Dear Joshua and Marty: You’re Not Alone

Dear Joshua and Marty,

I read your announcements within weeks of each other and can only imagine the circumstances that led you both to write your posts. I know enough to recognize that what you’ve told the public will only be a fraction of an intense and complex story. No one walks away from everything they’ve known on a whim.

This letter comes from no place resembling a high horse. I only wanted to reach out to say that I identify with this turning point in your lives. I certainly wasn’t well-known like either of you, but did have some degree of standing in my local church. More importantly, I felt like I’d really gotten it, what it meant to have a relationship with God. But life happened, and one day I was just done believing in Him.

I was very frustrated with a lot of the Christian responses I got. Some expressed their incredulousness that “someone like you” could be in “a place like that” (I’m still not quite sure how that was meant to spur me back to the faith). Others did try to be present. But in their urgency to fix me, they tended to listen only to point out all the logical inconsistencies in what I was saying. Mind, I didn’t have to make any public announcements about leaving the faith, so I was spared the hateful reactions I’ve seen whizzing about online (I’m so very sorry you’ve had to be subjected to that).

The trouble was that these responses weren’t saying anything I hadn’t already used in an attempt to beat myself back “on track”. But being told what I should be thinking or doing just wasn’t enough to get me there. Did you feel this too? The anguish of knowing what the “right things” to think and feel are, but realizing, more and more acutely as the days go on, that you’re just not there. I felt it coming for a few years myself, without a clue about how to bridge the increasing chasm between where I was and where I should be.

“Come home!” everyone was crying. “You know where it is!” Well yes, that’d be nice. But without first trying to find out exactly where I was, how could anyone give me useful directions to get me back to the right spot?

Perhaps that was what I needed, once I was ready to deal with the pain of where I was. To have someone recognize that I was in pain, and then be patient enough to identify the terrain of that pain with me. What was I feeling and why? What was the deep cry and need in my heart that my version of the Christian life wasn’t meeting? Was there a truth that I was somehow missing, even after all these years of being a believer?

Perhaps not many of us are taught how to speak to pain. So we often panic and are at a loss for what to say when we see it. Then we grasp for the words that we do have: platitudes, solutions, truth-telling (oh, we’re so good at that).

But the language of the mind is not the language that speaks to a broken heart. It is not what makes another person’s pain feel seen.

Not that I was ready to figure this out immediately, of course. And in all likelihood, neither of you will be too. But perhaps a response that creates space for doubt is part of the language that speaks to pain.

Maybe if someone had been able to show me how to struggle well and ask wiser questions when the pieces of my faith were starting not to fit, I wouldn’t have bolted in the other direction to find comfort elsewhere. Maybe I would have stayed a little longer to figure it out.

Because maybe the “God” that we were wanting to leave wasn’t really God at all. Just someone who looked and sounded a lot like Him. I didn’t believe the wrong things about God; He had all the fundamental tenets of all the right Christian creeds. It was just that what I knew about Him was incomplete. I’d missed a critical detail, one critical beam that would keep my framework from collapsing in a storm (Matthew 7:24–27): I didn’t believe that God knew me better than I knew myself (Psalm 139:1–4) . That made it impossible to trust Him when times got really tough, because I couldn’t be certain that He knew what I really needed.

Our missing pieces are probably different, but their consequences are similar. Being one degree off at the starting point doesn’t really look like much. But if we keep walking on along that bearing for long enough, we eventually end up terribly off course. We find ourselves on an arduous path, carrying an enormous burden, without going anywhere life-giving. It is hell trying to bear the high, high cost of Christian discipleship for a “God” who isn’t really God, even if he does have the name “Jesus” slapped on him.

It was utterly freeing at first to leave the faith. Finally, I could build a life with frameworks that resonated with what I felt. For three years, it really did seem like I’d found a better place to set up home. But somewhere along the way, the same sensitivity in my gut that told me my earlier version of Christianity wasn’t working told me again that something wasn’t quite right with all the new frameworks I’d found either.

And it was painful all over again. But this time, someone was there to really listen to me. Based on what I said, she was able to help me see the piece that I missed about God. The piece that would make things fit, give me hope, and—finally—peace. I wish she could have been there the first time. But maybe I needed to come to the end of myself first, to really be able to ask for help.

Joshua and Marty, more than anything, I hope that you’ll have people who can create a safe space for you in this turning point of your life. I hope they’ll sit with you for as long as it takes to grieve what you have lost and bear witness to your pain. And I hope they’ll have words that offer both compassion and clarity, so that you’ll be able to step out of your pain and into something more life-giving one day. I’m rooting for you.


