Where does the Bible speak helpfully about sexual abuse? I'm having a hard time overcoming my childhood abuse. I'm taking part in a "recovery" ministry right now to deal with the later outcomes of the abuse. In the Old Testament, we find fathers abusing their daughters so often that it sadly seemed normal. How would you advise someone to study out this topic? -- Stephanie (San Diego)

Sadly, you are right: In the Old Testament, we find fathers willing to have their daughters abused (Judges 19), and even daughters willing to abuse their fathers (Genesis 19). Dysfunction and abuse are portrayed in all their ugliness. At the very least, the Bible paints a realistic picture of society--which, as the prophets so often point out, is plagued with abuse at every level. Accepting reality, rather than denying it, might be the first counsel of scripture. Not to say we should stand for compromised standards of morality, but rather to say that we live in a fallen world. Sin is a reality.

The second point might be that grace will enable us to overcome the "ungrace" or ugliness of reality. Grace will not necessarily prevent us from being victimized, but it can empower us to heal, to forgive, and to identify in Jesus Christ the One who suffered the ultimate injustice, the ultimate indignity, the ultimate abuse. Rather than study out "the topic," I would suggest you read the Bible with an eye on these twin themes: the reality of abuse and sin, and the power of grace. You will find healing words in nearly every book!

Finally, I would ask your friends for resources--books written by people who understand the issues surrounding your question, those who have personal experience, and who have plumbed the scriptures for answers.

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