Speaking primarily from his own traumatic experiences and pastoring others through their own, Matthew Spandler-Davidson led a workshop for pastors at the 2021 TGC National Conference titled “How the Cross Offers Healing for Victims of Abuse.”
Having both experienced and seen abuse as a child—from beatings to rape to being smothered with a pillow—he was left shy, insecure, bitter, angry, and self-centered. It was through the care of a rugged fisherman with a thick Scottish accent, a glass eye, and a long beard that he was introduced to the Bible and the gospel broke into his stubborn, dead, and cold heart. Hope was stirred as Christ and his church became a refuge for his weary soul, and he worked to create the same for other victims when he became a pastor. Spandler-Davidson enumerated three ways churches can become a hope-giving refuge for victims of abuse and several ways to ensure that your church can be a place of safety for the vulnerable and healing for the hurting.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Matthew Spandler-Davison: Good morning. Good to see this morning. And I want to quickly introduce myself. My name is Matthew Spindler, Davidson and I am a pastor, originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, and work with a ministry called 20 schemes, a church planting ministry in Scotland. And so who’s familiar with 20? schemes? Anybody here? Oh, great, awesome. I know some of you may have been expecting Mitch McConnell, I’m like the nicer version of mess. So the expecting a little bit of, of his aggression, then he didn’t get out of Scotland. And so. But we’re going to talk today about a serious issue. And maybe an issue that for some of you may be deeply personal. And so want to be sensitive to that as well talking about the issue of abuse, and particularly gospel hope. For those who are survivors of abuse. I’d be happy to talk with you after the fact love to talk to you more about the work you’re doing in Scotland, we have a booth in the exhibit halls come and see us. We’re not going to do a q&a during this time. But I’ll be more than happy to come and meet with you or you meet me at the booth afterwards. But let me jump right me pray for us. And then we’ll get started. Father, we just thank you for this time, this morning to her just think about this. I know that this is a difficult and sensitive and hard topic to think about. But we also know that you are a good and loving and compassionate father and so use this time, to give us wisdom to to give us a sense of compassion, a sense of hope. in you, minister to us even through this you pray, in Jesus name, amen. The first five years of my life, I suffered and witnessed physical abuse. My earliest memories are tainted by deep personal trauma. At one point I was smothered with a pillow. So my own brother pushed down the stairs. I heard my mother’s screaming while being beaten as I hid under the bed. My first experience of sex was as a nine year old boy, in my own bed, in raped by a person I barely knew. I never spoke of it, and never told another so I ran and I hid and in many ways I continued to run and to hide from that point forward. I was a shy, insecure, deeply wounded young man. I was quickly becoming bitter, angry and self centered. But God in his extraordinary grace began to move in my wife my mum started to take us along to a small Baptist Church in the northeast of Scotland. I wanted nothing to do with it. It felt fake. How can I believe in a Father God, when my own father had been so cruel that an older man in the church rugged fishermen from PETA heads with a thick accent, a glass eye, a long beard, introduced me to the Bible. The Gospel broke into my stubborn cold and dead heart. In that moment, I found Jesus as my hiding place. And the church became for me, a safe place. A refuge. wounds, though become scars, and often scars that won’t go away. Children who are abused will carry emotional and mental scars well into their adulthood. childhood abuse leaves us completely disorientated the praise God, that for me, the most orientating experience of my life was accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior. But that’s not the story that many associate with the church when they hear the word abuse. The sad and tragic reality is that when you hear the word church, many people in our culture, think of the word abuse. Many people view the church with a sense of suspicion that the church that Jesus has established. The church that Jesus is building is designed to be a place of refuge for broken sinners. Not a hiding place for pedophiles and abusers. Jesus has church, the church to be a place of safety, the place that treasures, the name of Christ, the church is to be a refuge. Perhaps you’re here this morning, and deep down you know that something terrible and traumatic has happened to you when you were just a young child. It’s difficult to talk about it.
