A few Sundays ago, my family arrived at church earlier than usual. Since I had extra time, I started perusing the church bulletin. Each week our bulletin not only lists upcoming events and announcements, but it also features a story of life change through Jesus – a testimony of one of our members who once was lost but now is found. I love reading these stories that are no less awe-inspiring than Genesis 1 — God takes a life that was dark, formless, and void and brings forth a new creation. These stories never get old, but this particular Sunday, the story stuck with me for a while after reading it.
It was a story of a young woman who knew abuse and trauma from a young age. Growing up, her family was not a safe haven for her, and she suffered greatly at their hands. Addiction, poverty, and divorce were the roots of her family tree. When she was seven years old, she visited her father halfway across the country and he trafficked her the whole summer. In all honesty, I couldn’t quite move on from that detail. She carried guilt and shame for what happened to her (even though it was not her fault at all). In her teen years, she couldn’t fathom a romantic relationship with a male, so instead she pursued same-sex relationships. It was during that time that she also decided she hated Christianity.
You can read her full story HERE. I couldn’t stop thinking about everything she’d been through – the hurt, the shame, the guilt, and the destructive decisions to cover the hurt, shame, and guilt…. And her glorious restoration in and through Jesus.
As I continued to read through our church bulletin I saw announcements for abortion recovery ministries, sexual abuse recovery ministries (for women and men), divorce recovery, infertility and miscarriage ministry, and grief recovery – just to name a few. I was struck at how “new” these ministries are in the Church. I don’t remember seeing anything of the sort growing up. It’s not that these issues are new – they are as old as the beginning – but they were once taboo, even in the Church.
But Jesus is neither afraid of our trauma nor our sins– He specializes in healing and redemption. Somehow, we were (and some still are) deceived into thinking our sins and hurts must be hidden and that we must live in secret with the guilt and shame of trauma perpetrated against us. Jesus can (and wants to) handle our past hurts.
The wounded don’t have to suffer in silence or figure out on their own how to hobble through this fallen world. This has always been the case (see the Gospels), but Satan has done a great job fabricating a story that we must appear to have it all together and that an imperfect past is somehow a disqualifier for a life with Jesus. May we see that lie for what it is.
As I thought about the young woman’s story and the formerly-taboo recovery ministries, I was filled with a sense of victory. Satan’s accusations are hushed by the healing blood of Jesus. In Zechariah 3:1-5 (one of my all-time favorite passages), we are given a front-row seat to Zechariah’s vision that is immediately relatable to every follower of Jesus. In his vision, Zechariah sees Joshua, a high priest, standing before the angel of the Lord (most theologians agree that this angel of the Lord is Jesus). Satan is standing at his right side accusing Joshua in front of the angel of the Lord. Isn’t that what Satan still does today? He brings up our past sins or painful trauma and tells us “You aren’t worthy to be a child of God. Guilt and shame are your forever companions.”
However, in Zechariah 3, as Satan accuses, the angel of the Lord (Jesus) is hearing none of it. None. Of. It. He says in verse 2, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan!” He doesn’t rebuke Satan because his accusations are false, but because of God’s love for His people. Read that sentence again.
The passage goes on to say that Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes (sin) as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those near, “Take off his filthy clothes.” The angel of the Lord then said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.” Getting caught up in the excitement, Zechariah adds, “Put a clean turban on his head.”
I can’t quite get over that scene – a scene God wanted to share with us through His word. Satan is accusing Joshua of all the sins he’s committed, but the angel of the Lord does not give an audience to what Satan has to say. Instead, he takes away his filthy rags and clothes him in rich garments. As we watch this courtroom scene play out, one thing that strikes me is that Joshua doesn’t have to say a word in his defense. Satan accuses and the angel of the Lord defends and lavishes gifts upon Joshua – not judgement, gifts.
Zechariah is showing a picture of the Messiah to a battered and bruised world. Jesus is exactly the Person to run to with your wounds. Our hurts demand despair, but we don’t have to acquiesce. Joshua represents all of God’s people as they stand before Him – clothed in sin and human faultiness. God does not defend His children’s sins, but He will defend His children against Satan’s accusations. And then He’ll use those past hurts to help heal others caught in the wake of sin (see the end of the woman’s story in the link above).
Jesus has a long history of redemption. Do not be deceived into thinking your role as a Christian is to put on a happy face and appear as if you have it all together. Your calling is higher. Your power in Christ greater.
What is keeping you from a closer relationship with Jesus? Are there past sins or hurts that you feel make you unworthy to be in His presence? Read Zechariah 3 again and put yourself in the place of Joshua. There is nothing you’ve done or that’s been done to you that He can’t redeem. As a matter of fact, a few chapters later in Zechariah, we’re told that not only will God restore, but He will double what’s been taken. That’s the God we’re dealing with….
“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you” (Zech 9:12, emphasis mine).
Whether we are dealing with our own past sins or trauma thrust upon us by the sins of others, Satan pounces on the opportunity to cultivate guilt and shame. He is a liar, a loser, and an accuser. Do not be deceived; we know how it all ends. I’ll leave you with the truth of Revelation 12:10-11:
“For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony….”
Dear Lord, thank You for healing us on this side of Heaven, too. We don’t have to wait until we see You face-to-face, You provide healing now for the choices we’ve made and those sins committed against us that we did not choose. Thank You for quieting our accuser – he has no sway with You concerning Your children. Thank You that Jesus is our defense and our defender. You have truly provided everything we need. We love You. Maranatha! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.