon. The shame rose up strong and tried to take me over but I held onto God because I had didn’t have anywhere else to go.
    I share this because I want people to know that I was not saved by the Church. I was not saved by a program. I was saved by Jesus. He made dirty nasty shame filled me feel so clean. Like I am brand new!
    I never look at my past and think that if there was a God then why did I have to suffer so? Instead I am grateful that there is a God who not only would come close to a nasty home like mine was, but loved me so much He stepped down into this sin sick world to buy me back. He is not just the God of the upitty ups. He is my God and my Father and He made a way for people like me to be lifted from our suffering.
    I would never try to explain why we suffer. I don’t think that we are supposed to have complete knowledge regarding all things otherwise we would have no need for faith which God declares to be more precious than gold.
    After giving myself to God as an adult He had me write down the things that had happened to me and because He wanted me to do it in such a way that when others read it they would be able to feel my experiences it required me to reivse repeatedly to be sure that I was saying it in a way that was ‘showing’ and not ‘telling.’
    At first I didn’t think I had enough memories to fill ten pages but once I began one memory would kick off another. With each scene replaying vividly in my mind I died over and over, soaking the carpet with my tears. After awhile I realized that each time I went through a memory God would show me something that I never knew before. Like some small thing about my mom or someone else who had hurt me and it would be things about them that softened my heart and led me into forgiving them. Then I was filled with amazing peace about all of it.
    He even showed me how He hurt when they hurt me and I found myself ministering to Him because He suffered so. There was a lot of suffering as I re-lived all the old suffering but I can now see that the purpose behind it was healing and because it was Holy Spirit initiated and Holy Spirit led, it was perfectly effective and now I no longer have shame or emotional hurts that incapacitate me.
    Once at the prison one of the men on the ministry team pulled me aside after he heard my testimony and he said that when he first saw me he thought to himself, look at little miss prim and proper, I bet she’s never had a problem a day in her life. He went on to say, “boy was I wrong!” I drove home that day shouting, “JESUS! Smell me! I don’t even smell like smoke!”
    It was after I got saved that my marriage became abusive. I felt crushed because I just couldn’t believe that was God’s plan for me. Since I was no longer that little abused girl, I wanted to kick my husband to the curb but then I saw myself carrying him and laying him down at the feet of satan. At that point I honestly thought that was what he deserved but then the words, what would Jesus do flashed through my mind and I softened as I knew that Jesus would, and did, die for those who hurt Him. I told God I would do it for Jesus. I would do anything for Jesus, if that is what He wanted me to do. (His Word assures me that it was)
    But I felt no love for my husband. Just thinking about him made me sick on my stomach. My faith felt like it had died right along with my spirit. Overwhelmed I cried to God asking Him “why did you bother raising me up if you just want me to lie down!” He said, “that is where the power is.” (we have to remember that it was not when Jesus walked this earth that He overthrew principalities but when He submitted to the will of the Father and went the way of the cross.)
    I won’t tell you that it didn’t hurt. The suffering at one time became so intense that I begged God to take me home. It was quiet for so long that I thought maybe God had forgotten about me. (the teacher never talks during the test) I will admit that I once pulled over on the side of the road in the pouring rain, sobbing and screaming, “where are you God?”
    And then one night when I had completely given up, completely died, and I began to praise Him just because He is worthy and no matter what I go through it can never change what He did for me on that cross, then suddenly God came down into my home covering me with Himself and I felt love that can’t be described by mere human words. It was so strong that I ran to my husband, pouring out forgiveness.
    I can now laughingly look back to when someone once pulled me aside and told me, “Wanda you can’t stand on that verse in Acts that says believe and your house will be saved. Gods hands are tied. He can’t change your husband unless your husband wants to be changed.” I will admit that at first I felt defeated but then I ran crying to my Father and I waited and one day He whispered the most amazing words. He said, “I Am the God who stirred the heart of Cyrus for the sake of Jakob” Smiling through my tears I said, “Call! Me! Jacob!”
    I have to share that I used to think my husband was the coldest man on the face of the earth. If I were sitting beside him and reached out and placed my hand on his leg he would actually remove my hand from touching him. But things changed when God came down to my house! ( O’ the power that is wrought when we wait upon the Lord!)
