Sexual Abuse: Beauty for Ashes [Book Review]

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Beauty for Ashes Book

An Honest, Biblical Depiction of the Damage Done
Sexual Abuse: Beauty for Ashes is one in a series of six new booklets from The Gospel for Real Life Series. Written by Dr. Bob Kellemen, the booklet serves as an invaluable resource because oftentimes as a counselor it feels there are few biblically-based resources on sexual abuse. As a booklet, it is not intended to be an exhaustive resource, but at the same time it still provides a thorough examination of the sexual abuse of Tamar from 2 Samuel 13 demonstrating how the Bible speaks to this type of suffering in our lives.

The audience of this booklet is fairly diverse. Written for pastors, counselors, educators and people in need of care; it is geared toward believers who are ready to start talking about the abuse they have suffered and their responses to the abuse in their lives. This booklet could be used for individual counseling as well as a resource for group counseling.

A key strength of this booklet is an honest depiction of damage done to the sexual abuse victim, Tamar, in 2 Samuel 13. Kellemen takes us through four “journeys of destruction.” These demonstrate how Satan works to attempt to destroy those that have suffered this abuse including the destruction of trust, hope, peace, and love. The author highlights the spiritual battles like this:

“Satan is shrewd. He knows that God built us to trust Him. He also knows that because of the fall, our inclination is to trust ourselves or anyone and anything but God. So Satan loves to feed our distrust of God with betrayal by those who ought to be trustworthy. He wants faith to look foolish” (p. 12).

We get a glimpse into the disgrace, humiliation, and desolation resulting from the incestuous sexual abuse Tamar suffered. The reader is better informed as to how the victim feels as a result of what has taken place: powerless, relational struggles, emotional shut down, a struggle or lack of desire to trust anyone again—including God. This is important for the counselor who has not personally experienced this type of abuse to know how to better sympathize and understand their counselee’s struggles. It also serves as a connecting point for victims of sexual abuse that are reading this booklet to know that God’s Word speaks to their pain and suffering. Kellemen points out that the “Bible teaches us that sexual abuse is ultimately spiritual abuse—it attacks us body and soul” (p. 11).

A Hope-Giving, Biblical Depiction of Gospel-Saturated Care

Another strength of Sexual Abuse: Beauty for Ashes is its emphasis on the need for God’s grace in the efforts of healing and recovery. As the author writes, “grace is God’s prescription for our disgrace…[it’s] God’s medicine of choice for our suffering and sin” (p. 9). With an in-depth examination of 2 Samuel 13, as well as other pertinent passages, the reader is presented with a biblical view through which to examine such suffering and hope for the future.

As counselors who seek to point people back to Christ and His Word, it is important as we gain a real view of the victim’s experience, that we also help the counselee be able to examine their story through the lens of Scripture—that the Bible offers us hope in our suffering. God cares about their suffering, He knows their suffering, is present with them and us in our suffering, and grants them and us healing and restoration through Jesus Christ.

The reader is not left with an ending destroyed by Satan, but rather, we are shown four new aspects for the healing journey where the victims can become victors in Christ Jesus resulting in beauty for ashes. A quick summary of these restored journeys includes:

  • Sustaining Faith: Preserving Trust in the Midst of Doubt
  • Healing Hope: Clinging to the Goodness of God in the Midst of the Badness of Life
  • Reconciling Peace: Receiving Christ’s Grace in the Midst of Our Disgrace
  • Guiding Love: Offering Beauty in the Midst of Ashes

It is important to note that the author explains, “Victory does not mean the memories are wiped away…Instead, victory involves a lifelong journey with Christ and the body of Christ” (p. 20). It is also helpful how the author warns the reader/counselor not to victimize the victim by encouraging more denial as Absalom did with Tamar (2 Samuel 13:20; 23), to listen to the victim’s fears, depression, and struggles wholeheartedly, and to share in their sorrow and grief (pp. 23-24).

Through active empathy, we are then able to help the victim embrace God and be embraced by God in his or her loss. Trust has been built with the counselor and so we help the counselee learn to trust God again. As this trust is restored, the victim learns to apply the gospel to their suffering, “What is a grace-based response to those who have abused you?” while also considering their own possible sinful responses to their abuse and experience God forgiveness (p. 29).

Grace Is God’s Prescription for Our Disgrace

Throughout this powerful booklet, the reader is also provided with questions to discuss with the counselee during the process of damage assessment and in working toward healing. The reader who is a victim of sexual abuse is encouraged to remember who he or she is in Christ and that what Satan intended for evil God has been weaving together for good. His prescription for our disgrace is His grace (p. 37). We have the indispensible and grace-filled God as our Resource for what may seem to be an overwhelming process of healing (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

Review originally posted on The Biblical Counseling Coalition website. Used with Permission.

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