God Uses The Weak

childhood-sexual-abuse

I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of women who have suffered childhood sexual abuse yesterday. I almost canceled, because I had a huge setback in my recovery as a survivor this week. It was a setback that almost made me stop and retreat, it was something that on the surface should have been no big deal, but left me deeply wounded and hurt.  It left me doubting my gifts and my ability for God to use me. No one ever talks about the little things, the not so obvious things that we as survivors of childhood sexual abuse have to manage privately. …The imprint of childhood trauma shows up in our lives in the smallest ways. In what we see, in what we hear or what we smell. … It’s all those things that trigger us day in and day out when we least expect it.   Sometimes, it’s what people say that tear us down, like telling us we are acting like a victim or get over it and move on. These little things can make us retreat and shut down. Every story deserves to be told and every voice deserves to be heard. We need to encourage survivors and victims to speak out and talk about it. Don’t be the cause as to why they remain silent.

The Lord in His goodness showed me that He uses the weary, feeble, powerless… Sometimes when we feel physically or spiritually weak, we’re tempted to take a “time-out,” thinking that God will use us again when we are stronger. In Judges 6, we’re introduced to Gideon who was taking a “time-out.” It was wartime, and Gideon was hiding when an angel of the Lord appeared to tell him that he would be the one to save Israel. Imagine Gideon’s astonishment: “How can I save Israel? Lord, I come from a nobody family, and I’m the lowest nobody in my family. And You’re going to use me?”

After God enlisted the nobody Gideon, He got a nobody army. Then God took those nobodies and won the battle! God takes us in our weak state and uses us so He alone can be glorified. Thank you, Lord.

Why does God delight in choosing the weak:  The first reason is found in 1 Corinthians 1, verse 29: “that no flesh should glory in His presence.” When we get to heaven, not one of us will be able to say we got there on our own merit. We’re saved simply by the grace of God. The second reason is found in verse 31, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” If we operate in our own strength and not God’s, we risk taking the glory and credit for ourselves. Scripture tells us that we must be weak and low enough in order for God to use us.

God wants to take us down to the very depths of ourselves to teach us that if there is any power, it is the power that is in God, and not in us. God doesn’t need to make us into performers or superstars in order to use us. Instead, He’s looking for men and women who have hearts that say, “Lord, I’m a nobody. I’m nothing without You. Will You use me?” When God finds such a heart, something extraordinary happens — that nobody is promoted to the ranks of God’s nobility.

Don’t allow the enemy to convince you that God cannot use you because you are “flawed”, weak, or seemingly inconsequential. Like I almost did! No, instead, remember that He uses the ordinary, often broken, people…to do extraordinary things. Our God is not looking at your wealth, your social status or your education — He’s looking at your heart! If your heart is willing and your life is available, then He is more than able to perform miraculous work through you for His Kingdom’s sake. With so much work to be done, don’t allow the enemy to stifle or steal the Lord’s vision for your life –- He has a plan to use you to confound the wise of this world, and to bring to naught the things th

Enough Is Enough

enough-is-enough-2

My favorite paragraph in this article by Gary Thomas is:

I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused, and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

 

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

What does it mean to “hate” someone we are elsewhere called to sacrificially love? We are told to love even our enemies, yet Jesus here tells us to hate some of our closest family members. What could that mean?

Hatred here is Semitic hyperbole. In essence, it means “love less than.” There are times when our love and allegiance to God may be at odds with human loyalties; in those cases, love for God, His light and the way of truth, must always prevail.

It’s okay (actually, commendable) for me to love the Seattle Seahawks. But if my wife needs me to take her to the hospital in the middle of a game or needs me to pay her some attention, I have to act like I hate the Seahawks and not even consider my love for them in service to my wife.

Let’s apply this principle in regards to how the church views marriage and divorce.

I recently spoke at a long-standing North American woman’s conference and was overwhelmed by the quantity and horrific nature of things wives are having to put up with in their marriages. Between sessions, I was bombarded by heartfelt inquiries: “What does a wife do when her husband does this? Or that? Or keeps doing this?” It broke my heart. I felt like I needed to take a dozen showers that weekend.

