Shame vs. Guilt

Abusive relationships breed confusion: shame, anger, pity, love, guilt, frustration, fear. If that’s your bag, it’s time to ask questions and get help.

One of  those feelings and filters that affects all of life is shame. It eats away at us in quiet moments, in the dark of night, in between this and that. If only one could erase shame, life would be bearable. Truly, living with someone who immerses and bathes one in shame makes it hard, if not impossible, to escape. What is shame? Where does it come from? And what do you do with it?

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The first time shame is mentioned, God draws attention to its absence: And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25)  At some point after that Eve and Adam eat forbidden fruit. They sinned and broke God’s law. They are guilty. Their response? Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:7)  Shame resulted from guilt–and it should. But in our broken world and broken state of being, that’s not always the way it works. It’s possible to feel shame without guilt. It’s also possible to be guilty without feeling shame.

Shame results in wanting to cover ourselves; to hide, become invisible. It is often, but not always, the result of guilt. There is a difference. The word, “shame” or “ashamed,” has to do with embarrassment or dishonor (chaphar– Hebrew, aischune– Greek)*. The root word means, “to dig, search out, explore.” It is the idea of being exposed and afraid. Many eastern cultures use shame as a motivator for expected behavior: i.e. Samurai suicide, Muslim “honor killing.” When I was a child, we would slide one index finger over the other saying, “On ver…” to the person who did something shameful. We all know what it feels like to be ashamed.

Guilt, on the other hand, means “liable” (asham– Hebrew, enochos– Greek).* This is a forensic term that connects an individual with committing a crime. I am responsible. I sinned against God. It’s possible to be guilty without experiencing shame. Our media is full of examples. If you have been, or are, a survivor of domestic abuse, you see it regularly.

In a broken, twisted relationship the two can be confused and misused. One may feel shame as a result of embarrassment, false accusations, belittling, wicked, evil words and actions. Like blood that pours from a wound, shame defiles everyone and everything it touches. Guilt, on the other hand, is the would. Guilt is the source of the problem. Shame can be cleaned and removed with the truth of God’s Word. Guilt requires faith and confession for healing.

How do you know if what you’re feeling is shame or guilt? Make a list of things you feel ashamed and guilty for. What words circle in your head like vultures? Write them down in black and white. Then, either by yourself or with a trusted friend, look to the Word of God. Ask these questions:

  • Is this true? Does God’s Word agree with this statement? Some words and actions heaped on you are blatant lies. They are not real or true in any sense of the word. Cross those items off your list.
  • Consider those that are left. Am I embarrassed? Is this about what people think (myself included) or did I actually do something wrong?
    1. If I am concerned more about what people think, it’s shame. I feel exposed, dirty, unwanted, violated. That does not make me guilty. What does God say? If I am His child, He says Jesus took my shame (Hebrews 12:2). God doesn’t care what people think. God loves me; He sent Jesus to die for me and make me His own. I am loved, chosen, adopted, blessed, forgiven, redeemed (Ephesians 1:3-12)
    2. If I am guilty of breaking God’s law, He extends hope and forgiveness in Christ. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) I do not have to bear the guilt of my sin. Jesus did that for me. I do not have to “pay” for it or earn His favor. In fact, no one ever can. I can come to Him in faith and humility, asking for His help and forgiveness.

Accusations do not equal guilt. Only God can assign guilt–and His Word is clear. If you are not sure what the Bible says, it is very possible it is being misused to trap, oppress, and harm you. As frightening as it may be, pray and ask God for the courage to ask someone you can trust to help you sort through shame and guilt.

 

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. (Psalm 34)

 

Love is Not Mutually Exclusive

In relationships that are off-balance, whether you define yours as abusive or not, there is a sense of one-way love. One individual is always giving, flexing, changing, doing. The other is always receiving, demanding, taking. Part of recognizing an abusive relationship is seeing that pattern for what it is. It is not balanced, other-focused, or Christ-honoring because it is one-sided, individual-focused, and individual-honoring. As we’ve learned to say in our house, “Show me the money!” It’s all about profit. If one person benefits over and above everyone else in the family dynamic, he will do what it takes to keep it that way. The one receiving the pay-off has the most to lose.

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In God’s economy, loving others doesn’t mean I lose; it means everyone wins. I can love others well and benefit at the same time.  It’s not all or nothing.

