Responding To Domestic Abuse

Recognizing and Responding to Domestic Abuse

Author:  Category: CounselingRelationships

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Because the image of God is sacred, an assault upon one of his image-bearers through domestic abuse is an attack upon God himself.

Smartly-dressed Mike and his wife Debbie walked into my office for their first session. One look at Debbie revealed that she had been crying, but was trying to hold it together. Mike exuded smug self-confidence. Debbie’s head hung low, Mike’s was held high. As they told their story, details began to emerge.

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Mike and Debbie were in their early thirties with two young boys, ages 2 and 4. Mike was an investment banker, Debbie a stay-at-home mom. When Debbie would share something in the session that made him look bad, one look from Mike would silence her, occasionally mid-sentence. During the session, Mike was calm and collected. As they told their story, it became clear that Mike would leave the family’s home early for work, often not returning until late into the evening. It was Debbie’s job to have dinner ready every evening at six, for at least herself and the children, but Mike felt himself under no obligation to attend dinner, and seldom did. Nor was he under any obligation to let Debbie know where he was or when he would be home. This was not her concern, he said.

In his words, Mike worked hard to provide a nice living and a nice home for them. If she was ungrateful for all he provided them, she could leave. If she did, he said, he would get the best lawyer money could buy and he would make sure that she and the kids didn’t get one penny more than he was obligated to give. He seemed completely, almost pathologically, at ease saying these words.

By all accounts Mike had never laid a hand on his wife or his children, at least so far. (He was seldom in close enough proximity to do so, frankly.) His abuse was entirely emotional and economic. The wife and children regularly attend a church in the area. The husband did not often attend. He didn’t see the need. Towards the end of the icy session, the husband declared, “Go ahead and tell the pastor how bad things are in our marriage. What can he do to help you?”

Over the years, I’ve heard many women say things like:

“I really wish that he would just go ahead and hit me. Then I would know what to do and I’d be able to get the church to help me get out.”

What I have described above is a case of verbal, emotional, psychological and economic abuse. And, though Mike hasn’t laid a hand on Debbie, she is being crushed by him. Brothers and sisters, this is a tragedy. And, sadly it is epidemic in the church.

Domestic abuse can be defined as the desecration of the image of God in one’s spouse or intimate partner through patterns of intentional misuse of power, overtly or covertly, in words or in actions, to gratify self. In the beginning, the Creator formed humankind in his own image (Gen 1:26-27). God breathed a soul having intrinsic worth and dignity into the man of dust (Gen 2:7), formed the woman from his side (Gen 2:21-23), blessed the man and the woman, and gave to them both dominion over the rest of the created order (Gen 1:28). As a desecration of the imago Dei, abuse is a violation of the inherent worth and dignity of the God-breathed human soul.

To “desecrate” is “to treat (a sacred place or thing) with violent disrespect.” Because the image of God is sacred, an assault upon one of his image-bearers is an attack upon God himself. Physical violence is tied to the imago Dei in Gen 9:6, “Whoever shed the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

But, the Scriptures also describe forms of violence that aren’t merely physical. Verbal assault is also tied to the image of God in James 3:7-9. Speaking of the tongue and its power, James asserts:

“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

Note the use of Genesis 1-2 language in James 3: “beast and bird”, “reptile and sea creature.” James references our creation mandate as image bearers who fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the rest of God’s creatures. Indeed, we have tamed and subdued the creatures of the earth successfully. Yet we use the most powerful of weapons, the tongues our Creator has graciously given to us to bless others, to verbally assault and curse those whom God has specially created in his likeness, all while blessing God simultaneously! What hypocrisy! How can we praise God and denigrate those who bear his image?

God has expressly told us how we are to use our words:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph 4:29)

Mike’s words tore down his wife, they were inappropriate, and they certainly did not give grace her – or to anyone. Mike had even mastered the use of non-verbal communication to incite fear and to control his wife.

Economic mistreatment of a husband and father to his family is just as abusive. Remember what Paul said to Timothy? “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim 5:8) Mike’s threats to withhold financial provision from his family placed him in a class that Paul called, “worse than an unbeliever.”

Abuse, in any form, overt or covert, in words or in actions, is an act of oppression against one’s spouse. It’s oppressive because it is a desecration of the image of God in the other person.

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble…he does not forget the cry of the afflicted” (Ps 9:9, 12)

“O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” (Ps 10:17-18)

God responds to the oppressed by hearing their cry and offering them safety. God responds to oppressors with justice. Shouldn’t God’s people respond in the same way?

