Shame vs. Guilt

Abusive relationships breed confusion: shame, anger, pity, love, guilt, frustration, fear. If that’s your bag, it’s time to ask questions and get help.

One of  those feelings and filters that affects all of life is shame. It eats away at us in quiet moments, in the dark of night, in between this and that. If only one could erase shame, life would be bearable. Truly, living with someone who immerses and bathes one in shame makes it hard, if not impossible, to escape. What is shame? Where does it come from? And what do you do with it?


The first time shame is mentioned, God draws attention to its absence: And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25)  At some point after that Eve and Adam eat forbidden fruit. They sinned and broke God’s law. They are guilty. Their response? Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:7)  Shame resulted from guilt–and it should. But in our broken world and broken state of being, that’s not always the way it works. It’s possible to feel shame without guilt. It’s also possible to be guilty without feeling shame.

Shame results in wanting to cover ourselves; to hide, become invisible. It is often, but not always, the result of guilt. There is a difference. The word, “shame” or “ashamed,” has to do with embarrassment or dishonor (chaphar– Hebrew, aischune– Greek)*. The root word means, “to dig, search out, explore.” It is the idea of being exposed and afraid. Many eastern cultures use shame as a motivator for expected behavior: i.e. Samurai suicide, Muslim “honor killing.” When I was a child, we would slide one index finger over the other saying, “On ver…” to the person who did something shameful. We all know what it feels like to be ashamed.

Guilt, on the other hand, means “liable” (asham– Hebrew, enochos– Greek).* This is a forensic term that connects an individual with committing a crime. I am responsible. I sinned against God. It’s possible to be guilty without experiencing shame. Our media is full of examples. If you have been, or are, a survivor of domestic abuse, you see it regularly.

In a broken, twisted relationship the two can be confused and misused. One may feel shame as a result of embarrassment, false accusations, belittling, wicked, evil words and actions. Like blood that pours from a wound, shame defiles everyone and everything it touches. Guilt, on the other hand, is the would. Guilt is the source of the problem. Shame can be cleaned and removed with the truth of God’s Word. Guilt requires faith and confession for healing.

How do you know if what you’re feeling is shame or guilt? Make a list of things you feel ashamed and guilty for. What words circle in your head like vultures? Write them down in black and white. Then, either by yourself or with a trusted friend, look to the Word of God. Ask these questions:

  • Is this true? Does God’s Word agree with this statement? Some words and actions heaped on you are blatant lies. They are not real or true in any sense of the word. Cross those items off your list.
  • Consider those that are left. Am I embarrassed? Is this about what people think (myself included) or did I actually do something wrong?
    1. If I am concerned more about what people think, it’s shame. I feel exposed, dirty, unwanted, violated. That does not make me guilty. What does God say? If I am His child, He says Jesus took my shame (Hebrews 12:2). God doesn’t care what people think. God loves me; He sent Jesus to die for me and make me His own. I am loved, chosen, adopted, blessed, forgiven, redeemed (Ephesians 1:3-12)
    2. If I am guilty of breaking God’s law, He extends hope and forgiveness in Christ. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) I do not have to bear the guilt of my sin. Jesus did that for me. I do not have to “pay” for it or earn His favor. In fact, no one ever can. I can come to Him in faith and humility, asking for His help and forgiveness.

Accusations do not equal guilt. Only God can assign guilt–and His Word is clear. If you are not sure what the Bible says, it is very possible it is being misused to trap, oppress, and harm you. As frightening as it may be, pray and ask God for the courage to ask someone you can trust to help you sort through shame and guilt.


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 sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. (Psalm 34)


Love is Not Mutually Exclusive

In relationships that are off-balance, whether you define yours as abusive or not, there is a sense of one-way love. One individual is always giving, flexing, changing, doing. The other is always receiving, demanding, taking. Part of recognizing an abusive relationship is seeing that pattern for what it is. It is not balanced, other-focused, or Christ-honoring because it is one-sided, individual-focused, and individual-honoring. As we’ve learned to say in our house, “Show me the money!” It’s all about profit. If one person benefits over and above everyone else in the family dynamic, he will do what it takes to keep it that way. The one receiving the pay-off has the most to lose.


In God’s economy, loving others doesn’t mean I lose; it means everyone wins. I can love others well and benefit at the same time.  It’s not all or nothing.

The problem is our definition of “love.” In a human way of thinking, I love you when I do what makes you happy. I believe others love me when they do what makes me happy. Interestingly, the word, “merry” (samach) in the Bible (there is no mention of “happy”), often describes a person who is drunk. That’s not a good thing.

What is God’s definition of love?

