And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings
of great joy, which shall be to all people."
Last week I looked at the story of Jessa, a young woman who had been raised by her parents for the purpose of sex trafficking. As hopeless as her story seemed, God stepped in and delivered her, giving her a life that she thought she could only dream about.
This week I am looking at another testimony of deliverance from sexual abuse. Unfortunately, sexual abuse is all too common, yet, even in these crippling circumstances God is able to step in and turn lives around like only He can.
This week’s story is of a young woman named Shakeisha. She too grew up in a home environment where sexual abuse was normal. She was abused by a number of relatives and the very neighbourhood where she lived reeked of abuse and violence. She found solace at a school for the performing arts where her artistic gifts were recognized and encouraged. She especially found her place on the harp. Her music teacher gave her opportunities to perform all over the city and she enjoyed it. Unfortunately, however, his interest in her went beyond music and he too began abusing her. He made her believe that her family did not love her but that he did. She saw nothing wrong with it at first because she had been living a life of abuse for so long since the age of six. He was also a respected deacon in his church and made his family and church friends believe that she was just a student he mentored. He even used the Bible to convince her that there was nothing wrong with what he was doing to her. When she did realize it, she felt trapped and unable to escape his hold on her. Even when she went off to college in another city, he would frequently visit her and so the abuse continued.
As I listened to this story, I once again sensed the feeling of hopelessness, as if things could never get better, that no matter where she turned, it seemed that she was destined for a life of abuse. You can almost sense her feeling of resignation because this was the life she knew to the point where when it kept on happening it seemed as if she had no choice but to accept it.
The story of Naomi in the Bible comes to mind here. Naomi and her family experienced famine in their home town of Bethlehem, Judah. They moved to the city of Moab where her two sons married Moabite women and everything seemed to be going well. Unfortunately, although they escaped the famine in their home town, Naomi lost her husband and two sons in Moab. It seemed as if the place of solace and hope, turned into a place of death and loss. She was discouraged, she was bitter and on her return to her home town of Bethlehem, Judah, asked to be called Mara because God had dealt bitterly with her (Ruth 1).
Have you ever been in a season where no matter where you turned you seemed to be facing one challenge, one let down, one discouragement after the next? When you think you are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, it simply turns out to be another tunnel, another challenge, another disappointment, another negative report, another negative situation.
I am sure this is how Naomi felt and she simply gave up. She returned home when she heard that God had lifted the famine in her home town but she had already lost everything and saw no hope for her future. But God stepped in when she least expected it and through her Moabite daughter in law, Ruth, was able to redeem her deceased husband’s inheritance. As impossible as her situation had seemed God turned things around for good and Naomi’s latter days were even more blessed than her former (Ruth 2-4).
It was the same with Shakeisha. Shakeisha began praying to God and it was discovered what her abuser was doing to her. He was arrested and put in jail. She finally surrendered her life to Jesus and is going through the process of healing from of her abuse part of which includes forgiving those who have hurt her. She went on to complete her Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in music and has become a music teacher. She has learned that she is not alone and that God will help her. She learned that He loves her and has learned to accept His love. She also learned that only God could release her from her trapped life and give her a life of fulfillment, hope and freedom from the bondage of abuse she experienced for years.
These stories although different in nature and circumstances, are similar because each person felt trapped and believed that they would never be able to escape their difficult circumstances. Many times, that is exactly how we may feel but knowing and accepting that God loves us and that He has a perfect and beautiful plan for us can give hope in the face of hopelessness. Knowing that when we cry out to Him, even though it may take some time, He will answer, He will step in and turn things around, He will do what only He can do, He will work things out for our good.
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so now. Jesus is there waiting for you to call on Him, waiting for the opportunity to show you His goodness, His love, His mercy, His deliverance... He is just waiting to give you hope in the midst of your hopeless situation.
God has, I believe, placed a burden in my heart for victims of human and sex trafficking. There would be times I would have my devotions and find myself led to pray earnestly for the freedom, salvation and deliverance of those caught in this vicious trap.
This week I listened to the story of a young woman, Jessa, who was actually raised by her parents for the purpose of being trafficked. They belonged to a religious cult and taught her that she was too stupid to be anything but a prostitute so that was why she could not go to school. At that point she believed that that was the reason why God created her. She was also taught that He was an angry person and so she was afraid of Him. She was miserable with her life, resorted to cutting herself and tried many times unsuccessfully to escape.
As I listened to her story, I could sense her feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. She was trapped and what made it worse was the reality that the very people who should have been protecting her - her parents - were the ones responsible for exposing her to all this evil.
