As I have shared on this blog, I just completed training to be a victims advocate. I am so thankful the Lord has entrusted me with this ministry. Today, I spent time with a Christian women who had just escaped a domestic violence situation. While I was sitting with her and holding her hand at the hospital, I was heartbroken for her and heartbroken for all the women who find themselves in this situation. This is a situation, I am all to familiar with myself. I thought of my heavenly Father and how his heart must break each time one of his precious daughters is hurt.
I am hearing stories of so many Christian husbands and wives who are hurting each other. I have recently been privy to intimate details of one Christian marriage after another where someone was being desperately hurt by their spouse. Desperate women with nowhere to turn who are suffocating emotionally and not getting the help that they are begging for.
Emotional abuse is defined as “an attitude of entitlement and profound disrespect that discounts at every turn the inherent right of the other person to dignity, separateness and autonomy. Out of entitlement and disrespect spring various overt behaviors that use anger, violence and/or contempt to induce fear, guilt and shame. The other person is controlled, punished or demeaned.”
Harsh words and selfish actions, coming from the person who vowed to love you like no one else, kills a spirit slowly and methodically. The woman living within this kind of relationship, especially long term, begins to lose track of reality. What is truth? Am I actually crazy? Am I really an idiot? Maybe if I did this, things would get better? Maybe if I prayed more, cooked better, spent less, served more, spoke less, I wouldn’t deserve to be treated this way? Or perhaps, I really do deserve this. Perhaps, it’s not that bad. Perhaps, this is what God has called me to.
What does this do to your heart when your spouse is constantly yelling and disregarding your worth? Making you feel unloved and constantly hurting you? Can you imagine this? Can you picture your spouse doing any of these things to you?
I can tell you from experience living within an abusive relationship is a slippery slope. I knew things were difficult, but I was blind to how wrong it all had really become. Especially, since, I am a survivor of long term childhood sexual abuse, my perspective on how I should be treated is was somewhat skewed. Compounded by the fact that I loved my husband, still do and care very much for his spiritual life. Being together two decades, is hard to not care about the person.
These thoughts just scratch the surface of a hugely controversial topic. If you or someone you love is in this kind of situation, please get help. There may not be a black eye, but a heart is being broken a little more each day.
There is no place among the followers of Jesus for violence or harsh words, for sexual manipulation (withholding), or for making threats. Blaming tiredness or stress, or never wanted marry her does not cut it. There is NEVER an excuse for this type of behavior. These things are symptoms of a deeper issue in your heart. All such abuse is inexcusable, a betrayal of the standard set for husbands by the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you are abusing the family that God has entrusted to your care, then the issue is not with the Bible, but your refusal to trust and believe what it says.
The model for marriage that the Bible offers is good and beautiful. It depicts man and woman as complementary; it upholds the dignity of both; their equality and their differences. It takes its pattern from the person of Jesus Christ who loved his bride, the church, and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25).
I shared an open letter to my ex-husband on my last post. It was not posted to hurt or through bitterness, but to educate to tell my story and more importantly, to hopefully bring him into repentance. It is however, frustrating, when you try to go thru the proper channels, by notifying the church and counselors, but come up empty. With the church, I was told, first to pray for my husband. The second said “well you claim he is abusive, why would you want reconciliation.” Because his spiritual life is at stake. With the counselor, we were both told to write a letter detailing the abuse, including any unforgiveness or bitterness. When my husband read my letter his response was “If that is the way you feel about me I am outta here, I won’t bother you again.” He then filed for divorce. Even though I was doing what the counselor asked me to. I was hoping he would see his sin and like Isaiah 6 say before God…Whoa, I am a man of unclean lips. Sadly, he did not give counseling a chance and was ask to leave it.