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

God’s love is demonstrated, or made evident, through the sacrificial gift of Jesus Christ. Jesus sacrificed His life by taking human form (having lived in eternal glory, He chose a human body!). He sacrificed by living a human existence for more than thirty years in a sin-cursed world with human limitations and sinful people. Jesus then allowed Himself to be betrayed, wrongly accused and beaten. He gave His life in an excruciating way and, in that time and place, took the full weight of God’s wrath for sin–and eternal weight with an eternal price. When God says He loves you, that’s what He means.

God also loves His Son, Jesus Christ. Once the payment was complete, God raised Him from the dead and brought Him back to glory. Jesus sits there now, at the right hand of the Father, praying for us. Someday He will return to rule. He will be the center of our praise and worship forever because of His perfect obedience and love. Jesus did not sacrifice His life for nothing.

God, in His love, grace, and justice glorified, and will glorify forever, His Son. We benefit. God benefits. Jesus benefits. All. Everyone. To the greatest extent possible. The price of love is outweighed by the outcome of love. No one is left empty, used, or taken advantage of. God’s love is inclusive, not exclusive.

As God’s child through faith in Jesus’ payment for our sin, we have His Spirit with the ability and desire to respond and live He did. That means we, too, can love sacrificially. But it’s a different sacrifice than giving and not getting. Just like Jesus, this love means doing what is in another’s best interest whether they appreciate it or not. Our appreciation of Jesus Christ did not limit or affect His giving. His goal was to please His Father. The Father loves us, Jesus loves/d us, and we benefited.

In the same way, loving others happens as we seek to please God first. Others, specifically the individual who has been taking and demanding, will not like losing first place in our lives. It cuts across the grain of their desires and impacts their life negatively. But loving God first does not mean loving others less. It results in loving them more. By not worshiping and giving in to their demands, we allow God to reveal sin and a need only He can meet. By not allowing them to control every element of life and protecting one’s dignity, we remove ourselves from a place of serving others to a place of serving God. It may mean removing ourselves physically. That, too, is an act of love. It says, “This is wrong. It needs to change.” Loving God results in protecting the one He loves and died for–you.

How do we overcome the fear and punishment that is sure to result? It’s important to ask for help in advance. Seek a trustworthy friend to pray, talk through safety issues, and prepare with. Protection and safety are primary goals when living with an abuser. Be smart. Be careful. It’s not a flip-the-switch decision. The consequences could be dangerous. Take your time.  Think it through. You are the expert on your abuser. With God’s help you can learn when and how to apply new ways of seeing and thinking about what’s happening in your home and relationship.

Loving God first is not mutually exclusive. When I love God first, I love others as a result. When I love others first, I don’t love God.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:7-21)

Why I Wrote “Sanctuary….”

A woman noticed my nametag as we stood in line. “Did you write that book in the bookstore?” she asked. When I told her I had, she shared her own story of domestic abuse, then she wanted to know mine. I fumbled for an answer. In the year since the book was published, she was the first and many others have asked. “Why did I write Sanctuary?”

Sanctuary-cover-397x595 (2019_07_29 12_08_33 UTC)

I could tell you that in a group of women close to me, 3 of 5 have experienced domestic abuse. Or I could tell you that when it was time to write my master’s thesis, my husband wisely asked, “What counseling situation is most difficult?” Or I could say that the department chair suggested researching physical domestic violence when I wanted to write on how to respond biblically to a sinning husband.

Here is the truth. One morning, instead of meeting in my office, I met a woman in her home because her husband made her choose between money for groceries or money for gas. They had fought most of the night. We sat at her kitchen table and when she brought up the topic of divorce I asked where he was. She calmly replied that he was sleeping in a nearby bedroom. That didn’t feel particularly safe or smart, so we took our conversation outside.

We had met many times and discussed different facets of life. As I desperately prayed for words and direction, we turned to Matthew 22:37-40 and I asked, “If you continue the way things are now, is it possible to love God with your mind, soul, and strength? Are you free to have a personal relationship with God? (Read your Bible, pray, and attend church?)” Yes, she said, that was not an issue. “And if you continue as you are now, are you loving your husband and children well? Can you do what is best for them?” No, she answered. She could not continue living this way without giving in to sinful lifestyle choices, constant chaos and fear. Loving her husband meant making changes, dangerous ones. If she chose to love God and her neighbor, those changes could lead to removing herself and their children for their safety and his overall well-being. He needed help and they a) couldn’t fight against his sin and b) didn’t have the resources to fight their own under his influence, c) would continue to be in danger and d) were harboring a criminal by not reporting him (physical assault/domestic violence is a crime).