3 Ways Scripture Speaks to Anxiety

I’d never really thought of myself as an anxious person. If anything, I’d always tended to take my fears by the horns and battle with them until I prevailed. But things started to change when I signed up for graduate school while most of my friends went to work full-time.

A few years ago, I noticed the difference between the careers they’d been able to build and my non-existent one. Many of them were now in managerial positions and other spheres of influence. As I compared the fruit of their labor to my dismal career prospects, I began to internalize a deep-seated anxiety of losing out to them.

I worked myself to the bone for two years to earn as much as they did, even though I was still in school. It was, of course, not sustainable. Close to a breaking point, I finally conceded that I needed God to help me out of this cycle into which I’d unwittingly gotten caught. In His grace, God began to teach me to discern between the voice of anxiety and the truth of His Word.


Anxiety says: It is up to me to achieve this. But I am too inadequate. And what if the worst should happen? I will not survive it.

I noticed four factors in my anxious thinking pattern: (1) a belief that this important goal was my sole responsibility, (2) a belief in my limitations, (3) a fear of the things I cannot control, (4) a belief that not achieving this goal would lead to disastrous consequences.

These four factors paralyzed me because they counteracted each other. First, I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t believe that anyone could offer any sound advice. And what good were their prayers? The mountain of potential unemployment or being stuck in a dead-end job loomed so large that it felt like even God couldn’t do anything about it.

Second, my qualifications felt so redundant to the world that it was impossible to be hopeful about my future.

Third, endlessly speculating about the variables that stood between me and a good job (the shrinking academic job market, the redundancy of my degree elsewhere, the younger job applicants . . . ) didn’t help.

While I thought I was just bracing myself for the worst, it was really a desperate attempt to feel in control (if I can’t do anything about these variables, at least I know they’re there). But the constant rumination only brought more torment.

While the first three prevented me from moving forward, the fourth prevented me from taking a step back to get some perspective. Anxiety enslaved me to the fear that if I didn’t get a good enough job, life would be unbearable. I simply couldn’t accept any alternatives to what I wanted. I belittled the value of the part-time jobs and the talents that God had given me. The combination of these fatalistic perceptions gave me tunnel vision that only saw how much I was in lack and took the joy out of living.


1. Scripture says: Of course you’re too inadequate, you were never meant to do it alone.

Anxiety isn’t wrong when it points out that I am inept. Without God, we are incapable of anything good (Luke 18:19; Jeremiah 17:9), of accomplishing anything (John 15:5), of real wisdom (1 Corinthians 3:19), or of producing work that lasts (Psalm 127:1). But by only highlighting my limits, anxiety conceals the complete picture. In contrast, when Scripture points out our weakness, it also magnifies the loving and powerful God who is at hand to help us (Psalm 16:8).

As I told God that I was anxious about not finding a good job, He opened my eyes to two truths. First, God sees and knows me in inscrutable detail (Luke 12:7). I recalled hearing a pastor say that as much as he loved his daughter, he never bothered to count the hair on her head. It hit me how attentive God must be, how He must care, to be concerned with even the most insignificant facts about me.

I spent weeks reflecting about what it meant to be known and loved by a God like that. It helped me see how thoughtfully and tirelessly God had worked to shape a life that was actually a good fit for the talents He had given me. It was only my comparing what I had with everyone else that kept me from seeing its value!

Once I realized that He’d had my back the entire time, God dropped a second piece of Scripture into my heart that spoke perfectly to my anxieties about my future: “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just where He wanted them to be” (1 Corinthians 12:18).

It dawned on me then that since I was a part of His body, there had to be a place for me. I couldn’t imagine where—especially when the world doesn’t seem to need English doctorates—but I knew I wasn’t that special to be the exception to Scripture. Since God He sees the big picture, He’ll know where I’ll be most useful for His kingdom.

Anxiety governs my life with incomplete information; it is no wonder it throws my life askew. But if the starting point of my thought life is the scriptural truth of God’s love and sovereignty, I see more accurately the One who is with me and can then have the courage to keep going.


2. Scripture says: Even if “the worst” should happen, the world will not end; He looks after His own.

When I want something so badly that I think life will be insufferable without it, I can be sure that a case of misplaced identity is not far behind. I’d tied my self-worth to being able to earn a certain salary. Conversely, it also meant that if I didn’t earn a lot, I’d be worthless. And that became the unbearable reality I was working so hard to avoid.

