Hope for the Dark Places in Life - Encouragement for Today - June 17, 2019

{Editor’s Note: Today’s devotion deals with sensitive content: a child who’s been abused. We pray this story brings you hope, and we encourage you to check out the resources near the end of this devotion.}

Melissa Taylor

June 17, 2019

Hope for the Dark Places in Life

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“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)

Looking back, it seems like I'm viewing another woman’s story. I hardly recognize the little girl I became in that dark moment.

I was walking home from the bus stop. A short 10-minute walk unless I stopped to visit with a friend or neighbor, which I often did. On those walks, I often saw friendly Mr. Parks, a retired man, sitting in his driveway waving to the kids walking by. On this particular day, Mr. Parks invited me into his garage for some candy.

I walked into that garage an innocent, trusting 7-year-old girl. But I walked out scarred for life.

Mr. Parks sexually abused me. I didn't understand what was going on. I didn't know what to do. He changed. I didn't recognize the man he became the moment that garage door closed. I was absolutely terrified. When he finished, he invited me to "come back tomorrow." And, for some reason, I did.

The words he spoke, and the acts he committed, left me confused and devastated. I felt stained and ruined.

In my mind, what I had done was so bad that I didn’t tell anyone. And, I felt like it was my choice … my fault. That's what he told me. I felt dirty and filled with shame.

Shame is a joy stealer. It stole every ounce of my joy and childhood innocence.

Over the years, I perfected the art of pretending everything was OK. I was good at wearing masks.

From the outside, I looked great. However, inside I felt completely unworthy of any good thing. When I experienced success, I sabotaged myself or quit. I apologized for the good I did and downplayed my God-given strengths.

I now know God’s heart breaks when shame steals our value and worth … the beautiful identity we have as a child of God … a daughter of the King.

Jesus gave His life to prove how valued we are to Him and to His Kingdom. Our key verse (Isaiah 53:5b) tells us, “by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus became stained and ruined on our behalf. Because of His shed blood … His sacrifice … we don't have to live in fear or condemnation of anything past or present, whether it was our fault or not.

Understanding my identity as a daughter of the One True God ushered me into a new place. When I knew that truth, believed that truth and walked in the power of that truth, Jesus freed me from my shame and guilt.

But, it’s not an easy journey. I have to continually remind myself of my value and worth to God. I intentionally work to keep my thoughts centered on Jesus — because if I don’t, I can easily slip back into the darkness of that garage. Yes, even four decades later, I still have flashbacks of what happened that horrible afternoon.

In those moments, I remind myself again: By Your wounds I am healed. Thank You, Jesus. I’m not stained and ruined. I’m clean, pure and precious. Mr. Parks has no hold on me anymore.

My final triumph in this horrific ordeal was also the most difficult: offering forgiveness.

I ask forgiveness for my sins every day. In doing that, I'm faced with the truth that I, too, am called to forgive others. So, I speak these words, "Mr. Parks, I forgive you. I know you must have been very sick, and your heart was stained with sin. I hope and pray you accepted Jesus before you died. What you did to me was the worst thing anyone could do to a little girl. I want to hate you. Instead, I choose to hate what you did, but I forgive you."

I can only do this with Jesus at my side. I'm not capable any other way.

No longer do I believe I’m stained and ruined. I am clean. I am worthy. Jesus has set me free! “By his wounds we are healed.” I believe that. I hope you do too!

Dear Lord, I need You every day of my life. Please remind me that I am worthy, and delete the lies that haunt me. Help me live to the fullest for You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Isaiah 43:18-19, "Forget what happened long ago! Don’t think about the past. I am creating something new. There it is! Do you see it? I have put roads in deserts, streams in thirsty lands." (CEV)

Isaiah 45:3, "I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." (NIV)

Do you ever wonder, Where were You, God? You aren’t alone in asking this about your darkest moments. Uncover the answer to this common question as you move from victim to victor. Join our next Online Bible Study with Wendy Blight’s book, Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God’s Story, starting TODAY, June 17. Click here to register. Plus, when you purchase the book from our bookstore, you’ll receive "Remind Me Who I Am" Scripture affirmations and "A Prayer of Forgiveness." 

Ask yourself: What in my past keeps me from living the life God intended? Do I believe Jesus has washed me clean? Have I shared what Christ has done for me with anyone lately?

Begin each day with this prayer, "Lord, because of You, I am healed and valuable."

Join the conversation! Share your thoughts from today's devotion, here.

© 2019 by Melissa Taylor. All rights reserved.

If you’ve been affected by sexual assault, whether it happened to you or someone you care about, you’re not alone. Research tells us that sexual abuse and violence may affect as many as 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 6 men. That’s why Wendy wrote Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner. This book is about her triumph overcoming sexual assault through the power of God’s Word. You can also find support from online.rainn.org or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 800.656.HOPE (4673) to speak with someone who can help.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Moody Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105

Originally published Monday, 17 June 2019.