The problem is our definition of “love.” In a human way of thinking, I love you when I do what makes you happy. I believe others love me when they do what makes me happy. Interestingly, the word, “merry” (samach) in the Bible (there is no mention of “happy”), often describes a person who is drunk. That’s not a good thing.

What is God’s definition of love?

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. (John 3:16)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

God’s love is demonstrated, or made evident, through the sacrificial gift of Jesus Christ. Jesus sacrificed His life by taking human form (having lived in eternal glory, He chose a human body!). He sacrificed by living a human existence for more than thirty years in a sin-cursed world with human limitations and sinful people. Jesus then allowed Himself to be betrayed, wrongly accused and beaten. He gave His life in an excruciating way and, in that time and place, took the full weight of God’s wrath for sin–and eternal weight with an eternal price. When God says He loves you, that’s what He means.

God also loves His Son, Jesus Christ. Once the payment was complete, God raised Him from the dead and brought Him back to glory. Jesus sits there now, at the right hand of the Father, praying for us. Someday He will return to rule. He will be the center of our praise and worship forever because of His perfect obedience and love. Jesus did not sacrifice His life for nothing.

God, in His love, grace, and justice glorified, and will glorify forever, His Son. We benefit. God benefits. Jesus benefits. All. Everyone. To the greatest extent possible. The price of love is outweighed by the outcome of love. No one is left empty, used, or taken advantage of. God’s love is inclusive, not exclusive.

As God’s child through faith in Jesus’ payment for our sin, we have His Spirit with the ability and desire to respond and live He did. That means we, too, can love sacrificially. But it’s a different sacrifice than giving and not getting. Just like Jesus, this love means doing what is in another’s best interest whether they appreciate it or not. Our appreciation of Jesus Christ did not limit or affect His giving. His goal was to please His Father. The Father loves us, Jesus loves/d us, and we benefited.

In the same way, loving others happens as we seek to please God first. Others, specifically the individual who has been taking and demanding, will not like losing first place in our lives. It cuts across the grain of their desires and impacts their life negatively. But loving God first does not mean loving others less. It results in loving them more. By not worshiping and giving in to their demands, we allow God to reveal sin and a need only He can meet. By not allowing them to control every element of life and protecting one’s dignity, we remove ourselves from a place of serving others to a place of serving God. It may mean removing ourselves physically. That, too, is an act of love. It says, “This is wrong. It needs to change.” Loving God results in protecting the one He loves and died for–you.

How do we overcome the fear and punishment that is sure to result? It’s important to ask for help in advance. Seek a trustworthy friend to pray, talk through safety issues, and prepare with. Protection and safety are primary goals when living with an abuser. Be smart. Be careful. It’s not a flip-the-switch decision. The consequences could be dangerous. Take your time.  Think it through. You are the expert on your abuser. With God’s help you can learn when and how to apply new ways of seeing and thinking about what’s happening in your home and relationship.

Loving God first is not mutually exclusive. When I love God first, I love others as a result. When I love others first, I don’t love God.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:7-21)

Why I Wrote “Sanctuary….”

A woman noticed my nametag as we stood in line. “Did you write that book in the bookstore?” she asked. When I told her I had, she shared her own story of domestic abuse, then she wanted to know mine. I fumbled for an answer. In the year since the book was published, she was the first and many others have asked. “Why did I write Sanctuary?”

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I could tell you that in a group of women close to me, 3 of 5 have experienced domestic abuse. Or I could tell you that when it was time to write my master’s thesis, my husband wisely asked, “What counseling situation is most difficult?” Or I could say that the department chair suggested researching physical domestic violence when I wanted to write on how to respond biblically to a sinning husband.

Here is the truth. One morning, instead of meeting in my office, I met a woman in her home because her husband made her choose between money for groceries or money for gas. They had fought most of the night. We sat at her kitchen table and when she brought up the topic of divorce I asked where he was. She calmly replied that he was sleeping in a nearby bedroom. That didn’t feel particularly safe or smart, so we took our conversation outside.

