Memory from trauma is an unpredictable beast—lying dormant for weeks, months, or years. Then, without warning, it rears its head. The untamed roar breaks into our consciousness and temporarily severs our hold on the present. We lose our grip—suddenly launched back to a time we wish we could forget.
As a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, I recently experienced this. I came across something on social media and it instantly triggered a setback. There are several years between now and the previous flashback. So, naturally, it caught me off guard. Once again, a sad reality confronted me —I’m not fully healed. I may never be, this side of heaven.
Survivors of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape carry an invisible pain. We can’t simply go to the doctor and get a prescription. It feels hopeless, and can lend us to ask: “Why? What is the purpose?”
I don’t have all the answers to the why question. But I’ve learned it’s possible to survive... with hope. I’ve continually seen the power of scripture speak into the darkest place of my life. Particularly, these passages from 2nd Corinthians offer us perspective in our suffering.
Raised to Resurrected Life
“We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be fully displayed in our body.” 2 Cor. 4:10
It’s through suffering that we identify with Christ’s death. For survivors of sexual abuse, we daily live with an emotional scarring. We carry this constant reminder, the death of Jesus, in our bodies. The good news is Paul doesn’t finish his sentence, but he goes on to say: “...so that the life of Jesus may also be fully displayed in our body.” For those of us who are born again, we are raised to a living a hope.
This means the story doesn’t end with our abuse. Our suffering points to Christ’s death, but also to the power of the resurrection. Because Christ is raised, we too will be raised. Our earthly shell—the ways it is marred and torn by sin- will be made new.
“And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, ‘I believe, therefore I spoke, we also believe and therefore speak.” 2 Cor. 4:13
Scottish theologian James Denney writes of this verse: “Not all the believing are called to be teachers and preachers, but all are called to be confessors. Everyone who has faith has a witness to bear to God.”
The Apostle Paul likens the gospel to a treasure being held in frail, distressed, unimpressive vessels. ((2 Cor. 4:7) So, it’s as afflicted ambassadors that we bear witness to the good news. We declare we’re rescued from the worst thing that could have happened to us. Our violation is horrific, vile, and utterly wicked. But nothing we’ve experienced compares with the wrath Christ bore on our behalf. In gospel proclamation, we bring the very life of Jesus to our hearers. The enemy’s clutch is triumphed over by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. (Rev. 12:11)
A Glimpse of Glory
“For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.” 2 Cor. 4:17
Paul’s adversities are not in the category of what we’d consider “light affliction”. He’s been shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and in constant danger. However, it seems he is saying his hardships are nothing compared to eternity.
Author and pastor Timothy Keller says it well: “To say that our suffering is an illusion or to say we will be compensated for our suffering is one thing. But to say the suffering we experience now will one day be the servant of our joy, does not just compensate for it, it undoes it!...The evil that hurts us now will be the eventual servant of our joy and glory eternally.” Our suffering will be in such contrast with glory, it will punctuate our joy.
Dear fellow survivor in Christ, take heart: For every brutal act, every time your voice fell on deaf ears, each betrayal and misplaced shame—all of this will be overcome in victory. What inexpressible joy we will know on that day.