Shame. Guilt. Fear.

When thinking about the topics of sexual immorality and sexual abuse, these three words bounce around in my head, like unwelcome guests who refuse to leave after too long of a stay. Even years later, there are specific memories, lingering scars, and painful experiences that still bring tears to my eyes, a physical ache to my chest, and these lingering feelings of shame, guilt, and fear.

Guilt for something that I had no control over. Shame because of wrong choices that I consciously made. Fear of being alone in a room with a man. Guilt for messing up, yet again. Fear of confession and loneliness from hiding a painful secret for too long. Shame because of something that happened that I felt like was "too much," "too terrible," "too dark" to share even with my closest friends.

I have experienced the deep deep pain of sexual abuse and the deep deep darkness of sexual sin. Both led me into a downward spiral of shame, guilt, and fear. I do recognize that sexual abuse and sexual immorality are two very different topics, and I will address each separately, but it seems that both bring about these similar emotions.

As I remember these feelings, I am reminded of the very first mention of shame, guilt, and fear in the Bible - Genesis 3. In this story we see Adam and Eve being tempted by Satan and falling into the first sin.

This story reminds me of my own temptation towards sexual immorality because in it we see the blatant deception of Satan. If you haven't realized yet, Satan is a dirty stinkin' liar. And he's good at it. He uses lies and deception to lead people into disobedience to God. He makes sin appear to be something good, appealing, and pleasurable. He then tempts us by arousing within us a desire to move beyond the limitations which God has established for us – limits that God has set for our own good and for His glory! So often we see God’s commandments as limiting and constraining but they are actually so beautifully liberating.

Let me take a few moments to dispel some of the lies that Satan is so good at feeding us, lies that I have so easily believed:

You are not what has happened to you. You are not responsible for your sexual abuse. You are not too far gone because of the sexually immoral decisions that you have made. It is possible to have a sexually pure relationship. God is able to forgive you. God did not let this happen to you because He doesn't care about you. God put the "limits" of sexual morality on your life out of love for you. You are not unloved by Him.

I write these words with tears in my eyes. I wish that I could look at you over a cup of coffee and beg you to not believe the lies that you have been fed.

Sister, believe that the "limits" you feel that the Lord is placing on you regarding sexual morality are for your good. Believe that you are not responsible for your sexual abuse. Believe that you are not what has happened to you. Believe that God is able to forgive you. Believe that God cares about you. Believe that God loves you. Believe that God is good to you, even in the most painful moments of your story.

Oh child of God, believe.

Because the sad truth is that deep pain can have the effect of warping our view of God and our understanding of the truth. Pain can blind us to the grace and goodness of God. Sexual abuse can leave scars that are deep and lingering and honestly, I'm not sure if they ever fully heal. It can bring about feelings of bitterness, grief, frustration, and anger - towards your offender and towards God. It can lead you to feel desperate and hopeless and alone. But. This does not have to be the end of the story.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,

and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8-9)

But. This word, "but," brings hope to every tragic story.

But the Lord God called to the man. The grace present in this simple statement astounds me. As Adam and Eve crouch in the bushes, hiding their nakedness, bending under the weight of the never-before-felt emotions of shame, guilt, and fear, the Lord God calls out to them.

Don't believe the lie that God is discompassionate, distant, or apathetic to your pain

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

Our God is a God who calls to the sinner middle of their wretchedness. Our God is a God who pursues the broken in the very depth of their pain. Our God is a God who redeems every broken story into a story of hope and beauty. And He has the power to do this in your story as well.

Maybe, just maybe, the Lord intended for me to walk through seasons of darkness so that I could bring hope to just one person reading this. And if so, as hard as it is to say, it was worth it.

And maybe, just maybe, as I share my story with you, you will find the courage to share your story as well. Coming from someone for whom vulnerability and honesty is extremely difficult, sharing your story can bring incredible healing and freedom.

Sisters. Remember who God is. God's goodness is no less present in the deepest sorrow than in the most beautiful joy. His sovereignty and goodness is not limited or diminished by the trials and evils of the world.

Read Genesis 1 and 2. Remember that God's deep desire is to restore humanity and creation to the perfect relationship that existed before the fall, a relationship completely free of shame and guilt and fear. Remember that, because of Christ, we have the hope of a future where sin and shame and guilt and fear are simply distant memories.

Remember and have hope.

** a little note from someone who held this pain in for far too long: don't let the enemy make you feel like you are alone in this. you're not. you don't have to walk through the pain of sexual abuse or the struggle of sexual immorality alone. i pray that you would find the strength to be open with a friend, a counselor, a family member, or a pastor so that God can begin to redeem your story and restore your soul. i am available if you need someone to listen. remember friend, there is hope. **