“–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,” Isaiah 61:3a (NIV)
Over the last year I have come to realize something most would have thought I knew a long time ago. However, because of the way I was treated, due to the sexual assaults and the emotional toll it took on my heart and mind, I could not grasp it. I could not understand God loved me.
How could God love me? I had been used, many times, and was of no use to anyone. Definitely not a promising wife. Who would want “used goods”?
I grew up in the church despite all I was going through and I accepted Christ into my life at 17. I was a leader in the youth group, taught youth camps during the summer in college, attended a Christian college, went on countless mission trips, and taught youth Sunday school and Bible school once I graduated college. I told so many people God loved them how could I not know He loved me?
The past 9 years as my sexual assault memories returned and I have been working through them, continuing to relive the horrible memories, I have questioned God’s love. How does a God who loves someone allow sexual assault to happen? If God loves me why am I now missing out on life and reliving my past? Why am I not raising a family? How come I am stuck on disability with no retirement fund and no career when everyone else is enjoying their families and life?
A God who loves you would not allow these things to happen. Except, He does. He does not like it. He loathes it. It is the sin of the world which causes us the pain we are experiencing. The free will of man allowed us to endure pain and abuse God did not intend. Until Christ comes again, and we live in this world, evil will continue and Satan will do his best to use it to get to us.
I realized a few months ago I had let Satan convince me God did not love me. I was trying to rewrite a children’s book I wrote in college about God’s love. I rewrote it and it was beautiful. A wonderful picture of God’s love. Except I didn’t believe it. How could I attempt to publish a book I myself did not believe? I wanted little girls to read and believe God loved them, but I could not accept He loved me.
I set the book aside. I prayed for God to show me how He loved me. He did. He showed me He provided me with a Christian trauma therapist to walk this long journey of healing with me, and a Christian psychiatrist who takes time to talk to me too. I also began to come across Bible verses about God’s love for me. God brought an old friend back into my life who constantly tells me she and God both love me. Little by little, God revealed He has never once stopped loving me since the day I was born.
Then, a couple of days ago a friend of mine told me someone reminded her “beauty for ashes” from Isaiah. I thought, my life is a huge pile of ashes. If God can turn it into beauty I’m ready.
Yesterday I was finishing reading a Christian fiction novel and continually throughout the book the main character referred to “beauty for ashes”. Her life had not turned out like she had hoped. I do not believe it was a coincidence I was reading this book, but divine intervention. The author ended the book with the quote “beauty for ashes” and it fit. It fit not just the character’s life, but my own.
I realized last night God wants to turn our lives of ashes into beauty. Being sexually assaulted and the road it has led us to travel does not have to define us. Believing we are “used goods” and not wanted is a lie from Satan.
Instead, we need to realize God’s love for us is real and has never left us.
I am ready to accept “beauty for my ashes”. Are you?
I have gone my entire life wondering if You love me. I know I will probably still question it at times. Please guide me back to your truth if I do, and allow me to remember you gave me beauty for ashes.
© 2017 Susan M. Clabaugh. All Rights Reserved.