When The Church Prefers Perpetrators

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Something is wrong when the church protects perpetrators and marginalizes victims. In recent months, we’ve seen a bit of the underbelly of covering up sexual abuse, demanding victims forgive and forget instantly for the sake of the poor offenders whose lives might be ruined if they were found out. (See this article at Christianity Today that summarizes a recent case).

(Note: This post isn’t about the Sovereign Grace Ministries situation particularly as much as it is about any church that listens more to the perpetrators than to the victims. I believe this is a universal problem.)

Cover up that exalts the “ministry” or a ministry personality over the well being of one who has been sinned against does not represent the Jesus I follow. 

Continue reading

http://www.marydemuth.com/perpetrators/

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Sexual Assault Should Transcend Party Loyalty

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Sexual abuse, assault & predation transcends politics & party loyalty. From top to bottom and left to right it is wrong regardless who is doing it!

For a moment there, It was exciting to see the tide turn and all sexual assaults were being taken seriously.   It looked as though the public conversation about sexual harassment and assault might for once escape political polarization by virtue of the plague’s depressing ubiquity. Fox News founder Roger Ailes was a pig, but so, it turned out, is Hollywood producer and Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein. There was little to gain by quibbling over whether Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly or Eric Bolling is pervier than NPR’s Mike Oreskes or ABC’s Mark Halperin.

Then came the accusations against Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and just like that, the issue was jerked back into more familiar, more partisan territory. Two women have accused Moore of sexual abuse, seven others have said he pursued them when they were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s and an asst D.A. Party lines were drawn, the wagons were circled, and that old familiar positions were staked out. Moore’s fan base (heavy on religious conservatives) blamed the liberal media, Democratic haters, the Republican establishment, and, of course, all those lying women—all of whom Team Moore set out to discredit. Classic victim blaming at it’s highest.

In Washington, Republicans issued statements about how Moore needed to leave the race “if” the charges proved to be true. Fox News generally tiptoed around the erupting scandal, while Sean Hannity treated Moore with such gentleness that his advertisers began to balk. Donald Trump remains uncharacteristically quiet even now.

Having Moore ascend to the Senate would be like pouring kerosene on a campfire: “The Democrats could basically run on, ‘Look at what the other party has become: the party that protects sexual harassers and child molesters!’”

The Long Con Of Child Grooming

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I never imagined I’d be writing a post like this one.  I’m sharing this scenario because it was unimaginable to me and may be to you, too.

As I have watched the news about Roy Moore and Bob Coy, I started thinking about the phenomenon of child grooming.  Reading the controversial article released a torrent of memories.

Many wonder where were the wives in these situation?  Why did they allow this?I thought I would share a story from the wife’s perspective:

I want to share a story about a women who married a man that was grooming a student of his for years.  This was before they were married, but she now realizes she was used in his long con.  She knew absolutely, nothing sexual happened, because she knew the young lady well.  In fact, she was mentoring her. But, she now also realizes, she is the one he desired all along.

Looking back, she was extremely naive, which is why I’m writing this. This women wishes she had been aware of the scale, method and ferocity of child grooming.  He spent time with this student, bought her gifts and treated her like she was special.  He joined our church, which she also attended and became her youth leader.

The worrying truth about child grooming, however, is it’s not just the child who’s being manipulated by a predator – it can be you, the adult, as well.  She realizes now that the reason he became her friend in the first place was to have access to her.  You see, In order to have access to a child, a predator needs to go through their care-givers – and in such a way that they don’t arouse suspicion.  The three of them were always together they enjoyed, sports, movies and church.

It’s also important to note that the perpetrator most likely won’t exhibit behaviors which would make him look like a predator.  So, you can imagine our surprise when she was a senior in high school after allegedly grooming her for 4 years, he gave her a gift for valentines day.  He was a man of 40.  In the envelope was a proposal and a diamond ring along with a letter of his desire to have lots of children with her. Luckily, she declined and showed her the letter and returned the ring.  But, not before this young women was shocked, startled and afraid. Especially, because she was innocent and blindsided by this whole revelation. She was not alone in this.

