9 || God Was There
Nothing in this world seems more brutal, more unfair, crueler than child abuse. Whether it’s child trafficking, child hunger or emotional, mental, physical or sexual abuse, children are the most vulnerable. Stories of Satan’s work against our children churn our stomachs and fuel our rage. They also fuel questions like, “Where is God?” and “Why does He allow even children to suffer?” If you have not faced this question from others or asked yourself the same, you are likely in the minority.
Even as a devoted follower of Christ, there have been times when I have had to ask the Lord “Why? Why allow it to happen to them? What chance do they have? What will become of them? Are You really there for them in their darkness and loneliness?”
Well, He has begun to answer me, one story at a time. He is good and faithful. He does care, and He will pursue the brokenhearted to offer them refuge in Him.
One story is about a friend of mine, Kerri Bishop. Kerri is an extraordinarily bubbly person. I met her in the gym at work when I joined her fitness class. Nothing about Kerri tipped me off to the struggles she has faced all throughout her life. She is open about her belief in Jesus, smart, outgoing, funny and just a joy to be around. She even makes working out a fun time.
But, as I got to know her, I learned Kerri has a life story filled with the horror of child abuse.
Losing Her Innocence
In Kerri’s first memory, her innocence, childhood, security and safety were stripped away from her at the hands of her step-brother, who was much older. She was only 2 years old. And throughout her childhood, this sweet, precious, vulnerable child was repeatedly victimized by multiple family members and friends of the family whose souls were dark.
You might ask, “Where were her parents in all of this?” Shockingly, her mother knew about the abuse, hid it from her father, and did nothing to protect her. The blind eye her mother turned to her daughter’s rape threw Kerri into a dark place where she was all alone, with no safety net and nowhere to turn.
When Kerri told her mother about what her step-brother had been doing, she took her little girl downstairs, opened a huge, white, leather-bound Bible, and told her it was the book of life and that God knew all, saw all and punished all for their sins. She shamed Kerri for her step-brother’s sins, making it seem like it was all her fault.
That was her skewed introduction to God.
Kerri struggled with the guilt and the questions and wondering why God was punishing her. By the age of 10, Kerri hated God—with understandable reason. She couldn’t understand why God allowed such horrible things to happen if He was so good. The pain Kerri suffered at the hands of her family and those who were supposed to take care of her was deep—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It caused her to look for ways to numb to the sharp edges and medicate her emotions away.
Leaving the Darkness Behind
One late night, Kerry hit rock bottom. Leading a life filled with drugs, alcohol and one bad decision after another, she found herself behind the wheel of her car—half asleep, but completely sober. As she drove down the dark, rain-dampened roads, drifting off to sleep, she suddenly jerked wide awake as she saw what appeared to be a homeless man who looked very familiar crossing in front of her vehicle.
Slamming on the brakes, she tried unsuccessfully to avoid hitting him. Screaming, she jumped out of the car to see what she had done, to see his lifeless body—only he wasn’t there. No one was lying in the road.
That’s when it hit Kerri. The reason he looked familiar was because the homeless man she thought she saw was the very image of Jesus. It was at that point Kerry knew He was fighting for her. He wanted her to be okay—to know that she is loved—and to know that she could live a God-glorifying life despite the horror of her past. Her past did not have to define her.
Kerri’s healing did not happen overnight. It took time.
She discarded her victim mentality and took ownership of her pain. She began to deal with her issues, reflect on her story and find the path to reconciliation with God. She discovered His faithfulness as she looked back over her life and saw the people that He had placed there—school friends who invited her to Awana on Wednesday nights where she heard about Jesus; a special Aunt Gene who encouraged her to work hard, live right and be proud of herself; her Dad who helped her learn the importance of keeping her finances together and staying out of trouble; and two good friends—preacher’s kids who mandated that Kerri attend church if they were going to hang out together.
All the messages she received from these people helped to weave together a lifeline God was throwing to her.
Kerri acknowledges she would not have made it through life without the strength God gave her. Today she has an answer to her childhood questions, “How could God allow this”?
She says it comes down to the fact that we live in a world with fixed laws and free will. There are evil people who will do evil things, but they are not the victors. They do not get to win your soul.
Jesus gave His life on the cross, and He affords us the opportunity to cover ourselves with Him, to find our strength in Him, to find our forgiveness in Him and find our victory in Him. Through Him, we can choose to follow the light and leave the dark behind us. He is the Victor, and He can heal our souls.