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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The Lord Will Give You Strength

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He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29

We all find ourselves broken and weary at some point in our life. It is easy to believe and follow Jesus when things are going well, but often the toughest time to keep our faith strong is when we are trying to keep putting one foot in front of the other while not fainting. In those moments of absolute powerlessness, weakness, and brokenness the Lord is often most real, most powerful, and most present.

Thank you, God, for sustaining me and keeping my faith alive when I have been under attack from the Evil One and have grown weary with the challenges and hardships of life. Please give those I love, and mention now by name, the strength to press on even though they are weary and weak. Please be real in their lives and let them know that you are coming with grace to help and redeem as their Great Deliverer. In Jesus’ name I ask it. Amen.

Lead Me Lord

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From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  Psalm 61:2

One thing I love about reading through the book of Psalms is that each Psalm usually begins with a heavy heart, and ends in praise and rejoicing. Psalm 61 is no exception.

If you’re in need of some encouragement this week, just remember, God hears you when you cry, and when you’re overwhelmed; all you need to do is talk to Him. He will lead you and protect you!

Lord, when my heart is overwhelmed, overwhelm me with Your peace.  Lead me to You, my rock.  Guide me to Your Word which gives me strength and refuge.  Help me not to run to lesser things.  Draw me to run to You first.  Help me get into the habit of taking my “overwhelmed” and placing it under your will.  Thank You, Lord.  In Jesus Name, Amen

The Lord Is Good

 

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O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” This is an invitation to us to take God at his word, to trust in the Lord and experience his goodness, to know God personally, realizing that he loves us more than we can ever imagine.

David is urging us to do just that. He is inviting us to experience what he has discovered: the goodness of God’s salvation. David is celebrating that God has rescued him from his fears and troubles.  We are promised great blessings from God to his people. He will deliver, guard, supply, listen, and redeem all who trust in his power to save. We seek to honor him in all things, speak truthfully, seek peace and justice, and humbly serve our God.

Help me, dear Father, to know you better. Open my heart, dear Lord, so that I will more fully entrust myself to your care. Open my eyes to see just how gracious you are to me. Thank you for your goodness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Psalms 119:103  “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Greater Is He

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Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Knowing that God lives in you, and that He loves you, should alone banish all fear from your life. Fear of failure should have no place in our lives. Fear of what other people think should not bother you. Fear of problems that may come up should be of no concern. You have God living in you!

God, who lives in you, is greater. Greater than any problem. Greater than any difficulty. Greater than the devil. Greater than anything you will ever face.

When life gets tough and it feels like you can’t make it through, you can be encouraged. You have everything you need to be victorious in every area of your life.

Choose today to lean on the power of the one living in you, knowing that no matter what you face today, you’re not alone and you can overcome!  We can be assured that victory is ours, because God’s presence in us is greater than any force that we will ever face.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, please give me the confidence, boldness, and conviction of your promises. I want to live boldly for your glory and according to your will. Thank you for empowering me to live victoriously by your Spirit who lives within me. To you belong all glory, honor, majesty, and praise. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Seeking The Lord

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David acknowledged that the Lord is close to those that are humble of heart, and who are ready and willing to seek Him in times of trouble, distress and danger. David was a man who feared God and held fast to His precious promises. All through David’s life he witnessed God’s faithfulness and David trusted in the Lord’s deliverance, when his own, frail heart was fainting.. from fear of what was coming on the earth.

The Lord has promised that if we seek Him, we will find Him, if we search for Him with all our heart.

What a gracious and wonderful God we have.. for while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, and together with David and a cloud of witnesses, we are able to testify: I also sought the LORD, and He answered me. And He delivered me from all my fears. –

 Yes, we can rejoice and say with all the saints: I will bless the LORD at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the LORD. The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. I will bless the LORD at all times.. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the LORD. The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together!

Heavenly Father, You are worthy to be praised and I will bless You at all times. I will  boast in the Lord, for I sought after You and You heard my cry and answered me. You have redeemed my life from the bondage of the evil one, and delivered me from all my fears. You have forgiven my sin and clothed me in Christ’s own righteousness, for His name’s sake – and You alone are worthy of my praise and thanksgiving forever and ever.  my Father and my God, I will seek you with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. I want to know you more completely. I want to fully respond to your leading and your will in my life. Be near me today and always. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

If My People

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If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land”

God is speaking…

God is speaking to His people.  John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

Pray:  Thank you Father that through Jesus you know my name.  Direct me today and show me how to live for you.

Shall humble himself…

James 4:6  God resists the proud but gives Grace to the humble.

Prayer:  Lord God, reveal to me how I have become proud.  Help me Lord, to turn to You with a humble and open heart.

…AND PRAY….

God desires that you come before Him and spend time in His presence.

Pray:  Hear my prayer dear Lord as I bow my heart to You and seek You.

And seek my face….

God wants you to know Him in a personal and intimate way.  He wants you to know His heart.

Pray:  Lord, I come before you seeking You, draw me close to you to renew a relationship that seems to have grown cold.  I want to spend time with You today

….And turn from their wicked ways….

Allow God to look into your heart.  John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Pray:  Father, I know there is no sin so big that you cannot forgive, and no sin so small that you will overlook.  Forgive me Father and allow me to walk with You in a new way without the heavy burden of sin.

…then…

The next phrases tell you that after you have done those things required by God, He will then do those things that only He can do.  He will hear from heaven, He will forgive our sins, and He will heal our land.

Pray:  Heavenly Father, I look for your forgiveness and healing touch for me, for my family, for my church, and for my country.