Many of us can probably relate to this sense of feeling trapped, hopeless, helpless; the sense of being in a situation where you have no idea how in the world you will ever be able to escape. You may feel like giving up and choose to simply resign yourself to the belief that things will never change, will never improve, that you will never be able to escape, that you will never be able to accomplish your hopes and dreams, that this is as good as it’s going to get.
Jessa’s life got progressively worse and one day she went for a walk and decided to plan her suicide. While on this walk, the sky suddenly became extremely dark. The loudest thunder she had ever heard clapped overhead and a bolt of lightning touched the ground near her. Immediately, she cried out to Jesus to save her. From the heavens she heard a voice say to her: “The enemy has not won I have claimed the victory!” She realized at that moment that God was not the angry God she had thought and that He actually cared about her and that she could talk to Him herself without the intervention of a cult leader. He assured her that she was forgiven and she accepted His forgiveness.
When I heard what God spoke to her from the heavens it registered in my spirit. She was trapped that was certain, yet, here was God letting her know that as much as it seemed as if her situation was hopeless, it wasn’t. It looked as if evil had prevailed, as if darkness had conquered light, but it had not. Jesus has still won the victory!
In our own lives, at times it may seem as if evil has won, as if our circumstances will never change, as if we will never overcome. Yet, because Christ won the victory on the Cross, we are more than conquerors through Jesus (Romans 8:37). We can never really be trapped, because Jesus died to set us free from every bondage. There is no chain He cannot break, no trap He cannot free us from, no bondage that can truly enslave us because in Christ we have the victory!!!
I am reminded of the story of the woman with the spirit of infirmity for eighteen years which rendered her unable to raise herself up (Luke 13:10-13). It would seem she had resigned herself to her fate and did not even seek help. Interestingly however, Jesus was the one who saw her state and reached out and healed her. He saw her, had compassion on her, and chose to deliver her. Her bondage was not permanent but an opportunity for God to prove His power.
A year or so later, the young woman in our story was at a hotel when a woman slipped her her number. This woman was able to recognize that she was being trafficked. When she finally got the courage to call her, she helped her get a plane ticket to Denver, Colorado where she was taken to a safe house. From that time, she was able to work through her healing, was adopted by a couple, completed high school and even went on to successfully complete her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees. She got married and with her husband founded Bridge Hope, a non-profit organization which helps victims of sex trafficking.
Jessa’s situation looked thoroughly hopeless. God wasn't even an option for her, yet, God chose to step in and turn her life completely around for the better. If God did it for Jessa and for the woman bound by a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years, He can and will do it for you. Even though you may have given up, these are true stories that remind us that even in our darkest of times, God’s light will shine through when we least expect. Even though you may have given up and chosen to accept your situation as is, the God of hope, the God of miracles can and will still do a miracle for you.
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to make that step now. God is not an angry God sitting on His throne watching you suffer. He loves you and wants to help you. He wants to set you free from those things that have you bound and miserable. If you give Him a chance, He will do the impossible and, like Jessa, He will give you a beautiful life that you thought was completely out of your reach.
Last week’s post on the woman caught in the act of adultery is a reminder to us that God truly has the final say, that no matter how hopeless a situation seems, God is able to turn things around and provide an unexpected and hope-filled end to our story.
This week I am not ready to move on to another character or story. I am choosing to stick with the same one. As highlighted last week, no one was able to throw a stone at the woman unless Jesus allowed it – and He did not. They did not have the final say on her sin ... He did. He chose to prevent those stones from coming her way and give her another chance. He chose to give her story a different ending. He does the same for us.
He didn’t just give her another chance, showing the importance of mercy, He extended forgiveness to her by saying, “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11). But He still didn’t stop there. He added: “...go and sin no more” (v.11). To me, that was the cue to her new beginning. He had extended to her mercy, hope, deliverance, salvation. Now He expected her to actually live a new and different life.
At this point I have to say it: when God steps into our situation He doesn’t just cover us and protect us, He stands ready to give us something new – if only we will receive it. The Bible doesn’t tell us the woman’s response. As far as I am aware there is no follow up to her story after this incident took place. In short, we don’t know for sure if she really started living a new life free from sin or if she went back to her old lifestyle. What we do know is that Jesus offered her the opportunity to live a new life free from sin. At this point, He wanted to write her a new story.