1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical abuse at some point in their lifetime. Those who have experienced severe verbal, emotional, psychological and economic abuse at the hands of an oppressor are even more common. Statistically, there are several Mikes and several Debbies in your church. How will you care for them?

Greg Wilson holds two Masters of Arts degrees, in Marriage and Family Counseling and Christian Education, from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a Licensed Professional Counselor – Supervisor in the state of Texas, and is a featured Pre-Conference Workshop teacher at ABC’s 2017 National Conference, addressing this very issue of recognizing and responding to domestic abuse.

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I Need Your Direction Lord

 

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I have shared many times on my blog about my divorce and it’s aftermath. These past several weeks have been a bit difficult with regard to my attitude about my ex-husband.  I shared my sadness/anger of discovering he placed a praise the Lord and christian fish after his name on our divorce decree.  Compounded by the fact, that I work with Christian women who find themselves in abusive marriages, has made it even more difficult.  I realize daily that he desperately needs to change his heart so he does not abuse another women.  Truth is, I do not miss the man I was married to, but I do miss the best friend he was for years, before we married.  It is hard as a christian, you are told to fight for your marriage, which I did while we were separated even fight while the divorce is being processed.  Then the decree is final….then what?

I forgave him three years ago, but sometimes I still get annoyed with him. Especially, when every time I need to get a hold of him, I receive angry emails from his family attacking me. He acts like I am a non-person after 2 decades together… Funny, they are never from him, he just ignores me, he hides behind his family. It is such a paradox for me, professionally, I work to educate and stop domestic violence, then knowing that I personally know someone who needs help to stop their abusing behavior.

I’ve been pondering the whole response to an ex that needs help, do I just turn a blind eye and walk away or do I try my best to make sure he never hurts another women.  If he does, is it a blood on my hands kind of a thing.  I know that isn’t exactly accurate, but it is hard to see someone you loved living with a hard heart either. Of course, I am far from perfect, and I have my own issues, and only by the grace of God do I live.

I believe that God is showing me to just give him up to the Lord, period: in an attitude of love, goodness, blessing and prayer. My eyes focused not on my life, not on my circumstances, and not on the wrongs done to me, but rather focused with laser intensity on Jesus!

The verse that the Lord continually bringing me to is Luke 6:27-28:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

It seems harsh to refer to my ex-husband as my enemy … although sometimes it feels that way. I believe in my heart that he isn’t my enemy. I think I feel like I’m in a spiritual battle with him, but maybe we are more like opponents in a tennis match—but there’s definitely no love in the score.  Which makes me sad.

“Love your enemies.”

Awww, Lord. Really?

“Love … do good … bless … pray.”

Love him? Love him. Really?

What does that even look like? ‘Cause I did that for a long time and it ended up almost destroying me. I ended up abused, used and thrown away like thrash, notified he was divorcing me by email.  Love the person who put praise the Lord and a christian fish on our divorce decree?  So I’m praying as I write because I really don’t know what that looks like.

Talking about love always reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is:

Patient, kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice in wrongdoing, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Am I patient with God’s dealing with my situation and my ex? Am I kind in the face of my ex’s attitudes, accusations and actions? Am I rude when I could choose to be kind? Do I insist that things go my way regardless of God’s plan? Am I irritable and resentful? (Ugh. Definitely.) I do not believe I rejoice in my ex’s wrongdoings, but maybe I do a bit when it’s me trying to justify my angry response to him. Do I rejoice in the truth?  I hope so.

But in this circumstance, do I bear, believe, hope and endure all things? Nope. I wanna cry and hide in the corner. I want to yell and argue and fight with my ex, telling him how much he hurt me and the children.

Who am I kidding—I can’t do those things! Love like that? That’s not logical.

But when has God called me to do something that He hasn’t enabled me to do?

Once again, I’m gonna have to rely solely on Jesus. After all, He has given us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).

And I’m going to need the Lord in my life, because not only am I called to love that man, but to do good, bless and pray for him.

 

But what is my role in the meantime?  Am I you supposed to sit around and passively wait for more persecution? No, the answer is to become aggressive with good. When wicked behavior is running rampant, it feels like it is in control. However God’s Word tells us that good is more powerful than evil. God does not say that doing good to others will help us tolerate their evil. He says that we can overcome it. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Light overwhelms darkness. Hope triumphs over discouragement. Love casts our fear. It is our task, in the face of evil, to offer good. Why? Because good invites repentance.  I pray he repents, before it is too late.

