Our view of God often tends to be based upon the type of fathers we grew up with, the religious training we received, or possibly whoever else was a significant authority figure in our lives. Some of us may have had very good fathers, and others did not. If you did not, it may be hard to see God as the perfect loving Father because in your experience, you don’t know what that is.
I was fortunate in that my Dad was a great Dad (and my Mom was wonderful). My difficulty during my growing up years had more to do with my school environment, where I witnessed horrific abuse of my classmates for the smallest infractions – beatings with yardsticks and ears being boxed, children’s heads banged against the blackboard, forced soap ingestion, and worse. I remember a young boy in third grade who asked but was not given permission to go to the restroom and so he had an accident on the classroom floor. The teacher whipped him mercilessly in front of all of us and finally held his face to the floor in the urine puddle, telling him to clean it. I sat next to this boy and I felt traumatized for years. He was never the same after that. Even now I can remember the incident like it was yesterday.
You better believe I tried to be the best behaved student ever. I was afraid to do anything wrong and I escaped the worst punishments. Because I was afraid, sometimes I would NOT tell my parents about the worst that was happening.
When I told my parents about some of the punishments occurring – like the yardstick beatings on the hands or backs - to my classmates, my Dad would always say that I would be ok because I was a good girl, and besides, that’s the way it always was in the school; he remembered getting worse beatings and he actually believed he deserved it! It was just business as usual, the way things had always been done.
Years later, when I finally talked to my Mom about it, she felt bad that she and Dad didn’t know of everything I had been exposed to. She also said that was the way a lot of things were done then, and people tended to also think that children were just exaggerating to get out of trouble. Yet it definitely left an imprint on my soul, and if the taste of this treatment was enough to hurt me and others at that time, I can imagine the soul wounds that other people have suffered directly at the hands of their own parents or other family members.
It seems like I am always encountering someone who has suffered terribly as a child at the hands of one or both parents (or even someone else) who were not there or neglectful, critical and excessively demanding, crushing a child’s self-esteem, and meting out harsh punishments in anger; parents who were unable to express or demonstrate appropriate love and affection, or who were abusive verbally, physically or sexually. It is overwhelming to consider what people have gone through; if you were abused by a parent or someone you loved, I cannot claim to know exactly how you feel but I had my own experiences second-hand through the suffering I witnessed of others, and my heart goes out to you. I do not pretend to understand all that happens in this world. There are some things that you just know are evil and that is as far as your understanding can go.
I do know from Scripture that when God created man, He gave man freedom of choice. This was an important part of making us in the image of God. We were given dignity, value and freedom of choice. Deuteronomy 30:15-19 explains the things that lead to death or life, and it says that God wants us to choose LIFE.
Why did God take the risk of giving us freedom of choice? If we were made like puppets and could do no wrong then, yes, we would never sin or wound each other. On the other hand, we could only do what the manipulator of our strings allowed us to do. This would mean we could never love on our own from our own hearts. God wanted people to be His family, people He could love and who would love Him and each other in return. Can you imagine a world with no love? If there is no freedom of choice, there is no real love. We would be nothing more than machines or puppets.
Everything that happens in life is NOT the will of God. Sin is not the will of God. Abuse is not the will of God. Destruction in your life is not the will of God. Yet we live in a fallen world. Bad things happen. People mess up; sometimes they mess up big time. If you have suffered such trauma, God hated what you went through. Isaiah 63:9 is one of several verses that describe God’s heart, saying, “In all their affliction, He was afflicted…” However, God has promised to deliver us and help us when we bring our troubles to Him. Psalm 34:19 says, “Many evils confront the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” So God will help you. He will deliver you.
If you are the survivor of a traumatic childhood – or even adulthood so far – I want to encourage you. GOD IS NOT THE DESTROYER in your life. It took me a long time to learn this myself because I had closed my ears and my heart, and while God will gently pursue you, He will not force Himself on you. You need to know that God is NOT the author of fear, confusion, depression, pain, sickness, and destruction in your life.
In John 10:10, Jesus said, "The thief (Satan) comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I [Jesus] came that they (meaning us) may have and ENJOY life, and have it in abundance to the full, till it overflows."
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (fear) - of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear - but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of a calm and well-balanced mind, and discipline and self-control.”
1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “for God is not a God of confusion and disorder but of peace and order.”
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
God's Word is clear. God is good and His intentions for us are good. Satan is evil.
In John 8:44, Jesus described Satan, “He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar himself and the father of lies and of all that is false.”
I don’t have all the answers but I know that God has chosen and bound Himself to involve us in His work in this world. That is why He tells us to come to Him, to pray to Him, to read His Word, to believe His Word, to renew our minds with His Word, and to speak His Word out in the world.
In Hosea 4:6, God says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” I know that in my childhood, based on the religious training I had, I did not know to call upon God in my situation and that I could expect Him. We were told that so much in Scripture was only figurative and pertained to spiritual things, not physical life. (Yet that’s not what Scripture actually tells us – it tells us that God cares about all aspects of our lives – spiritual, physical, material, etc.) According to my early training, you could not expect much; you could only hope and be grateful if you got answers to your prayers. My Mom and Dad loved God but they both had the same training in their respective religions. However, my Dad got saved (accepted Jesus) 6 months before he died when I was little, and my Mom many years later. Even as she learned, my Mom had a hard time reaching a new level of faith because, as she put it, “We weren’t taught that way about God and this is new for me.”