I offered to go with her to the courthouse and file a protective order. She said she couldn’t. She wasn’t ready. We talked about safety plans, contacting extended family, daily schedules and opportunities, but I quickly realized this was not about surface issues. There were struggles deep in her soul and mind that had to be overcome for her to step out of the cycle of violence to safety from the man who controlled and undermined her every move and resource.

As we walked through the weeks and months that followed, God more than provided for her needs financially, spiritually, and practically. He also gave her miraculous courage and insight into herself, her husband and children. With help from family, friends, the local church, law enforcement and social service agencies, she and her husband received counseling and multiple opportunities for change. She chose change, Jesus Christ, and freedom. He chose himself.

I continue to meet with women whose husbands sin against them, armed with the truth that only Jesus works change and is worthy of worship. Through Christ, God’s Word, His Spirit, and His people are vital tools that empower and enable victims to become victors. The odds against victims of abuse are overwhelming. Coercion, confusion, belittling, demeaning, violent behavior traps them against their will. Even after building up gumption to leave temporarily, women return to abusive relationships an average of 7 times before leaving permanently. But God has a better solution.

Only God can make the local church aware that some men prey on and use their wives as objects instead of equals. God can put it in women’s hearts to search out, pray for, and come alongside the suffering. God can provide His Spirit though salvation in Christ, newness of life, courage and a desire to do things differently. God can change hearts and lives of not just victims, but abusers, and the entire local church. God can provide secular resources and legal intervention to provide for their practical needs.

Sanctuary: Help and Hope for Victims of Domestic Abuse is not about changing the dynamics or circumstances of domestic abuse. It’s a look into the heart of our God who comes alongside the suffering soul, providing comfort, healing, and help. Sanctuary empowers victims of domestic abuse to use Scripture as a means of change and loving others–not according to their own understanding–but in a courageous, biblical way that calls others to respond to God as the Judge, the Avenger, and, potentially, personal Savior from sin and God’s deserved wrath.

I wrote Sanctuary because the gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes. God’s Word is living and active. God’s Word is a healing balm of grace and mercy.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 119:7-11)

The Value of Evil

Lately I have been overwhelmed by the wickedness of man. When someone experiences unspeakable evil it attacks both the mind–that’s trauma, it’s real–and the heart. Hopelessness. Emptiness. Loss. We want it to go away; to cease and desist. Pat answers and platitudes do nothing less than throw oil on the fire.

Instead, it’s time to admit that nothing makes evil good–not knowledge of God’s character, not truth, salvation, or time. None of them magically transform wrong to right. Evil is evil. Wrong is wrong. The depravity of man will never be excused or justified. God will judge. He will avenge. He will repay.

Our legal systems cannot exact justice. They are God’s minister for good–but as a pale shadow: incomplete, crooked, powerless to discern and punish evil in kind.

Circumstances do not exact justice. The wicked are unfazed. In instances of domestic abuse, the abuser does not suffer a lack of friends, resources, opportunity, getting his own way. It’s unfair and unjust.

So asked myself, “Why evil, God?” It doesn’t go away. Nothing makes it better. Nothing changes it or colors it beautiful. Violence is violence. Deception is deception. Rape is rape. Over and over and over.

The beauty of who God is reminded me that, however dark and hopeless the evil, His light and grace are greater. He does not wipe away evil, He overcomes it. He does not excuse wickedness, He erases its power. He does not right wrongs, He uses them for His own purpose.

That is why we never downplay suffering. The depth, width, and breadth of pain and sorrow is not diminished by God, it is covered and filled. Re-purposed. Evil pushes us to a greater awareness of God’s mercy, power and love. Jesus became that sin–that ugly, hideous, twisted evil. God punished Jesus as if he was the one choking his wife on the floor. God punished Jesus as if he was the one molesting a child. God punished Jesus as if he was the one demanding his way, pushing, slamming, breaking, yelling, cursing, spitting. It was not a small thing. Jesus’ death in our place was the biggest thing. God exacted justice, His wrath was poured out in full, to the dregs, on His only precious, perfect Son, Jesus Christ. That’s how great He is. That’s how loving, just, gentle, kind, and good our God is.

That also means Jesus was punished for my sin. Jesus was punished as the one who is weak, who fails, who is needy and broken. He was broken for me. He was bruised for me. He was oppressed and afflicted for me. That’s how amazing He is.

What is the value of evil? Evil reveals the goodness of God. Man’s depravity reveals a small taste of His immense grace. Does that make evil good? Never. Excuse wickedness? No. Ease the reality of suffering? Not necessarily. But in Christ, we have hope. Purpose. Endurance. Peace. Motivation to please Him and love others; to do what is necessary, good and right in spite of our circumstances. Through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are given the Spirit of promise; we are transformed, made new, and empowered to walk in newness of life. God. is. bigger.

