As tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought, “How can I ever give her the love she needs?”
As I held my beautiful newborn daughter for the first time an unfamiliar feeling flowed over me. As tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought, “How can I ever give her the love she needs? I don’t know what it feels like to be loved as I love her.” As Korine opened her eyes, I prayed, “Lord what kind of love is this?” How do I show her this kind of love?” My greatest wish was to show my daughter the love I never received. I wanted her to feel the depth of love that I felt at that moment.
To me, love meant abuse. Love meant pain, betrayal, and isolation.
As I look back on the experience, I understand why I felt so lost when it came to showing love to anyone, even my child. To me, love meant abuse. Love meant pain, betrayal, and isolation. For much of Korine’s childhood, I was a mess of depression and anxiety. As I journeyed through the darkness created by the abuse I endured as a child; I often could barely put one foot in front of another. I made mistakes. I felt helpless. Worry plagued me that I was a horrible mother. But in the midst of the chaos, somehow, Korine felt loved.
For some, associating the term love to God brings up fear and anger rather than peace and joy.
As the years passed, I constantly wondered: How could I love my daughter when I felt so unloved? How did I know about unconditional love? Sure, I considered the idea that the source was God, but I never completely believed He could love me or show me how to love someone else. I knew God loved my daughter, but could not comprehend His love for me. I experienced intense emotions associated with what I thought was God’s love, but seeds of doubt kept me from fully embracing the idea that God loved me. I had faith, but rationally, God’s unconditional love eluded me.
Eventually, I realized my story was common among survivors of childhood abuse. For many, scripture and faith may provide a level of healing. However, the idea that God could love them simply does not make sense, which makes accepting His love nearly impossible. While they can accept Christ and love God, many women need to understand how God could love them. Like me, they may believe that God loves others but struggle with being loved by Him. For some, associating the term love to God brings up fear and anger rather than peace and joy.
St. Thomas Aquinas provides answers to the question, “How can God love me and How can God love the person who hurt me?”
Fortunately, a medieval philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas provides much needed and reasonable answers to the survivor’s questions. “How can God love me and How can God love the person who hurt me?” St. Thomas answers the questions by skillfully marrying reason and faith in concise arguments that may help survivors understand the extent of God’s love.
St. Thomas begins by explaining what he means by God’s love, which helps eliminate the distorted view of love that survivors of sexual abuse often have of the term. According to St. Thomas, “God loves all existing things.” St. Thomas continues by explaining that because God’s will is the cause of all things, any existing thing exists because God willed that it should exist. From Genesis, we know that at the end of every day of creation, God looked out on what He had created and said, “It is good.” It is reasonable then to say that we are good just because we exist. Since according to St. Thomas, love means to will good, God loves all things, no matter what happens to you. God created you. Therefore He loves you.
Such a description may take some of the mystery out of the nature of God’s love. For a survivor who often views love as power, control or pain, considering the alternative that God’s love means that He wants only good for you may help you see God differently. He is not the father, uncle, cousin or brother that abused you. His expression of love means He wants the best for you, with nothing expected in return. He does not want to control you but wants you to experience unconditional love. Just as I experienced incredible love for Korine the day I held her for the first time, God loves me simply because I exist. The knowledge helps me understand that the kind of love the Father has for me is the love of a Creator for His creation.
 Peter Kreeft, A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica ; Edited and Explained (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 85.