Paul talks about his struggles and how we got through them in Philippians 4:12-13 (NKJV) – 12I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need. 13I can do all things “through” Christ who strengthens me.
In other words, Paul knew to survive by means of being humble, having just enough food to eat, clothing and only the necessities of life to sustain him for a day. He knew what it was like to be full and hungry. He also knew how to humbly live in prosperity (in overflow). Through it all, he knew it was only possible with the strength he received from Christ.
You might be thinking, “well that all sounds great and I’m sure Paul never went through any of the pain I’ve been through.” Lets look at 2 Corinthians 11:21-29 (MEV) – 21 I say to my reproach that we were too weak for that. But whenever anyone is bold (I speak foolishly), I am bold also. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I speak as a fool. I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brothers; 27 in weariness and painfulness, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside the external things, the care of all the churches pressures me daily. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led into sin, and I am not distressed?
As you can see Paul’s life was full of physical pain, emotional pain, and humiliation, yet he remained faithful to Christ through it all. There is one more person who has suffered the emotional and physical pain as well as public humiliation, the King of all Kings.
Often times when I speak I talk about my abuse. I talk about how my stepfather would beat me relentlessly with either a belt or his fist and how with each lashing of the belt he would repeat the words “you stupid S.O.B.” How both my stepfather and mother would publicly and privately humiliate me. All from the two people who were suppose to love and protect me, two people who were born again Christians; my stepfather a Deacon of the church and my mother a member of the choir.
For years I questioned why God would allow this to happen to me. Then I think about Jesus and how he was whipped thirty-nine times and how he was paraded through Via Dolorosa (the “Way of Sorrow”), being taunted and spit on. The way he was nailed up on the cross and his clothes stripped from him. I believe there is no greater form of humiliation than what Christ suffered on the cross.
He cried out on the cross – My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46, as though be believed even his father was abandoning him. His last words were “It is finished.” Many believe, I being one of those, that at this point in time along with the miracles he had performed, he had also suffered every form of suffering that is humanly possibly and his job here on earth was done.
Yes I was emotionally, physically, spiritually, sexually abused and humiliated in ways no child or person should be. For years I was mad at God, full of rage and hate, and never feeling like I was good enough. I always felt alone in my pain. Today I look at stories like Paul’s and the last days of Jesus and know that I am not alone in my pain. Many have walked the path in front of us and given us a well planned out road map to heal those wounds of abuse.
In my twelve-year recovery journey the one thing I know that has kept me strong and courageous is the day about two weeks into my recovery I dropped to my knees and told God I needed to and wanted to change. I don’t want to drink or use anymore, but I can’t do it myself, I need your strength. That day the obsession to drink and use immediately left me. However what didn’t leave me was all the pain and shame attached to my abuse. In fact it got worse. The other thing that came upon me that morning was a strength and courage that only God could provide.
It has been a long journey and I have walked through a lot of shame and pain from my past, which is the only way we can truly achieve the deep healing, but without the strength and courage given to me that day by God, none of this would have been possible. You too can have a life free of the pain and shame of your past. Remember, what happened to you is not who you are. Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26 (NIV)