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4)

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Much like a mirror, we view life through our eyes–looking out from the inside. Even when we think we’re looking in, we’re looking at ourselves through ourselves. For that reason, none of us is objective. That’s why the Word of God and the people of God are vital.

man in mirror

An abuser sees the victim as an object designed to meet his needs (not a person, not the image of God, not even a servant, but someone “less than”). The focus is himself. Pride skews the way he look at life. Every wrong is deflected onto his chosen target. Is everyone guilty? Sometimes. But more often, there is an individual who could, if she chose, put him in the center and make his life easier, better, more fitting. He is entitled; she is an interference, an obstacle. His reality is the only reality.

Victims often see themselves at fault. They should be able to right the world–his world–and bring about change. Her reality is subject to his. If only she could align with his wants, needs, and desires, life wouldn’t be so difficult or painful. Unfortunately, his reality changes constantly. She’s off balance, unable to stay grounded, at his service.

Both have a distorted view of God, themselves, and others. At home, abusers exhibit little to no dependence on God. Victims depend on their abuser. Failure results in punishment. This is not a case of “It takes 2 bears to make a bear fight.” This is domination and control.

Although abusers sin greatly against the victim, it’s a cat and mouse game few see. Those privy to the truth have no voice or are quickly discounted in light of the abuser’s influence, affluence, personality, charisma, persona.

Many in the church have no idea. They, too, see the situation through their own eyes, assuming that the husband is–of course–caring for his wife and children, representing his side of the story accurately, and, though frustrated, painting his wife in the best light possible. Many also assume that the wife is ungrateful for her husband’s care, exaggerates his faults, and fails to live up to her role.

Applying the Word of God to what is seen or reported is difficult. The examination must be private, comprehensive, and invasive. An abuser’s heart seeks his own, justifies sinful behavior, and is unwilling to sacrifice his agenda for the benefit of his spouse (for others, yes, but not for her). A victim seeks to please her spouse (remember the consequences? Imagine the weeks, months, years; the habits and thought processes that have led her here). She, too, minimizes her abuser’s words and behavior (it’s shameful and embarrassing for anyone else to hear or see the demoralizing treatment. They would cringe. She cringes just thinking about their pity or, worse, agreement with her abuser.). She has little to no agenda other than survival and avoiding punishment and reproach.

Can you say, “This is wrong”? “This is shameful”? “This is not the way Christ loves the Church”?  This is not Christian marriage. Take His name out of it. Whether those involved claim to be Christians or not, this is controlling, illegal behavior. Prayerfully look beyond your own mirror into the face of Christ. What do you see?

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:12-16)

Two Sides to Every Story

Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.” Those who help individuals settle disputes and live at peace depend on this principle. In most people situations, this works. But a proverb is a proverb, not a promise–it’s true most of the time, given the right circumstances.

This verse does not say, “The first to plead her case seems right, until another disagrees,” or “proves her wrong.” It actually says nothing about the other person. It simply teaches that we need to be careful and examine a situation before reaching a conclusion. This is especially true in relation to domestic abuse. It’s important to seek and gain knowledge–not only from those involved–but also from God’s Word and people. Knowledge about domestic abuse, any abuse, is cause to stop and look differently.  

unhpapy couple

The underlying assumption of many, especially men, is that a husband and wife stand on equal footing. It’s true: people are people. But in a Christian marriages, a woman honors God by placing herself under her husband’s authority. This is her gift to him. Husbands are not responsible for a wife’s submission. Wives are not responsible for a husband’s love, that’s his responsibility. 1 Peter 3:7 says,

“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

A wife who submits to her husband is weaker because she willingly forfeits her desires and autonomy to his headship, trusting God to use and direct him in meeting her needs. They’re a team with different roles. Each one has the equal value. Each is a person made in the image of God with the same attributes and essence. With practice, a husband and wife communicate and follow to God’s direction together as the husband leads and the wife assists. Because she does not call the shots or bear the weight of  decisions, she is in a weaker position both practically and experientially. She is not powerless to disagree, confront wrong, pray, and depend on others, but she trusts God to provide through her husband’s leadership.

To the degree that her husband considers her “a fellow heir of grace,” and loves her as Christ loves the church, Christian marriage is a beautiful, supernatural picture of goodness. But when a man views his wife as an object to meet his desires, she is doubly, sinfully disadvantaged. She must learn to rightly divide Scripture and please God in spite of her husband.  