Consider Romans 12:20 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” The phrase “heap burning coals on his head” referred to awakening the conscience of another. With good, we can melt the heart of evil with burning shame. Constantly repaying evil with good holds a mirror up to the perpetrator reflecting only their evil; in some cases this will bring about a change of heart.

I believe I will pray for God to enable me to live the way God desires me too!

Abuse Breaks The Lord’s Heart

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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!

Almighty God,

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

 

 

 

A Letter To The man I Once Loved

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 My mistake was making you a priority, when I was your second choice.
Divorce isn’t something any woman wants, nor is it desired. As women, we long for intimacy. From a young age we dreamed of our wedding and what our husband would be like. How happy we would be. We desire to be loved, to be treasured, to have our hearts protected, and never harmed.
I remember when you asked me to marry you, the excitement and newness everything felt to me. I loved having someone open doors for me, the feeling of butterflies in my stomach, and having a smile that never seemed to disappear. You made me feel like I was on cloud nine and no one could take me off.

When I first met you, you were such a sweet person, extremely funny and charming. I could not find a single bad quality about you. The love and concern you showed for me made me feel over the moon, I had never felt so secure in my life. When you told me I was the love of your life, I believed you.  When you told me I owned every piece of your heart, I believed you.  When you told me That when I ministered to you after your breakdown and hospitalization, “No one has ever been there for me like you have, I will forever be in your debt” I believed you.  When you told me you thought I was beautiful, I  believed you.  When you told me you would love me forever, I believed you.  When you told me the Lord spoke to you, to marry me, I believed you.  Then we got married!  Dr. Jekyll became Mr. Hyde.  I didn’t believe you anymore.  But I guess the horrible treatment I received after we married made me forget all of the loving things you said.… I think you are just a better friend then you are a husband and step-father.  I just cannot for the life of me figure out why?  I just hope and pray, that you never hurt a women again, like you hurt me.

I remember thinking, this is the man I’m going to spend forever with. The one who will be my best friend forever. But then things started to change, your feelings started to change, you started to change in an angry controlling way. Everything that I expected and wanted, didn’t work out the way I planned and I was left confused as to why and in pain. (Matt 11:28-30)  28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

On the outside we looked like a loving couple, especially in our Christian circles. You appeared spiritually mature. You prayed eloquent prayers, participated in deep theological discussions, and often referenced Scripture to support your insights.  I did everything I could to establish the appearance of the godly partnership I so desperately desired.  I felt so duped.  Who was this person I am married to?

But behind closed doors, things were far from normal. Unable to predict when the switch would flip on your anger, I walked on eggshells. Without warning, I’d suddenly become the object of your uncontrolled, frightening rage. There was no escaping your anger.

Sometimes, I think what you did to me was unforgivable, But now that I have grown and regained my confidence, I forgive you. You know why? Because not forgiving you was keeping me down after you already tore me apart.

All my life I have let people walk all over me and treat me how they pleased and I never complained.  You made me realize NO ONE should ever treat me the way you treated me.

Although I could not see the pain that was hindering my growth in the Lord, I continued searching for reasons to make our marriage work. I couldn’t seem to let go, I laid in bed crying for hours replaying over and over in her head the memories that we had created, trying to relive the sweet moments that are no longer a reality and blinded by all the bad.  (Ps 71:20)  Though you have made me see troubles,  many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

I tried so hard to walk around with a smile on my face. Yet, I was screaming on the inside wanting someone to take my hand and tell me that I will be ok. and I will make it through this. (Is 41:3) I just wanted someone to share my brokenness with me without feeling like I will be pushed aside.  Wondering why as a Christian you are not broken like me?  You were my husband, you were suppose to protect me, you were the one that was suppose to cherish me, not destroy me.