Matthew Spandler-Davison: It’s difficult even now for me to talk about it. It’s painful to revisit those memories. So why bother But the truth is though, the truth is, you know, the deep down, it still affects you, the way you interact with others, the way you feel about yourself, the the fear you have of being abandoned, let down by people you trust, the insecurity you feel in every relationship you have, including your relationship with God. That traumatic event may have occurred decades ago, that the wounds still run deep. But the church is our refuge even for us as pastors. Jesus is a suffering savior who knows what it is to be abused, and to be abandoned. We have no scars that Jesus cannot see and we have no wounds that he cannot heal. So how do we draw near to Jesus? Well, the answer is and the answer for me was a healthy, local, gospel centered church. It was as part of a healthy church that I experienced the love of Jesus, and I heard the voice of God in a very real way. Shortly after I became a Christian, I began pursuing full time ministry I planted a church when I was just 24 years old. In a very unhealthy way, my ministry became my hiding place. As I look back on that I can see how that hurt me. You see, nobody knew my story. Not even my wife. I busied myself trying to minister to others in their brokenness while failing to recognize my own. I think in the process, I hurt others. I allowed destructive thoughts and fears to haunt me. I was living two lives ministering with the appearance of wholeness yet rattled by my own insecurities, and fears. In fact, ministry became nothing more than a performance if you’ve experienced sexual abuse, you learn how to perform to survive. in ministry quickly became that for me as well. A couple of years ago, I realized this couldn’t go on. If I continue to live like this, it would destroy everything. It was at that point, I began to see what a wonderful gift God had given me, had placed me to church with people who loved me, people who truly cared about me loving church, who cares deeply for me, I needed to share my story with my elders, I needed to be discipled and needed accountability. I needed to serve from a place of brokenness, not from a pretense of wholeness. And so I can truthfully say that the church has now become a dear place for me where I can be really me, I pray that it might be there for you as well. Let me point out three ways the church has been that for me, first, we need Christ like leaders in our wives. I needed to be led by Christ like shepherds. Our people need to come under the watchful care, love and compassion of Christ like leaders, you see victims of abuse, we might be tempted to run from authority to resist any form of authority, particularly if our abuser has been one who abused their position of authority to prey on us to see anybody in power as a potential abuser. But the Bible tells us that actually, authority in and of itself, is inherently good. Ephesians, one first 22 says, and God placed all things under his feet, and appointed him to be the head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of Him who fills everything, in every way. These verses teachers that we need to submit to godly authority. I’m not, and none of us are called to submit to the sinful demands of abusive leaders. But we are called to submit to Christ like leaders. The church will be a place of safety. It is led by men who model the characteristics of set out in First Timothy three, and Titus one, those standards of Christ like leadership, those are designed to protect the church from abusive men who use their authority to abuse their members. So churches need to be led by Christ like leaders who care Well, for those under their care.
Matthew Spandler-Davison: Secondly, we need Christ centered preaching. The Bible is the Word of God. We desperately need to hear his voice above all the other voices that is screaming at us, including the one in our own heads. That keeps us awake at night. We need to know God and more than that, we need to know We don’t need to make sense of my abuse, right? I don’t need to understand why it happened to me, I just need to hear the voice of a God is speaking to me right now. As a victim of abuse, I may never understand what has happened. But I have come to see that it’s not my abuse, or my abuser, that gets to define who I am. It’s God. As we come to the Word of God, we meet a loving father, who walks with his people who protects his children, who defends his own against the oppressor. I needed to hear the voice of God, more than a therapist, or a self help group. I needed to hear the Bible more to rise above all the other voices that is screaming at me. And I heard the voice of God most clearly, do Christ centered, expository preaching Sunday by Sunday. Third, I need the body of Christ. You see, I needed the church, we already we need a healthy local gospel centered church where the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness. I needed the church more than the church needed me. I needed to learn that as a pastor, I desperately needed godly, faithful, mature Christians in my life, to help me to talk through my struggles. Galatians six, verse two says that we need to carry each other’s burdens. And in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. church membership is burden sharing. So it means to be a member of a local church, and I needed to be a part of a burden sharing and burden carrying community of believers. we heal better together in community with each other, I didn’t need just to be surrounded by other survivors of abuse. I need to be surrounded by other singers who have come to know Jesus as the Lord and needed the church. So how can we ensure that the church is a place of safety for