It’s also important to recognize that the most prevalent predator of women is men. Statistics speak for themselves: sexual harassment, assault, abuse, stalking, trafficking, or murder. Men who refuse to submit to the gospel and work of Christ are deceived and deceiving; driven by desire. In fact, domestic violence causes more injuries to women than accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.* Women carry keys a certain way, examine their surroundings, plan where, when, and how they travel, anticipate and prepare for danger on a daily, if not hourly, basis. We train and educate our daughters differently than sons because of dangerous men. I do not avoid men in general. I am not embittered against them nor do I wish evil on anyone based on gender, but I am always aware. 

Those who address the concerns of a woman reporting (or disclosing) abuse often overlook this simple fact: in cases of abuse, men are dangerous and women are disadvantaged. This is not one-on-one conflict. It is a teeter-totter in which one individual sits at the bottom and makes demands of a captive held aloft and alone.

Investigate? Yes, by all means. Ask questions, take notes, collect documentation. Assume she is on even standing with her abuser? Absolutely not.

The way you apply this proverb could easily set her up for injury and punishment. This happens when you break her confidence as a means of getting his side of the story or question the two of them together. Instead, question them separately. Give her side additional weight and confidentiality. Involve individuals who understand abuse and have the ability to discern the situation without endangering or threatening her safety. This may mean using secular sources and/or older women in the church who can be trusted to love, care, pray with and for her.

This is not a simple disagreement. This is oppression, buried under layers of deception, peppered with coercive, covert tactics. You will not get 2 sides of the same story. You will get 2 altogether different stories because one is driven by power and the other is subject to it. God knows. Seek His help. Apply His understanding and reflect His heart: oppose the proud, give grace to the humble.

Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be,
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
They speak falsehood to one another;
With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that speaks great things;
Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:1-4)

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:12-16)


Moon and Sun

Nature reflects God’s eternal nature and glory–none of us would deny it. And just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, we are created to reflect the light of God.

Moon and sun

Unfortunately, many of us think we’re stars. Abusive individuals are like that. In longing for adoration and approval from some, they put selfish, ungodly demands on others. They don’t realize we’re all moons. Instead of using God’s light to serve others, they bow to another god altogether. That god may be power, money, status, titles, possessions, or influence. They are blinded to the fact that this worship is about themselves, not the object. They want power to feel powerful, control to fight off fear, possessions, money, titles, and status to feel valuable and important. It is not about the opinions of others as much as how those opinions reflect their worth. In that way, they continue to be moons–reflecting the pale, limited light that comes from other darkened moons.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus said,

“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:22-24)

In realizing an abusive individual is not a star or sun, we acknowledge that they do not deserve our adoration or glory the way God does. In fact, when we put everyone on a level playing field and God in His rightful place, we begin to question an abuser’s demands. We call individuals “abusive” when they abuse the power and influence God has given, using it for themselves instead of serving others. To allow one’s self to be used as another’s light source doesn’t work, either. Only God is self-sufficient and independent; the Source of all light and glory.

Some use the Scripture, “the woman is the glory of man” (1 Corinthians 11:7), to imply that a wife should never dishonor her husband. Take another look. That statement is preceded by the phrase, “man… is the image and glory of God.” Man is to reflect–and represent–the wonder and beauty of God. As He does, his wife will reflect that goodness in her own life.

A godly, loving, sacrificial man is seen in his influence on his wife and family. When he loves them well, cares for their needs, is sensitive to their struggles, prays for/with them, and gives of himself, it will be evident in their contentment, joy, peace, generosity, and gracious responses. They will love others and reflect God in their relationships and faith-filled responses to life.

A glory-hoarding, anxious, demanding, stingy, manipulative man is seen in his influence on his wife and family. When he demands adoration, affection, respect, attention, and care for himself at the expense of others, it will be evident in his family’s unhappiness, discontent, fear, anxiety, and inability to serve others. They are bound by chains of power and control; stifled, hurting, isolated, waning. They reflect his glory.

The Greek word for “glory,” means an opinion, view, splendor, or brightness. A woman will reflect her husband in the same way he reflects God.

All that to say, if you live with an abusive man, God does not expect you to be something you’re not. He isn’t asking you to be one way in public and another in private. He says, “It is what it is.” Your job is simply to reflect the sun. The question is, “Who is your Sun?” If the Lord Jesus is the center of your universe, you can reflect Him well even while responding honestly and courageously to a wicked man. If another moon is your sun, you will wither and wane; your light is but darkness.

Come to the only true Light. He will not cast you out. He is there to rescue, deliver, and care.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
Behold our shield, O God,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
How blessed is the man who trusts in You! (Psalm 84:8-12)