Rid of My Disgrace: Small Group Discussion Guide

I wish there were no need for books like Rid of My Disgrace. I wish there was no such thing as sexual assault. But the ugly truth is that sexual assault does exist, and it is way too common. The statistics are jarring. “One in four women and one in six men are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime” (13).

Because this is a real and troubling part of our world, I am very thankful for Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s gospel-centered work in writing Rid of My Disgrace and now in the accompanying small group guide released April 15, 2015 by New Growth Press.

Justin Holcomb is a pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and director of the Resurgence. He is also an adjunct professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. His wife is a deacon at the church and counsels victims of sexual assault and trains leaders to care for those who have been victimized.

This book and the study guide are important because sexual assault is deeply painful and can leave victims feeling shamed, humiliated, betrayed, mocked, lonely, silenced, and violated. The effects produce a deep internal trauma.

This book and study guide are written for those who have suffered and for Christian leaders who wish to help victims. Justin and Lindsey Holcomb write with tender care and wisdom. And I love that they write with their Bibles open. Rid of My Disgrace is divided into three sections: Disgrace, Grace Applied and Grace Accomplished. Group members will read through the book together and meet together for eight weeks to work through topics including: disgrace, grace, denial, self-image, shame, guilt, anger & fear, as well as hope.

The Holcombs begin by defining sexual assault broadly, it is.. “any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority” (28). This definition is important because some people don’t know they have been assaulted, and others excuse their symptoms as irrational. This definition challenges society’s overly narrow view of assault, expanding the spectrum of what is considered sexual assault.

Because so many have been sexually assaulted, Rid of My Disgace: Small Group Discussion Guide is “designed to facilitate a support group where individuals can come together, hear a short meditation focused on applying the gospel to their experience, and share openly about the abuse and trauma experienced.” The aim of this study guide isn’t to fix people, but to “offer a community where hurting Christians can come together and support one another by listening, grieving, and offering comfort” (2).

The authors work through topics like “disgrace,” which is a category that captures the essence of sexual abuse. “Disgrace destroys, causes pain, deforms, and wounds. It alienates and isolates” (15). The Holcombs show that “disgrace is the opposite of grace.” But they don’t stop there! They show the reader that, “Grace is love that seeks you out even if you have nothing to give in return. Grace is being loved when you are or feel unlovable. Grace has the power to turn despair into hope. Grace listens, lifts up, cures, transforms, and heals”(15). We have grace through the person of Jesus, who came to our isolation and disgrace.

This book seeks to tell the truth about assault in order to see victims walk forward in healing.The authors do this by extending God’s grace to the hurting, not with wishy-washy self-help ideas. They apply grace to six common results of sexual assault: denial, distorted self-image, shame, guilt, anger, and despair. Each chapter and week of study takes the reader straight to the cross and shows how the Gospel changes everything. Jesus can sympathize and heal no matter what has happened.

Again and again I was amazed at Jesus and how he brings grace to disgraced people. I was astounded that “the story of Jesus on the cross is a story of victimization and shame.” I love that Jesus became a “man of sorrows” and “acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3) because he can relate to our shameful experiences as “he was sentenced to death in the most shameful manner possible–naked and on a cross outside the city gates” (95). Jesus not only relates to victims, but He also paid for every sin committed in this manner. As the Holcombs said, “God is angrier over the sin committed against you than you are” (128). On the cross Jesus took the full wrath of God upon himself so that we could go free. By his wounds we are healed (Isa. 53).

I love how caring Rid of My Disgrace was, even though parts of this book took a bit of an academic tone. I love that the authors were so methodical and Biblical in approaching such a tough topic. I was profoundly helped, enlightened, and instructed by this book. My hope for the small group discussion guided is that people would find the support they need and that they would encounter Christ in the midst of their painful circumstances. This is a great resource for that.

Rid of My Disgrace is a powerful book that is saturated with Scripture. It highlights that “where darkness, death, and decay had reigned, Jesus breaks in with light, liberation, and love” (194). It views sexual assault through the lens of the Gospel and offers profound help to victims by extending Jesus’ hope and restoration to them. I believe this book and the study guide will serve victims and help church leaders and families better love and serve people who have been assaulted.