the vulnerable and healing for the hurting me just give you a couple of just really quick, just places ways to safeguard our churches to make sure our churches are places safety, and there’s lots of resources out there, but I’m just gonna give you a quick overview. Number one, you want your church to be a place of safety. Number one, have a plan. It’s absolutely imperative that you have a child protection plan in place. And don’t simply do what a lot of churches do, which is to grab a policy from another church and just copy and paste your church name onto it. say, Oh, we’ve got that bit done now so we can get off liability insurance. Now have a plan. wrestle with the needs of your own community. How to safeguard your own facility, how to effectively accounts for every person, in your building, and in your small groups. Work hard to communicate these standards to your staff, your volunteers, your parents, err on the side of over communication. Don’t just let these policies sit on a shelf, share them, teach them, revisit them often. Have a plan. Does your church have a plan to make sure that the vulnerable who are gathering with you week of the week a safe in your building in your gatherings. Secondly, implement the plan. The sad reality is if an abuser wants to abuse, he or she is likely a wolf hiding amongst the sheep slyly and masterfully creeping around, looking for moments to enter the sheep pen and attack the weakest and the most vulnerable prey. For too many churches become sheep pens with gates wide open, allowing wolves to enter unnoticed in order to entrap and to Savage, the most weakest sheep amongst us. And in most of our churches, it’s just too easy to hide in plain sight. abusers see the church as an easy place to hide. Because abuse always requires deception. Just because you know each other, you familiar one another, you trust each other. That doesn’t mean you are immune from a needing to implement the plan to protect your children from predators. perform all the necessary background checks, check references on any potential stuff. workers have children, youth leaders. appoint somebody in your leadership who is responsible for ensuring the plan is being robustly employed.
Matthew Spandler-Davison: In third, respond and report, respond and report. The tragic truth is that the abuser the predator, just won’t be stopped, no matter how strong a plan you have in place. So you must know what to do when the unthinkable happens. If someone shares with you that they’ve been abused by someone in the church, ask questions. Listen to them. People who have been wounded by sexual abuse, need someone to listen to this story and take them seriously. Just as you would with somebody in great physical pain, we must emphasize with them, pray with them, weep with them dignify their story, make sure that they know that you are taking what they say deadly seriously. Remember, this, though, is not your job to uncover what happened. You are not an investigator. You are not a lawyer. You are not a doctor. In cases of illegality, you are not bound by confidentiality. When the law has been broken, you must report it. No ifs, no buts and matters of abuse. A law always has been broken. abuse is always a legal matter. So as church leaders, we must recognize in situations of physical and sexual assault, although a sin has occurred, a crime has also been committed. So this isn’t simply a matter of church discipline. Whenever someone has been abused, a law has been broken as a legal matter and must be referred to the appropriate authorities. Doesn’t matter if you think that there’s credibility to the claim. So irrelevant at this point. We’re not trained to investigate crimes. It’s never our job. We should never think it appropriate to do so. Now what if the situation involves a pastor or a volunteer? Far too often we can be tempted to want to deal with it quietly. But we’re not completely persuaded by the accusation. So I understand. I’ve dealt with this in my own church. Understand, we don’t want to unfairly cause a grief or difficulty come against somebody who we love and care for who’s a volunteer worker, or a pastor in a church. But our response must always be to err on the side of transparency. You’re not declaring judgment, when you suspend somebody from leaders from positions of authority or leadership in your church. Rather, it is a proactive step to validate the seriousness of the accusation, not the credibility of the accusation. You’re not declaring judgment. You’re validating the bravery of the accused, stepping forward. So even with the accusation false, if there is somebody else in your church who is actually being abused, they are watching how you’re dealing with this. Notify the church, immediately suspend the accused them all positions within the church make it clear that you are not in a position at this stage to pass judgment, but you are working with those authorities who are investigating the matter. And if you’ve got a plan in place, it’s easy to do it because you’re just implementing a mutually agreed policy. We must be sure of this, that we are not more concerned about protecting the reputation of the church over the well being of the victim. This is where I feel so many well meaning churches get into trouble. A concern to prevent scandal from harming the name or reputation of the church or of its leaders is never a good motivation for failing to be appropriately transparent. The reputation of the church will always be compromised. When the church looks like we are covering up or hiding an accusation of abuse So in summary, listen report responds respond communicates but there’s so much more we can be saved said about this in there other great resources out there great book Deepak rich who’s written a book called safeguarding. It’s a great book if you want to get that read that there denominations groups that people will help you put in plans in place. Make sure you do
