Take Your Place

Psalm 41:11 (ESV)

By this I know that you delight in me:

    my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.

When our hearts are uncovered through abuse, Jesus invites us into His arms. These are arms that say: I know you cannot love and forgive. I know you cannot stand up and speak the truth. I know you cannot break ties with what’s destroying you. I know you cannot stop falling into fear and shame. I know you cannot be patient and keep turning the other cheek. I know you cannot release the bitterness and anger and pain. 

 

But that’s why I came. That’s why I came to give you the love, worth and acceptance the world refuses to shower on you. That’s why I came to fill those holes in your heart and heal your gashes, so that You can arise and shine in My light. For, I came to carry your load. To carry your pain, your fear, your shame, your hate, your impatience, your unforgiveness, your bitterness, your victimhood and your anger to My Cross. That’s why I died and rose again.

 

Even though my Mum didn’t walk a Prodigal path like me, she discovered this embrace of freedom afresh in her final days. As the brain cancer she suffered from lifted away her social filter, my Mum brought so much harm that had been done to her and our family into the light. She uncovered secrets she had unwillingly kept, spoke the truth to her brothers and sisters in Christ, received God’s comfort in her pain and gave and sought forgiveness. 

 

God also brought restoration between her and my little brother, whose pain God had asked me to draw her and my Dad’s attention to as a little girl. They had turned me aside when I spoke the truth at the time. Now, however, God opened my Mum’s heart to see and acknowledge the trauma her adopted child had walked through in his first 15 months. She wept and wept as God showed her that this had caused him to turn away her love and to rebel again and again. So, she sought and received his forgiveness for the repeated physical punishment he had endured in our home in the name of God. 

 

As God’s Spirit poured into my mother’s weakness, His peace poured out not just into her, but also through her into my little brother, me and others. This is a peace that showed me the true Jesus in my own deep grief. A peace that would lead this Prodigal home. 

 

Little did I know, God was uncovering the root of my turning. After my Mum passed away, He would use horrific flashbacks of her final days to break open traumatic childhood memories, where I had also been helpless to protect and save someone I loved – my little brother. It’s then He would show me how I ran away from Him because I believed He was someone He is not.

 

My Mum’s example of coming into the light in her weakness and need, and God’s peace upon us both, helped me as an adult to release the pain I had clung tightly to as a child. When fellow believers yet again turned me aside for witnessing to the truth, just as my parents had, I was able to keep pouring out my raw heart before God through repeated triggers of my childhood trauma. 

 

He strengthened me to trust in the power of His Word at work in me and in them, even as terrifying waves of fear and shame engulfed me. Again and again, after each wave, He drew me back into the quiet to console me in the joy of His eternal Promises. Piece by piece, He peeled back my own masks of self-righteousness to reveal the true, needy child beneath. 

 

Through each cutting away of environments that were feeding me the cold law, exposing my pride and bathing me in fear and shame, God has also led me further and further into the wide open space of His love and grace. The loud noise of my accuser has been dramatically reduced through each branch God has cut off. Now, I am learning to hear and heed the gentle and yet also firm Voice of my Abba Father calling me come. 

 

It is truly only the living Word (Jesus in us and others) who knows what we and others need. Unlike the cold law, devoid of the Holy Spirit’s loving touch, that is wielded to steal, kill and destroy, God’s living law heals, restores and redeems.  

 

Sadly, the cold law is still being fed to us in so many Christian settings, just as it was to my parents when I was little. This is a law shackling us to self-righteousness, striving, exhaustion, bitterness and pain. It is a law satisfying our sinful desires and denying the presence of Jesus in ourselves and our children. 

 

Jesus knows that cut and dry snippets of the Word propped up by man as the steps for us to take in our dire need will not only never fully satisfy us, but in the long run leave us shackled, weary, exposed and broken, while causing us to wound those closest to us the most. And we can see by His harsh response to the religious authorities of the time, who He called whitewashed tombs and blamed for turning His synagogues into dens of robbers, what Jesus thought of those who propped up rules and regulations that were enslaving His children, especially the poor, ill and suffering, to fear and shame.

 

You see, Jesus knows we don’t need a cold checklist of do’s and dont’s and should do’s and have to’s. He knows we need an Abba Father to embrace us and empower us in our weakness, our pain and our need. He knows we need a loving Counselor and faithful Friend to heal, restore and redeem us and our families moment by moment through the power of the Living and breathing Word at work in us.