But Scripture revealed that my fears were the result of a false equation. I’d forgotten that my worth came from being God’s child (Romans 8:14), one who had nothing to her name except a worthy Father. But just by being His, I am conferred a value that is not based on my circumstances and have already been promised a life that is not in need (Psalm 23:1).

When Scripture tells me to pray when I feel anxious (Philippians 4:6–7), it isn’t promising that prayer will get me what I want. I may never get that career or that salary. But the peace that follows prayer tells me that the world doesn’t end even if I never get them, because those things simply aren’t essential for my well-being. And as I give God time to show me His other, better ways of giving His child a full life despite “the worst” happening, perhaps I will discover that I never needed those things to be complete in the first place.


3. Scripture says: You have a choice between believing what anxiety says about you, or what God says about you.

When one has lived with anxiety for a long time, it is often difficult to imagine any other way of life. But no matter how convincing our self-invented statements are about ourselves, they will never override the truth of who God says we are.

One of the most anxious people in the Bible, Moses, was chosen for one of the important tasks in Jewish history: to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian captivity and into the Promised Land. For every anxious speculation that Moses had about this task, God countered it effortlessly.

When Moses was anxious about being too insignificant (Exodus 3:11), God promised that His presence would go with him (3:12). When Moses was anxious about not being believed by the Israelites, God gave him permission to go in His name (3:14–16), and taught him how to perform two convincing miracles (4:1–8). When Moses was anxious about not being eloquent enough (4:10), God promised to give him the perfect words (4:11).

Still he anxiously begged God to send someone else (4:13). Yet, even when “the Lord’s anger burned against Moses” for not believing His words (4:14), He graciously offered another solution: if His presence was not sufficient enough assurance, his brother Aaron could do the parts of the job that Moses dreaded.

Having exhausted all the options of what he could be anxious about, Moses now has a choice to make. In that paragraph break, that blank space between Exodus 4:17 and 18, Moses silently battles between listening to the voice of anxiety—the one that harasses him with all the ways things could go wrong—or the voice of God—the one that promises a solution for anything that could possibly happen.

Moses chose God, and God lived up to every single promise that He made to Moses by that burning bush. As he saw the reality and power of God’s presence, Moses was radically transformed. The man whose anxieties made him think little of the presence of God, and who needed his brother’s company to help him feel secure, became the leader who refused to go anywhere if God did not go with him (Exodus 33:15). After he made the first big leap of faith and took God at His word, Moses tangibly experienced that only the voice of God could be trusted to tell him the truth. And he walked confidently and purposefully into God’s plan for his life.


There are days when I’m still up by that burning bush, haggling with God about how the voice of anxiety paints a truer story of my life than His words. But I do want that same rich reality of God that Moses had, where His presence becomes the only thing that makes me feel secure—not a good salary, not a good career, not the approval of people. So, I’m asking for the grace to be able to listen to the right voice when it comes to that crucial paragraph break of my life story, to let Him transform my life into a story worth telling.

What I Got Wrong About Grace

Some time in my early 20s, I sat across the table from my mentor and pleaded with her to explain how grace worked. Life wasn’t quite going the way I wanted and I’d subconsciously been trying to “live right” in the hope that I could wrangle some blessings out of God. I’d exhausted myself, and still my attempts weren’t working.

In contrast, people around me kept talking about this condemnation-free, striving-free, anxiety-free way of becoming a person who would please God (and ergo, enjoy all the perks)—and it sounded fantastic. But no one was able to explain how to get there; it felt like I was constantly hearing about a delicious, free buffet without being given directions to get to it.

I understood some of grace. I knew that it was receiving something that I did not deserve. I believed and gratefully accepted that Jesus swapped my sinful nature with His righteous one on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21), took the punishment that was actually mine to pay for being of that sinful nature (Romans 6:23), so that I could stand blameless before God now and at the end of my life (Colossians 1:22). That was grace; a gift I did and could do nothing to merit.

But that, perhaps, was grace for the after life.

At present, there was still life on this earth to finish living. And for these trials of daily living, there seemed to be another form of grace that the writers of Scripture enjoyed.

Paul received grace that was sufficient to cover his weaknesses when he couldn’t shake off a trying situation (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul also knew that if he walked by the Spirit, he would not gratify the desires of his flesh (Galatians 5:16). The writer of Hebrews knew that he could approach the throne of grace and receive help in his time of need (Hebrews 4:16). And the writer of Lamentations found grace every morning to move through his suffering and anguish (Lamentations 3:22-23).

