When You’re Not the Problem

What if your abuse isn’t about you? It’s a farce. You’re not at fault. You’ve done nothing wrong. You’re not trying to be difficult, but the rules keep changing. Your whole sense of balance is off-kilter? What if? How would you know?

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photo credit

This is how abusive relationships work. It’s not a marriage issue. It’s not a marriage problem. It’s a person-out-of-control-large-and-in-charge versus a normal, everyday, wanting-to-get-on-with-life person. It’s not two sinners seeking to glorify God through companionship and unity.

If you are the individual who is constantly “wrong,” under pressure, experiencing ridicule, correction, and/or physical threats and punishment, let me say it here: it’s. not. you. Someone in your life is creating a smokescreen; a blame-shifting game in which you’re manipulated to fuel someone else’s pleasure or pet sin.

The book of James says, “For where envy and self-seeking exist,confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16).

When life is full of confusion and evil, someone is in it for himself. Someone wants what he wants and will suffer no expense–your sanity, your health, your well-being, or that of the children–to get it.

Stop. Look. Listen. Document or record conversations, take photos of damage and destruction, scratches, bruises, bites, lacerations. Get help. Pray and ask God to provide people who will listen. Be careful–he has allies–but keep praying and looking. Local law enforcement and domestic violence advocates will believe you. Churches are changing. Pastors and leaders are starting to listen. 

Next: be smart. Study safety plans. Create space to think, make lists, and consider your options. It is not good or right to remain in a sinful, oppressive environment. We are called to expose sin, not feed it (John 3:19-20, Ephesians 5:11). Once you have confronted your abuse and asked for help, whether the church is willing or unwilling, it’s time to step out of the way (Matthew 18:15-18). Allow God full access to reveal and deal with exposed sin. If you have been a buffer and cover, for safety’s sake, and for their soul’s sake, it’s time for change.

Above all, you are not alone. The Lord your God stands ready to help. He is a refuge and deliverer. He is a place of safety and comfort for the weary and oppressed.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Fuzzy Brain

If you live in an environment of domestic abuse, you can expect to experience “fuzzy brain.” You be confused and forget the most obvious things: appointments, names, places, memories. Your thinking is further inhibited by lack of sleep, hyper-arousal, and unsettled emotions. No matter what your abuser (or your own mind) says, this is normal. Anyone facing the uncertainty and stress of living in a war zone has the same difficulty. These are common symptoms of PTSD. Fuzzy brain is especially frightening when you think about how confusion makes it difficult to protect yourself and/or your children.

How can you overcome fuzzy brain? Pray. Ask God for the ability to think clearly.  Then focus your mind on Him. “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You: because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). God is able to deliver,  rescue, provide peace and clarity of thought. He is with you. He knows what has happened, what is happening now, and what will happen in the future.

You might pray, “God, I don’t know what’s going to happen or when, but You do. Help me remember that You are with me. Please be my strength and my song. Protect me. Give me the ability to think clearly and focus on what needs to be done so I can honor You. Amen.”

Get out paper and pencil, your planner or computer and strategically write down everything you’re trying to remember: appointments, thoughts, children’s activities and schedules, work hours, church events, to do’s, must do’s, want to’s. Get them out of your brain and on paper (or in a document). Continue praying, asking the Lord for direction and guidance as you make plans. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

What problems are you trying to solve? Even if you don’t have an answer, write down each burden and pray, asking God to help. If you have a friend, older woman, or counseling advocate, ask for her help. As you’re able, write down specific, practical steps for when, where, and how to accomplish each task.

If you have the book, Sanctuary, you may benefit from completing the Clarifying Responsibility diagram by Paul Tripp (p. 60).

This is what it looks like to cry out for help. God hears and He will answer. The next step is to trust Him by doing what seems reasonable and best, to do what is right, and wait expectantly for His answer.

Fuzzy brain is a natural response to danger, a gift from God for your safety and protection. Don’t fight it, use it, by His grace and for His glory.

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
2 For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.

7 Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
9 For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.
10 Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.
11 But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

12 The wicked plots against the righteous
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow
To cast down the afflicted and the needy,
To slay those who are upright in conduct.
15 Their sword will enter their own heart,
And their bows will be broken.

16 Better is the little of the righteous
Than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked will be broken,
But the Lord sustains the righteous.
18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
And their inheritance will be forever.
19 They will not be ashamed in the time of evil,
And in the days of famine they will have abundance.
20 But the wicked will perish;
And the enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures,
They vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
21 The wicked borrows and does not pay back,
But the righteous is gracious and gives.
22 For those blessed by Him will inherit the land,
But those cursed by Him will be cut off.

23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
25 I have been young and now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
Or his descendants begging bread.
26 All day long he is gracious and lends,
And his descendants are a blessing.

27 Depart from evil and do good,
So you will abide forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice
And does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
And dwell in it forever.
30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
And his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
His steps do not slip.
32 The wicked spies upon the righteous
And seeks to kill him.
33 The Lord will not leave him in his hand
Or let him be condemned when he is judged.
34 Wait for the Lord and keep His way,
And He will exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

35 I have seen a wicked, violent man
Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.
36 Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more;
I sought for him, but he could not be found.
37 Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright;
For the man of peace will have a posterity.
38 But transgressors will be altogether destroyed;
The posterity of the wicked will be cut off.
39 But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
He is their strength in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they take refuge in Him. (Psalm 37 NASB)

Not Me

Perhaps you’ve stopped in out of curiosity. You have a friend who….

Perhaps you are that friend. You know what’s happening between you and your husband or boyfriend is different than you’d imagined…something women don’t talk about. Your relationship is tense and dramatic sometimes. Other times it’s over the moon wonderful. It’s not always normal, but whose relationship is?

If you feel like you’re losing your mind, living a roller coaster, that your husband is one way at home and another in public, you’re in the right place. No one wants to admit to being mistreated, unappreciated, or taken advantage of–it’s humiliating enough in the moment. It’s excruciating to talk about or share with someone else.

But that’s where it starts: bring it into the open. Stop. Look at your situation. Study your relationship. Journal times, events, incidents and pray that God would give you eyes to see your situation the way He does. Read Psalm 139 and think about how God sees you; your life; your relationship. Ask for wisdom. Fall on His mercy and grace. Then reach out. Tell someone. If they don’t believe you, look for someone else. You. are. not. alone.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever. (Psalm 121)