The nice thing with God is that He can re-write our story at any time. It doesn’t matter how bad things look, how hopeless, God has the ability to create something new in the middle of our messed-up story. This woman’s story should have ended with her punishment of death, but Jesus decided otherwise. He chose to take her just as she was and create something new. No matter how things may look for you, the nice thing is, God knows exactly how to pick us up at the hopeless point we are at and start doing a new thing. We don’t even have to have all the broken pieces back in place, He will take everything, all the broken fragments, all the shame, all the hopelessness – everything – and use it all to create something new. So, when you think it’s the end, guess what, only God knows how to take what looks like the end and make it into a new beginning.
I am reminded of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It looked like the end for Jesus. His disciples were discouraged, they felt helpless, totally unable to stop the inevitable. It seemed as if their beloved Hope was gone. It just didn’t make sense. If He was the promised Messiah, how could He die? What in the world was God really doing? It looked like the end, it looked like irreversible defeat, but was it really? As we know, it wasn’t. God had a bigger plan. God also likes to do things in a way that makes absolutely no sense to us. So many times, what looks like the end, what looks like defeat, is in reality the birth of something new, something better.
It can be so hard to "see" how good can possibly come out of a bad situation. When we are going through, our sight tends to be so limited. It’s hard to see far ahead when our focus is fixed on what is right in front of us and what’s in front of us seems to scream, “It’s over!” “Give up!” “There’s no hope!” But, can I challenge us to look not with natural eyes but with eyes of faith beyond what’s in front of us. Remember the word God has given you. Remember what He has done before and if He did it before, He will do it again. God always guides us along those difficult paths. We usually don’t recognize it until afterwards, but . . . He. Is. Right. There. His promise to never leave us nor forsake us is more than true during those trying times. And, He sticks with us, not just to cover and protect us, but to help write our new story, to cause everything both good and bad, to work out together for our good (Romans 8:28).
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I invite you to do so now. We all face those times when we feel as if it is the end, when we feel hopeless and helpless, when we just want to give up. But our Saviour, Jesus, always has something new and better for us. He is always right there to give us fresh hope when our hope is gone.
I love the fact that God doesn’t handpick perfect people or things but rather imperfect to show how good and how faithful He is. Last week’s topic on “broken crayons” highlighted this perfectly.
This week’s story focuses on a bible character - the woman caught in the act of adultery. As I mentioned last week, the Bible is replete with broken characters, without whom, Jesus’ love, mercy, goodness, healing would not have manifested.
As the story goes, early in the morning Jesus went into the temple. There, the people came to Him and He taught them. During His teaching, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery and they set her in the midst of everyone. They reminded Jesus of Moses’ law which states that she should be stoned for her sin and then asked His opinion. He, in turn, ignored them even as they persistently questioned Him (John 8:1-7).
A few things come to my mind. One, she was broken because of the sin she chose to commit. Sin not only separates us from God but it destroys our lives. Here, we can all relate, because we have all sinned and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). So, we too have been broken because of sin. Two, her sin was broadcast in front of everyone. She was facing shame and disgrace for her sin while her accusers were looking for an opportunity to accuse Jesus. Like this woman, the devil always looks for opportunities to accuse us (Revelation 12:10), to bring up our past and even present sins. It’s as if he needs to constantly remind us of how broken and defeated we are. Three, Jesus simply ignored them. I believe Jesus saw through their tactics. I believe He also saw an opportunity to bring salvation to a broken soul.
I love the fact that Jesus looks beyond our faults and sees our need. I am sure many other adulteresses were stoned to death, and rightly so because that was the law. But, why God chose this woman to spare her, well ... only God can answer that. And, if we are honest with ourselves, many of us know that we deserve death, that we deserve whatever punishment for our sin. Just like the thief on the cross next to Jesus. He acknowledged that he and the other thief were deserving of their fate, yet Jesus in His glorious mercy chose to give Him the gift of salvation when he asked for it (Luke 23:39-43).
God is in the business of saving and healing broken souls – people broken by sin, by sickness and disease, because of broken relationships, because of financial challenges... Just give a name to your brokenness, God is able to fix it.
The story doesn’t end there. Jesus finally breaks His silence and makes the all-crushing statement: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (v.7) Jesus knew she had sinned, He knew full well she was guilty but for Him there was a weightier issue – mercy triumphing over judgement. Of course, no one could cast a stone because all had sinned. They may not have been guilty of the same sin as she was, but in God’s eyes sin is sin no matter the description. They all finally left without fulfilling the law because a Greater than the law was there among them. What is interesting to me is that no one could throw a stone at her. They had every right to do so because she was guilty. Jesus’ presence, it would seem, prevented them because He didn’t come to condemn sinners but to save; He didn’t come to crush the broken but to offer hope, deliverance and life.