 

But, The lord wiped away my tears, and covered me with a blanket of His love, warmth and comfort. He said, “ My daughter, though you may be hurting, joy comes in the morning. There will be a time when you will look back on this situation and thank me for saving you from something that was harming you and causing you so much pain. For I have something far better, something far greater for you, if you just trust Me.” (Jer 29:11) “I never wanted you to be treated like this, you are my beloved daughter.”  As I began to wipe away my tears and continue praying to the Lord, I asked for strength because some days are harder than others. I also prayed for courage because it’s not easy not knowing what’s to come. I asked for healing because what I’ve been put through, I never ever want to go through again.  And I pray no other women will be hurt by you. (Prov 3:5-6)  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct[a] your paths.
I understand that healing doesn’t just happen overnight. It is a process that involves allowing God to pull on the reins of my heart and patch up the wounds that once left me with empty holes and unhealed scars. It was then that I accepted that letting go of you, was better than being dragged around expecting to be picked up by the one that left me broken into pieces. (Ps 147:3)  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
It was then that I began spending less time worrying about what could have been and why our marriage did not work.  Why you decided to divorce me when you were the abusive one.  It was then that I started putting all my attention on the Lord, serving Him wholeheartedly. It was then I saw that the light at the end of the tunnel and felt myself start to feel normal again. It was then I realized that the pain that I went through, grew me in ways, I never imagined, and made me stronger. It instilled in me this other side of myself I didn’t even know existed. It was the power of learning to let go. Even if letting go meant losing something I thought I loved.
All of those nights of tears, turned into joy when I was able to move on and keep my heart guarded and protected. I know that I have to make sure every aspect of my life is totally aligned with God. I know my worth, I know what I deserve, and from here on out, will be able to love again.

I pray for you J.D, I really do, that the Lord will do a mighty work in your heart. That the Holy Spirit will reveal to you the damage you did to me and the children.  So, that then and only then can you truly repent and heal.

October Is Domestic Violence Month

October is Domestic Violence Month.  1 in 4 Christian women report being in destructive marriages.  This is something that has touched my life and things desperately need to change.  We need more awareness and less silence.

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What Does The Bible Say About Destructive And Abusive Relationship?

Leslie Vernick

I receive frantic calls and e-mails each week from Christian women (and some men) who feel scared, trapped, hopeless and helpless because their most intimate relationship is abusive; verbally, physically, economically, sexually, spiritually or all of the above. The Bible has something to say about the way we treat people and as Christians we should all strive to be Biblically wise in how we handle these difficult and painful family issues.

Below are five Biblical principles that will guide your thinking about this topic.

1. Abuse is always sin. The scriptures are clear. Abuse of authority or power (even legitimate God given authority) is always sin. Abusive speech and/or behavior is never an acceptable way to communicate with someone. (Malachi 2:16-17; Psalm 11:5; Colossians 3:8,19).

2. Abuse is never an appropriate response to being provoked. In working with abusive individuals they often blame the other person. This can be especially tricky when trying to counsel couples. There is no perfect person and victims of abuse aren’t sinless. However, we must be very clear-minded that abusive behavior and/or speech is never justified, even when provoked. People provoke us all the time but we are still responsible for our response (Ephesians 4:26; Luke 6:45)

3. Biblical headship does not entitle a husband to get his own way, make all the family decisions, or to remove his wife’s right to choose. At the heart of most domestic abuse is the sinful use of power to gain control over another individual. Biblical headship is described as sacrificial servanthood, not unlimited authority and/or power. (Mark 10:42-45). Let’s not confuse terms. When a husband demands his own way or tries to dominate his wife, it’s not called biblical headship, its called selfishness, and abuse of power. (See, for example, Deuteronomy 13; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Ezekiel 34:2-4 for God’s rebuke of the leaders of Israel for their self-centered and abusive shepherding of God’s flock.)

4. Unrepentant sin always damages relationships and sometimes people. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2-5) and from one another (Proverbs 17:9). It is unrealistic and unbiblical to believe that you can continue healthy fellowship with someone who repeatedly sins against you when there is no repentance and no change. We are impacted in every way. (See Proverbs 1:15; 14:7; 21:28; 22:24; 1 Corinthians 15:33).

5. God’s purpose is to deliver the abused. We are to be champions of the oppressed and abused. God hates the abuse of power and the sin of injustice. (Psalm 5,7,10,140; 2 Corinthians 11:20; Acts 14:5-6.

What’s next? How should we respond when we know abuse is happening to someone?

We must never close our eyes to the sin of injustice or the abuse of power, whether it is in a home, a church, a work setting or a community or country (Micah 6:8). The apostle Paul encountered some spiritually abusive leaders and did not put up with it. (2 Corinthians 11:20). Please don’t be passive when you encounter abuse.

