One thing continues to ring true as we enter the new year and inch our way along: Jesus is King! Many other “things” ring true as well - the sun is rare in the winter in West Michigan (it's shining as I write this, hallelujah!), snow is cold, politics are messy, 2020 was hard (and unwelcome in many respects), people are suffering, and church should be a safe place. That last one is a difficult truth to write. For many of us we do experience church as a safe place; a place where we can be vulnerable before God, friends and our community. A place we can turn to in times of need or struggle; a community to help us process and pray through situations. However, there are many people who don’t see church as a safe place. Victims of abuse, whether physical, emotional, spiritual or the like, can experience that abuse from within the church community and see church as unsafe. Recently a fellow member of Christ Church on a "healing journey” wrote the following letter that sheds light on some of this. It begins with a reminder from the Bible:
"Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known." Luke 12:2
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 women experience sexual violence during her lifetime and nearly 1 in 4 men experience sexual violence during his lifetime. Recent investigations within Southern Baptist churches confirm sexual abuse to be as much of a problem within evangelical churches as it is in the rest of the country. When abuse occurs, the victims tend to wrestle with questions about God, such as: "does God care?" or "why doesn’t He do something?". Rachel Denhollander, a lawyer, former gymnast, and sexual assault survivor, expresses in her book "What is a Girl Worth?" that sexual abuse damages the victims forever. She shares, “I lived with the scars too, and I was wrestling with the reality that full healing doesn’t ever come" (pg. 226-227). While this may be true on this earth we have hope in a God who will heal all. Psalm 147:3 assures us:
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Along with this, the Bible also tells us, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9). As a church we must strive to be a place of safety and healing for those who are hurting. We must seek to help the broken in mind, body, and spirit. May God give us wisdom and compassion as we humbly work in this ministry.
A fellow member of Christ Church on a healing journey
There are two aspects of this letter I hang on to. First, that “as a church, we must strive to be a place of safety and healing for those who are hurting.” Amen. The statistics are daunting, concerning and humbling. The results of investigations in the SBC and other denominations shed more light on this issue. Part of Jesus’ mission is to bring healing to the sick and needy. We are starting a new sermon series on Sunday titled “I Am”, looking at the 'I Am' statements made by Jesus in the gospel of John. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Way, Truth and Life, the Resurrection and Life. Jesus is the King who has come and who knows His people's hurts, habits and hang-ups and enters into them. We must seek to trust wholly in Jesus in all circumstances.
The second aspect I hang onto is that our wisdom and compassion in this area must come from God, for He is the one who heals. It doesn't come from our own wisdom or from the world. The healing we provide is only a shadow of what God offers through a relationship in Jesus. As we seek God and as the Holy Spirit moves we will be a safe place for those who are hurting.
Join me in praying for the hurting in our community who experience abuse. Let us pray that God would make Christ Church a safe place in 2021 and beyond.