Trauma resurfaced and bitterness took over my thoughts. I remember praying, God I know you’re good, but you didn’t seem good in those dark moments when trauma took root through assault”. How do I reconcile my feelings of being left alone and forever changed, contrasted with God’s character which I know to be near and protective?
Friend, welcome. My hunch is you’re here because you realized your past sexual trauma may be impacting your present. What happened to you wasn’t okay, it was a big deal and it matters. I don’t know why it happened.
What I do know is…
Jesus doesn’t waste pain. Ever.
He’s a healer of wounds.
His vision for us is FREEDOM
He uses pain + transforms it into purpose
He’s not done with you
He looks at you and sees rubies. Worthiness and value overflowing.
Is that the God you’ve heard about? Open your hand. Here’s your permission slip that you can have faith AND all the doubt. It’s allowed to wonder if He’s really good or if He forgot about you. I promise, doubt isn’t the enemy of faith. Your questions are safely listened to without disappointment by God.
I was smack dab in the middle of faith wrestling when I was asked to teach on a woman from the Bible at an upcoming gathering. I couldn’t shake the character of Hagar from my mind. I didn’t know her story. Little did I know, I was about to find myself in the midst of her painful journey to freedom. Friend, if you’ve experienced the jolt of sexual assault or the continuous fear of abuse, you’re not alone. This story is one rich in connection to those realities and gives us a clear answer to the question, “Does God care about my trauma?”
In Genesis 16, we meet Hagar, a young Egyptian slave in the house of Abram and Sarai. After Abram and Sarai are unable to conceive, Sarai brings Hagar to Abram in hopes that they can conceive a son. Hagar had no control over her circumstances. Her voice didn’t matter. She was simply a pawn useful for Sarai and Abram to get what they wanted through power. She has been impacted by their sin (missing the mark of God’s best). And chaos ensues. Sarai’s choice to gain control and have a child – no matter how – leads to resentment. Hagar, the only one who didn’t choose any of this, becomes pregnant and is then mistreated and abused by Sarai throughout the chapter and beyond.
A flood of rage sunk in as I finished this part of the chapter. I was rightfully angry for this young girl: violated, finding no control over her circumstances, being abused by men and women, discarded and disowned over and over.
Blindsided by seemingly trustworthy people, innocence wiped out and men that couldn’t be trusted. It was validating and yet made my heart ache at the same time. I could so easily imagine how alone she must have felt in her hidden violation. You too?
It’s not out of reach to name some emotions Hagar might have felt in this moment… unseen, powerless, not chosen, rejected, alone, scared, trapped, enslaved, angry. Suddenly, we find her by a well. An angel appears and asks where she’s come from and where she’s going. She clearly has no idea where she’s going. She just says, “I’m running away.” When suffering is overwhelming, it can feel like running is the best option. I know I can think, “If I push this out of my thoughts I’ll feel better”, “If I choose this easier path, maybe the pain will subside”. Have you ever wanted everything to just be different? Or go away. Or start fresh. I have – recently.
Hagar was Egyptian, so it’s important to note that she may not have even believed in God and may have worshiped other Egyptian gods. But that doesn’t disqualify Hagar from having an encounter with God. I’ll say that again, you do not have to believe in God for Him to make himself known to you.
The angel recites a poem that at first sight is honestly hard to tell if it’s good or bad news. But in verse 14, Hagar’s reaction gives insight, “I have now seen the one who sees me.”
In a desperate instant, Hagar, a lonely young girl, feels both fully seen and loved. She had a glimpse into God’s character and saw His heart was for her. Hagar crafts a brand new name for God, El Roi – meaning God Sees.
What we see in this story is that there’s two ways God meets us in our suffering:
Right where we’re at
The angel met Hagar at the well right where she’s at when her only desire is to run away. There were some curious things the angel said that you’re going to want to lean in for. The angel doesn’t try and persuade her to stay, he simply offers a promise from God.
Read this line from the poem the angel recites about Hagar’s son to be born, Ishmael. Then we’ll just react together “He will be a wild donkey of a man”. Does any mom want to hear that your son will be a wild donkey of a man? Umm, absolutely not.
With some cultural and locational context this line sent me into tears. In Hagar’s area at that time, a wild donkey was not the picture that pops into your mind when you think of a donkey. What the phrase would have meant to Hagar was more how we imagine a wild mustang. Mustangs bring many connotations to mind: stubborn, unruly, moody, bold. But what Hagar surely heard when the angel uttered those words was: He. Will. Be. FREE.
Hagar, a slave. Desperate, alone and ready to run, was just given vision of freedom for her and her child.
When God promises freedom, wouldn’t you pursue ANYTHING to get that? God doesn’t cause pain and trauma. His job is to make a beautiful path to healing and peace from our pain.
Throughout the conversation with the angel, one thing continues to strike me. Hagar recognizes that God didn’t create the mess of a situation that she was in. She knew God didn’t choose this pain for her. Humans did. In fact, God is the only one providing hope for a way out.
This story that initially brought disappointment, with newfound perspective was transformed into one I’ve returned to as I reflect on my own story. I still ask God many questions about intricacies in the story, but He always turns my focus to the moment at the well. Just like Hagar, God sees me.
Not once was I left alone.
Not once did he turn His face from my suffering.
Not once did He let go of my hand as I wrestled through my questions.
Every moment, He knew that my journey with violation and assault would be one running toward freedom even when pain feels consuming.
Remember, I said there were two ways God meets us in suffering:
Right where we’re at
Giving hope for where He will lead us.
Friend, God is always leading to freedom.
Feeling your worth in a tangible way.
Experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit which allows you to see your story just as it is; not wanting to clean it up but actually finding purpose.
So, “does God care about my trauma?”. Every detail, friend.
My journey isn’t over, because God is still working in each detail to bring healing. I have learned that healing and freedom are inextricably woven together. Healing from sexual trauma is a spiraling journey that can feel hopeless at times. As a relationship coach and through practice, I’ve spent the last few years putting all the ‘hows’ in one place to make navigating sexual trauma feel a little bit more like a freedom journey. You’re invited to explore how to incorporate your big faith questions into practical strategies to heal from the past. In the Overcoming Intimacy Barriers After Assault course, you will learn how to move through triggers and lingering trauma impact that creeps into your present relationship, with grace toward healing.
SO WHAT’S KEEP YOU FROM MOVING FORWARD IN SEXUAL HEALING?
Tell me in the comments 👇🏾👇🏽👇🏼