I just finished reading Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner, by Wendy Blight, and participating in an online Bible Study using this book. The study was led by Melissa Taylor of Proverbs 31 Ministries, a lovely and inspiring group of ladies. Even if you aren’t involved in such a study, I recommend this book for those who are working through the fear and pain of abuse.
As a young woman, Wendy was the victim of a violent rape which left her paralyzed with fear and anger for years afterwards. She launches right into the book by telling this story in detail. In the years after the rape, during which she also discovers that the police have lost all the evidence gathered during the investigation so that she has no chance of identifying her attacker, she wrestles with three possibilities: God did not have the power to protect her and stop the attack, God could have stopped the attack but did not know or care enough about her to do that, or God knew what was happening, could have stopped it, but purposely allowed it to happen anyway. All three of these choices seem scary and unacceptable, and I think all of us who grew up in abusive religious settings have pondered them.
Wendy was truly in a dark corner, unable to function and live a normal life because of her fear. She knew about God but did not have a personal relationship with Him, and the Bible was just a collection of stories instead of a message directly for her. As she began searching for answers, God put people in her path who were able to guide her slowly onto His path. This wasn’t an overnight process, in fact it took decades. As she studied her Bible with a desire to know God better, and began to trust Him more and more, He revealed himself to her.
The toughest chapter for me in this book was Chapter Six, Learning Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a delicate subject among survivors, particularly those who receive no remorse or even acknowledgment from their abusers. Forgiveness is used as a weapon by churches and missions in an attempt to quiet up the victims and make the whole problem go away. The message of forgiveness is not one that many victims want to hear, it is much more popular to talk about justice and righteous judgement. Wendy says her debate with God about forgiveness lasted for years, as she hung onto her anger and hatred for her attacker.
In a later chapter Wendy talks about surrendering your strongholds. A stronghold is any deeply rooted sin that prevents you from growing in your relationship with God. Some examples are anger, pride, bitterness, addictions (of all sorts) and fear. These are the ways that Satan is able to take control of our lives. Two of my own strongholds are fear and timidity, emotions that pretty much ruled my life during boarding school and for years afterwards. I imagine this is true of many who grew up attending Kent Academy and other boarding schools where abuse occurred. That is why this verse from 2 Timothy is one of my favorites.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
You may be wondering where the hidden joy comes into this story. This blog is all about dark, ugly secrets that have been locked away for many years, eating away at people. But Wendy shows us that God has his own hidden treasures he wants to give us.
I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. Isaiah 45:3
We all know it takes years of perseverance to uncover secrets. God also requires us to seek hard for the riches he has hidden away for us. Whether our riches are healing and peace, or joy after years of experiencing grief, or a relief from chronic pain, we must ask for them and actively search before we receive them.
One lesson this book drives home to me is this process of desiring and seeking to know God. The first step in the process is one that we ourselves must take. How often are we told this in the Bible? “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” This is God’s promise for us to claim, that we will find what we are truly seeking.