Think about it. That woman was probably waiting expectantly for the stones to start coming in her direction, she was waiting for her end to come. How many are waiting expectantly for the stones to start coming in the midst of that seemingly impossible situation? How many are feeling so hopeless that you are just waiting for the end to come? Yet, think about it: Jesus was the One who prevented the stones from being hurled at her. He is the same One who is preventing the stones from being hurled at you. It doesn’t matter how broken you may feel, how hopeless, how sure you are that the end is near, Jesus is even nearer and when you put your trust in Him no stone is coming your way unless He allows it. If you put your confidence in Him, He has the final say in your situation.
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so now. We all need a Saviour, Someone who can offer hope and bring deliverance in the midst of challenging even impossible situations. We all need Someone to cover us, even block and deflect any stone that may come our way.
I was watching a video of an inspirational talk by Toni Collier entitled, "Broken crayons still colour." She used the example of her young two-year old daughter to introduce her topic. One day she went to pick her daughter up from school. Instead of finding her daughter excitedly waiting for her when she opened the door, she discovered that she was quietly colouring in a corner. Her daughter had been introduced to crayons by her teacher and was fascinated by them. Toni’s imagination immediately went wild and she started imagining that her daughter might become the next Picasso. On their way home, she stopped by the store and bought art supplies for her including a jumbo box filled with sixty-four crayons.
When they arrived home she set up the art materials for her to create whatever masterpiece she desired and went to cook dinner. After awhile, she noticed that there was silence and went to investigate. She was shocked and not a little dismayed when she discovered what her little Picasso was up to. The crayons had been broken and the paper ripped off of them. As if that wasn't enough, there were colourful drawings all over the wall. When her mother asked her why she had done what she did, she turned around, looked at her and simply said, “Mommy, colour” and then continued with her colouring. Her mother realized that she had no idea what she had done. As far as she was concerned, even though they were broken, the crayons still worked. They had not lost their ability to do what they were created to do, they had not lost their worth or their value!
I thought of various characters in the Bible who were considered broken or defective in some way. In fact, many personalities in the Bible all had different flaws and imperfections. Rahab was a harlot and a Canaanite. She was the least likely person to help the Israelite spies when they came to spy out Jericho. Yet, her kindness to them brought about the deliverance of her family when the Israelites defeated Jericho (Joshua 6:17). Not only this, she found a spot in Jesus bloodline as one of His ancestors (Matthew 1:1-16). She may have been considered a promiscuous, loose woman, an outcast in society, but her social position could not stop her from being a very useful vessel in God’s hands. And right there is the key – in God’s hands what was considered of little or no worth or value, became a priceless tool used to fulfil God’s will and purpose.
What about the people Jesus healed in the New Testament? They were all broken in some way but Jesus stepped in and healed them and made them whole. I am thinking of the story of the man who was possessed by a legion of demons. He was certainly broken and was no good to himself or anyone else. He lived among the tombs and when they tried to bind him with chains, he would break them off. No one could control him. Yet, when Jesus stepped onto the scene, He cast out the demons and the man became as new. He wanted to go with Jesus but He restrained him and encouraged him instead to go and tell his friends what the Lord had done for him (Mark 5:1-20). In God’s hands he became a useful evangelistic tool to spread the message of Christ. Not only that, the story of his brokenness has been included in the Bible to encourage anyone who feels discouraged, overwhelmed and alone that God is able to turn any situation around for good.
But, let’s step outside of the Bible for a bit. What about you and me? We have all experienced situations that seemed to want to break us, even destroy us. We may have felt broken, defeated, useless. But when God steps into the picture He uses us, even while we are still broken. When you think about it, God cannot show His goodness, mercy, love or greatness through perfect people but through imperfect ones. Jesus came after all for the broken to show HIS ability to heal, to deliver, to save, to set free. Our brokenness and imperfections cannot stop God from using us for His honour and glory. That’s why when we put our imperfect lives into God’s perfect hands, the world gets to see who He really is ... and He gets all the glory!
If you have not asked Jesus Christ to come into your life and be your personal Lord and Saviour, please take the time to do so now. God doesn’t want you to wait to get it all together before you come to Him. He wants you to come just as you are, with all your brokenness, with all your faults, and allow Him to do the redemptive, healing, creative work that only He can do in our lives.
This blog provides inspirational nuggets inspired by the Word of God and serves to encourage and motivate Christians in their Christian walk.