One of our major problems was submission, if he felt I was not submissive, he would lock me in a room shouting scriptures. What he and many fail to realize is Headship is not wielding power over another, but is the exercise of responsibility, in love, for the fulfillment of others. Submission is not the forced subjugation of one person to a cruel authoritarian, like my example, but a choice freely made to honor a person and acknowledge the weight of the responsibility God has placed on their shoulders. (And it is precisely because of that responsibility that the Bible places on husbands that it takes abuse and family violence so seriously.) If you stood before the Lord and promised to love your spouse and were joined in marriage. There is NO excuse for this kind of behavior, no matter what circumstances brought you into the marriage, or lack of love. The Lord desires obedience, the covenant you made to THIS spouse, is what the Lord cares about.
Revealing abuse, in whatever context it is taking place, is necessary.
Warning: If you are an abuser then there is no road to salvation that does not involve the bright light of truth shining into your heart and onto your behavior. Mercifully, the God who is against us in our arrogance and violence is also full of mercy when we turn toward him in humility and begin the long, hard road of repentance. Repentance means the action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse. contrition, penitence, the abuser needs to make himself right with God and the person he harmed. If he does not make things right with the person he harmed there is NO TRUE REPENTANCE. If there is no true repentance, he will abuse again.
The bible talks about true love in 1 Corinthians 13 makes it obvious that emotional abuse is wrong. The apostle Paul describes the actions of real love. First, he says love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4). Emotional abuse is neither patient nor kind but instead is quick to flare up at small offenses. Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (verse 5), but emotional abuse is all about pointing out how another person is wrong in everything she does, so as to protect the ego of the abuser. Love is not rude or selfish or prideful or irritable or resentful—all unfortunate qualities of emotional abuse. Instead, love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (verse 7). Sadly, it is the loving person—the one who loves unconditionally—who is most often the target of emotional abuse. She is the one the abuser vilify’s at the end.
According to the Bible’s definition of love, should an emotional abuser be silently tolerated? Does love require that one overlook the abuse and “persevere” through the pain? The answer to both these questions is “no.” There are loving options other than tolerating the status quo. Abuse is a learned behavior, and if we allow it to happen and continue, we are in fact accepting it. We cannot and should not accept verbal or emotional abuse, for at least two reasons: it dishonors the Lord and it often escalates to physical abuse.
Abusing someone emotionally is not the behavior of a person walking in fellowship with the Lord. How does a relationship deteriorate to the point of emotional abuse? Somewhere along the way there was a failure to obey God’s commands regarding your relationship (see Ephesians 5:21). It takes two people to make a relationship, and each side is to have his or her own fellowship with God through Christ and to be actively choosing to honor God and one another. Without that fellowship with God, and without that commitment to honoring each other, there will be a relationship breakdown.
Any relationship with emotional abuse will eventually have to choose one of three paths: one, the abuser admits fault, sees his behavior as harmful, and changes; two, the abused person walks away, at least temporarily; or, three, the abuse is allowed to continue indefinitely, to the harm of both parties. The latter is what was allowed to happen in my marriage.
My point is this; the abuser will only find healing and forgiveness through genuine repentance and calling on the Lord. Second Corinthians 7:10 says that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” The difference between godly grief and worldly grief is repentance. A person who truly understands the nature of his sin will be able to feel grief that leads to repentance and salvation and a clear conscience.
I learned through my recent failed marriage that we cannot make choices for someone else. We cannot stop someone’s emotional abuse. That is a choice that the abuser must make. But we can refuse to accept the abuse without arguing or making demands. The most extreme cure for emotional abuse is separation (see 1 Corinthians 7:5). A separation from the abuser can allow time to seek godly counsel from a pastor or biblical counselor so that spiritual balance can be introduced into the relationship and reconciliation can occur. In my case my husband chose the easy road and chose to divorce me, instead of facing his sin. He still feels that I blew things out of proportion, his words. Even though I was hospitalized right after I left with an emotional breakdown from his abuse.
Regardless of the choices that your abuser makes, we can make the choice to obey God and honor Him in our lives. Accepting the abuse is not the way to go.
The human viewpoint is that we can do “something” to change things. The Word of God tells us that only doing things God’s way brings peace that lasts.