However, because we too are sinners, we are all tempted to react to abusive behavior with a sinful response of our own. The apostle Paul cautions us not to be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Below are five (5) biblical guidelines that will help you respond to the evil of abuse with good.

1. It is good to protect yourself from violent people. David fled King Saul when he was violent toward him. The angel of the Lord warned Joseph to flee to Egypt with Jesus because Herod was trying to kill him. Paul escaped from those who sought to stone him. We must help people to get safe and stay safe when they are in abusive relationships. This is not only good for her and her children, it is good for her abusive partner. If you are not experienced in developing a safety plan and assessing for lethality (often women are more at risk when they leave an abusive partner), refer or consult with someone who is knowledgeable in this area (Proverbs 27:12).

2. It is good to expose the abuser. Secrets are deadly, especially when there is abuse in a home. Bringing the deeds of darkness to light is the only way to get help for both the victim and the abuser. If you are working with a couple and notice that the woman defers to her husband, regularly looks to him before she answers, blames herself for all their conflicts, speak with them separately. (Proverbs 29:1; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20). If you are a victim of an abusive relationship, it is not sinful to tell, it is good to expose the hidden deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Biblical love is always action directed towards the best interest of the beloved, even when it is difficult or involves sacrifice (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 3:13).

3. It is good not to allow someone to continue to sin against you. It is not only good for the abused person to stop being a victim, it is good for the abuser to stop being a victimizer. It is it is in the abuser’s best interests to repent and to change. (Matthew 18:15-17; James 5:19-20).

4. It is good to stop enabling and to let the violent person experience the consequences of his/her sinful behavior. One of life’s greatest teachers is consequences. God says what we sow, we reap (Galatians 6:7) A person who repeatedly uses violence at home does so because he gets away with it. Don’t allow that to continue. (Proverbs 19:19). God has put civil authorities in place to protect victims of abuse. (Romans 13:1-5) The apostle Paul appealed to the Roman government when he was being mistreated. (Acts 22:24-29). We should encourage victims to do likewise.

5. It is good to wait and see the fruits of repentance before initiating reconciliation. Sin damages relationships. Repeated sin separates people. Although we are called to unconditional forgiveness, the bible does not teach unconditional relationship with everyone nor unconditional reconciliation with a person who continues to mistreat us.

Although Joseph forgave his brothers, he did not initiate a reconciliation of the relationships until he saw that they had a heart change. (See Genesis 42-45.)

Biblical repentance is not simply feeling sorry (2 Corinthians 7:8-12). Repentance requires a change in direction. When we put pressure someone to reconcile a marital relationship with an abusive partner before they have seen some significant change in behavior and attitude we can put them in harm’s way. We have sometimes valued the sanctity of marriage over the emotional, physical, and spiritual safety of the individuals in it.

The apostle Paul encourages us to distance ourselves from other believers who are sinning and refuse correction. (See 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15).

A person cannot discern whether a heart change has taken place without adequate time. Words don’t demonstrate repentance, changed behaviors over time does. (Matthew 7:20; 1 Corinthians 4:20)

As Christians we have the mandate and the responsibility to be champions of peace. Dr. Martin Luther King said “In the end what hurt the most was not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

In honor of victims of domestic abuse who need wise help, please forward this article to other Christian leaders who may need to learn how to see domestic abuse through the lens of the Scriptures.

Emotional Abuse In Christian Marriages

he got you

Today will be a little departure for me, this is something that I feel passionate about. I have experienced this in my own marriage.  Emotional abuse is rampant in our society, and Christians unfortunately are not immune. While all emotionally abusive relationships exact a toll on their victims, this type of domestic abuse within marriage is particularly destructive.

I love watching marriages that reflect Christ and the Church: husbands lovingly leading their homes and wives lovingly submitting to their husbands. It is such a beautiful sight to behold!  It truly warms my heart to see real life examples, especially at a time when marriages are being attacked from pornography,  abuse and cohabitation. I’ve also seen broken marriages and emotionally abusive relationships, including my own which has taught me a lot.

The women I’ve met, including myself, thru my support groups and speaking engagements believed in submitting to their husbands and tried hard to do so. They all share the following characteristics;  they began to change negatively without knowing it. They begin to isolate themselves. They begin to question themselves, in some way taking on the blame. They start to make excuses for their husbands’ sins.  And begin to question themselves and their sanity.

When I think of marriage, “protection” is one of the concepts that comes to mind. Perhaps that’s why emotional abuse, or any kind of abuse for that matter, in marriage saddens me in a deep and profound way.

