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)

 

Marriage: A Hill Worth Dying On?

Unfortunately, many of us make decisions based on short, biblical phrases without realizing we’ve missed something. We think of and apply them sinfully–because, well, that’s how we roll. Here is an example that relates to domestic abuse:

“God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16).

We’ve all heard it. This specific phrase drives many to worship marriage over and above Jesus. To understand it, we need to know its context. Malachi 2 was written to the priests of Israel who no longer represented God accurately. Driven by their desire for pagan women, they treated their wives with contempt and violence, divorced them, and cut off all financial support. Jewish women wandered the streets abandoned, destitute, betrayed, and rejected. Children were fatherless. God’s people suffered as a result of man’s sin. It is no wonder Malachi wrote, “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong” (Malachi 2:16). God hates divorce as a means of serving one’s own sinful, indulgent desires.

The Lord refused the priests’ offerings and prayers, but they claimed innocence. Why didn’t the Lord hear them? “Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14).

marriage certificate

In the context of the passage, divorce isn’t the issue. Mistreating and betraying your wife is. Not providing for her under the guise of “I’m a great guy,” “I’m an important guy,” “Just look at my priestly robes,” is detestable. God hates those who cover violence and deceit with outward appearance, especially after vowing to love, provide for and protect one’s wife.

Before going further, let me say that just as marriage isn’t the answer, neither is divorce. The book, Sanctuary, addresses the heart of the issue not the outcome. Each husband, wife, and local church must arrive at and apply their own conviction(s) as it relates to marital separation, divorce, and related factors like adultery.

If you’re still struggling with marriage as the main concept–the ultimate, hill-worth-dying-on institution–please consider this. Jesus did not die for marriage. He died for people. Jesus died and rose again for His Bride, not an institution. His death and resurrection purchased souls, recreating new life, transforming and breathing holiness and righteousness into lifeless sinners.

He did not die for women to cover and hide the sin of their husbands. He did not die to enable and empower men to be idols unto themselves.  Instead of covering and hiding sin, Jesus came to expose and forgive it, to bring repentance and change.

“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21)

Those who come to God in Christ become light themselves:

…you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says,

“Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  (Ephesians 5:8-17)

 

The calling of God on our lives is to expose, not participate in, the deeds of darkness; to stand firm, speak against and seek help in the shadows. As we reveal darkness and sin, our goal and desire is not judgment, but Christlikeness. If a man is treating his wife with contempt, manipulation, violence, and a desire for power or control, he is not pleasing the Lord. He is walking in darkness. He is practicing the deeds of darkness. He is living for himself instead of God. How do I know?

God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)

Again, Jesus did not die to redeem the institution or covenant of marriage, He died for sinners. We must know the bad news before we’re ready to receive the good news. Exposure of sin is a prerequisite for salvation and sanctification.

Pastors, Bible teachers, leaders, stop protecting sin for the sake of marriage. That stance does not reflect biblical truth or the character of God. Allowing men to continue walking in darkness and turning our back on the oppressed is just as wrong as abuse itself.

Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
12 If you say, “See, we did not know this,”
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)

But, My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

Wives of controlling, angry, manipulative men, seek help. Cry out to God. Pray and look for someone to listen and believe you. Involve local law enforcement. You are not betraying your husband or your marriage; you are loving God by looking to Him with trust, seeking to protect the one He died to save: you. He loves you so much He died in your place. Turn to Him now. Come to the Light. He will save, provide for and protect you. He will make you His own.

“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. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:16-21)

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)

The Source of Worship

Messing with someone’s worship is a dangerous offense. Many of us consider weekly worship a priority and can’t imagine life without it. However, in the home of an abuser, worship is a daily, hourly, constant–because the abuser has made himself the object of his wife and children’s worship.

Golden-calf_

In the same way Jeroboam refused to let Israel travel to Jerusalem, replacing temple worship with golden calves, it’s not unusual for men to substitute their position or role as “husband” to that of “god.” The expectation is that a wife’s treatment is representative of her worship and relationship with God. In God’s judgment on Israel, however, the burden fell on Jeroboam, who “made Israel to sin” by replacing God-ordained worship with lesser, fear-driven worship based on man-centered rules and regulations (1 Kings 14:16, plus 18 other references in which, “Jeroboam made Israel sin”).

The burden is not on the oppressed, but the oppressor: the one who removes opportunity, ability, freedom of expression and access for unfettered worship of the one, true God through Jesus Christ alone. No man is worthy of worship. He is broken, sinful, flawed, and bent. A husband’s true calling is to live out his own, personal devotion and worship of God, emulating Jesus by washing the feet of those who travel with him, meeting their needs, and serving as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her.

When a wife is free to love God first and most, she will love her neighbor as herself, and, in time, she will experience overwhelming joy.  The journey is a long one, but as long as worship is misplaced, expect the people continue to be downtrodden and led astray. Don’t blame the subject, follow worship to its source. We become what we worship.

The man shapes iron into a cutting tool and does his work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers and working it with his strong arm. He also gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary. Another shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house. Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow.  Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.”

They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend. No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!”  He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:12-20)

They will be turned back and be utterly put to shame,
Who trust in idols,
Who say to molten images,
“You are our gods.”

Hear, you deaf!
And look, you blind, that you may see. (Isaiah 42:17-18)