by Jennifer Michelle Greenberg
Court was in recess. I was in my early twenties, and had just learned how my high-school friend had died. I sat 10 feet from her killer, a pasty disheveled woman in an orange jumpsuit. Drugs. They thought she had drugs. They’d murdered her for something she didn’t have.
I remember feeling aghast. Nauseous. Enraged.
“Push it down,” I thought. “You can’t deal with this right now.”
I wove my way through crowded halls. Men in suits. Tense police officers. Sketchy people who looked like they belonged on a “Law & Order” set.
“They can’t prove anything,” a man behind me laughed. I turned around to see him, dressed in dirty clothes, bragging to women who seemed to find him clever. “That’s the third rape charge I’ve been acquitted of. There was no DNA. Without DNA you can’t convict.”
It was like being punched in the gut. The brazenness of this man. The laughter of his female friends. My mind flitted to memories of my own childhood abuse. My bruises had healed. My computer files had been deleted by my abuser. Every witness was silent. And here was this monster. Bragging.
I ducked into an elevator. Court would resume in another 30 minutes, but the trial could go on without me. I wanted to be there for her family. But having a meltdown during the trial wouldn’t help anyone. I could feel my grip on self-composure slipping.
“Ma’am, are you OK?” asked a man in the elevator.
That’s when I completely lost it. I was not OK at all. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. My lungs cramped tighter with every exhale, like some invisible person had their boot on my chest. My hands trembled and my vision dimmed. I could barely speak, but managed to gasp a single word: “Panic.”
I never saw his face. He was wearing a beige suit. He picked me up and rushed me to an alcove where police officers were stationed.
A female officer shoved a paper bag in my face.
“Are you on meds?” she asked. “Do you have meds with you?”
I was not, I explained, but I was in counseling. I told her about the bragging man in the hall. I told her about my dad’s sexual abuse and domestic violence. She raised an eyebrow and said, “People like you should be on meds.”
After recovering enough to drive, I went home.
How does one recover from trauma in a world that doesn’t seem to care? How do we process grief when so many won’t listen? It took me a long time to learn this. In the end, it was clinging to three simple facts that finally gave me peace:
1. God is Just.
No matter what happens here on earth, God’s court has no statute of limitations. He doesn’t need DNA, testimony, or evidence. He sees everything and forgets nothing. Every unrepented sin, every evil done in secret, every callous thought of every wicked heart, is remembered in the courtroom of Heaven.
2. God is Love.
When Lazarus died, Jesus wept. When moneychangers took advantage of worshipers in the temple, Jesus was angry. When women mourned at his empty tomb, Jesus sought them out and comforted them. Isaiah 9:6 calls Jesus our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” He is the shepherd who cares for his lambs. He is the faithful husband who adores his bride, the church. And because God is love (1 John 4:8), he feels all the emotions of grief, protectiveness, anger, and injustice, when his beloved suffers or is wronged. Not only does he feel these things, but he acts accordingly as our righteous and just Father.
3. Jesus Heals.
He is called our great physician. He binds up the brokenhearted. He’s the ultimate good samaritan who picks us up, beaten and broken, and tends to our wounds. Recovery is something you work at, but it isn’t your job. God’s got this.
People are fallen. They make mistakes. They’re often foolish and even cruel. By pinning my hopes on Jesus alone, I insulated myself against letdown. Unlike people, God always listens. Jesus always understands. He is angry with the wicked every day.
I’ll likely never see worldly justice. My abuser may never peer through prison bars or wear an orange jumpsuit. But unless he repents and puts his faith in Christ, my abuser will pay for his sin.
Some may find the idea of God’s justice terrifying. Hell is offensive. Judgement isn’t politically correct. But to me, God’s righteousness is my hope and peace. He is my protector, defender, and friend. I can let go of my anger, because he’s angry for me. I can rest, because vengeance is the Lord’s.
Just as Jesus once calmed the winds and the waves, so he calms the tempest in my soul. My Prince of Peace makes me whole.
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10
Jennifer Greenberg’s new book, Not Forsaken, is a natural continuation of Jennifer’s prolific creativity and advocacy. Jennifer is passionate about praying with and supporting others who have faced similar situations. Connect with her online at JenniferGreenberg.net.