Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sex and the Gospel, Pt. 4: God's Protection

In my last post, I wrote about my experience in class where the professor-- and a few students-- shared some of the most hurtful, degrading memories of their lives. I wrote about the tendency to avoid those memories for fear of what questions we might have to face in light of them; about how truly crying out to God and asking, "where were You?" is scary because it involves the possibility of more pain ("what if I ask and find out He doesn't care? or that He thinks I deserve what happened to me?") I have had some of those fears and so I've avoided asking God the hard questions. A friend shared some words from her journal that reflect her own wrestling, and they were richly instructive and comforting to me. 

Whether you've experienced sexual abuse or brokenness-- or whether you've suffered in a completely different way-- these words may be healing for you!

 “God, if you really love me like you say you do, WHY DID YOU NOT PROTECT ME FROM_________???!!! (Fill in the blank with the most traumatic experiences of your life). I am persuaded that this pain-driven question (and underlying accusation) tramples the seeds of faith in every human heart.  As I wrestled with this question in my own life, the Lord led me to the realization that our suffering and confusion is greatly compounded by our impoverished understanding of the nature of God’s protection. 

When we think of God protecting us, what we mean is that we wish him to prevent painful things from happening to us. In reality, God does precisely this for every one of us every day of our lives. Indeed, we wildly underestimate the degree of destruction and chaos that would envelop us were God not keeping it at bay. In a world as sin-saturated as our own, trauma should/would be the norm, save for the proactive mercy of God. That there should be so much good in our lives that tragedy stands out as the exception to our everyday experience is a completely unmerited miracle. Were we privy to how much evil God restrains and from which he shields us on a daily basis, we would dissolve in worship and trust.

This being said, the scope of God’s protection is infinitely more robust than our limited concept of “prevention.” Throughout Scripture, God's people cry out for him to preserve them, rather than demand to be spared from experiencing trying circumstances altogether. The dictionary defines “preserve” as: "to keep alive or safe, to maintain, or to prevent from spoilage." How many “dangers, toils, and snares” have we lived to tell about, so faithfully has the Lord kept us alive and “maintained” us through each one?  Truly, we have been “persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4:9)  Perhaps most profoundly, from what manner of spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical “spoiling” does he preserve us not only in the midst of trials, but often times by virtue of them?  

Imagine what greater evils may have loomed ahead had we been permitted to proceed unhindered. Yet, given the character of our Savior, is it not entirely possible, even likely, that God ordains the tragedies in our lives as part of his masterful plan to preserve us from unfathomably greater ones?  In truth, I have no idea what would have become of me had _____ NOT happened to me. It is pride that presumes I would have been “better off” had I been spared this pain. When I entertain this interpretation of my story I am effectively heeding the voice of the Snake who is ever accusing God of “holding out on me,” of keeping from me my greatest good. 

Thank you, Lord, that you have preserved me through, perhaps even by, the most painful experiences of my life. You love me too much to let me “spoil”; I praise you for your severe mercy. The dictionary says to “protect” is to “care for, champion, conserve, cushion, give refuge, sanctuary, or shelter, support, insulate, preserve, shade, watch…”  When I carefully reflect on even the most grievous experiences in my life in light of this glorious portrait of authentic protection, I can finally, earnestly affirm that You have never failed to protect me. Hallelujah!" 


RHardin said...

This post is relevant to so many areas in life for everyone. Amazing insight, you do a great job putting thoughts into words.

Megan said...

'It is pride that presumes I would have been “better off” had I been spared this pain.'

So good.