“Why didn’t God protect me? Why did he let this happen?” These are the devastatingly personal equivalents of the age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and its mirror image, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” These questions touch at the heart of our stubborn sense that life should be fair, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is not. A person who has been abused as a child can come to substitute God for life in that sentence and conclude God wasn’t or isn’t fair.
If you grew up in a faith environment, where God was portrayed as all-knowing and all-loving, the thought that God isn’t fair can seem heretical. God must be good and right, so the “fault,” then, lies with you. When you were told you were unlovable, wrong, stupid, or worthless, those judgments were presented as coming from God and must, therefore, be correct. You conclude that because of your faults, God didn’t find you worth protecting. He didn’t consider you worthy of saving. Such twisted beliefs cause hope to strangle and die.
My practice, over the years, has come to be about resuscitating hope. Below are examples of the types of spiritual implication I’ve seen:
Some abused children understand God as their only refuge amid the abuse. They cling to God and credit him for saving them during their fragile childhood. Their relationship with God is strong.
Other abused children are suspicious of God. This negativity is not always overt but may be subtle, a refusal to engage God to any great depth or degree. Their relationship with God is shallow.
Some abused children are openly angry at God. They accept that God is all-knowing and all-powerful and, within that context, believe God knew what was happening to them and failed to protect them. They blame their abuser, but they also blame God. Their relationship with God is hostile.
Other abused children are afraid of God. They believe in their total unworthiness and seek to please God, while also believing they can never succeed. Yet just as they tried to please their abuser to no avail, they continue to attempt to please God. Their relationship with God is fearful.
I suppose a person could have a completely indifferent view of God, and perhaps, this may happen more frequently now that we have entered a post-Christian culture. However, my experience is that someone with an adult indifference to God often did not start out that way. Their childlike faith was drained from them, year after year, circumstance after circumstance, disappointment after disappointment. Rather than continue to have faith and be disappointed, they decided just to settle for life’s disappointments, without faith. But a life without faith, a life indifferent to God, does not provide the spiritual answers I firmly believe are essential to long-term recovery from childhood abuse.
If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues, and bringing healing to the whole family. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.