Monday, May 4, 2009

Blessed? Are You Kidding?

Blessed are the broken in spirit? Blessed are those who are facing horrible loss? Blessed are those who are non-aggressive and bear the bruises to show it? Really?

Jesus' teaching on what it means to be blessed in Matthew 5 has been taught about from many a pulpit. But I want to write about it today anyway. The passage is often called the Beatitudes. This old Latin word doesn't mean much to most of us but all it means is blessed or happy.

Because when you are abused by another, you don't feel blessed. You feel cursed. But if you trying to be a "good Christian" you are often comforted with platitudes just as a widow at a funeral is. We are left confused and further traumatized when well-meaning but mistaken people try to comfort us with explanations such as "God must have a reason" or "Count all trials as joy" or "This must be your cross to bear."

And many of us have had not-so-well-meaning friends and acquaintances who rub salt in wounds with other words such as "Maybe if you just worked harder at not making him mad" or "well, you do dress a little inappropriately" or "God doesn't give us more than we can bear" or "Have you ever thought that God might be trying to teach you something?"

And all of us have felt the sting of rejection, when we honestly tell another that we are feeling anger at God or doubt about God's goodness. The feelings are real. They are a natural part of untangling abuse's damage to our hearts. But try bringing it up at a bible study. Unless you are very lucky, at least one person will judge you as being "not very spiritual." Share the full story of all the trauma you have experienced and you will probably encounter people who do not believe you, people who minimize what you said, and people who rapidly change the subject.

None of these experience makes us feel "blessed," do they? Hardly.

So why did Jesus say that people in miserable places are blessed?

Is death a blessing? Is abuse a blessing? Is poverty a blessing? Many people try to make out that it is so, putting on a happy face at church when they are miserable. But no matter how effective our masquerades as happy, blessed Christians, it doesn't change how ugly and frightening bad times feel.

We'd all be so relieved if we tuned into the end of each of the sentences. For example "Blessed are those who mourns, for they will be comforted." If we study each sentence of the Beatitudes they are giving a coherent, repetitive message. Basically, they shout out wonderful news that no matter what our circumstances are in this life, we are blessed by the presence of the living God who joins us right in our circumstances. The blessing is God's loving presence, even in our darkest nights.

A problem with abuse, is that we shut down in self-protection, so it is easy to miss how God is present. We feel all alone, abandoned and rejected. Nonetheless, many of us have discovered as we are healing that God is present with us now and he was present with us in our worst times as well. If you are one of these, please take a moment to once again thank God and rejoice. You are blessed.

If you aren't in that place right now on your healing journey, then please hold onto knowing that God is much more real and loving than platitudes make him seem. Keep searching to see who He actually is. Read through the Beatitudes again and read about what Jesus did and said here on earth. Invite God's Holy Spirit to show you the truth about God and about how He feels about you and about the abuse you have suffered. If you keep turning to God, I know you will discover that you are blessed.

4 comments:

twofinches said...

I think that the most crushing comment came from the very first person I ever told about what I was facing in my home. She was a member of our church and we were in the church kitchen getting ready for an event. I am not sure why I opened up to her but when I did she turned and said "Everyone has a hard life you know. You made your bed and now you have to figure out how to lie in it". It cut me and I closed up tight.

I like the way you said this:
"We'd all be so relieved if we tuned into the end of each of the sentences"...how right you are!

Tanya T. Warrington said...

Twofinches,

What a difficult situation. I feel for the pain you must have felt in response. It's no wonder you closed up. Your situation needed a sensitive person with some education.

She probably did not even realize what she was condemning you to. Or if she did, maybe she was responding well because of her own wounds. It's sad that the general public is not more aware of the circumstances and needs of abuse victims. People get a lot of bad advice.

Anonymous said...

Your story sounds much like my wife's story. I remember as an adult my wife finally confronted her mom and told her that her uncle molested her when she was just a child. The first words out of her mothers mouth was, "if that true....". It devasted ny wife once again.
I am so thankful to the Lord that he as enabled me by His grace to be there for my wife. It has not been easy. She has bi-polar 2 and she has OCD. Thats a bad combo.
I have had friends and family tell me that divorce is an option. It never was an option. I love my wife. The real "her" is a wonderful and loving wife. I count it a blessing to be the only person in her life that actually loved her. God has gloriously saved her and one day she will be finally totally delivered from all the hurt.

Tanya T. Warrington said...

Anonymous husband,
God's continued blessing on your journey of loving a wife who has been through the horrors of abuse. Love is a wonderful medicine for your wife's recovering heart.

Bi-polar and OCD are difficult things to deal with for both you and your wife. But the way you are inviting God's help will make a big difference. I will be praying for both of you.

Hang in there!

Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft