Immanuel: Christmas is Good News for Survivors

Do you feel like you’re crying out and God doesn’t hear you or even care? Maybe you wonder if God is indifferent to your suffering. As a fellow survivor of sexual assault, I feel that way more days than I can count. 

A heart raw from pain

2020 has been a year where one thing has gone wrong right after another. I have found myself questioning God and spending many days angry at Him. I’m angry at the unfairness of it all. Why do bad things have to happen to me? I wonder why a good God would allow evil and injustice in the world. Admittedly I don’t have all the answers and there have been many days that I am left frustrated and unsatisfied with the answers. The only thing that has managed to defrost my iciness towards God and cool my boiling temper is the gentle whisper of my loving Savior that says “I understand your pain. I promise I will endure this with you”. In those moments when I’m shouting my protests and pain to the Heavens until my heart bleeds raw, those simple words collapse me. I crumple to the floor in tears and realize that my anger’s source is a piercing pain from all that I have endured. 

The survivor’s hope: Immanuel “God with us.”

The Israelites were feeling the same way on the night of their Savior’s birth. In fact they had been feeling that way for a millennia. For the last 1,000 years they had endured occupation from one foreign rule to another. Under these oppressive rules they were stripped of their culture, language, and religion; they were enslaved, raped, and treated like second class citizens. They cried out to God and wondered if He even heard them.

“How long, Oh Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save.”

Habakkuk 1:2

Perhaps they began to wonder if the Messiah would never come. Maybe God had given up on them for real this time.

The hopeless silence was broken by a newborn cry. Crashing into our broken world through the pains of childbirth and covered in a mess of bodily fluids. What mystery, what wonder, that God should come down to earth to dwell amongst His creation. The creator becoming fully created in all its flaws. And all this to shout to us in our despair that God does care! The hope of Christmas is that God loved us so much that He would not settle for a relationship that is distant and remote nor would He settle for leaving us in our sin and death. Instead God chose to become the most intimate and vulnerable He could ever be and rescue us from our sin and captivity. 

Christ’s humility

“Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Philippians 2:6-8

God could have come into the world any way He so chose. He could have announced his arrival with angels and trumpet blasts, descending from the clouds in the full majesty of the Lord. He could have skipped childbirth and arrive as a fully formed man. But he didn’t. He chose to dwell inside the womb of a woman and enter into a world so humbly that the only people told about his birth were not kings but common shepherds.  

That is good news for survivors. God does not stand from a distance, unfamiliar with your suffering to tell you how you should be better. God instead humbles himself, taking up the posture of a servant. He kneels beside you with gentleness and deep sorrow in his eyes saying, “I know it hurts. Will you allow me to help?” He takes up your burdens with you, getting his hands dirty in the mess of your trauma and walks the lifelong healing journey with you. 

Jesus entered our captivity and oppression

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,”

Luke 4:18

Jesus entered into our captivity and endured it alongside us. Shortly after His birth, He and His family had to flee to Egypt because King Herod was threatened by Christ’s kingship. All boys two years old and under in and around Bethlehem were murdered because of Herod’s determination to kill Jesus. Despite the expectations of the Jewish people, Jesus did not rise up a rebellion to end Rome’s occupation of Israel. Instead he endured that oppression with His people. 

In this too there is hope for survivors. We serve a God who is familiar with our pain. He doesn’t have to imagine what it would be like in our shoes, He has walked in them Himself. 

Christ has set us free

God did not merely come into this world to understand His creation more fully or even simply to give us a message. No, Jesus came with a mission. He came so that he could break us free from our bondage of sin and death. His suffering and death on the cross was the perfect sacrifice to set us free from the clutches of the enemy. 

As survivors we have suffered so much at the sinful hands of others. We are constantly plagued by the sins in the people around us and tormented by the sins in our own hearts. Yet through Christ we have hope. Through Christ we are free to walk in righteousness. Through Christ we have hope that this sinful world is not the final say. Christ’s bloody, dying breaths on the cross and His victorious resurrected body promises that there will be a day when all our tears are washed away and when justice will be rolling like a river, perfect and true.

Celebrating the birth of our newborn Savior

As you celebrate Christmas, reflect on its wondrous message: that God became flesh and dwelt among us. He understands our trauma because He chose to walk alongside and endure our pain and oppression with us. So whenever you wonder, does God care about my trauma and pain? The image of Christ our Savior as a crying, naked, and bloody newborn child is a resounding YES!

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