My desire is that God might use this blog post to encourage those who are weary and heavy laden, that you are not alone.  To challenge those who are not trusting God or seeking counsel for their emotionally abusive relationships.

In searching the scriptures, the Bible doesn’t use the label “emotional abuse,” but it does prohibit it. First, we are not to curse people who have been created in the image of God (James 3:9). I often wonder if these christian men ever think about the fact that the one they are abusing, thru intimidation and constant yelling is Gods beloved child!  Second, emotional abuse violates the two greatest commandments: love God and love others as yourself (Matthew 22:35-40). Third, emotional abuse violates God’s design for marriage where the husband lovingly leads and the wife lovingly submits (Ephesians 5:21-33). Fourth, it violates Christian living by denying yourself (Mark 8:34) and speaking wholesome words (Ephesians 4:29). Fifth, it displays pride and a lack of fear of God, which leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:18). A husband who commits emotional abuse deceives himself to be a king who deserves glory, honor, and praise. Sixth, emotional abuse is betrayal to God and people by trying to be like God and deceiving others.

The definition of emotional abuse is control. Emotional abuse occurs when someone tries to control you through actions or words. They might not physically hurt you, but believe me they know how to instill fear through intimidation and manipulation. If emotions are produced by your evaluations or perceptions,  then emotional abuse involves hurting how you view yourself and others. Over time, you negatively view yourself. You might question yourself, blame yourself, or not see the severity of the situation. You become weary, trying to please your husband’s unreasonable demands but rarely is he ever pleased.

Emotional abuse is more much deceitful than physical abuse. When you’ve endured emotional abuse for years most of the time no one knows about it. It is not uncommon that your friends and church members don’t even know until you finally decide to share with them. Most of the time they are shocked, because this usually happens either when you chose to separate or ask for help (Of course, the same could happen with physical abuse.) Make no mistake emotional abuse is unacceptable and sinful. It is slowly killing a person. It is also not the same as occasional arguments in marriage; it occurs frequently and deliberately.

Manipulation/hypocrisy. This sin is revealed in different ways:  Which is a big part of the problem, people tend to not believe the wife.  why?  Because the husband tends to be a different person in front of church leaders and friends.  He knows how to blame his wife.  They will often cry in counseling sessions and convince the pastor or friends they are the victim.  Then, everything that the wife has shared in the past carries little weight.  After all he cried.  Then what happens is the wife begins to trust people less and less. The husband meets with other family and friends to win them over.  Commonly, the husband will say the wife is exaggerating or blowing things out of proportion or fabricate a whole different narrative to protect himself. At the same time the wife tends to minimize the problem.  Another problem is well meaning friends will say “Every marriage has it’s problems”, not realizing or understanding the real problems.

It is not uncommon for emotional abuse to lead to physical abuse, so please seek help and counseling as soon as possible. You might think that emotional abuse would not happen in Christian marriages, but unfortunately, I’ve seen cases where the husband was a church leader. Don’t keep it private.  You may think your spouse will change or if you are obedient he will not get angry.  Be very careful with this thinking.  In a real way, it deceives you to think that you are in control of the situation, which you are not.

Sometimes, church leaders are either deceived (by your spouse) have little knowledge on how to handle the problem or don’t want to get involved in messy problems. Don’t give up until you find a godly person who knows how to help.

Important: Pray for your spouse’s repentance. If the spouse is not saved, pray for his salvation. Pray that God would protect your heart from anger and bitterness.

I know only to well just how hurtful it is when family, friends, and church leaders don’t believe you or desert you, but God knows the truth. You can rest in His care and know that vengeance belongs to Him.

He is faithful. He is all-knowing. He will never desert you!

Please remember when someone shares about any kind of abuse with you, know that a lot of courage and trust was involved. Be careful of shattering that! Most likely, this person is vulnerable and fearful and somewhat shell shocked. As I often tell people, good intentions are not enough. I’ve seen friends get involved by meeting with the husband and then they are left more confused.

One woman said to me: “If God allowed this pain to happen so that my husband might know Christ, then it was worth it.” She also recognized that God used the trial to draw her closer to Him. It’s easier to submit to a loving leader in the home, but to love a husband who constantly questions you, belittles you, and lies to you is a powerful display of faith in God.