We had met many times and discussed different facets of life. As I desperately prayed for words and direction, we turned to Matthew 22:37-40 and I asked, “If you continue the way things are now, is it possible to love God with your mind, soul, and strength? Are you free to have a personal relationship with God? (Read your Bible, pray, and attend church?)” Yes, she said, that was not an issue. “And if you continue as you are now, are you loving your husband and children well? Can you do what is best for them?” No, she answered. She could not continue living this way without giving in to sinful lifestyle choices, constant chaos and fear. Loving her husband meant making changes, dangerous ones. If she chose to love God and her neighbor, those changes could lead to removing herself and their children for their safety and his overall well-being. He needed help and they a) couldn’t fight against his sin and b) didn’t have the resources to fight their own under his influence, c) would continue to be in danger and d) were harboring a criminal by not reporting him (physical assault/domestic violence is a crime).

I offered to go with her to the courthouse and file a protective order. She said she couldn’t. She wasn’t ready. We talked about safety plans, contacting extended family, daily schedules and opportunities, but I quickly realized this was not about surface issues. There were struggles deep in her soul and mind that had to be overcome for her to step out of the cycle of violence to safety from the man who controlled and undermined her every move and resource.

As we walked through the weeks and months that followed, God more than provided for her needs financially, spiritually, and practically. He also gave her miraculous courage and insight into herself, her husband and children. With help from family, friends, the local church, law enforcement and social service agencies, she and her husband received counseling and multiple opportunities for change. She chose change, Jesus Christ, and freedom. He chose himself.

I continue to meet with women whose husbands sin against them, armed with the truth that only Jesus works change and is worthy of worship. Through Christ, God’s Word, His Spirit, and His people are vital tools that empower and enable victims to become victors. The odds against victims of abuse are overwhelming. Coercion, confusion, belittling, demeaning, violent behavior traps them against their will. Even after building up gumption to leave temporarily, women return to abusive relationships an average of 7 times before leaving permanently. But God has a better solution.

Only God can make the local church aware that some men prey on and use their wives as objects instead of equals. God can put it in women’s hearts to search out, pray for, and come alongside the suffering. God can provide His Spirit though salvation in Christ, newness of life, courage and a desire to do things differently. God can change hearts and lives of not just victims, but abusers, and the entire local church. God can provide secular resources and legal intervention to provide for their practical needs.

Sanctuary: Help and Hope for Victims of Domestic Abuse is not about changing the dynamics or circumstances of domestic abuse. It’s a look into the heart of our God who comes alongside the suffering soul, providing comfort, healing, and help. Sanctuary empowers victims of domestic abuse to use Scripture as a means of change and loving others–not according to their own understanding–but in a courageous, biblical way that calls others to respond to God as the Judge, the Avenger, and, potentially, personal Savior from sin and God’s deserved wrath.

I wrote Sanctuary because the gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes. God’s Word is living and active. God’s Word is a healing balm of grace and mercy.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 119:7-11)

Submit in Everything?

One biblical reason women fail to cry out–and churches fail to help–is a misunderstanding of the word, “everything” in Ephesians 5:24. “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”

Watch this video to understand the context and heart of God behind this controversial verse:

Click on this link to view video.

(PS–this is a trial run–folks on Sanctuary’s Facebook page, sorry for the repetition. This may or may not work… Stay tuned.)

Repentance

Those who use power and control as weapons use them well. Think of hand-to-hand combatants in the movies: Matt Damon, Keanu Reeves, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee. That’s an abuser in a nutshell. It’s what you’re up against–what victims of abuse experience–only it isn’t one scene and it’s not a movie. It’s real life. Over. And over. And over.

In an abusive relationship, the oppressed individual just can’t win. Sometimes life feels  normal. Then pressure builds. The rug gets pulled out from under her unexpectedly. Hard. If only she’d seen it coming. If only… If only….

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If you’re a church leader and this isn’t your personal bent, you need to be mentally and spiritually prepared. Sure, there’s trouble in the relationship. Who doesn’t have trouble now and then? But in the case of an abusive relationship, it’s not a boxing match, it’s a street fight. You think you know. You want to think you know. But you don’t. There are no rules. When an abusive individual doesn’t get what he wants, he keeps pressing (or taking. There’s no time to strategize, take a break, regroup, or size up your opponent.

After hearing her side, you may expect opposition. Instead, you often find false humility; a walk to the altar; a promise to tow the line. You think the problem’s solved and you’ve successfully intervened. In some cases, perhaps. But in the case of an oppressive marriage, you’ve been played.

