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)

*https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-domestic-and-dating-violence

The Conscience and Domestic Abuse

“It can’t be!” “It’s not possible.”

These are natural responses when a victim discloses the truth, especially to mutual friends and family members. We want to think people know better, that the abuser has a conscience, that no one would knowingly treat a loved one with cruelty and contempt. That’s simply not true.

The noetic effect of sin–the fact that the Fall affects our mind and intellect–is spoken of in Romans 1:

“…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18 ESV, emphasis added)

Young Angry Man.

Since sin affects every part of our thinking and being, the conscience is not exempt. Some of us feel guilty for doing things that are not wrong. Others don’t feel guilty for doing things that are. The conscience, like our desires, habits, and thinking, must be trained and changed by the Word of God. It is only as we rightly divide the word of truth and submit to God that our thinking and conscience is changed.  When our thinking is transformed, it will change our desires, thoughts, and actions (Romans 12:1-2).

The individual who is driven by self-fulfillment and ambition will stop at nothing to achieve it. In fact, “where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. ” (James 3:16).  An individual motivated by greed and self-seeking views others as objects. They either serve his agenda or interfere with it. They are not equal to his status or existence. His desires and perceived needs rule his world. In his way of thinking, those who deny his standards, demands or preferences are drop-dead wrong because he is always right. He has rights. Undeniable, inalienable rights. Who are you to refuse or tell him no?

A man who lives for himself uses what the Bible calls, “differing weights and measures.” He is the standard. His desires are preeminent resulting in disorder, chaos, and evil. He often uses manipulation and deception to express his desires lest self-exaltation come into the light and be revealed for what it is: prideful, deadly sin.

God doesn’t pull punches. He diagnoses and judges the problem this way:

Differing weights and differing measures, Both of them are abominable to the Lord. (Proverbs 20:10).

Applying a set of standards to one’s self and another set of standards to others runs contrary to God’s character. Jesus died for each and every person. The weight and cost of sin is astronomical. It doesn’t set one person over another. Our sin’s testimony is so great  “that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God” (Romans 3:19). An individual who applies a different set of rules to different people sins against God. People are people. God does not show partiality. “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).

Because an abuser shows partiality–primarily to himself, but also to those whose opinion matters–his conscience is twisted. Not only does he view others as objects who exist to serve him, he may see himself as god/God and his wife’s response as a measure of her spirituality or righteousness. Unfortunately, this is taught in some church circles, creating destruction and havoc, denying Christ as the Savior and focus of worship. As a result, man’s conscience is hardened and he fails to respond in a Christlike way to biblical criteria or conviction (1 Timothy 4:1-2),

To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (Titus 1:15-16)

A husband’s seared conscience affects his wife and children. If she believes her husband is in the place of God, a woman views his approval or disapproval as tantamount. This muddies the waters of abuse and makes confrontation next to impossible. He is god? Who is she to disagree? Children join a father’s tirades against an oppressed mother in thought, word, and action. The noetic effect of sin multiplies as it is sown–father, mother, children, extended family, church family, friends. Consciences that do not submit to the Word of God blindly excuse and justify sin and its consequences.

If you are experiencing abuse, turn to God. He sees what is happening whether anyone believes you or not. Whether you feel crazy, confused, downtrodden, or forgotten. God is on your side. Cry out. Seek help. Immerse yourself in the hope and truth of God’s Word. He can and will help you.

Church, beware. Using differing weights and measures applies to us as well. If we have a different standard for an abuser (i.e. as the husband, he can make ungodly demands, exercise injustice, and practice ungodliness in his home) than the abused (i.e., as the wife, you must submit to your husband “in everything“), we, too, are committing an abomination before the Lord. We have given in to lies instead of renewing our mind and being transformed by the truth of God.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

We are called to be the body of Christ–to do what He would do, love what He loves, think as He thinks, desire what He desires, and follow our Head. May He be pleased and glorified as we exalt Him, His truth and righteousness.

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord while I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish.
How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them;
Who keeps faith forever;
Who executes justice for the oppressed;
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord raises up those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord protects the strangers;
He supports the fatherless and the widow,
But He thwarts the way of the wicked.
The Lord will reign forever,
Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord! (Psalm 146, emphasis added)

 

 

Anger

Anger is a charged, dangerous word. Anger brings pain, sorrow, anguish, conflict, shame, guilt. It is an abuser’s weapon of choice, his way to hammer home expected behavior when coercion doesn’t work. Anger is inherently out of control, unpredictable, unstoppable.

