Susanna: Group Study Guide
Women and the Old Testament: Jesus’ Heart for Women Who’ve Suffered Abuse
Week 6: Monday March 29nd - Saturday April 3rd
Important note for the group leader:
If you decide to use this guide as a jumping off point for group discussion, it may be a good idea to first ask the participants to commit to a confidentiality agreement that makes sense for your group. It may also benefit the group to set up some ground rules about listening, respect and affirmation of experiences and feelings. This content can be incredibly personal and potentially re-traumatizing for some. A warning about the potential for traumatic topics should be given and discernment and reflection should be encouraged for each group member to be certain they are ready to process this kind of information in a group setting. My prayer is that you grow greatly and feel deeply encouraged by the material in this study. And that each person who participates feels more seen, known and loved by God in the process!
Thank you that we have the ability to read about and learn from Susanna’s story today. Thank you that we are not alone as people who aren’t always believed, or who struggle despite doing all the things right. Help us to hear one another well today, with respect and dignity. Help us have sensitive spirits to what you have for us in this time. Thank you for the community, and how you use the church to come to our aid. Holy Spirit, empower and lead this time as we faithfully seek you in our search for wisdom, discernment and encouragement. Amen.
This week we learned about Susanna. Her story is found in the Apocrypha in the protestant tradition and is found at the end of the book of Daniel in the Catholic and Eastern church traditions. Susanna was a wealthy woman who although was well connected and known to be an upstanding woman, she was manipulated by two elders and judges of the court when she refused to have sex with them. As retaliation, they falsely accused her of adultery with another man and she was put on trial for death. Just when she was sentenced and all looked bleak, the faithful young Daniel, (pre lions den), spoke up when prompted by the Holy Spirit. His method of discerning the truth of the matter saved Susanna’s life.
Here are six takeaways from the study this week:
- Susanna’s story is unfortunately very familiar to women who have experienced attacks today. She was traumatized and later not believed for her side of the story.
- Susanna was trapped by her attackers and cornered into a situation that she could not get herself out of on her own. Women today find themselves in similar stuations whether its a college student cornered by her date who believes he has the right to her after a night out, or if it is a woman caught between poverty and sex trafficking, women are still too often trapped into situations of sexsual exploitation.
- How we seek wisdom and discernment matters when abuse is reported. Victims must always be prioritized and protected. How churches go about seeking wisdom can often cause further harm to victims if not managed by a professional
- Although Susanna speaks out twice and Daniel speaks out when prompted by the Spirit, no one else speaks up for her, despite her good reputation. Hiding with the crowd is always easier than speaking out and taking a risk, even when lives are on the line.
- Addressing abuse does not make God uncomfortable, and God is not surprised by abusive actions made by powerful people. We should place ourselves where we can be advocates for those oppressed as Jesus does.
- We have the opportunity to speak up and be advocates as Daniel was for Susanna and speak out against violence and oppression that happens in our midst.
Questions for group reflection:
- Have you heard this story of Susanna before? Did you learn anything new from this story?
- What did Susanna’s story teach you about listening to women and how we prioritize who tells the story?
- How can we create spaces for people to report abuse?
- What is the church’s responsibility to be a safe place for people to come to seek advice and safety from a dangerous or traumatic event?
- What are steps the church can take to make sure they handle reports of abuse correctly?
- Has there ever been a time in your life where God asked you to step out on behalf of others in a way that felt risky to you?
- What questions or concerns do you have about Susanna and Daniel’s story? Does anything still bother you or leave you with questions?