To preserve the victim’s health and sanity and safety, sometimes a “therapeutic separation” is necessary. A “therapeutic separation” gives the victim time to heal and hopefully “creates a crisis” in the life of the abuser. It forces him to face the destructive nature of his behavior and gives him an opportunity to seek help. The ultimate goal of this type of separation is healing—for the victim, the abuser and the marriage.

Sometimes—and despite our best efforts—separation and divorce are unavoidable (as in my case). Other times, couples restore their relationship.

No matter what happens in your marriage, continued to draw closer to God.  God can rescue marriages. In fact, God loves picking up broken pieces and molding them back together again. He’s in the healing business. But sometimes the thing that He wants to heal is YOU, not your marriage. So chase after God now, and focus on God, not just on your marriage. And then, no matter what happens, you will find yourself stronger and able to stand firm.  It may seem hopeless, but it’s not. There is a way out. There is hope.

As you consider your options for obtaining professional assistance, it’s important to understand that this probably isn’t going to be a quick and easy process. Abuse is usually rooted in deeply entrenched patterns of thought and behavior, and you can’t expect to reverse those patterns in a couple of counseling sessions. While working on the problem, you may find it necessary to create a crisis by giving your husband an ultimatum. An abuser can sometimes be persuaded to make a change if their spouse has the courage to stand up for themselves and say, “I’ve had enough.” Tell him, “Either we both get counseling (separately), or I’m moving out until you’re ready to help me resolve this issue.” Separation may be what it takes to open his eyes to his behavior and to stimulate some badly needed self-examination on his part. Naturally, you’ll want to make sure that your support system is in place and that you actually have a safe place to go-the home of a friend, family member, or neighbor-before you put the matter to him in these terms. Lay your plans, line up your resources, and make your arrangements prior to packing your bags and walking out the door.

CLOSING ENCOURAGEMENTS

Invite the Holy Spirit to reveal the reality about a potentially abusive relationship. Admit you are being abused and recognize the damage it has done.

It is critical to seek support from friends, family, and, ideally, your church.

“Pastors, church leaders and church members vary in their ability to give support to women in difficult marriages,”  “Always be willing to reach out to your church for support, but remember that staff may not have the same training as professional counselors.”

Soak in God’s presence and truth. God invites us into his presence and transforms us by renewing our mind (Romans 12:2). Spend time in God’s Word, prayer, worship, and fellowship. It’s possible that because you are damaged emotionally, you are unable to spend long periods of time in prayer or study. That’s all right. Do what you can and trust God with the rest.

Forgive. Forgiveness is not denying or excusing the damage caused by abuse. We forgive because God forgave us. When we forgive, we allow God to heal us. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Forgive your abuser and yourself, if necessary. God will deal with everything else.

With professional help—and by following these principles, you can break the cycle of abuse in your life and begin your healing journey. As you reach out to God and others, you can experience God’s redemptive purposes in your life and become a channel of healing in the lives of others. Make Jeremiah 29:11 your mantra: “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.”

The important thing for you to know is that God LOVES you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of Jesus Christ. When you truly see yourself as created, accepted, approved and loved by God you will not allow anyone to devalue you or treat you any less than what you are ….a child of the Most High God…

May God richly bless you and keep you in his loving care!

Prayer for the Abuser

Father God, thank you for leading me to find the help that I need.  I first forgive __________ for wounding me emotionally, verbally and mentally.  I release ____________ as my first step of faith towards healing.  I know that forgiving this person releases me.  I ask you Lord to show ___________the error of their ways.  Show them how much you love them and heal their wounds so that they will no longer wound others.  I pray for everyone that is involved in this abuse ____________________, ______________________, ______________ that you will heal all of them and give wisdom and guidance to each.  Send your Holy Spirit to comfort and bring healing.  I pray that ________ will be open to going to counseling with me.  Speak to their heart and grant them the grace to do the right thing and seek help and healing, in Jesus Name, Amen

Here are some scriptures for meditation:

Psalm 34:18 (NKJV) “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.”

Psalm 51:6 (NKJV) “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.”

Psalm 139:14 (NKJV) “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.”

2 Corinthians 3:17 New International Version (NIV) “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

1 John 4:18 “Love will never invoke fear. Perfect love expels fear, particularly the fear of punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been completed through love.”

Psalm 63:3 “Your steadfast love is better than life itself, so my lips will give You all my praise.”

Romans 8:37-39 “But no matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loved us. For I have every confidence that nothing—not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing—can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord.”

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV) “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”