The Lord has shown me, through my advocacy and through my experience that I do have something to offer to my precious sisters who are victims of abuse. I can pray. We can pray together. After all, I understand this is an intense spiritual battle. The enemy loves contention and abuse in marriages. I realize, I don’t have all of the answers. But, I can come along side and counsel those who are finding there-selves in this horrible position.
Please join me in praying for those who are abused. And, please for those who abuse, please pray for my ex-husband for his heart and repentance, not for me, but for his spiritual life. That he would break this cycle and not hurt another women.
Let’s surround these who are hurting so much with the power of God and of prayer together!
You alone are the sovereign God of the universe. You are the Creator of the universe. You hold every star, planet, comet, molecule in Your powerful hands. You alone are God – there is no other. You are the Wonderful Counselor. You are the Mighty God Who Saves. You are our Rock. You are our Fortress. You are the only source of truth and love. You possess all wisdom. You possess all understanding. Nothing escapes your notice. If we rise to the heavens, You are there. If we make our bed in the depths of the grave, You are there. Where can we flee from Your presence? You are everywhere. You are all-knowing. You are all-powerful. You will accomplish Your good purposes.
How we praise You that no human, no demon, no power or principality can ever thwart Your plans. No sinner is beyond Your reach. No human evil is too great for the blood of Jesus to overcome. The blood of Christ is able to cleanse all of our sin. We are all in desperate need of Christ. You are more than sufficient for us!
You love marriage Lord. You love families. You hate divorce. You hate all sin. You hate violence. You hate people hurting one another in any way – spiritually, emotionally, mentally, financially, physically, or sexually. You long for every marriage to represent the intimacy between Christ and His church, to bring You great glory. It is the enemy who wants to rob, kill, and destroy each of us, our marriages, and our families. Let us cooperate with You to heal and bless marriages, let us never cooperate with the enemy!
Lord, we lift up some very broken and hurting marriages and families to You today. We lay them at Your feet in heaven before You Father, the Most High God. We cannot fix these precious people for whom Christ died. We cannot heal them. But You absolutely can. They are not beyond Your reach. Wives cannot fix abusive husbands in their own power, wisdom, and strength. We cannot even fix or save ourselves. But You are the God who saves! You are the God who heals! You are able to change people by the power of Your Spirit working in them. You are able to turn wretched sinners into holy saints! You are able to change a person’s nature completely. You are able to destroy sin and death – Jesus already has done so on the cross! You are able to radically change sinners and evil people and broken, hurting people into people who demonstrate the very heart and mind of Christ. In Jesus, there is NEW LIFE! The old has gone, the new has come! In Jesus, You are able to make anyone a NEW CREATION! How we praise and thank You for this amazing miracle!
We lift up those who are being or have been abused by their husbands. We lift up those who are experiencing severe problems in their marriages. The spiritual, emotional, and mental damage that true abuse causes is so very devastating, Lord. And it is so rampant today. How my heart breaks and how I just weep for those who are being (or have been) mistreated – whether as children or as adults or both Father. I know that Your heart is greatly grieved over this oppression and cruelty. This is not Your will for anyone. You want all of us to have godly families that are healthy, vibrant, and flourishing. You desire all of us to walk in obedience to Your ways. You are a holy God. You cannot tolerate any sin. You will not ignore the cries of victims and You will not ignore the sin of abusers. You desire justice.You do not ever condone any sin.
Some of these precious people are hurting so very much, Father. The wounds are grievous. Draw them to Yourself. “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18. I pray that each one of these dear souls will find her worth in Christ. I pray that they will each find Your healing mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually. I pray that You might provide the resources they need, the wisdom of God, and the power of Your Spirit. I pray that You might help them to take each thought captive for Christ. Help them to see any lies they are embracing from the enemy of their souls. Set them free from spiritual oppression. Let them see that the chains that have bound them fallen away and that the dungeon door is open. Help them find freedom, joy, peace, power, and healing in Christ! Help them to have power over the wrong thoughts and ungodly ideas that hold them captive through Your truth and Your Spirit. How I pray that You might heal their wounds and bind up their broken hearts and let them stand firm in Christ. Let them know their worth in Christ! Amen