    Recently my warm loving kind husband was kissing me all over my face and I had a stuffy nose and couldn’t breathe and was just about to tell him to get off my face when something that Jesus said to me way back on November 28, 2007 flashed through my mind. He said, “Love will be lavished on you and you will reciprocate in kind.”
    What if I had left my husband? I wouldn’t have seen the fulfillment of those words. Jesus never fails us. We fail Him.
    I don’t get mad at God for the suffering I go through now. I just imagine how much worse it would be if I didn’t have Him and yet still had to go through. My mom died in agony and my brother committed suicide. In two weeks I will be the first one in my family to live to age forty-four. There is not a day that goes by that I am not so grateful to have a Savior.
    There have only been two times when I felt myself getting angry toward God. One of those times was when I heard that a man in a neighboring town had been arrested when he tried to trade his ten year old daughter with another man for sexual purposes. I wanted to lay down and die. I get to Church and everyone begins to worship but I couldn’t. I felt so empty and angry and disgusted by this world and I was like, “God do something!” And He softly said, “I did,” and I knew instantly that He was talking about the sending of His Son and then I saw a vision of Jesus sitting on His throne and there was a little girl with long brown curls hanging to her shoulders and she was dressed in a white dress and she kept twirling around and around so the dress would float up and then Jesus leaned forward placing His right hand on top of her head. In my mind I heard the name, Samantha Runnion.
    I got home and googled that name and saw that she was a little girl from California who was playing with a friend in her front yard in 2002 when a stranger approached and carried her off kicking and screaming. Her tiny naked body was found the next day. She had been raped and then murdered. I kept thinking of Jesus and how He placed His hand on her little head and all I could do was weep and praise Him.
    I was a baby Christian, just two weeks saved when God spoke something horrible to me. He offended me so badly that I walked away and He didn’t speak to me again for seven years.
    I had seen on tv that a little boy named PJ had been beaten to death by his parent and step parent. The police believe that he was picked up and then beaten up and down the kitchen cabinets. They spoke of the amount of blood that had poured from that baby and that night when I lay down to sleep I thought of how much he had suffered and I cried and cried. I didn’t know that God could hear what I was thinking. I was just venting really and I was like, “God how can you just let that happen?” And He said, “I don’t. You do.” In a flash I called out, “I’ve done nothing!”
    He didnt’ say anything else. He didn’t have to.
    I know that there can be so many reasons why the Church seems to be powerless to stop the evil that rages across the earth. (sin, complacency, lack of faith) But I don’t believe that God hides the hurting in plain view of us. He doesn’t sit them in our midst and then blind us not to see them. We are each responsible for our own eyesight. Ravi Zacharias, in his book The Grand Weaver writes that the Church injures the injured and wounds the wounded and that is so true.
    Once when thinking about how the Church had seen my lash marks and then brought food and left it on our porch, I was filled with anger. I kept talking to God about it and telling Him how wrong it was. On and on I raged over it and He quietly let me. Then one day He interrupted me to show me something.
    He showed me myself just a few years ago. The Church I was a part of then had a deal with one of the big food warehouse places. I would pick up the stale pastries and breads they were going to throw away and I would give it to people in poor neighborhoods. I would pick the food up, drive it into their neighborhood, leave it on their front porch and then get back into my luxury sedan and cross back over to the other side of the street.
    When God showed me that and I wanted to lay down and die. Me, of all people! I should have had eyes to see! Then He showed me why I was blind. It was because of the motives of my heart. At that time, I was delivering food not to help the people, but to win the approval of my Pastor.
    I know you are nice and you are thinking that God has mercy and He knows that I had never had anybody who approved of me or patted my back and there is grace. But the thing of it is, He made a way for me to be healed from all of that. “IF” I would have trusted Him and obeyed and laid down my desires and taken up my coss and followed Him then I would have been so satisfied by HIS approval I would not have been seeking it from man. I had been rendered blind by the selfish motives of my own heart. I wanted to be somebody important at Church. God wanted me to see the boy who opened the door with his little runny nose and the mom who was toothless, wild-eyed and high as a kite. He didn’t blind me to that and to say so would be to deny the nature of His character. He is love and He longs to gather the suffering into His arms but His arms are our arms and it will only happen in the degree to which we turn from our selfish ways and bend down low to accept His yoke.