Anger is also a proper response to injustice. Anger is the needle on our moral compass. An abuser believes his wife and world revolve around him. He–the husband, father, provider, man–is the center. Anything that fails to meet his desires is morally wrong.

But he is not the center of the universe. He is not God’s gift to mankind. Jesus is. And Jesus reflects all truth, authority, and glory back to the Father. He does not sinfully absorb it. He does not gloat or demand; lash out or strike. He loves and cherishes. He willingly lives and dies for others. He gave His life to protect the unprotected.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep… I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, 15)

“A battered reed He will not break off, And a smoldering wick He will not put out….” (Matthew 12:20)

“In His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” (Isaiah 40:11)

The Father is angry. His glory has been stolen. The Father’s love has been rejected. The Father’s authority has been mocked. The Father’s truth has been disregarded. The Father’s Son has been scorned. The Father’s will has been ignored. The Father’s child has been beaten, mocked, belittled, isolated, abandoned, betrayed, bullied.

God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day.” (Psalm 7:11)

“Were they ashamed because of the abomination they had done?
They certainly were not ashamed,
And they did not know how to blush;
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
At the time of their punishment they shall be brought down,”
Says the Lord. (Jeremiah 8:12)

“Their tongue is a deadly arrow;
It speaks deceit;
With his mouth one speaks peace to his neighbor,
But inwardly he sets an ambush for him.
“Shall I not punish them for these things?” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:8-9)

Anger is the correct response. King David was known as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). The things that pleased God, pleased David. The things that angered God, angered David. David saw things the way God sees them. He responded the way God responds.

If we are to be people after God’s own heart, we must take a stand that reflects His character. We cannot afford to be deceived, manipulated, coerced, or bullied into silence and acceptance. If we are to be people after God’s own heart, we must step in to protect and provide for His sheep, the battered reed, smoldering wick, nursing ewes. We are His body. We are His earthly manifestation. We are the church.

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:7-17)

Loss

Abuse brings its own sense of grief and loss as a result of repeatedly dashed expectations, pain, betrayal, and manipulation (“How did that happen…again?!). Accepting the truth of one’s abuse results in a whole different type of loss.

woman-grief

To come to the realization that the person who says, “I love you,”–who excuses behavior because of “love”–doesn’t…. Well, it’s impossible, isn’t it? If I have endured months or years of broken promises, lost expenses, children and experiences for nothing, that is a huge loss. To think I have given up my best years, my family, friends, future, education, and career for someone who doesn’t truly love me but has taken advantage of and used me, that is wicked beyond wicked. And then to consider the loss of a promised future–dreams, vacations, grandchildren, life together…. Everything–every thing, every one–I lived for feels like a loss.

There are no words.

Loss has been, and is, an everyday reality. Past. Present. Future. To put it in so many words, is excruciating.

This is where we begin. Whether you’re reflecting on your own deteriorating relationship, watching from a distance, or sitting across the table, we begin by facing loss. Name it. Get real. Be honest. Make a list. Say it. Acknowledge the truth. Give reality a voice.

Churches, leaders, elders–stop, look, and listen. Naming one’s suffering is not slander or gossip. It’s reality. If a tornado hits your house and you experience loss, you see it, examine and relive the trauma, talk about it, grieve over it, and look for help. A tornado has hit her life. Look at it. Examine it. Ask questions. Talk. Grieve. Provide emergency shelter, clothing, food, and loving care. It’s what Jesus would do.

Here is an example of biblical truth, loss, affliction–from Jeremiah. God says “It’s okay to name your worst fear, your living nightmare. Jeremiah did. Job did. I’m still here. I’m listening.”

Let’s be Jesus’ hands, feet, ears, His body, to the suffering and oppressed, weak, abused, lonely.