Matthew Spandler-Davison: Hidden wounds, though. An invisible scars will hurt your ability to minister well to others. So if you have experienced trauma in your life, don’t let me urge you to do is I thought I was able to do. Be honest about your pain. Seek help find the strength and the healing that comes and being a part of the healthy gospel centered community. passionate, truth affirming, safe group of believers, and be real, be open. And minister from a place of brokenness, but also a place of wholeness, that comes from a relationship with Christ, as our Lord. Spurgeon said this no love it, you know, you’ve got a British accent, you got to share a speech in court. It’s kind of imperative. All who are first given themselves to the Lord, should as speedily as possible, also give themselves to the Lord’s people. How else is there to be a church on this earth? as I’ve already said, The church is faulty. But there is no excuse for not joining it. The church is not an institution for perfect people. But it’s a sanctuary for sinners, saved by grace, although they are saved, they’re still sinners. They need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow believers. The church is the nursery for God’s weak children, where they are nourished, in grow strong. It is the fold for Christ sheep, the home for Christ’s family in perfect. Yes, it is. But it’s still the deer his place on earth to us. I pray that So for us, well, we also recommend another book and resource we’re gonna give away some books at the end. So stay around at the end, I’m gonna give out some books. But there’s a book that Miss McConnell wrote called the creaking on the stairs if you haven’t read that book, courage you to get it 10 of those have got it at the bookstore mess is just telling his own story of abuse, but he’s doing a really helpful way but he’s doing it in a way that shares how the gospel brings hope to victims of abuse. And at the end, it’s a great little appendix and resource section, but I’m gonna invite Joe to come up and Joe is going to share a Joseph church planter in Baltimore good friend of mine is ministering in some really hard and difficult places in both more era ministry 20 schemes ministering in some of the hottest places in Scotland, if you didn’t ministry in a hard place, a place of concentrated poverty, you’re going to encounter victims of abuse, you got to know how to do this almost everybody who ministering to has been abused in some way, and so on Joe’s come and share about how the gospel and the cross of Jesus Christ brings hope to those who are victims of abuse.
Joel Kurz: Appreciate a Matthew, as he said, a pastor of the garden church in Baltimore, Maryland, and possibly like many of your communities in this room here. Our community is filled with high levels of drug abuse and joblessness and broken homes. And all of those things contribute statistically to potential abuse. nearly a million children a year are abused. And while while the rate of abuse is mind blowing and staggering, while children are abused, everywhere, poverty and statistically child maltreatment go hand in hand, the likelihood of a child being mistreated if the Father is not in the home increases, combined with drugs and alcohol abuse. Abuse levels are off the charts. And so as I personally got into ministry in Baltimore, when I first began my ministry, what I discovered is that there are those who suffer in silence. There are those who suffer in ways that were truly mind blowing for me as as I began our ministry 12 years ago, a young man who was part of our church who finally confessed to me that his mother had sexual relations with him until he was 16 years old. Another who was abused his entire childhood by older adult cousins, a boy whose mother trafficked herself, which would take place right in the living room where he was present. All these things are not reported. They were not reported at the time. it’s mind blowing. It’s staggering to think about the abuse that’s reported. But what about the numbers that we don’t even see? I was shocked at such evil and I witnessed the effects of abuse in these folks lives the inability to connect, fear mistrust, insecurities deep layers of Shame. You have people walking into your church potentially every Sunday, who are suffering with this gaping wound of abuse. And what we have the opportunity to say as a church and with the gospel is that you no longer have to suffer alone. The Gospel provides hope for the abused. I want to I want to highlight two parallel passages from the Bible, one that shows the utter hopelessness of abuse. And then the second which shows the hopefulness of the gospel. The first one is Ecclesiastes chapter four verse one where the writer laments, again I saw the oppressions that are done under the sun, and behold the tears of the oppressed and they had no one to comfort them, on the side of their oppressors was power. And there was no one to comfort them. Luke chapter four, verses 17 through 21. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him, unrolling it, he found the place where it is written, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind to set the oppressed free to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. You see, without the gospel, we are only left with tears and hopelessness. But with the gospel, we can introduce our friends to Jesus, which is real hope. So I’ve been tasked with this topic, how does the gospel help those who have been abused? Now, on one hand, we know that the gospel provides forgiveness of sins for any sin that we have committed.
