If you make the Most High your dwelling– even the LORD, who is my refuge–then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
“I don’t know how to make sense of this. I thought You were supposed to show up, to protect me from harm. I thought that if I loved You and served You with all my heart, You wouldn’t let anything like this happen to me. I trusted You. I put myself in harm’s way for Your sake. And now look at me…”
But you have rejected, you have spurned, you have been very angry with your anointed one. You have … defiled his crown in the dust. You have broken through all his walls and reduced his strongholds to ruins. All who pass by have plundered him; he has become the scorn of his neighbors.
You have put an end to his splendor and cast his throne to the ground. You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with a mantle of shame.
Psalm 89:38-41, 44-45
Tears ran down my face as my feet pounded the pavement. The physical intensity of running released my pent up emotions, and along with them the agonized cries of my heart. How could I reconcile God’s promises of protection and honor with my experience of being beaten and violated? I didn’t doubt His strength to stop my attackers, nor did I doubt His presence with me as they threw me about and had their way with me. But that left me with a deeper, even more painful question.
How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?… Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all men!
O Lord, where is your former great love… ?
Psalm 89:46-47, 49
Who was I to God? A disposable item, designed to be used up and thrown away? I had been plundered and defiled, broken and discarded. Was that all I was worth to Him? Where was that great love that He had professed for me? I felt more like a sheep handed over to be slaughtered than like a cherished child.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
A sacrificial lamb. That rang a bell. Jesus had been treated this way, too. Those promises of love and honor and protection had been made to Him, too. Satan had even pulled out that particular psalm to quote to Him, reminding Him that His Father would send angels to protect Him from all harm, even a stone in His path that might threaten His toes.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities… He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
Isaiah 53:5, 7
So why didn’t He? Didn’t Jesus plead with His Father in the garden, begging Him to deliver Him from the evil that was about to happen? And yet the angels didn’t show up. God didn’t intervene. They all stood back and watched as His body was pummeled, His soul was tormented, His life was snuffed out.
The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
Isaiah 50:5-6; Psalm 22:1
If anyone ever had reason to feel unloved by God, to feel completely abandoned by the Father, Jesus did. He subjected Himself to everything that God had called Him to do. He exposed Himself to danger out of loving obedience to His Father. And where did that get Him? Broken. Desecrated. Used up. Dead.
Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me.
And yet God had repeatedly affirmed His love for Jesus in advance. A descending dove. A thundering voice. “My Son. I love Him. I delight in Him.” Jesus knew who He was to God. He knew God would stay true to their relationship, even when it was put through the ultimate test. He endangered Himself because He knew that nothing could come between them. Nothing could separate Him from His Father’s love, not trembling with fear in the garden, not being ripped to pieces by accusers in court, not crying out in abandonment on the cross, not even the silent helplessness of the grave.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Jesus endured all these because He believed His story would not end there. He trusted His Father’s love, even when He felt abandoned. He clung to His Father’s promises, even when they seemed forgotten. And sure as the dawn, God came through. The angels showed up to move the stone out of His way. The Most High came down to revive His body, restore His soul, and lead Him to glory.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Broken and trembling and messy, I basked in this unfailing love. I drank in the end of Jesus’ story like the parched soul that I was. God had not turned His back on me. And He was not finished with me. Hardship and danger, violence and contempt had certainly taken their toll on me, but they had not succeeded in separating me from His love. Sure as the dawn, God would come through for me, too. He had me by the hand, and He was leading me up the resurrection path to glory.
7 thoughts on “Assaulted but…”
Thank you for this. I’ve been thinking about this in light of holy week and in light of confusing times and wondering why prayers aren’t always answered the way we think they ought to be. We are promised God’s protection but not always in the way we expect. Ultimately he protects us from the worst danger we face but he does not promise a life without pain. In fact pain is most certainly going to be part of our walk with him. We are promised his presence, and I believe that Jesus is enough.
I still struggle with this too, trying to put together the agony of the cross with the glory of the kingdom (both in Jesus’ life and in mine). I think the oversimplified answer is that, in the unfathomable wisdom of God, the route to glory is through suffering (see my posts on The Hard Way and Blessed?). Why He decided to set things up this way, I still don’t understand. But I do know that He chose this road for Himself, too, so it must somehow be worth it. And yes, at the end of it, Jesus is the treasure that awaits us. That is plenty good enough for me.
Tiffany, this is the most beautiful testimony I’ve ever read. We all have doubts at times; if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human. He loves us, doubts and mess and all. We cannot possibly comprehend how He thinks or puts together the plans for our lives, for His thoughts and ways are outside of human logic. He is too big for that. Yet, if we are worthy of His love and faithfulness, then He is certainly worthy of ours.
And that, Irene, is what settles my relational insecurities with Him. It doesn’t necessarily answer my questions, but it puts them to rest. Even though I still don’t understand how He could allow such horrible things to happen, He has proven His love to me over and above anything I could have ever imagined. So with the psalmist I can say, “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” (Psalm 116:7).
Absolutely beautiful Tiffany. You put into words what many of us have thought at one time or another. We are no greater than our Master who was beat and abused for us. And like Him, we can also overcome. We just have to keep our eyes on Him. Many blessings to you, my sister.
Thank you, Angel. Finding the words to describe these experiences doesn’t make them go away, but it gets them out of that deep place in the soul where they will otherwise continue to fester. I have only been able to make sense of them in relationship to Christ’s sufferings. But as a result, meditating on His experiences always dredges up that deep pain for me. Thankfully, it also brings me back face-to-face with the overwhelming experience of His love. May His immeasurably great love for you continue to be your most pressing reality.
Amen. I totally agree with you. No matter what we have been through, we when we look at what Christ did for us and realize the overwhelming Love that He has for each of us, it puts it all into perspective. You are a blessing Tiffany. May God continue to pour out His blessings upon you, my sister!