This was the kind of grace I couldn’t seem to access.

Yet, when my mentor succinctly explained that grace was simply receiving something from God that would be sufficient for my need of the moment, it still felt incomprehensible. As much as I wanted to believe her, my upbringing and culture had shaped me to believe that if I wanted to achieve something, it was my responsibility to work hard to make it happen (and if I asked for help, it meant I was being spoilt). Although exhausting to upkeep, this ethos had served me well in school and in the few life experiences I’d encountered. It was all I knew, and grace felt uncomfortably counterintuitive.

Up to that point in my early 20s, my life had been sheltered enough to make the illusion of being self-sufficient tenable. I couldn’t conceive of what it meant to encounter a situation that I could not work myself out of. This was an arrogance that emerged not so much from delusions of grandeur, but from sheer inexperience about what real hardship or need was.

There wasn’t anything I hadn’t yet solved without rallying my brain and willpower, exercising my strong moral code, or relying on my abilities and education to pull through. So how could my pool of resources be insufficient for anything? Perhaps asking for grace was wanting the easy way out and making excuses for my laziness.

Also, I couldn’t imagine relying solely on the Holy Spirit to guide my life. Did He not need my input? Was I really supposed to wait for Him to prompt me if I was going awry? But . . . what if I missed the prompt? Or what if He was silent and I stayed in need?

I wanted all the blessings that came with walking right with God; what if He didn’t deal with my weaknesses quickly enough and delayed my ability to experience the abundant life? No, no, surely it was better if I got a head start on my self-improvement based on my self-assessment. And if He spoke, I’d just add that to the pile of things to work on. After all, how could I be certain that help would really come, if I didn’t know when it would arrive, what it would look like if it did and how exactly it would help?

I didn’t know it then, but my fierce independence stemmed from a deep mistrust that anyone, even God, would be there for me when it counted in a way that mattered. The autocratic parenting style that I grew up under made it hard for me to believe that any figure of authority would care about, much less meet, my emotional needs. Relying on grace and depending on someone else for things that I really wanted felt far too risky.

Caught in this tension between exhaustion from self-effort and disbelief in grace, I settled for what I thought was a good compromise. My initiative and willpower would primarily drive my life, and grace could be a kind of tonic or supplement to give me an edge or an energy boost. Not really necessary—just in case it didn’t show up—but nice to have.

But my 20s turned out to be nothing like the tidy life I had anticipated. The equation (hard work = success) that I thought would be a cover-all hadn’t prepared me for life’s wild, unpredictable variables torching my carefully constructed plans.

My “rich resources” were as good as ashes. Life proved impervious to my attempts to control it. Producing work to the best of my ability didn’t guarantee me the job I wanted. Doing my best to make godly choices didn’t protect me from suffering the consequences of another person’s actions. And choosing God was impossible when my own brokenness kept me in a relationship that I knew wasn’t meant for me.

Chronically mistrusting God and taking full charge of my own life meant that I had managed to drive it into a dead end by the time I was 29.

Fast-forward a near decade from that first conversation about grace, my mentor sat across from me again. This time my heart was well and truly beaten to finally receive the wisdom of her words. God knows what you need better than you do, she said, and He is good and will give it to you.

With nothing to lose, and with no internal resources left, I decided to “give God a go” and began each day saying, “God, please give me the grace to get through this day.” I tossed the words up to God with no back-up plan, no expectations as to what this grace would look like, and no energy to speculate.

And as I hobbled through this year—grieving the loss of the person I’d loved most, losing my job, and going through the inquiry for the sexual assault I’d suffered in church—God has met every single one of my needs with grace that was in no way superfluous or abstract.

At my loneliest points, sometimes within half an hour of crying out to God, close friends would suddenly send a hilarious or engaging text message and I’d have a good conversation with them out of the blue.

God also started to deepen my delight in the time that I spent with Him, journaling and reading Scripture. He gave me innumerable timely words of comfort and hope from His Word that addressed the fears in my heart perfectly.

He pulled out work for me from the most unexpected of places, without even needing me to send out a single résumé. He gave me justice beyond what I had expected out of the inquiry and assembled the best support from my family and friends to help me survive the process. He has even healed my relationship with my parents.

He also attended to the restoring of my character. In the years that I had depended on my willpower to be a morally upright person, I ended up losing the very traits I was working so hard to keep: my sense of security, integrity, self-control, selflessness, and a clear and discerning mind. I’d never known that God had been giving me the grace to be this moral person in the first place.