    I have repented and I thank God for His grace but I don’t want to consistently fall short just because I can so now my goal is to lay my heart bare before God and man. I am transparent because I long to be translucent. A light that shines for His glory. A lampstand formed of pure beaten gold.
    I once heard someone say that writing is easy, you just sit at the typewriter and bleed. So if I do any bleeding it will be for the One who first bled for me.
    In a worship service the people once sang out, calling for Jesus to come and have His way in our midst and Jesus said, “Will you have My way? Will you walk My way, talk My way, or balk at My way? My way was long and seasoned with suffering. Will you have My way? I Am Holy. Stop circling and submit to the climb.”
    He is beautiful beyond measure and I absolutely adore Him.
    compelled by His love,
    wanda

  2. Wanda, I can’t say I agree with everything you said, but I’m not qualified to comment/correct. I do know what it’s like to scrutinise everything you experience, trying to understand what God is trying to teach you. That’s good and you’ll learn a lot about God as you seek Him for those answers. But don’t ever think any of the abuse was sent to you by God. God doesn’t decide that you should be beaten or raped so that He can teach you something. That is an absolute lie. Don’t believe it. Instead, know that every wrong that has been done to you has been done to one of His, and He will judge rightly.

  3. Marcella, I think you need to re-read my post bc I NEVER said or even implied that I believe God caused me to be beaten or raped so that He could teach me something! That is absolutely absurd!
    I actually wrote that “I would never try to explain suffering,” but then shared enough of what He has shown me regarding HIS heart in the hope that people will see how much He aches with and for those who ache.
    And I have never sought God or gone back to scrutinize anything concerning my past. I just worshipped Him by throwing myself down at His feet in adoration, and then healing and deliverance were gifted to me. God took me through my past to lead me to forgiveness which is the heart of Who He is. God came and taught me while those claiming His name continued to beat me down.
    But thanks! And God bless you to wait upon Him too so you won’t have to scrutinize anything in your life, and you can be strengthened to stand through the trials in your life instead of lifting your own hand to solve them, as so many who claim His name tend to do, and then you can be qualified to comment/correct.
    Did I mention that almost half of the women at the first church I was part of had divorced their husbands because they said that God had released them to do so because He loved them so much He didn’t want them to have to suffer? Wonder why God didn’t release poor Jesus from the horrors of the cross? Didn’t He love Him enough to not want Him to suffer?
    Of course I’m just being rididculous! Never mind me for being so bold in speech, I recently heard a preacher say that you become like that which you sit under and I was like, “Oh-my-gosh! I’m becoming a sarcastic Jewish man!”
    God bless you Marcella.

  4. awwwww Marcella. You’re so sweet! Don’t get down over misunderstanding. We all do it! The upside is that it begins a dialogue and then understanding can be developed. I have come to realize that we all filter everything through where we have been and where we are now. I went through a time where it seemed that everything I said to anyone was not taken the way I thought it should be. I told one woman that I was being abused and she said I was lucky that my husband was at least communicative and didn’t just sit like dead weight in the marriage. I thought it was a bizarre response but then realized that was what was going on in her life so she had responded to me from where she was at. She was actually showing me her own hurt and at the time I was frustrated because I wanted someone to understand me! I made God my source instead.
    One woman who heard my testimony told me that I was lucky I had suffered physical abuse because she suffered spiritual oppression and it was much worse. Of course, I thought, spoken like one who has never had a beat down! But see what happened, she was showing me her hurt. We do it to each other all the time.
    I thought about you saying that you have scrutinized things that happened to you and I hope you have not suffered too much. I prayed for you that tonight you will rest in Jesus and enjoy knowing that you are His and don’t try to ‘do’ anything but just wallow in His love for you. When I read your apology I saw that your heart is so very precious and tender. Cry only to Him and it will never be in vain.
    Once when I was hurting so much and I went to a nursing home to hold the people and pray for them and this woman who was not a resident there walks up to me and she takes me in her arms and holds me for like three solid minutes and I needed it so bad.
    God knows and He always sends us a person or just a word through a person. So be hugged Marcella and again, Bless you!

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