This may sound like a rant, but please hang with me, as I think this conference was a divine appointment. I can’t get this out of my mind.

One wife began our conversation with, “God hates divorce, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “I believe He does.”

“So I’ve just got to accept what’s happening in my marriage, right?”

When she told me what was happening, I quickly corrected her. “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.”

Her husband is a persistent porn addict. He has neglected her sexually except to fulfill his own increasingly bent desires. He keeps dangling divorce over her head, which makes her feel like a failure as a Christian. He presented her with a list of five things he wanted to do that he saw done in porn, and if she wasn’t willing, he was through with the marriage. She agreed to four of them, but just couldn’t do the fifth. And she feels guilty.

God hates divorce, right?

This is monstrous and vile. This woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists.

A young wife, barely in her twenties, held a baby in a blanket and looked at me with tears. Her husband has a huge temper problem. He’s made her get out of the car on a highway with her baby,twice. “But both times he came back for us,” she said in his defense when I looked absolutely appalled. They were separated and she was living with her parents. She wanted to know if she should take him back because his psychiatrist supposedly said there wasn’t anything really wrong with him. Her husband doesn’t think he has a problem that, in fact, the problem is with her “lack of forgiveness.”

They had been married only three years and she had already lived through more torment (I’m not telling the full story) than a woman should face in a lifetime. My thoughts weren’t at all about how to “save” the marriage, but to ease her conscience and help her prepare for a new life—without him.

Church, God hates it when a woman is sexually degraded and forced to do things that disgust her. It should also make us want to vomit.

When a young man is so immature he puts his wife’s and baby’s life in danger on a highway (amongst other things), the thought that we’re worried about the “appropriateness” of divorce shows that our loyalties are with human institutions, not the divine will.

As Kevin DeYoung so ably puts it, “Every divorce is the result of sin, but not every divorce is sinful.”

Another woman told me about putting up with her husband’s appalling behavior for over forty years. I was invited to look in her face, see the struggle, see the heroic perseverance, but also be reminded that counsel has consequences. So when I talk to a young woman in her third year of marriage and it’s clear she’s married to a monster, and someone wants to “save” the marriage, I want them to realize they are likely sentencing her to four decades of abuse, perhaps because of a choice she made as a teenager. When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.

Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them. Divorce was a weapon foisted against women in the first century, not one they could use, and it almost always left them destitute if their family of origin couldn’t or wouldn’t step up.

How does it honor the concept of “Christian marriage” to enforce the continuance of an abusive, destructive relationship that is slowly squeezing all life and joy out of a woman’s soul? Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives like Satan mistreats us. We shouldconfront and stop the work of Satan, not enable it.

Look, I hate divorce as much as anyone. I have been married for 31 years and cannot fathom leaving my wife. I have prayed with couples, counselled with couples, written blog posts and articles and books, and have travelled to 49 of the 50 states and nine different countries to strengthen marriages in the church. By all accounts, I believe I’ve been an ambassador for improving and growing marriages.

The danger of what I’m saying is clear and even a little scary to me, because no marriage is easy. Every marriage must overcome hurt, pain, and sin. No husband is a saint, in the sense that every husband will need to be forgiven and will be troublesome and even hurtful at times to live with. I’m not talking about the common struggles of living with a common sinner, or every man and woman could pursue divorce. (There are many men who live with abuse and could “biblically” pursue a divorce as well.) Charging someone with “abuse” when it doesn’t truly apply is almost as evil as committing abuse, so we need to be careful we don’t bear “false witness” against a spouse to convince ourselves and others that we can legitimately pursue divorce to get out of a difficult marriage.

That’s why I love how some churches will meet with a couple and hear them out to give them some objective feedback, helping them to distinguish between normal marital friction and abusive behavior. Some women need to hear, “No, this isn’t normal. It’s abuse. You don’t have to put up with that.” Others need to hear, “We think what you’re facing are the normal difficulties of marriage and with counseling they can be overcome.” There’s no way a blog post (or even a book) can adequately anticipate all such questions.

