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Beauty for My Ashes

Susan M. Clabaugh


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Over the last year, I have come to realize something most would have thought I knew a long time ago. God truly does love me. However, because of the way I was treated growing up, due to the sexual assaults and abuse, and the emotional toll it took on my heart and mind, I could not grasp it. I could not understand God loved me. How could God love me? I had been used and was of no use to anyone. Definitely not a promising wife and mother. Who would want “used goods"?

I grew up in the church. I kept the abuse I was dealing with hidden from everyone. I accepted Christ into my life at 17. I was a youth group leader, taught youth camps during summers in college, attended a respectable Christian college, and went on mission trips to Houston, Texas and Belarus. I also taught youth Sunday school and Bible school once I graduated college. I told so many people God loved them, how could I not know He loved me? 

The past nine years as the memories of my abuse and the sexual assaults returned, and I have been working through them, I have questioned God’s love. How does a God who loves someone allow sexual assault and abuse to happen? If God loves me, why am I now missing out on life and reliving my past? Why am I not raising the family I always wanted? How come I am stuck on disability living paycheck to paycheck with no retirement fund and no career? Yet everyone else my age is enjoying their families and life. 

A God who loves you would not allow these things to happen. Except, He does. He does not like it. He loathes it. It is the sin of the world which causes the pain I am experiencing. God allows man to have free will. It is the free will of man which allowed me to endure the pain and abuse God did not intend, resulting in the grief I am now experiencing, recovering from the abuse I endured. Until Christ comes again, and we live in this world, evil will continue and Satan will do his best to use it to get us to believe his lies.

I realized a few months ago I had let Satan convince me God did not love me. I was trying to rewrite a children’s book I wrote in college about God’s love. I rewrote the book and it was beautiful. A wonderful picture of God’s love for His children. Except, the problem was: I didn’t believe it. How could I attempt to publish a book I myself did not believe? I wanted little girls and boys to read and believe God loved them, but I could not accept God loved me. 

I set the book aside and I prayed for God to show me how He loved me. God answered me with more than I expected. He showed me: He provided me with a Christian trauma therapist who, for the past nine years, has walked this long journey of healing with me, and promises to continue walking it to the end. I also began to come across Bible verses about God’s love for me. God brought an old friend back into my life who constantly tells me she and God both love me. God had an older lady at my new church come up to me one Sunday, out of the blue, and tell me God told her to tell me He loved me and so did she. I cannot deny God worked in these circumstances. Little by little, God revealed He loves me. 

Then, a couple of days ago, a friend of mine told me someone reminded her “beauty for ashes” from Isaiah.  “--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,” (a NIV) I thought to myself, my life is a huge pile of ashes. 

Yesterday, I finished reading a Christian fiction novel. Continually throughout the book, the main character referred to “beauty for ashes”.  Her life had not turned out like she had hoped. Similar to how I feel about mine. I do not believe it was a coincidence I was reading this book, but, divine intervention. The author ended the book with the quote “beauty for ashes” and it fit. It fit not just the character’s life, but my own.

I realized God wants to turn my life of ashes into beauty. Being sexually abused and assaulted, and the road it has led me to travel, does not have to define me. Believing I am "used goods" and not wanted is a lie from Satan.

Because of my abuse, I have gone my entire life wondering if God loved me. I know now God loves me, but I’m still not quite ready to fully accept it in my heart and mind. I suspect there are many survivors who can relate to my dilemma. However, knowing God loves me, I know He also understands. He will love me whether I accept it now or later. 

I do know, when I am ready, God will give me “beauty for my ashes”.  

Copyright © Susan M. Clabaugh 2017, used with permission.

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About The Author

Susan M.

Susan M. Clabaugh lives in Missouri. She is a childhood sexual abuse and assault survivor who is still on her recovery journey. She writes a blog called “Restoring the Soul: Meditations for Survivors of Sexual Assault”, to encourage others on their journey in healing from sexual abuse and assault. She loves to write, read, sew dresses for girls in Liberia, work in her church's food pantry, and tutor reading students. Susan taught elementary school for 11 years and has her Master’s degree in teaching. She won third place for her children’s story at the Heart of America Christian Writer’s