Joel Kurz: And I’m going to assume that at the gospel coalition, that we get that so I’m not going to spend a lot of our time on the forgiveness of sins aspect of the gospel as needed and true as that is. But I think there’s another dimension to the gospel that we sometimes might overlook in our care. For those who have been abused. One author puts it like this. The Gospel invites the center to find forgiveness in Christ through repentance, and listen to this, it also invites the center to find refuge in the Comforter, from a harsh, broken world where things like abuse, abuse occur. It’s that second dimension, to find refuge in the Comforter, that I want to focus on. Because of the violation of what abuse is, because of its deception, because of its coercion, damage has been done. Diane lamberg is a expert on trauma from abuse, I am not she is so I appeal to her work. As I talk about the damage here very briefly, that is done as a result of abuse. First, the abuse cannot, the abused cannot make sense of their story. The abuser live with two versions of who they are, there is this version that does not include abuse, this version that they tell to others, this version they tell to themselves. But there is this other story, which is hardly even a narrative for them. It’s these memories, these feelings that live alongside their entire story. It sticks with them, if they look at it, it will overwhelm them. The abused run from the bad feelings, they do everything they can possibly do, to not feel the memories of the trauma, haunt the abused, memories don’t leave. They stick with you and they color every aspect of your story. Shame then dominates the abused. The difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is what you’ve done. Shame is a belief of who you are. And abuse tells you that you are worthless. Abuse tells you that you are less than human shame then reinforces this, this defective view of self and then the abuse to do everything that they can to hide because if people really knew who I am and then there are reminders, something that reminds them of this view of themselves and it just simply reinforces this view of self according to lamberg shame then leads to one of three responses you either Fight, you belittle you are deeply go on the fence, you are defensive. You fight or some people flee. They run to weed, they run to alcohol, they run the drug addiction. They try to numb the pain, the feelings, some people freeze, they shut down, and they shut you out. This is damage. A couple years ago, I was playing basketball at one of our church retreats, and I suffered a terrible ankle sprain. And it took months to heal from, I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or what but it just did not heal. And even still, today, if I move my foot the wrong way, it’s gonna I’m going to be reminded of the pain from that ankle sprain. Listen, if an ankle sprain takes time to heal, how much more does abuse? How much more does that deeply affect us and, and damage our view of self, our understanding of who we are? Well, I got to get to my point, the good news brings healing. The good news of the Gospel says healing is possible. You see, Christians, we are equipped with something to walk with those who have been abused that nobody else is equipped with. We have a unique view of the world, and everything else because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is the power to heal. Since the gospel then brings healing the gospel deals with the damage of abuse. Let me give you four quick ways how does the gospel deal with the damage of abuse? Number one, the gospel rewrites our narrative.
Joel Kurz: The Gospel rewrites our narrative, our narrative, while the abused tell one story of themselves, there are these memories that become this controlling narrative as to who they are. And these memories often don’t have a linear pattern, they are discombobulated and detached and it defines them. The Gospel helps us understand our own story. You are created in the image of God, you have worth and dignity and value Yes, sin has entered the world and as a result, unbelievable. Evil has has affected who we are. There is redemption available. You are not defective. In Christ, you are redefined in Christ’s union with Christ has to be so clearly identified and applied to the abused. You’re in Christ. And because you’re in Christ, there is an ultimate hope that one day our very bodies will be made new. One young man that I worked with his story made no sense of him. And as I would try to understand who he was there were these layers of his story that just didn’t make sense. And he was defensive. He was a fighter, he would be little me because it made him feel better about himself. He had to elevate himself. He came across as so prideful, and so confident yet he was so broken. As I worked with this young man, I saw how the gospel would rewrite his own story. The Gospel became this narrative that superseded all of the other narratives in his life. Secondly, the gospel gives us categories. The Gospel gives us categories. The life narrative for the abuse is a problem. Because they don’t have categories for abuse. The abuse doesn’t fit into the story that they tell themselves. Rather, it lives alongside as I have already mentioned, in the Gospel. We have categories for abuse, oppression, and evil. Somebody treated you as if you were not an image bearer of God. And they therefore lied to you about who God is and they lied to you about who you are. We’ve got clear categories. As Ecclesiastes he is laments the powerlessness of the abuse they are under the power of the oppressor. It says. The Gospel says there is another power that supersedes that power. There is a greater power that is going to bring justice to the abuser Gods Raph will be poured out on their heads. And someone what might say, well, what if they become a Christian? What if they are forgiven? Does that mean they are let off the hook? No, it means that Jesus took every single bit of God’s wrath for the sin that was committed against you. Isaiah 53 three, He was despised and rejected by mankind. In verses seven and an eight. It says that he was led like a lamb to the slaughter listen to this justice was denied him. His life was taken away. But the irony is that God was not out of control. He still had power. It was all God’s plan. It was his remedy. God would provide a substitute for the center. For years and years as you know, Israel would offer bowls and goats but they never took away the problem of sin in verses five and six of Isaiah 53. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his wounds, we are healed All we like sheep have gone astray we have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. The Gospel gives us categories of evil, and justice and redemption. If I could put it the way Saul Fenn put it of 20 schemes in a song we long for that day he says this. He says, but there is hope for all who trust in Jesus. For all who know forgiveness in his name, he faced the wrath deserved by ruin sinners, to save us from our anger, fear and shame.
