Sunday, March 6, 2011

Meeting God when Abused, Finding Comfort

While I have been thankful for the sentencing of the officers who raped women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I am sure the judgment has not totally healed their hurts. The world closes the chapter after the verdict is announced, but the abused who have been violated are left with social rejection, physical pain, and personal anger.  Even condemnation of the crime by judges is not enough; these women need deeper healing.  
Several biographies in Scripture reassure us of the Lord God's knowledge of and love for victims. In the Old and New Testaments, we read of innocents who were comforted by the living God. He did not shun the abused; he elevated their status.  What is more, the Sovereign of the Universe blessed them with his own precious presence.  

In the first book of the Bible, we read of an abused Egyptian servant, Hagar (Genesis 16). She was taken into Abraham's home and moved from her country to serve his wife.  This woman, Sarah, knew Jehovah as the only true and living God, yet she doubted His promise of a child.  Since she was infertile,  she convinced her husband to have a child with her servant, Hagar.  Undoubtedly, the girl felt totally used.

In fact, after Hagar had Abraham's child, she despised her mistress, and so Sarah treated her harshly. Consequently, Hagar ran away.  However, the text says that the angel of the Lord found her and promised to multiply her descendants because "the Lord has given heed to your affliction."  So, Hagar called the Lord who spoke to her, "the God who sees." 

Later (Genesis 21:1-21), when Sarah miraculously had a son of her own, the tensions between the two worsened. Ultimately, the once-kind and godly woman sent Hagar and her son away into the desert. 

Fear, hurt, and hopelessness overcame this abandoned woman.  She cried, "Don't let me see the boy die."
Hagar and Ishmael by Jean-Charles Cazin.
A second time,  the angel of God spoke to Hagar, and said, "Do not fear; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is." 

Hagar and her son were not forgotten, abandoned, rejected.  They were on God's radar screen, and he would meet their needs. What is more, God promised to make her son into a great nation. Most importantly, Hagar's abuse became a blessing, for Hagar came to know the God who sees and hears.

Another biblical biography which reinforces the fact that God hears the cries of the abused comes from Daniel's life story.  As a young man, Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians (Daniel 1:1-6) and most likely made a eunuch.  (We can surmise this, because he was put under the care of the master of the eunuchs. Further, Isaiah 39:7 prophecies that young men will be taken away from Judah and made "eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.")

Such abuse of one of God's children did not go unnoticed by the Lord. The book of Daniel is replete with the Lord's gracious care for this abused young man.  Over and over, Jehovah heard his pleas, answered his prayers, and revealed his knowledge to Daniel.  

As a youth, we read in chapter one, "God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials...God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams." 

When he was older, we read how God gave Daniel the ability to tell Belshazzar the meaning of an inscription (Daniel 5).
Belshazzar's Feast, Rembrandt, 1635 (National Gallery, London)

As a reward, "they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and gave him authority as the third ruler in the kingdom." 

The Lord preserved Daniel's life and faith to old age in a wicked kingdom.  Through abuse, peer pressure, and attempts on his life, the Lord was with Daniel "and he enjoyed success" (Daniel 6:28).

The final biography confirming the Lord's presence with victims is found in the book of Acts (8:26-40).  An African, an Ethiopian eunuch--the treasurer  of Sheba, was on a journey for queen Candace.  The account opens with him in a chariot reading the scroll of Isaiah, searching for truth and comfort in God's Word.  God's action on behalf of this victim is nothing short of miraculous. 

Philip and the Ethiopian, Alexandre Abel Denis de Pujoi, 1848 (Musee des Beaux-Arts, Valencinnes)
The Lord sent the apostle Philip to the desert road where he encountered the Ethiopian in a chariot. The official was studying this passage which must have resonated with him.  "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.  In his humiliation he was deprived of justice..." (Isaiah 53:7,8). 

When the treasurer asked to whom the passage was referring, Philip was able to explain the good news about Jesus. The apostle explained that Christ,  although  he was innocent was crucified, died, and was buried, but also was raised from the dead to proclaim justice for those deprived of justice.  

Upon hearing the truth, the eunuch believed, and as soon as he and Philip came to some water, he was baptized. 

How do these three anecdotes help the rape victims in the DRC?  How do they help anyone who has been abused?  

The three biographies reinforce the truth that God cares about victims. In fact, he came to bring justice, to heal, and to lift up those treated unjustly. Certainly, when God repeats something three times, we can bank on it.  God repeated the lesson these biographies teach, because he wants us to get it:  We can safely trust the Lord who sees, hears, lifts up, and rights wrongs. This is truly deeper healing.

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through patience and encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope" (Romans 15:4). 

No comments:

Post a Comment