A few months later he had a major mental breakdown, which in her mind explained his bizarre proposal and behaviors.  She assumed he was in a desperate situation and clinging to any life line he could find.  She found herself as his medical contact as he had no one else, so she became his proxy.  She sat at his bedside everyday, meeting with doctors and counselors.  When he was released, She was forced to be his legal guardian, even though they were the same age.  This was the only way, he could be released from the hospital after several weeks.  He came to live with her and recovered for more than a year.  Unfortunately, due to this women’s strong nurturing side, she let her guard down and after 2 years fell in love with this man.  Thinking he was genuinely remorseful for what he had done.  She chalked it all up to his mental illness.  The counselors said with medication he would be fine.  She believed them.  He went on to attend Bible college and they were married.

As most of you can guess, this marriage did not have a happy ending, they  had a marriage filled with domestic violence and lack of trust.  She had learned early in her marriage, while he was at bible college he was interested in a relationship with a 19 year old girl from another country.  Again, nothing inappropriate happened to this young lady, I doubt she was even aware of the situation at all.   This relationship (in his head) happened at the same time he was at her home everyday as if nothing had happened. So, once again she had become an unwilling participant in his obsession with youth and the paradox of what is appropriate and what he desires.

One of the aspects that has been the most difficult for her to deal with is the realization that she was fooled by this man. Conned if you will. She felt (and still feels) like a fool.

Her life was like a virtual reality — her home like a movie set consisting of false fronts. Like the Truman show.  She came out of the marriage confused, unsure of what was real and what was fabrication. She was embarrassed. Thinking, how could she have been such a fool?  She had been literally sleeping with the enemy. The crime was intensified by the fact that it was carried out by the man who had sworn to love and protect her.

She hopes that writing down her thoughts will help her untangle them. She still doesn’t know how she feels or how she is supposed to feel. She is constantly reliving her many interactions with this man, hearing his voice and his laughter, remembering his every touch and facial expression — a slideshow of once pleasant images, before they were married now viewed after their marriage through a distorted lens, nightmarish and cruel.

Now the cold, hard truth sets in. She was deceived; She was played! She was led on. You see the relationship was never what she believed it to be.

It’s funny, when the dusts settles and the pain goes away, you are able to see things so clearly.  She realizes now, she was used..plain and simple, by a man that wanted a relationship with someone else much much younger.   I believe now this was the reason her now ex-husband became friends in the first place.  She was part of the long con.  She was not the one he wanted, she was the one society would approve of.  No wonder he has told people, he felt pressured to marry her.

Hearing this story, I am starting to be much more educated on the subject now.  After training to be an advocate for women and children.  I am becoming more aware of the signs and the behavior of these men that have a mental illness and are preoccupied with young women.   As parents we need to learn the signs, be aware of who our children are spending time with.  Talk to your children and educate them too!  We must understand that the Christian community is not immune to this phenomenon.  Sometimes, I think we can be more vulnerable.  In our attempt to give forgiveness and look for the best in people, we sometimes over look dangerous behaviors.

The Christian vision of manhood is men as givers, not takers. Men as self-sacrificers, not self-gratifiers.

I am dedicating my life to educating and bringing awareness to this phenomenon.  I pray for her ex-husband that the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to him and his pastor.  I pray he gets the help he desperately needs.  She has revealed the truth as she now knows it to his pastor and the people that need to know,  it is no longer her burden to bear.  People need to be accountable for their actions.

In the meantime, the Lord has richly blessed her. Her kids are healthy, Godly and all either married or will be in the next several months.  She is happy and fulfilled.  She is happier than she has ever been.  Peace reigns in her life.  She no longer bears the shame of her marriage and realizes through the Lord’s help it was not her fault.  Her biggest fault was being a gullible women wanting to believe the best in someone she loved.

Was she foolish to marry this man, ABSOLUTELY!

While she is no longer “in love” with her former spouse, this side of divorce.  For her, divorce was the beginning of understanding that God’s love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out. That kind of love will never leave her.

She has learned that there is a freedom on this side of her divorce, a freedom that she was hoping for.  The Lord has shed light on the darkness in her marriage and in her life.