I am the man who has seen affliction
Because of the rod of His wrath.
He has driven me and made me walk
In darkness and not in light.
Surely against me He has turned His hand
Repeatedly all the day.
He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away,
He has broken my bones.
He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship.
In dark places He has made me dwell,
Like those who have long been dead.
He has walled me in so that I cannot go out;
He has made my chain heavy.
Even when I cry out and call for help,
He shuts out my prayer.
He has blocked my ways with hewn stone;
He has made my paths crooked.
He is to me like a bear lying in wait,
Like a lion in secret places.
He has turned aside my ways and torn me to pieces;
He has made me desolate.
He bent His bow
And set me as a target for the arrow.
He made the arrows of His quiver
To enter into my inward parts.
I have become a laughingstock to all my people,
Their mocking song all the day.
He has filled me with bitterness,
He has made me drunk with wormwood.
He has broken my teeth with gravel;
He has made me cower in the dust.
My soul has been rejected from peace;
I have forgotten happiness.
So I say, “My strength has perished,
And so has my hope from the Lord.”

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me. (Jeremiah 3:1-20)

 

Don’t Rush It!

Christians, biblical counselors, pastors, Bible study leaders–we are quick to rush to  perceived biblical solutions because it seems obvious–it’s what we know. In the case of domestic abuse (or any abuse), it is much easier to tell a victim to forgive than it is to listen to, wrestle with, and endure suffering with her. Forgiveness seems so obvious–and we know it’s right. But in pushing forgiveness to quickly, we fail to minister the Word and serve the wounded and hurting well. Although we blame the secular world for addressing symptoms instead of heart issues, in our rush for godliness (and relief), we can be guilty of the same.

1-postabortion20counseling

One of the things God’s Word does is define right and wrong. In a personal way, God’s Word says, “That was wrong. You can’t fix it, but God can. You need Jesus.” In a similar way, we can help those suffering at the hands of others to say, “That was/is wrong. You can’t fix it, but God can and God will.” To throw a blanket of forgiveness over sin without identifying it is not biblical.

Jesus’ died for specific sins that are listed and defined throughout His Word. God doesn’t leave them to our imagination:

  • evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders (Matthew 15:19),
  • immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these (Galatians 5:19-21),
  • lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:2-7)

In Christ, God provided the only remedy for sin and brokenness by providing a perfect Substitute who took God’s wrath in our place. After approximately thirty three years in preparation Jesus endured betrayal–from His family, His followers, His people–blasphemy, belittling, scorn, unbelief, disregard, anger, threats, mocking, and physical torture. He went to the cross fully committed and willing. Jesus did not die a nebulous death for unnamed sin. He died for the sin of the world; He died for people–people who committed specific, heinous sin against a holy, righteous God.

In forgiveness, the offended party bears the weight of another’s sin. A victim cannot bear her abuser’s weight of sin before God, but she bears his sin against her. There will never be a time when an abuser takes back his words, treatment, physical wounds or scars. They belong to the victim. She bears them all. However, in forgiveness, she says,

“I choose not to punish you for your sin against me. I will let it go.”

Too often, however, we don’t suffer with and help victims feel the weight, disappointment, reality, and pain of the sin against her. We push for forgiveness without counting the cost. We may even quote verses about love from 1 Corinthians 13. God’s Word is true, but we are not using it rightly when we tie up heavy burdens and tie them on a sufferer because we are unwilling to “move so much as a finger” (Matthew 23:4)

Jesus knew our wrongs. He counted them. He felt them, bore them, was wounded by them. And now, when we come to God in faith, we are forgiven completely–for Jesus’ sake. The sin is not less–less horrific, less unrighteous, less wrong. But it has been paid for. For Jesus’ sake God sends our sin away. He lets it go. He knows exactly how much it cost and He has intentionally, purposefully paid the price because of who He is: good, just, holy, perfect, loving.

As those who represent Jesus Christ, we need to s-l-o-w down and walk through suffering with an eye to true forgiveness. It is not only unfair to ask a victim to forgive without counting the cost, it is also unloving. Pushing for forgiveness without honest consideration leads to ongoing, lingering guilt, pain, and spiritual confusion.

A woman who has endured unspeakable treatment should receive loving, giving care that repairs her dignity with healing as she finds her identity in Christ. Then, as God works in her life, she can trust Him to help her forgive her abuser, acknowledging and releasing him of his immense debt against her. The unforgiving servant knew exactly how much he was owed, but failed to count his own debt. As we come to God, understanding the cost of our sin, we can freely forgive others.

