the Hope of Survivors

Of Weeping and Joy—Samantha Nelson

(From the April 2008 edition of HopeSpeak)

Leesha and SamanthaJanuary 4, 2008, was a sad day for us. It was the day we had to take our 16-year-old German Shepherd, Leesha, to the vet to be put to sleep. She had lived a long and full life, traveling with us almost everywhere we went, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and many places in between. In recent years, her health began to fail due to suffering several strokes. Her mind was gone due to canine cognitive dysfunction, basically a form of canine Alzheimer’s. She had little quality of life, and was in a lot of pain due to having arthritis as well. After consulting with the vet, we made the difficult decision (after much prayer and confirmation from the Lord) that we would have to put her to sleep.

No matter how much we felt we had logically prepared ourselves for this terrible task, we were not prepared in any sense of the word for the deep grief and pain that surged over us after her death. Even her nanny—our friend Amee—who stayed with her when Leesha couldn’t travel with us, went to the vet with us and felt the awful pain stab at her heart as well.

Coming home from the vet was worse. Where was our faithful companion, who, before her illness, used to run to the door to greet us, tail wagging, with a smile on her face? Where was our Leesha “Underfoot” Nelson—a loving endearment that described her exact location in relation to us at all times? To think there would be no more Leesha was more than we could bear, and we both broke down in heaving sobs, enduring a pain that seemed impossible to alleviate.

Why do I share this story with you? I share it because if you have experienced loss of any kind, or if you have experienced pastoral sexual abuse, you can relate to these feelings of grief and pain. As a victim of pastoral abuse, there seems to be no end to the suffering and shame you feel. No end to the mourning over the loss of the spiritual life you once had, the church family you knew and loved, the relationship with the Lord you desired. All seems to have been stripped away from you, suddenly, and without hope of ever being returned.

Leesha went through the pastoral abuse with us. She suffered through many nights right beside us, trying to comfort us as we cried, as we fought, as we prayed for help. The devil afflicted her in many ways through our suffering and through his evil influence all around us. It was not fair to her. How we wish we could have protected her from all of that!

You may feel as though you will never again enjoy the sweet fellowship of being with other Christians, the beautiful harmony of hymns being sung in church, the heart-changing words of life that come from God’s Word through His chosen representative, or the peace of mind and comfort that come through prayer and communion with the Lord. These are all things the enemy of our souls tries to steal from us through pastoral sexual abuse. It goes far beyond the physical—far beyond the loss of innocence and purity. The spiritual loss is the most devastating of all, for it seems like there is no hope of renewing it, as there is no trust in those spiritual leaders who are to feed us.

If you are experiencing these feelings now, or if you have already experienced them, I want to encourage you. In the midst of our grief over Leesha’s death, the Lord gave Steve a promise for us to cling to. It is found in Revelation 21:4-5, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” Steve and I choose to believe Jesus will recreate Leesha one day and we will be reunited with her. Glorious thought!

However, there is an even greater promise that is for you right now. You do not have to wait until the earth made new for Jesus to recreate you. Just as Steve and I experienced His healing power and transformation in our lives after the pastoral abuse, you too can experience that healing touch from Jesus right now, as He recreates you and gives you new life.

You may be sad at this very moment, and you may be grieving some loss, or suffering deep anguish, but remember the promise found in Psalm 30:5, “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

May God comfort and strengthen you, no matter what you are going through right now.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18