1Cor 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 

For more information on the signs of Child Grooming:

https://thejoyfulchristianministry.com/2017/11/15/stop-child-grooming/

http://themamabeareffect.org/1/post/2013/11/do-you-know-how-to-identify-grooming.html

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Stop Child Grooming

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Nobody ever thinks it can happen to them. Nobody thinks they know a child predator. Until it is too late.

Child predators are not some strangers in a dark alley. They are  people we all know. They are our friends, our relatives, our teachers, our youth leaders and our kid’s coaches. The best way to keep your kids safe is to learn their tactics. Ignorance and naivete is dangerous in this situation.

THEY GAIN TRUST

The most important step in grooming a child is to gain the trust of those around them. Predators are skilled at taking on the attributes of a “good guy” and that is unfair to the REAL good guys among us. Before they even meet their victim – Predators often place themselves in a position of trust. They seek out roles that place them around children. They ingratiate themselves into your life and into your routine. Predators are often patient and they will take months or years building up the trust with those around them.

THEY GIVE GIFTS AND FAVORS

Once the predator has established a role in your life and has gained your trust – they take things one step further. They might offer to do you favors or bring gifts and treats for your children. They appear extremely helpful and friendly. They may be playful and silly with your children, but they are careful to not be overly attentive to your children in your presence.

THEY ISOLATE CHILD

By now the predator has gained your complete trust and approval. Your child knows you trust them – so they trust them too. It is at this point the predator’s goal is to isolate your child. They might offer to babysit, give your child a ride, tutor them or give them extra coaching. The predator continues to work on the child’s trust and tries to develop a “special” bond with the them.

THEY DESENSITIZE THE CHILD TO TOUCH

You may get comfortable leaving your child alone with this “good guy.” Your child is always eager to go with them and they seem happy upon returning. It may be at this point that the predator starts to touch your child. At first it may be a tickle fight – where the predator “accidentally” touches the child’s private parts. The sexual contact will progress from there.

THEY SECURE SECRECY

Young children may not understand what the predator is doing. They may not know they are being abused. The predator might convince them that they are playing a secret game or have a secret bond. Older kids may think they are “special” or have a relationship with the predator that no one else would understand. Some kids are told that no one would believe them or worse – that their family will be hurt if they tell.

YOU PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN:

-Look for these warning signs.

-Understand that no role or position exempts a person from being a predator.

-If something feels wrong in your gut

– trust your instincts. -Keep the communication open between you and your child.

-Talk to your child about their time away from you.

-Talk to your child about sexual abuse and arm them with knowledge.

Knowledge is power. Spread the word. Share with others.

If you’re a parent, please make sure that your children are aware of the dangers online.

 

The Penalty For Abusing Authority

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The headlines are bursting with stories about people in positions of authority who have turned a blind eye when it comes to protecting someone under their care—failing to do the right thing—the very thing their occupation demands. Teachers having inappropriate relations with students, politicians sexually harassing young girls and pastors falling in sin.  Husbands hurting their wives and children. Does looking the other way, or pleading ignorance, really exonerate someone who could do something to stop abuse yet, for political, or personal gain, does nothing?

All is not well in this world. Husbands are hurting wives, Teachers are predators, politicians are predators, despite their political affiliation, church workers are predators precisely because we allow them to be. Victims stay silent (it’s normal for a victim to wait decades before they share because of fear, threats, and shame), and when they expose the predators, they are then berated, unbelieved, and marginalized. And yet, I see this great kingdom of God advancing in precisely the opposite way, with the weak ones, the broken, overlooked.

Certainly, as Christians, we struggle with the reality that everywhere we turn there seems to be a moral battle raging and, at times, it may seem hopeless, to stem the tide of evil. With the media onslaught of moral corruption pervading our world, it’s little wonder we have become desensitized and almost ambivalent to the moral failures of those who are in charge, some of these men are members of the very churches we attend.  But, can we adequately plead “not guilty” if we do nothing?

