I wonder how long it took you to gather the courage to tell someone. Hours? Weeks? Years?
Did you rehearse what you’d say? Did you agonize over how many details to include? Did you practice not crying, not emoting, so you could be as calm as possible and not scare the listener…pushing through your own frightened emotions to get the words out?
I wonder how many people you cycled through before you decided who to tell. Would a parent believe you? Did you decide to trust a friend? Did you go to a spiritual mentor?
So many of us have gone through this ringer, and on the other side of this brave act of coming forward, we were met with questions…with doubt..with accusation…with flat-out rejection.
I wonder how your heart took it. Did you shake with anger? Did you cry at the injustice of it? Or like me, did you sink back into the shadows of shame, believing every word of the person across from you: “You must have caused this somehow.” “But why were you there so late?” “Don’t you know how angry the Lord is at this?”
I’ve received all those responses, and from very good people. They spoke out of ignorance and fear, not out of a desire to hurt. But the truth is, ignorance still leaves scars. And what are we to do when our most trusted allies have doubted that which has hurt us the most? How can we return to church when our authorities there have turned their faces from us? And what does this say about God?
Is it possible to still trust a heavenly Father, when our spiritual fathers have failed us?
I spent years wrestling with these questions, until I stumbled upon a beautiful piece of truth hidden in 2 Samuel 13:1-22. The whole chapter is a tough read: King David’s son Amnon falls in love with his half-sister, Tamar. Amnon, lacking any self-discipline or a moral compass, rapes Tamar. He then casts her out (for she is now a reminder of his own ugliness and cruelty), and Tamar flees in grief to her brother Absalom. King David, it is important to note, chooses not to intervene.
Now, there is a ton to unpack here. But I want to focus on what we can glean about the trustworthiness of God, regardless of how other spiritual leaders have acted toward us.
Amnon reacts in disgust to Tamar, the victim of his own crime. Absalom advises Tamar not to let this act of violence affect her and just let it go; he later murders Amnon, though I would wager this had more to do with his own anger than looking out for the well-being of Tamar. King David remains silent on the issue, perhaps to preserve some familial peace…a grievous mistake, as he will lose all three of these children before the story is done.
But do you know where I find comfort in this chapter? A small blurb in verses 4-6 describes Amnon and his gross cousin Shimeah planning how to trap Tamar. In subsequent verses we see that plan played out perfectly. In verse 13 we see Tamar, with astounding compassion and clarity, try to rationalize with Amnon and escape this assault. And in verses 14-15, we see Amnon’s sinful behavior, and his following rejection of Tamar.
Do you see? God saw everything. He saw Amnon’s destructive choices. He saw the plotting. He saw Tamar’s refusal. He saw David’s silence.
God saw the whole story.
If you tried to tell someone about abuse or an assault that happened to you, and were met with rejection, disbelief, or silence…please understand. That is not God’s response.
God saw the whole story. He knows what led up to it, what occurred, and the consequences. He has seen the way others have rejected your requests for empathy and justice and He disagrees. He does not shame or blame. He weeps alongside you.
Have you tried before? I urge you, try again, but start with telling God. He will not reject you. He has the whole picture. And if you’re brave enough to try that, you can be brave enough to trust that He will lead you in your next steps. He will, as He did with me, provide mentors and allies to walk alongside you.
You were brave once. You can be brave again with the God who does not disappoint.