This character had emerged naturally as I spent my youth seeking Him that I’d made the mistake of assuming it was an immutable part of my own nature. But as I wilfully drew away from God for a few years, what emerged from me was everything pertaining to selfishness instead.

Now, with a daily prayer for grace, I became keenly aware of the firm, quiet voice in my heart that really did prompt me every time I needed a nudge in the right direction. All I needed to do then was just obey. He had been enough all along! And I was humbled—and rather embarrassed—to have thought that I knew better than God about how to grow in Christlikeness.

I’ve turned 30 a few days ago, and it’s been a year since I decided to ask God for His grace. I’ve realised that I couldn’t understand grace—the receiving of something that perfectly meets the need of the hour—because I didn’t know the true goodness of the God from whom grace came. I didn’t know how astute He was about my real needs, how creative He could be in meeting them, and, most importantly, how deeply He loved me to want to give me good things.

If my 20s was about seeing the foolishness of thinking myself the authority on who I am, and realising the limitations of my human nature, it has been, mercifully, redeemed by discovering just how good God is at loving me. Now, with my 30s ahead of me, I’m looking forward to experiencing life from a posture of dependence.

Surviving Sexual Assault: How I Learned to Forgive Myself

I was sexually assaulted by a senior member of my church’s staff for four years. I was 21, and was doing an internship at my local church to explore a calling to full-time ministry. She was 42, and a director of the discipleship department.

It was a classic case of sexual grooming (although I didn’t know the term at the time). She’d taken a special interest in my progress. As a young 20-something, uncertain about my capabilities, her attention was gratifying. To have the support of one of the most charismatic and respected leaders in church made me feel confident that I had something worthy to offer God.

When she shared that she was same-sex attracted and admitted that she was attracted to me, she portrayed herself as a victim of God’s cruelty: wired to love someone she could never be with. To her, God was sadistically intent on denying her the things that her heart truly wanted. Doing life with Him had started to feel like a pointless torture of self-denial.

I was never attracted to her, but the way she told her story filled me with deep sympathy. Without realizing it, I responded to her narrative of victimhood by wanting to alleviate her suffering.  I wanted to demonstrate that the church could be a safe space for same-sex attracted people and redeem her view of God.

It didn’t go the way I planned. I couldn’t see at the time that she wasn’t just a broken and defeated woman, but also someone desperately trying to make me do what she wanted perhaps to fill the void in her heart. This manifested in so many ways that I just wasn’t astute enough to trace the pattern of her behavior. She’d be jealous when I didn’t join her ministries, or guilt me into going on holidays with her. When I resisted, she accused me of withholding affection and being “just like God”. I knew her logic and the way she was relating to me was hugely problematic, but didn’t have the words to pinpoint why.

I did my best to be firm. But she was much older than I was, in a position of power, and so persistent in pushing against my boundaries. Over the years, I questioned whether I was the unreasonable one for having boundaries in the first place and eventually “chose” to give in. A part of me hoped that if she got her way, she’d be satisfied and not ask for more. But it only encouraged her to push against my boundaries even more.

She was a truly gifted storyteller. Each time after she violated my body, she’d have a variety of ways to justify what she did. Sometimes she played the victim card, saying she couldn’t help herself. Sometimes she made beautiful-sounding promises of not doing it again. Sometimes she’d mock how absolutely devastated I was, as though I was overreacting. Sometimes it was flat out gas-lighting, insinuating that I wanted it too.

I felt so trapped. Influenced by her narrative of victimhood, and afraid of her emotional outbursts if I didn’t comply with her demands, I’d been conditioned to “not want to add to her suffering”. Yet, I felt so much pain and disgust for being involved in this. To add to my confusion, she would revert back effortlessly into being the affirming person that I’d first met. Which version of her was real? Was this woman who was violating my body just a helpless victim of an uncontrollable desire? Was the Christlike thing to do to give her umpteenth chances to change?

I was 25 when I finally cut her off for good. I was too ashamed to tell anyone, and, coupled with other factors, I left the church—and God.

Three years of deep unrest followed after. I’d blamed myself for “allowing sexual sin” to happen. After all, she was the victim; I should have been stronger and more assertive. I assumed that the deep revulsion I felt from her actions was remorse for grieving God with my sin. Not that it mattered now that I’d walked away from Him.

And since I was finally free of her, I thought I could move on with my life. But the persistent nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder triggers during these three years suggested that this framework I’d cobbled together wasn’t sufficient to encompass what had happened.