I love marriage—even the struggles of marriage, which God can truly use to grow us and shape us—but I hate it when God’s daughters are abused. And I will never defend a marriage over a woman’s emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

I went back to my hotel room after that woman’s conference and almost felt like I had to vomit. I don’t know how God stands it, having to witness such horrific behavior leveled at his daughters.

Enough is enough!

Jesus says there are “levels” of love, and times when one loyalty must rise over another. Our loyalty to marriage is good and noble and true. But when loyalty to a relational structure allows evil to continue it is a false loyalty, even an evil loyalty.

Christian leaders and friends, we have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and our teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

Christians are more likely to have one-income families, making some Christian wives feel even more vulnerable. We have got to clean up our own house. We have got to say “Enough is enough.” We have got to put the fear of God in some terrible husbands’ hearts, because they sure don’t fear their wives and their lack of respect is leading to ongoing deplorable behavior.

I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused, and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

Enough is enough.

I know I’m ranting. But I don’t think it was an accident that I was constantly stopped at that woman’s conference and forced to hear despicable story after despicable story (“forced” isn’t the right word. I could, of course, have walked away). I think God wanted me to see the breadth and depth of what is going on, and in this case, perhaps to be His voice.

Message received! We are called to love marriage, but when marriage enables evil, we should hate it (love it less) in comparison to a woman’s welfare.

Wounds That Do Not Show

wounds

 

I grew up in a world where I was afraid all the time. Sexual abuse starting at age 5, stalker and rape at age 15, alcohol and drug abuse permeating my childhood. All of these traumas I kept quiet. For years. I lived under that unwritten, unspoken mandate that to tell was to betray.

It wasn’t until I met Jesus at eighteen that the secrets started to spill.  Although, it would be many years before I had the courage to tell the whole truth. I have been met with very different reactions, from encouragement to well, maybe don’t tell everyone. What I have learned is, that hiding the truth will cause it to fester, which is what I have been doing for many years. Proof being many failed relationships. If we want Jesus to set us free, we need to tell the truth…the whole truth. I would be lying if I said it no longer hurts, but the Lord has allowed me to use my hurts for His glory, which feels amazing.

Unfortunately, the imprint of childhood trauma still shows up in our lives in the smallest ways. In what we see, in what we hear or what we smell… when we least expect it. It can cost us everything if we do not seek help.

Healing is worth it. Sometimes our very existence can be exhausting. Yet, people will want us to heal on their time. They will ask us to hurry up, forgive and move on…and my favorite “get over it.”  However, people don’t understand that it takes a lot of focus, prayer and courage for us to just show up.  I am living testimony that you can heal with Jesus, that you can transform in such a way that people would be shocked that you ever walked that path of pain.

You may be thinking, well that is great for you but you don’t know what I lived through…you’re right. I don’t. But consider this…Instead of seeing your past as a burden, start seeing it as a chance for God to use it for his glory! We actually have an advantage really, because we know our need for Jesus..sometimes, it is all we have. We know we can’t heal on our own. Our weakness is the starting place for the Lord to set us free.

That’s why, I can now thank the Lord for the pain, shame and fear in my childhood.. Because of it I am a better mother to my children. It helps me see my desperate need for Jesus and my unshakeable faith.  It is like a verse in Job where after all the terrible things that happened to him he say’s “I knew of you (God), but know I see you.”  We have seen the worst and we survived, there is freedom in that.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”  Psalm 55:22

If you have found yourself burdened down, anxious, or worried about any area of your life, I believe this message is for you, you are not reading this by accident. God wants you to know that you were never meant to handle everything on your own, which is why you feel weighed down with the cares of this life. If you haven’t already, pray about that thing that you are worrying about, and release it to God, knowing that He has promised to take care of you. Ask Him to show you if there is anything you can do, and leave the rest to Him.

Dear Lord, Please help those struggling with hurts in their life, to be able to accept these issues and heal Lord. To understand that some things take time to process. I pray for encouragement so that we may not tire of waiting or doing good. While these things may take time, slow progress is being made. May the Holy Spirit assist us in doing these things, guiding us and filling us with wisdom. May we feel your love today. Please equip us with the patience we need to endure in Jesus’ name AMEN!