desperate, abuse, forgiveness, mercy, redeemed, redemption

God has heard the cry of women throughout history. Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God’s redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.

Throughout the holiday season a song by Pentatonix has been playing both in my home and on the radio called “Good to Be Bad.” If you are a fan of the group, I’m sure you’ve heard it. It’s a fun tune that causes a smile to light your face – I imagine kids love it for its message! In fact, my husband has teased me throughout the season, saying it reminds him of me. I can’t imagine where he would get that idea!

Nevertheless, despite the silliness around the song, it spurred me to ruminate over the bad girls of the Bible, as Liz Curtis Higgs named them in her 2013 book. To be honest, it further spurred me. My thoughts first turned in that direction in early December when our pastor preached a sermon from Genesis 38 about Tamar, a daughter-in-law of Judah.

Now ladies, let’s be clear; I am a Baptist girl, raised in a Southern Baptist church, attended 2 Baptist colleges, even a short stint at Southern Seminary, so let’s just say that I had heard of Tamar. I practically drowned in Biblical theology and doctrine! But let me tell you girlfriends, this gal had never heard, at least not in my remembrance, that for Tamar, it was good to be bad.

How do I know?

Check out the lineage of Jesus…she’s there, a couple of lines above Rahab, the harlot.

In fact, as my pastor, Jamaal Williams, was stating, Jesus’ heritage is comprised of the very people He came to save! In addition, Pastor Jamaal reminded me of an important truth, which I believe conservative Christians too often forget when we become wrapped up in the doctrine of the “Thou Shalt Not’s“: God is tenaciously for vulnerable women, regardless of their pasts.

You see, Tamar had been chosen to be the wife of Judah’s firstborn son, Er. No falling in love or courtship there…still isn’t acceptable today in many middle eastern countries, by the way.  However, and this is difficult for us to grasp, God chose to kill him because Er was evil in His sight, (Genesis 38:6-7). It’s very likely Tamar was abused.

As was the custom, Tamar was then given to Judah’s next son, Onan, so that Er could have an heir. Turns out, (shocker), Onan had no desire to perform such a selfless act and allowed his seed to fall on the ground. Did he really think God couldn’t see in the dark? This angered God, so he killed Onan.


No sons left to give; the last one was too young…and truly, the apples hadn’t fallen far from the tree. Despite the honored cultural tradition of levirate marriage, Judah had no plan to give his last son to Tamar, even though it would bring destitution and shame to her life. He didn’t want that son to die, too!

And we thought #MeToo was a new thing.

Years passed, Tamar waited, no husband was forthcoming. What’s a girl to do when she is treated unjustly? She devises a plan…and what a plan it was!

Desperate: Self-Protection

I recommend you read the story in its entirety, but to condense it: Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute, tricked Judah into sleeping with her, and conceived a child. When he was first told that Tamar was pregnant, he wanted to have her burned alive. I kid you not; such was his self-righteousness and double standard of justice. However, when Tamar sent Judah proof that he was the father, uh-oh! He began to feel shame and rightly so.  He said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.”

Wouldn’t you have loved to see his face when Judah received that 11×14 envelope of proof?

This can be confusing, however. Tamar’s actions were not an act of faith, but sin. Out of desperation, she took matters into her own hands instead of trusting God to provide for her. However, Judah had power over her and chose to abuse it. For reasons we don’t fully grasp, God forgave her and used one of her sons (she had twins!) to carry the seed forward in the line that led to Christ.

Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God's redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.

Desperate: God’s Redemption

God chooses to use weak and complex people to accomplish His will. Again, refer to the genealogy of Jesus. He doesn’t excuse our sin- there must be repentance (Psalm 86:4-5), but He uses ALL things, even the consequences of our sin, to accomplish His glory (Isaiah 46:8-10).

Rejoice the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

Psalm 86:4-5, NKJV

In many societies today women are still treated as property, no better than dogs, really. It’s easy to judge those cultures as backward or archaic.  Yet, in the U.S. 4,774,00 women experience domestic violence by an intimate partner every day. America’s abuse of women has just been more subtle and hidden…but not from the Father.

God hates injustice and watches over the needy, the fatherless and the widow. His Word speaks clearly concerning these issues; I’m only naming two due to space (Deut. 10:18-19; Isaiah 10:1-2). When we turn our backs to these groups and gather in our Christian huddles for more Bible studies, prayer meetings, or leadership trainings, I wonder if the Father grieves, as Gene Edwards posited in his 1993 book, The Divine Romance. (There is a place for equipping; of course there is, but let us equip ourselves in order to go, not to sit and simmer.)