I finally saw a therapist when the nightmares became intolerable. During those sessions, quite unexpectedly God showed me the ways I’d misunderstood His heart for me in the past. Unlike what I’d previously thought—that He was only giving me what I felt was “second-best”—I discovered that He knew my heart better than I did. What I categorized as “second-best” were in fact things that my heart truly needed to thrive! Tracing this pattern throughout the events of my life moved me immensely, and would become a crucial factor in helping me trust God when I had to wrestle with several difficult faith questions in the coming months.

When I returned to Him, He gave me the courage to tell my story to a few close friends. To my surprise, some of them realized that they’d always felt somewhat uncomfortable about this woman, but had never been able to verbalize why. One of them also said she’d felt manipulated by her as well. Their unanimous rage over what she’d done helped me begin to see that I hadn’t been the one at fault: I had been assaulted.

It took a long time to come around to this new understanding. It was initially inconceivable that I could have been so deceived by someone’s manipulation. I’d always been told that I was emotionally intelligent and could usually discern people’s motives. And with the dawning realization that something terrible had happened to me, I started to blame myself for a new slew of reasons. Why was I not sharp enough to realize how duplicitous she was? Had I not been so gratified by her attention, or had my heart not been in such need for affirmation, perhaps I could have seen the truth!

A deep anger towards God followed suit. If I was too limited to protect myself, then why didn’t He? I knew He didn’t cause this to happen or put me through it just to teach me a lesson. That’s a kind of sadism that goes against what the Scripture says of His character and nature. But why didn’t He do more to prevent the assault? Was my heart and my body just not worth His energy?

Job didn’t get an answer when he shook his fist at the heavens, and neither did I. Could I admit that what I understood of the situation was but the “outskirts of his ways”, “a whisper” compared to the true “thunder of his power” (Job 26:14)? Could I accept the reality that I was only “[seeing] in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12)?

Like Job, I had a clear choice before me: either I believe that God’s character (He is good, sovereign, and holy) remains constant despite my circumstances, or I let my circumstances interpret God’s character. Given how recently shaken I was by the blindness of my perspective, I couldn’t choose the latter confidently. But how could I believe the former after what I went through?

We often make erroneous conclusions based on incomplete information. The presence of two variables may point to one conclusion, but the inclusion of a third variable can lead us to a different end. For instance, before I could see that I was being emotionally manipulated, I saw only two variables—a) I didn’t want any sexual contact with her, b) I wasn’t able to resist it. I could only logically conclude that it was my fault for not being strong enough to stand up for myself. But the third variable—c) her thorough manipulation robbed me of my authority to assert my boundaries—made me realize that she was at fault instead. What had looked like my choice to “give in” was in fact not at all autonomous consent but the result of carefully masked coercion. It explained why I was so devastated after each assault; consent does not lead to trauma.

So now, with the two pieces of information that I had—a) I was sexually assaulted, b) God allowed it to happen—I could choose to conclude that He is not good. Or…could I admit that there may be more variables here that I simply could not see, and that when all assembled together would give the situation its complete context? A context that could explain the meaning of all of this, one that would still point unequivocally to the fact that God is good? Did I have enough faith to trust His heart and take Him on His word alone, without understanding the situation completely?

I wrestled with this for months. But I chose to accept the finiteness of my human perspective compared to that of an omniscient God, one who had, in so many other areas of my life, consistently demonstrated goodness to me. Perhaps knowing why God allowed it is not what I need to survive.

In what I have needed to know, His insight has been swift and precise. I recognized that my appreciation for her initial support was not consent to the sinful way she related to me. I learned that however much a person is hurting, they have no right to violate another. I realized that relying on God to fill my needs gives me clarity to see people for who they are. I accepted the importance of being open with trusted friends because they may see what I cannot. And when she was finally fired from the church for this assault, I understood that a true Christlike response is not one that condones sin, but one that will enable the other person to be transformed.

I no longer fault my 20-something self for not being smart enough to know these things.

It has been wonderful to discover that God is capable of helping me overcome and heal from the wounds of my past. There are still difficult days, and the occasional nightmare. But learning to forgive myself has freed my heart to receive His healing, and, as the days go by, is helping me learn how to forgive her as well.


This article is the first of a three-part series. Forthcoming—“Surviving Sexual Assault: How I am Learning to Forgive an Abuser”, and “Surviving Sexual Assault: How I Learned to Forgive the Church”.