This is what our Heavenly Father is like:
He loves us (Jeremiah 31:3; John 16:27; 1 John 3:1)
He cares for us (Deuteronomy 32:10-11; 1 Peter 5:7)
He nurtures us (Psalm 27:10)
He provides for us (Psalm 23:1; Psalm 34:9; John 16:24)
He is patient and gentle with us (Psalm 103:8; Matthew 11:29)
He is kind and forgiving (Psalm 86:5; Psalm 103:1-5; Titus 3:4-5)
He instructs and guides us (Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 48:17; John 8:12)
He enjoys giving us good gifts (Jeremiah 32:40; Matthew 7:11)
He delights in us (Psalm 149:4; Zephaniah 3:17)
He relates intimately to us and calls us by name (Isaiah 43:1-2; John 10-14, 27)
He gives us constant attention (Deuteronomy 31:8; Psalm 34:15; Matthew 28:20)
He has compassion on us (Psalm 103:13; Matthew 9:36; 2 Corinthians 1:3)
He calls us His beloved friends. (John 15:13-15)
He encourages and affirms us (Isaiah 41:8-13: Luke 12:32)
GOD IS GOOD AND HE LOVES YOU. We need to grasp this. Perfect love – His love – casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Yes, He loves YOU. He calls us His “Beloved children” (1 John 3:2). God is holy and righteous and awesome. He absolutely deserves our love and obedience and adoration.
At the same time, He considered us so important and so much loved, that He sent His Son Jesus to teach us about Him and to take our place in the punishment that we deserved, and to restore us to relationship with the Father. Isaiah 53:4-5 says, “Surely He [Jesus] has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains of punishment… He was wounded FOR OUR transgressions, He was bruised FOR OUR guilt and iniquities; the chastisement needful to obtain peace and well-being FOR US was upon Him, and with the stripes that wounded Him we are healed and made whole.” So Jesus died for us. He valued us so much that He suffered and died for us.
How do you get to know and trust God as a good and loving Father who is worthy of your trust? Pour out your heart to Him in prayer. Spend time with Him, in His Presence, even if you don’t know what to say or cannot find the words. Spend time in His powerful Word, the Holy Bible. He already knows your heart; He knows your pain and your desire to be healed and to be free. He wants to do that for you.
You can simply say, “Lord, I’m here to sit in Your presence. I don’t know what to say but I believe You know me and You know what I need. Please give me Your peace and Your healing.” If you feel comfortable and the need to do so, pour out your heart to Him. Then once you have done that, be free. Don’t continue to relive the agonies of your past, rehearsing them over and over. Every time you rehearse your pain, it’s like pulling the bandage off of a raw wound – the wound doesn’t heal but continues to reopen and bleed all over again. So let the past go. Ask God to help you let it go. Ask Him to help you forgive the tormentors of your past. From that moment, seek only His healing and His peace.
As you continue to seek God and His healing and His love, He will change you. Your trust in God will grow. Your ability to love others again will grow. Your life will no longer be defined by abuse, but by God’s love and healing and mercy to you. As you learn to daily depend on God for all you need, you will be able to trust him to right the wrongs that were done to you.
Listen to what God says about how to deal with evil:
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17–21)
Why shouldn't you return evil for evil? Because God will make things right. He wants you to focus on Him; He will deal with your enemies and those who’ve hurt you. I know sometimes people, even Christians, can make you feel that if you follow the right formula and just get the right answer to your problem, all your troubles will be instantly solved but I’m not saying your restoration will be overnight. Every person and situation is different, and God is a vinedresser who gently and carefully and slowly prunes His vines.
God works in each of us on His own timetable. Don’t get focused on how long it’s taking for you to be healed, to be restored, and to walk free. Don't even focus on what's happening with the people who hurt you; just give them over to the Lord. Just know that God IS working and He will complete the work in you and your situation because He loves you and you are His precious child.
In the meantime, meditate in His Word because there is power in the Word of God. I know I keep saying that but I can’t say it enough, particularly if you need healing and help forgiving someone. You can go from praying, “Lord I don’t FEEL like forgiving but I know You want me to. Please give me the ‘WANT TO.’ to "Lord, I forgive so and so by an act of my will. Help me to attain that forgiveness in my heart.” Persist and continually go to the Lord, and dress your wounds with His Presence and His Word. The healing WILL come.
Beloved one, you may feel marked by suffering and perhaps that suffering has become your context for knowing God, for your view of Him. Perhaps you’ve given up and cut Him off. But He is the loving Father who truly wants to saturate you with His love, healing and peace. Reach out to the Lord, and I guarantee He will reach out to you. In fact, He is already reaching, straining to embrace you if you would let Him. You may have been through some dark times, perhaps even right now, but the Lord wants to take care of you. He wants to repair and restore everything that is broken, and He can make all things new again, just as if they had never been broken in the first place.
In John 16:33, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have perfect peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer (take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted)! For I have overcome the world.”
1 John 5:4 says, “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.”
Have faith in God, seek Him and stay the course with Him, and you will see victory in your life if you don’t give up. If you have given up, just come home to Him. He won’t reprimand you and He won’t turn you away. He will restore you. I know because He has done miracles in my own life and in the lives of those I care about.
Below is a beautiful video online about the Father’s love for us; it is my favorite.
Father's Love Letter