My prayer for you this year is the same for me, that as we love Jesus more deeply, His love will flow through us to the needy, the abused, the fatherless and the widow…and whomever He places in our paths.

Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God's redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.

If you have interest in the books mentioned, please consider purchasing them through these affiliate links. A small portion will go to help support this ministry at no extra cost to you (to read more about affiliates see the disclaimer page):

Bad Girls of the Bible

The Divine Romance

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Living through abuse may result in desperate actions to protect ourselves, but God's redemption covers our messes and can bring Him glory.

Joel Filipe

We all have messes in our lives.
If we allow Him to, God will redeem our stories and make them beautiful.

loved, pursued, redeemed, beautiful, enough

About the author
I’m a happy wife, loving mom of 3, and adoring grandmother of 6, and owner of an adorable Cocker Spaniel. I began blogging in 2016, when, in the midst of completing a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, I began radiation treatment for breast cancer. It became a good outlet for me to connect with other survivors and a good way to let friends and family know what I was experiencing.

Life is a journey full of interesting, surprising, heartbreaking and fun things.

Comments (22)

  1. I haven’t read that story in a while. What a great story of God and how he uses all things for His plan and purpose. I can understand taking things into your own hands…I am guilty of such. Although I am all the more grateful for God and his patience with me.

    For women in horrible situations, my heart cries out for them. I survived some difficult childhood situations and God is using that in my life to help others.

    1. I always feel privileged to hear from someone who has overcome tough, even tragic situations through the love of Christ. Believe me, we all have wounds, and we each, in one way or another, have attempted our own way through them to healing with messy results.
      However, after suffering deep wounds in childhood, trusting Christ can feel like stepping off the abyss. Thank you for allowing God to use you and redeem those experiences by helping others.

  2. My first encounter with Tamar was reading Francine Rivers’ novella on her. I remember pitying her and then thinking, “She did what?!” when she got pregnant under shady circumstances. And God used her mightily. We have an Advocate, even when we think there’s no other way.

    1. Right?! She was so audacious in her desperation! Yet, the Father showed abundant mercy and love to her. He sees every angle of every situation when we see so very little…even more reason to trust Him.

  3. When we’re desperate, we can try to take things into our own hands. We mess them up even worse. If we wait for God, He can turn bad things around.
    I have Liz Curtis Higg’s book on my wishlist! Great post!

    1. Thanks, Julie! I’ve made many situations worse by rushing in to ‘help’ God along. (Groan) so grateful for His mercy and grace!

  4. Oh how we can muddy our own waters so much more with our decisions. Thank goodness God can make them clean again! The story of Tamar is such a great example of God’s ability to use all things for His glory.

  5. Don’t you just love how God uses EVERYTHING for good? He is in the business of redeeming and can make beauty from ashes. The Bible has such crazy stories sometimes because we have such crazy stories and a propensity to sin. I am so grateful for his tender love and grace!

    1. Amen, sister! Beauty from ashes is the perfect phrase!
      I wonder sometimes if God allowed some of these seemingly outlandish stories to show us we can never go so far that He can’t redeem us…

  6. I think the old saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” sadly fits here, looking at both Genesis and society today. No matter what happens in life we should seek God’s will and have him heal and carry us out of the situation we are facing or in. As dark of a story as this was the lineage of Christ can be tracked through Judah and Tamar. God redeemed something evil and brought good from it. However that doesn’t mean what happened was good, in fact, it was quite the opposite.

    1. So true, Stephanie, the entire situation was ugly and sinful. Yet as you noted, God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, chose to allow redemption’s story to flow through Judah and Tamar.

  7. This was a great post. Tamar really had a rough life and every time I read her story I think, “Yikes!” But as you pointed out, God used the situation, even with the abuse, the lies and deception. It just goes to show He is in control, all the way around. Thanks for sharing your insights. – Amy

  8. I read a reallly interesting book a few years ago called, “Through His Eyes” by Jerram Barrs. It addressed Tamar and other women in the Bible and how God used them. The chapter on Tamar was particularly compelling. I highly recommend it.

    1. Yes, Kristi, and most days, when I’m not navel-gazing or having a pity party about something minuscule, I am so very grateful.

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