The book, Sanctuary, speaks of complete forgiveness (or reconciliation) as a two-way transaction. One person confesses sin and asks for forgiveness, the other gives it. Forgiveness cannot be received without confession and repentance. That is not being hard-hearted or unforgiving, it’s a reflection of God’s forgiveness for us. God forgives and covers our sin after we confess and repent. Unforgiveness is choosing bitterness or vengeance, refusing to forgive when it is asked for.  Unforgiveness is not the struggle for emotional or mental release of another’s sin–that is normal and natural. Forgiveness is a decision of the will, not a feeling, that requires a work of God’s Word and Spirit. In the parable of the “unforgiving servant” the unforgiving individual refused to forgive (or release from personal punishment) what was asked of him (Matthew 18:21-35).

This is tricky with domestic abuse because an abuser may apologize, or even ask for forgiveness, many times and never change. This is where the church needs to step in, protect the oppressed, and hold an abuser accountable. Proof of repentance in a marriage of imbalanced power and pride could take a minimum of 6 months. During this time it is important that the woman (and children) have protection and provision while the abuser is held to complete disclosure and consequences are enforced. Even if trust is re-established, a woman should always have access to leadership that will come to her aid if/when the abuser slips back into abusive patterns of behavior.

After a victim of abuse acknowledges her abusers’ sin, she is in a position to extend forgiveness and release him from his sin against her. She does not need a laundry list of every single offense, but it is healing and helpful to use biblical terms and provide specific examples of sin that needs to be forgiven. A list like this also paves the way for a repentant individual to confess and ask forgiveness from God and his spouse.

The crux of the matter is that forgiveness takes time. It is a heavy decision that requires wrestling and patience; it should not be entered into lightly. We cannot bring about justice, but God can and will. Until then, let us be faithful to His character and refuse to break a bruised reed or extinguish a smoldering wick.

 

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonders.
I will be glad and exult in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
They stumble and perish before You.
For You have maintained my just cause;
You have sat on the throne judging righteously.
You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked;
You have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins,
And You have uprooted the cities;
The very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord abides forever;
He has established His throne for judgment,
And He will judge the world in righteousness;
He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed,
A stronghold in times of trouble;
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion;
Declare among the peoples His deeds.
For He who requires blood remembers them;
He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.
Be gracious to me, O Lord;
See my affliction from those who hate me,
You who lift me up from the gates of death,
That I may tell of all Your praises,
That in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in Your salvation.
The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made;
In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught.
The Lord has made Himself known;
He has executed judgment.
In the work of his own hands the wicked is snared. Higgaion Selah.

The wicked will return to Sheol,
Even all the nations who forget God.
For the needy will not always be forgotten,
Nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever.
Arise, O Lord, do not let man prevail;
Let the nations be judged before You.
Put them in fear, O Lord;
Let the nations know that they are but men. Selah. (Psalm 9)

Where is God?

There is unspeakable evil in our world. People do things that should never be done–or thought about. The cruelty and disregard of abusers for their victims leaves me speechless at times. Where was God? Why didn’t He intervene? How could He let that happen? For that long?

I know much of what the Bible says. I know God and I believe He is good. Loving. Able. Ever-present. He has revealed Himself in His Word–and my own personal life. He affirms Himself and His goodness through His Spirit. But I struggle with the reality of His goodness, love, and power as I watch their pain and suffering. Living on a farm, I have seen the helpless writhing of suffering creatures and it is difficult, almost impossible, to reconcile with God’s character. Words are inadequate. Platitudes and cliches are harmful. Touch is invasive. I pray. I wait. I read. And reread.

Trusting God by Jerry Bridges
The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink
God’s Healing for Life’s Losses by Robert Kellemen
Mending the Soul by Steven Tracy
When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes
the Psalms, Lamentations, Habakkuk and other minor prophets

And I love. In loving, I ask. Raw is raw, difficult and impossible is difficult and impossible. The wrestling is not mine, it is between God and the one who is hurting. My struggle is my own. This is her fight and I dare not jump in or meddle. So I ask. Listen. Rephrase. Clarify. Provide perspective. Pray. Draw on God’s Word and character. Ask deeper, more revealing questions. Reframe, reflect, testify, and send her out the door with God’s Word. And continue praying.

We stand together. The fight is hers alone, but we, the advocate, pastor, counselor, and local church cheer her on, pump her up with encouragement, care and comfort. Together, we weep and wrestle and wait and pray. Step by step. Grief after grief. Sorrow after sorrow. Insight after insight. And God works. He reveals Himself: good, loving, and able. Mighty to save.

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)