Submissive Equality

Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that submission in marriage means everything. If a husband is displeased, it’s because his wife isn’t submitting. If the marriage is struggling, it’s because she’s not submitting “in everything.” There a mistaken understanding that, because marriage represents Christ and the Church, the husband (representing Christ) is right and the wife (representing the Church) is at fault. Somewhere along the line we lost the reality that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The example of David and Saul is one of a submissive equal–both were God’s anointed–in which the designated authority was sinfully jealous, capricious, and malicious. (Marriage is also a relationship of submissive equality–if you struggle with that, do some Bible digging.) David was wooed into the relationship by his ability and God’s sovereign hand. Once there, Saul used David, turning on him time and time again.

When given an opportunity to exact vengeance, David responded, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Samuel 24:6). He refused to harm Saul. But the fact that Saul was the governing authority did not mean David had to give in to Saul’s sinful whims. David fled to save his life; he sought help from Jonathon, the priests, his family, and those the Lord sent his way. He resisted evil as an example of godliness. God blessed his efforts and preserved his life. Difficult? Yes. Unfair? In human terms. Good? Yes, in as much as David honored and glorified God with his decisions and responses.

David endured manipulation and exploitation, but when it came to physical endangerment and the threat of his life, he fled. His respect for God’s anointed extended to himself as well as Saul. God chose David and appointed him to be king. That was David’s confidence–God had made a promise. David’s commitment to guard what God had entrusted to him included his personal protection and that of his family.

A woman who suffers mistreatment at the hand of her husband must put her confidence in God. This confidence is not in herself, her choices, and actions. It is certainly not in her husband or marriage, but in God alone. Amy Baker says that hope results from trust; not pie-in-the-sky, someday-my-prince-will-come hope. God offers true hope as we trust fully in Him, guarding His gifts and promises, acting in faith to protect one’s physical life, health, children, and spiritual growth. If you belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ, you belong to Him and nothing (nothing!) changes that. Faith is not passive, it is an active commitment to put God first, doing what is right and good, resisting evil, and trusting Him with the results.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:3-23)

Forgiveness without Reconciliation pt. 2

Forgiveness is costly. When Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing,” He was not providing a blanket forgiveness. He was petitioning His Father, willing to pay the price for their sin against Him. In the same way, Jesus took the punishment of my sin so I wouldn’t have to. That is love–and it is the kind of love only Jesus can give.

jesus_on_cross

None of us can take another’s punishment for sin. We have our own to worry about. But forgiveness* is a promise to withhold punishment for another’s sin against us. It may seem a petty thing–and in the scope of eternity it is–but in the moment, depending on the offense, it is astronomical. What does it look like to forgive a husband who belittles you in public? Demeans you in front of the children? Withholds finances? Takes joy in making your pain?

When we see the ugliness, waste, and offense of sin, we are tempted to retaliate, make him pay, want him to feel the pain and suffering he’s caused. That’s normal and natural. But Jesus can change that. Examining my own heart and sin against God and others brings me to a point of seeing the pain and suffering I brought on Jesus; on friends, church and family members, co-workers, children. And as I fully embrace the price Jesus paid for my sin, all of it, I am able to give him my pain and suffering as a result of others’ sin against me.

Willingness to forgive does not fix the problem. It does not make the offense go away or stop it from happening.  What a heart of forgiveness does do it to take the Jesus-card out of my back pocket and put it in the sin chip-reader. “Charge it to His account. There’s more than enough to cover the cost.” When I delve into Jesus’ forgiveness and extend it to others, I am free from the need to punish them or get revenge. I trust God to take care of things, and I know He will. As far as my own sin, the punishment was at Jesus’ expense. Paul wrote, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Apart from God’s forgiveness in Christ, I can never be ready and willing to offer forgiveness. But through faith in Jesus, I can choose a heart of forgiveness. If the offending party has not acknowledged, owned, and dealt with his sin, I am free to bring it up when it is in his best interest. In that case, I determine to use his sin against me for Christ’s glory instead of my own.

I will not smash the mirror of God’s Word over someone else’s head, but I may lovingly, gently hold it up as the Standard in non-combative moments to say, “This is what I’m seeing–do you see it, too?” A willingness to love and forgive may mean removing one’s self and children from a dangerous or sinful situation: “I am not going to embrace or be an audience to your sin against God, against me, and against those who are in your care.”

The key is this: *sin cannot be forgiven (or “sent away) until it is acknowledged and forsaken. Until then, we can be willing and ready, dependent on Jesus Christ, extending His kindness and love to the just and the unjust, doing what is right, and using the resources He has put at our disposal.

But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:26)

For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. (Matthew 16:27)

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God… (1 Peter 3:18)

Forgiveness without Reconciliation

I was recently asked what marriage to an abusive man would look like if he never changed–if he confessed and asked for forgiveness as manipulation. That’s a hard question. What would it look like to live, willing to forgive, but unreconciled?

Jesus’ said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

That’s hard. Impossible. Supernatural.

And the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. During the last meal Jesus shared with His disciples before His crucifixion, He announced that one of them would betray Him. Each one (including Judas) asked, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22). Jesus didn’t treat Judas any differently than the others, even though Judas had received 30 pieces of silver in exchange for betrayal.

The strained behavior, words, guilt, and shame rest soundly with the one who sinned and refuses to repent. Those forgiven by God in Christ are free; faith-filled, peace-full. They can make decisions, walk, talk, and live with a clear conscience before God and others. Reconciliation affects fellowship with individual who sinned against us, but it does not bear on our own conscience or relationship with God.

Again, the guilt and sin is the responsibility of the one who sins against and uses others to his advantage. The soul who sins will die. (Ezekiel 18:4). That’s each one of us–apart from Jesus. But in Christ, there we can love others independent of their behavior; seeking their best, honoring God with my heart, mind,  body, and soul.

Simply trusting every day;
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Refrain:

Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by,
Trusting Him, whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

2 Brightly doth His Spirit shine
Into this poor heart of mine;
While He leads I cannot fall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

3 Singing if my way be clear,
Praying if the path be drear;
If in danger, for Him call,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

4 Trusting Him while life shall last,
Trusting Him till earth is past,
Till His gracious advent call,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Why the Term, “Victim?”

Using the word “victim” to describe an individual experiencing domestic abuse is, perhaps, a bit archaic. Old-fashioned. Politically incorrect. Or is it?

The choice of the word is intentional and sets itself up for discussion. What word would you use? Secular society chooses the word, “survivor.” The idea is that anyone who has suffered abuse successfully is not a victim because the word victim denotes weakness and subjugation. Surviving abuse is worthy of recognition. I don’t disagree.

The word, victim, as used in the book, Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse, is a temporary term that applies to an individual suffering unjustly for a limited time in a specific setting. It is not a term of identity, worth, or prophecy.

Why not use the word, “survivor?” Because survivor comes with a t-shirt. Survival is a term of endurance and evident success, but the word, “victor” is so much more powerful. In Christ, and through the power of the gospel, a woman experiencing domestic abuse is not a victim. She is not merely a survivor. She is a victor.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

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.  It may take practice. It might mean removing yourself from the abuser. It will take hard work and effort to focus your mind on God, especially in the middle of the war. But as you settle your mind and replace scattered thoughts with who God is you will find it easier. Isaiah wrote,  “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. And He does not encourage you to stay and fix the problem. Get help. If you are assaulted, press charges. Allow God to use what He has put in place for your protection.

As you do, 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)