 

Through pain and triggers of trauma, God made me hungry and thirsty for His Word again. Now, I no longer rely on others to spoon-feed me. Oh yes, I am blessed by sermons and Christian teaching, but now having read through the whole Bible several times, and soaking in it daily, I am no longer so easily led astray by teaching that tells me I have to or should do this or that to be free. For now, I am getting to know God for myself again. Just as I did as a little girl, before spiritual abuse shackled me to fear and shame because I idolized my parents as god, I am hearing Him speak to me personally from moment to moment.

 

This mighty God is teaching me to pray, to not just pour out my heart before Him openly and honestly, but also to still and listen, to let His living and active Word transform my heart from moment to moment. Beautifully, He has also surrounded me with an army of prayer warrior friends. They lean me into the arms of Jesus. They share their lives with me, pray with and for me and aren’t afraid to speak the truth to me, even when it hurts.

 

Our idol worship and our fleshly desires lean us into and enslave us all to a cold and heartless law. But by cracking open trauma we have walked through, God begins to uncover our great need for Him alone. He strips away our idols and our pride to lead us back to the foot of the Cross. Praise Him!

 

Yes, pain does indeed give birth to the Promise:

 

 

As God leads us to – just be held –

 

 

Father God, thank You that You, like no other understand the impact of deep loss and trauma and how shock can bury or freeze the very memories that need to be cracked open to heal. Thank You that Your heart is filled with compassion for us, even as we idolize man and cling to lies through spiritual abuse. Open our minds and hearts in Your beautiful timing to receive Your loving and healing touch that we may experience the treasures of Your living and breathing Word hidden in our pain.

 

Thank You that as we, Your beloved prodigals, come to You, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by You and precious to You—  we also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to You through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

 

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,

    a chosen and precious cornerstone,

and the one who trusts in him

    will never be put to shame.”[b]

 

(1 Peter 2: 4 – 6 NIV)

 

Father, I ask You to bring stories to mind from Your Word that remind us You are indeed eternally faithful, that You see us, that You have never left or forsaken us and that Your arms are open wide to receive us in our need. Help us through these stories to come to you just as we are.

 

Help us to entrust ourselves to You. Help us to name and acknowledge all that is swirling around inside of us. As we do so, show us Your glory, by lifting away the weight of these burdens that we may walk forward into Your beautiful Promises. 

 

Thank You that every one of us who comes to You and hears Your words and does them, You will show what we are like. You will show us to be like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. (Luke 6: 46 – 49 ESV) [a] Return Bible stories we read and Scriptural worship songs we sung as children to bless us. Help us be still that we may hear You speaking and singing over us. Thank You that You are always speaking and singing over us. Open our ears to hear You. 

 

Where we have been hurt by the enemy through our parents, our (former) pastors or our leaders, help us to bring You our pain. And as we do so, free us from any bitterness, anger and unforgiveness that is keeping us stuck as victims. Help us to acknowledge our struggle, let You unravel it and cut away all branches that are enslaving us. Make us overcomers and victors through Your power at work in us. Help us to hear and receive the consolations in Your Word. Give us a song of faith in our night.

 

And Father, today my heart aches for the pastors and leaders in our churches who do not see that they are feeding themselves and their congregations lies, disguised as truth. Father, You see their desire to bless and strengthen the Body of Christ. You see their daily sacrificial giving to build up and strengthen Your church. Father, honor that desire You have given them and their giving in You by leading them to repentance. Humble them under Your mighty hand that they might receive Your grace and mercy in their time of need. 

 

And Father, help us all to stop placing them on a pedestal and to instead see them through the lens of Your Word as men and women who need You too. Give us hearts of compassion for them and their families. Help us to speak the truth in love, offer them grace and stand firm in Your Promises, no matter what unfolds. Give us eyes of faith.

 

Use the pain and suffering we are walking through and have walked through to soften our hearts and open our eyes to the finished work of the Cross. Lift away the heavy burdens being laid upon our shoulders.  Pour out Your peace upon us all as You lead us home. Show us that not one ounce of our pain has been in vain.

 

Release Your joy, peace and glorious hope in us today. Fix our eyes on You, loosen our controlling grip and remind us again and again who You truly are.

 

In Jesus’ mighty Name, Amen.

 

Psalm 138:8 ESV

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;

    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

 

Psalm 34:5 ESV

Those who look to him are radiant,

    and their faces shall never be ashamed.

 

 

Footnotes:

1 Peter 2:5 Or into a temple of the Spirit

1 Peter 2:6 Isaiah 28:16

Luke 6:48 Some manuscripts founded upon the rock

 

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