Joel Kurz : The key here is Time, time. It takes time to heal. And as pastors and ministry leaders, we’ve got so much on our plate, we just want a quick fix. We just want to give somebody the answer the solution, we just want them to get over it, but you can’t get over memories. You see the gospel rewrites our stories over time, gives us new categories over time, and therefore then gives us the courage to face our memories. And that’s my third point the gospel gives us courage. Your presence alone offers companionship, but the gospel gives them courage. As Tim Keller recently put it, in an interview, he said, If Jesus rose from the dead, then that means that everything really will be okay. It means that all of the lesser problems of life as big as they are can be faced with courage. That leads me to my last and final point, and that is this the gospel deals with shame. In abuse, they were told that they are not worthy. And this shame sticks with them. the shame of being deprived the shame of nakedness the shame of powerlessness, the shame of weakness, the shame of bearing guilt, Jackie Hill, Perry said on her own abuser, as he as she came to understand the gospel. She said his evil was not my own. The abuse need to be released of the shame. And the gospel has the power to do that to rewrite our categories to our story to give us categories to give us the courage to face the memories and then to deal with the shame. Think about it. Jesus was naked. He was mocked. He was ridiculed spit on. Hebrews 12 two says that Jesus fixed his eyes for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross. And the next line is what despising the shame. Why did he do it for the joy of redeeming people to himself. He despised the shame. Notice it doesn’t say that Jesus, Jesus enjoyed the shame. It doesn’t say that Jesus even just simply dealt with the shame. It says that he despised the shame. Oh, Jesus knew shame. Peter denied him. He was stripped of his clothing. He was told. He was told by the world that he is utterly worthless. Maybe he knew he knew shame more than any of us. But he hated it. And he hated it so much he dealt with it. JOHN Piper elaborates on this despising the shame and he says it’s as if Jesus is saying, Listen to me shame. Do you see that joy in front of me? compared to that you are less than nothing? You are not worth comparing to that I despise you. You think you have power compared to the joy before me you have none. Joy, joy, joy, that is my power. Not you shame. You are worthless and powerless. You think you can distract me I won’t even look at you. I have set a joy before me. Why would I look at you? You are ugly and despicable and you are almost finished. You cover me now with a shroud before you can say so there. I will throw you off like a filthy rag I will put on my royal robe you think you are great. Because even last night You made my disciples run away. You are a fool shame. You are despicable. That abandonment that loneliness this cross these tools of yours they’re all sacred suffering and will save my disciples not destroy them. You are a full, your filthy hands fulfill holy prophecy farewell shame is finished a man. In conclusion, the gospel heals damage done by abuse. As it rewrites our stories, it gives us new categories, as it gives us courage to face the memories as it deals with shame. Over time, abuse is a piece of your story, but it doesn’t define you. You see the gospel doesn’t take away the abuse. But it frames how we carry it. Amen. Can I close with prayer? Matthew, Let’s pray. Father, we thank you that the gospel has the power to bring us to the Comforter, to bring us to the refuge of Jesus Christ and to heal us. Father, I pray for any in this room here who may be abused dealing with past abuse. I pray that their shame would be destroyed as they look to Christ that they would find comfort in the ref in Christ the refuge. Father, I pray if there is an abuser in this room, that you would convict them now that they would expose themselves. Take that to the cross, turn themselves in and find the help and the hope that they need. I pray for those in this room who are companions of the abuse that they would walk slowly that there would be a healthy church developed and that the gospel would bring the power of healing that is needed. It’s in Jesus name we pray amen.