This made me start thinking about someone, long ago, who took the easy way out defense too. He was the high priest, he was the only one who was permitted to meet yearly at the mercy seat with God. His sole ministry was to represent Christ—who intercedes for the sins of his people. Yet, within Eli’s own family, a dark secret was lurking. He heard the rumors but, somehow, he failed to muster the courage to stop the evil. Why? What could he possibly offer as an adequate excuse for allowing such heinous sins to be committed on his watch, within his own church, and by his own sons? He had a choice to make and he chose to do nothing. Sound familiar?

Years pass by and God appears to be silent. He sent a warning message and now He waits to see what His servant will do. I’m sure the Spirit was pleading for this reluctant father to correct the evil course of his sons, but to no avail.  Finally, in a very unexpected manner, the message comes. When Eli has procrastinated too long, God speaks.

The Bible tells us, “The Lord came and stood there, calling… “Samuel, Samuel.” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)  The message God spoke to Samuel that night long ago has similar implications for us today! Are we listening? If so, are we willing to say, “Speak, for we are listening”?

God had previously warned Eli about the sins of his sons and what would happen if he failed to check their sins. “The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your father’s house, …you will see distress in my dwelling.” (1 Samuel 2:31-32)  Do we stand firm in protest of evil or, like Eli, do our sympathetic actions toward a fallen minister, teacher, husband or politician counteract our ability to adequately protest their iniquities?

What could possibly be so wicked that it forced God to deal with Eli and his sons so harshly? It was the same sin that is destroying many in authoritarian positions today. “Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.” (1 Samuel 2:22 ) Not only was the sacrifice disgraced and polluted, the personal lives of the priests—the very ones who were to be godly examples of holiness—were defiled with sexual immorality and abuse.  Sound familiar?

Can a minister, teacher, husband or politician who willfully chooses to destroy precious lives under his care simply excuse his actions as “a fall from grace”? Obviously, we know people make serious mistakes.  But this is on a deeper level.

And today, thousands of years later, there are those who still fail in their responsibility to protect those vulnerable under their leadership and care. When a transgression of this nature takes place, those who refuse to correct the evil done by a person of authority are guilty of the same sinful neglect to God’s heritage as was Eli.

It is time for pastors to believe the women who come to them seeking help from their abusive husbands.  To admonish and impose must needed church discipline. To believe the children that come forward about the teachers who have taken advantage of them.  To believe the small child that is being hurt by a parent.

It’s time we Christians, with sound mind and deep conviction, call predators and abusers out within the church. It’s time we stop tolerating any kind of abuse, stop looking the other way hoping things will improve. The statistics prove that predators and abusers typically continue to offend until they’re caught.   Our inaction, then, allows for more abuse.  We need to wake up and take this seriously!

Are we as Christians becoming desensitized by sins leavening effect—precious souls are being violated everyday.  I sat with a young women of 15 last week, who had been involved sexually with a teacher.  This poor child had tried to commit suicide from the shame and confusion.  I have to think that this teacher, who claimed to be a christian is just as guilt as Eli’s sons.

Recently in Papillion, Nebraska, a high school band teacher, Mike Pollock, was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to a former student. After his resignation, a spokesperson for the school stated that what Mr. Pollock had done was  “…not just a violation by that one teacher, but it’s a violation of the entire profession.” If the secular community can see how important the reputation of all teachers are, and that such actions committed by one destroy the reputation of everyone in that profession, certainly the church is in desperate need of true reformation when it comes to how we deal with a fallen christian.

All who hold positions of sacred trust and, like Eli, knowingly fail to take a stand against the abusive actions of leaders under their charge, will have to face serious consequences for neglecting their responsibility to guard the flock under their care.

Take heart, those who have been preyed on. The light is shining brightly, and the web of lies will be exposed.

Thankfully, there is still time and mercy still pleads with our hearts. The signs around us loudly proclaim judgment is soon to be executed upon this earth. We, like Eli, have been given a message of warning. God is still waiting to see if we will correct our errors, retrace our steps, and implement justice before He executes judgment. If we fail to heed Heaven’s admonition, we too will pass beyond the line where mercy will no longer be able to reach our ears. Sadly, God will ultimately say to us what He said to Eli, “…I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’” (1 Samuel 3:14 )

Learning To Accept God’s Love

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Do you ever struggle with unanswered prayers?

