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)

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)

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)

Accessing Strength and Power

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what prevents victims of abuse from crying out–and there are a lot of factors. I’ll be part of a Master Class with Chris Moles in the near future and will make it available as I’m able. But something incredible has fallen into my lap in the way of experience and truth.

Because I am not only a biblical counselor but an Advocate Volunteer for our social services, I interact with a lot of different people. When victims need help–when they know they need help–and they want help, God offers Himself as the  Rock, the  Fortress, the Hiding Place.

To come to the place of admitting there’s nothing I can do and this other person is acting contrary to my hopes and dreams–that I am caught in a web of deception–that is when I fall on my knees and beg for mercy. My dreams are gone. My hope, dashed. My future, uncertain. My present, a nightmare. My relationships, tenuous. As the old hymn writer said, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

Unfortunately, many would rather live the lie, hope for change, and wrestle the known than let go and embrace God with both hands. (Statistics say that a woman will return to an abusive relationship an average of seven times.) When a victim lets go of present circumstances and takes God at His Word, a miracle takes place. Eyes are open, reality is accepted, dreams are released, and hope takes root.

If you haven’t, look around. Ask God to reveal your true need and cry out to Him. He is your only Hope. If you are clinging to Him, you’ve found the answer to your past, present and future. God will provide–has provided in Jesus Christ–and will continue to use and bless you for His glory and eternal purpose.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Knowing When to Leave

Women want to know. When do I leave? How do I know?

leaving

The book, Sanctuary, walks through heart responses to abuse because it’s not only important to understand abuse and its effects; it’s just as important to learn to how to respond to your abuser and see past the abuse to your self: how you think, what you want, how you work. An abuser may not change–the facts are the facts–but you can.

If you are living in an oppressive, sinful marriage or relationship, God is on your side. The church that serves God is on your side. The people of God are on your side. It may not feel like it. It may not look like it. But you can believe God when He says:

Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Trusting and believing God does not mean remaining in an abusive situation or relationship. One woman said, “There were times I couldn’t move or think fast enough. When that happened, I learned to ride the wave. ‘Just ride the wave,’ I would tell myself, ‘and get away as soon as you can.'”

The wisest man in the world wrote,

“If no one knows what will happen, who can tell him when it will happen? No man has authority to restrain the wind with the wind, or authority over the day of death; and there is no discharge in the time of war, and evil will not deliver those who practice it.  All this I have seen and applied my mind to every deed that has been done under the sun wherein a man has exercised authority over another man to his hurt.

…man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them.” (Ecclesiastes 8:7-8, 9:12)

Evil is real. Evil is unexpected. Evil cannot be predicted or controlled by human inventions. For that reason, leaving an abusive relationship is an act of God. There are things you can do: evaluate the situation, be smart, reach out to others, make arrangements in advance, use legal, practical, and relational resources, be careful (!). But everything you put your hand to is dependent on God. Trust Him. Ask. Look. Test the circumstances.

In the midst of it all, examine your own heart and responses. What would it look like to trust God and do what is right, even if it’s humanly impossible? In what ways do you need to see your abuser’s humanity, cruelty, and insecurity as his own (not yours)?

As you see the reality of your abuser, repeated episodes of sin, your inability to fix or change your marriage, and the severity of your situation (isolation, coercion, bondage), you–you–can change. You can cry out for help by praying to God and repeating the words of Scripture (start with Psalm 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10… see p. 88 in Sanctuary for more). You can ask God to send help. Look for someone who will hear, listen, and believe your story. Trust God by doing what is right and good. Protect yourself and your children.

When David’s life was threatened by King Saul, David had the assurance that God  anointed him (David) to be the next king. Not only did he refuse to harm Saul–knowing God had chosen and put him in a place of authority–David also refused to put himself in harms’ way. He protected himself because he valued what God did–his own life! David was a man after God’s own heart because he loved what God loves and hated what God hates. You can do the same. Be a woman after God’s own heart. Value your life, dignity, future, and being because God does.

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I have given Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your place.
Since you are precious in My sight,
Since you are honored and I love you,
I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
And gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth,
Everyone who is called by My name,
And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”

Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes,
And the deaf, even though they have ears.
All the nations have gathered together
So that the peoples may be assembled.
Who among them can declare this
And proclaim to us the former things?
Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified,
Or let them hear and say, “It is true.”
“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.
I, even I, am the Lord,
And there is no savior besides Me.
It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed,
And there was no strange god among you;
So you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And I am God.
Even from eternity I am He,
And there is none who can deliver out of My hand;
I act and who can reverse it?”

Thus says the Lord your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,

“For your sake I have sent to Babylon,
And will bring them all down as fugitives,
Even the Chaldeans, into the ships in which they rejoice.
I am the Lord, your Holy One,
The Creator of Israel, your King.”

Thus says the Lord,

Who makes a way through the sea
And a path through the mighty waters,
Who brings forth the chariot and the horse,
The army and the mighty man
(They will lie down together and not rise again;
They have been quenched and extinguished like a wick):
“Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.
The beasts of the field will glorify Me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.
The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare My praise…” (Psalm 43:1-21)