Although, every believer has unanswered prayer, it can sometimes, lead a person to conclude that he or she is not worthy enough or deserving of God’s favor.

I have had such a deep longing within my heart that I’ve desperately wanted to see come to pass. For the last several years I have waited for the Lord to answer my prayer. I wait patiently on my good days and tell myself “It’s just not God’s timing yet”  But, on my bad days I feel afraid and hurt and unworthy.

I began to wonder why I struggled with unanswered prayer so much and why I always felt defeated.  You see, I never realized the correlation between how I view God and my prayer life before; Let me explain.

I was raised in an angry, abusive home where I was sexually abused. The only role models I had were quick tempered mean alcoholics.  Needless to say,  I grew up scared of men. My life was filled with so much fear, pain, hurt, betrayal, and lies. Manipulation and deceit were at the core of our home.  I found myself thinking I was not lovable. In my mind if my own parents could not love me, there had to be something wrong with me.

So years later, after I became a believer, the concept of a kind, loving heavenly Father was a completely foreign concept to me. The words my pastor spoke sounded wonderful, like a fairy tale, but deep down I couldn’t escape the sense of God’s judgement and anger.  Even when I read my Bible, I seemed to focus on the legalism aspect of scripture. And every time I failed, messed up or fell short, I felt myself the target of God’s anger. I came to almost expect unanswered prayer, because I believed I did not deserve to be blessed.

This began a cycle of falling short all the time and making unwise choices.  Never realizing the connection between my childhood and my skewed perception of God.  The years of an unloving atmosphere filled with anger and fear had warped my brain, therefore, unconsciously blocking the truth of who God really was.

It wasn’t until after my second abusive marriage, I began to recognize that I had become comfortable with accepting less than what the Lord desired for me.  This was bolstered by the declaration from my ex-husband that the Lord had told him to divorce me and had in fact, taken me out of our marriage for his ministry.  That are marriage was never ordained by God.?  I guess in some way, this belief somehow absolved him of all the hurt he had caused me. Since I had been long ago programmed to believe that everything was my fault, I bought into his lie.  This had devastating effects on my heart and feelings of worth. I felt so much shame for my divorce and thought, “here I go again disappointing God, once again falling short, I had failed as a wife.”  I did not even sign my divorce papers when I was served, because I feared God’s wrath.

I remember sharing with my counselor that I desperately wanted to please God.  I shared how I knew God was mad at me, because I had failed again.  That I knew I did not deserve a happily ever after, like most Christians.  My counselor took my hand and said “Cheryl, God is not angry with you, He loves you, He cares for you and He understands your past and wants desperately to heal you. Slowly thru my brokenness and pain, and on my knees seeking God, that the truth started soaking in.  I think this was the first time I realized that maybe, it was true, God was not angry with me and in fact loved me.

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. Psalm 145:8

This verse which says God is slow to anger, that He offers forgiveness when I confess my failures and that He does not hold my shortcomings against me, began transforming not only my brain, but my heart. And if that were not awesome enough, the fact that God is abounding in mercy and loving-kindness toward us..” As I meditated on this verse I began to believe God’s truth, the massive wall that had protected my heart as a child and continued into adulthood, slowly began to come down.

The unanswered prayer that was weighing on my heart for so long, was lifted.  I began to see that the Lord is my Daddy, the Dad I never had.  I realized as I love my children unconditionally and want what is best for them, so does my Heavenly Father.  My prayers began to change, I started trusting that I could trust Him with my deepest hurts and needs.  He knows my heart and the heart of the person I was praying for.  He and only He knows how this prayer should be answered. I began to truly have a peace that passes all understanding.  Knowing if this door closes, He has something better for me.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge Him,  and He will make your paths straight Psalm 3:5-6

He is our gracious heavenly Father who loves and accepts us as we are, patiently bearing with us, teaching and guiding us as we grow and mature in Christ. He is not mad at me, and He is not mad at you. God is for us, not against us (Romans 8:31). He has good plans for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11), and He loves us with an everlasting love.

Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Sometimes our past experiences shape us in ways we don’t fully understand. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, God reshapes us, transforming our hearts and minds as only He can. Though it often takes time, God’s truth can work its way deeply into our hearts and completely break down walls built of lies. And oh, how He loves to bring those walls down!  I learned I am worthy, worthy of love and am a beloved child of God.  Amen

So, the sentence at the beginning; Although, every believer has unanswered prayer, it can sometimes, lead a person to conclude that he or she is not worthy enough or deserving of God’s favor. Is far from the truth, The Lord either answers are prayers with a yes, or a no and No is because we have a good Father in God, who, just like a good earthly father, desires to give His children what’s best for them even if He has to say no to something they want right now. Or He is teaching you to trust in His timing, to wait on Him, If you’ve asked God for answers but find yourself waiting longer than you planned, take a moment now to thank Him in advance for His answer. Trust that He is working behind the scenes on your behalf. Don’t give up. Look forward in hope and expectancy for Him to respond and remember that the Lord is good to those who seek Him.   The question is: Do we really believe that He is good? If we did, wouldn’t that be cause to celebrate, whether He says yes or no?

Father God, today I choose joy because I believe You are always saying yes. Sure, there are places of disappointment in my life and there are things I would like to be different, but I choose to give thanks. Starting today, I choose to respond to You as if You are always good — a Father who has my best in mind. Because You are good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.” Max Lucado

Empathy Is Important For Christians

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The one thing that I am learning is that as Christians we need empathy.  Why?  The reason is simple, so we can share in the suffering and pain of our friends and fellow Christians.

I have found in my life that the Lord often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad to our deepest calling.  It is because of the hardships the Lord has allowed in my life, I’m able to feel more than sympathy and give my friends the gift of empathy. It’s a hard-won, precious gift.

The definition of empathy according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the “feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions.” It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s place when you have no point of reference. But as God allows certain experiences in our lives, we don’t have to imagine empathy because we feel it automatically; it is a gift we can give a hurting person.

My second child Casey passed away from congenital heart disease.  The pain of losing my son is something I carry with me always. I know what it is to live with pain — emotional and physical. It is from that hardship (among others), I am able to draw from a deep well of empathy.

I was talking with a new friend the other day, and she started sharing how she lost a daughter a few years ago. The hurt she felt was still so raw that she started crying. Tears came to my eyes as I shared that I knew exactly how she felt, because I had gone through the same thing. I explained my feelings of loss, how there will always be a hole in my life where Casey should be no matter how much time has passed. How I often think of how old he would be now and how the pain deepens on important days like his birthday, when he would have graduated from high school etc.. Yet I know my son is with the Lord, and it is only sad for those of us left behind. My friend nodded through her tears and said no one ever understands how she feels. Empathy is a bridge of understanding; through my own loss I could share in hers.

The apostle Paul says in Romans 12:15. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  We are taught as Christians to share our friends emotional experiences. I am drawn to the action words of this statement. It doesn’t say, “Feel bad for those who are mourning.” It says we need to literally cry with them. Have the same emotion they are having — with a passion — one that brings forth tears. This is a powerful teaching Paul is trying to get across to the church in Rome and ultimately to all Christians. We are all called to show grace and love to hurting people, even when we can only guess at how they feel, but the true depth of empathy is achieved through experience.

Christ was our ultimate example of empathy. He literally put himself in our place when He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. So when God allows us to go through a hardship, we should consider it a privilege to suffer as our Lord Jesus suffered and use our experience to bless others.

It takes a brave person to pray for empathy, braver than me, but God allows experiences in my life that “teach” me this gift. Trials in our lives have many purposes; it took a long time of walking with the Lord and studying His Word for me to discover the lessons hidden in my own hardships and sufferings. They are often for our growth: to teach us reliance on God, to draw us back or closer to our Savior, or to give us empathy for our neighbor.

As Christians, we have a higher calling. We have been bought at a price and are no longer our own, but humble servants to our Heavenly Father. The greatest commandments are to love our Lord with all our hearts, minds and souls, and to love others as ourselves. In a world rampant with selfishness, vanity, bullying and greed, God offers us a better way. We are after all His hands and feet, and what better way to represent our Lord and serve others than with the gift of empathy?