While you were giving him the benefit of the doubt, quick to listen, slow to speak, loving, and playing nice, he manipulated you into giving him more rope and leeway. You told his wife she needs to change, give it another go, hang on a little longer, do what it takes to preserve the marriage. What you don’t know is that He hasn’t changed; He simply flipped the coin and used the other side to get the same outcome: power and control. Now that his sin has been revealed to people who matter, people who could call him to change and surrender, people who have the ability to limit his power, desires, and control–he will make every effort to look the part, convincing them he’s doing his part; she’s not doing hers.

Tears do not equal repentance. “I’m sorry” is not repentance. “I won’t do it again,” is not repentance. “How can I fix this?” is not repentance. “Help me, please,” is not repentance.

Sound familiar?  If you’re still trying to figure out what just happened, please, please check out Chris Mole’s resources at http://www.chrismoles.org/ . Chris helps pastors and church leaders see behind the masquerade of power and control to repentance and true heart change, all while protecting and defending women and children–especially those in our churches.

Repentance equals change. And, as Kevin Carson says, “Change does not take place until change takes place.” Repentance begins with identifying sin. There is no way to begin the put off, put on process of sanctification if you refuse or fail to identify the specifics of what to take off. Where is the sin? No minimizing, justifying, excusing, blame-shifting. True repentance is broken over one’s own sin against God and others, not sorrowful over consequences.

Determine how you, as church leaders, or his wife, know he has put off a behavior. What will stop? How often? To what degree? How will you measure effort and sincerity? Paul wrote this in 2 Corinthians 7:11:

..see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.”

Is he making efforts to keep up appearances, to get what he wants (his life and wife)?This is not true repentance. True repentance means submitting (yes, you read that right–“submitting”) himself to the power and control of others, even when he doesn’t agree. He will tow the line longer than required. He will be harder on himself than you are–and you should expect him to be.

His wife is the one who knows. Listen. to. her. Let her be raw and real. Allow her to share his infractions, outbursts, and demands. This is one of the few true barometers of change in an abusive relationship.

And that’s just a start.

Don’t be the fool. Identify him, love him well, draw him to the Savior. “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

Love your women and children. Protect and defend them. Go to the mat. Be filled with the Spirit, doing the Lord’s work, with His Word, as His Body:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61:1-2)

 

Get Outta the Way!

Years ago while visiting a friend, the phone rang. From the far end of the house I heard a small, shrill voice rise and continue. “Aren’t you going to answer the phone?” I asked. “Not yet,” she said.  The sound got louder and clearer, “Get outta the way! Move! Move! Move!” The young tornado ran at full speed, dodging obstacles and people, desperately repeating, “Get outta the way! I’m coming!” Reaching for the phone, she cleared her throat and answered  sweetly, “Anderson residence. This is Cassie speaking. How may I help you?”

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Find original photo here

As I travel the pages of Proverbs and observe what God has to say about wicked men, the word to the wise is, “Get out of the way!” Maybe you’re a wife–a good wife. He says you’re a lousy one, but you really want to do your best. Whether you’re married to a wicked, foolish man or not, we women have a tendency to fix things. We know and believe God created us to be helpers–and we’re really trying.

The problem is that we step into the nunya zone as helpers (see The Nunya Zone). In the case of the wicked, this is especially dangerous. Why? Because this lies in store for the wicked. According to Proverbs, the wicked man:

  • Sets himself up for destruction (1:17-18)
  • Will lose his life (1:19)
  • Will be caught by his own iniquity (5:22)
  • Will be held with the cords of his sin (2:23)
  • Will be broken with no hope for healing (6:15)
  • Is hated by God (6:16-19, 8:13)
  • Will be overtaken by that which he fears (10:24)
  • Will live a short life (10:27)
  • Will be destroyed by his wickedness (11:5)
  • Will be caught by his own greed (11:6)
  • Will not go unpunished (11:21)
  • Can expect wrath (11:23)
  • Will receive evil (11:27)
  • Is condemned by the Lord (12:2)
  • Is ensnared by the transgression of his lips (12:13)

Wife, if you stand in the way by trying to “fix” the consequences of your husband’s choices and decisions, you will suffer as a result. Let me say a word here–God knows your heart . He sees your present suffering, confusion, pain, and each incident of abuse. This is not your fault. It is not the result of your sin. You are not the problem. This is not due to your failure and flaws. Your husband alone is responsible for the way he speaks to you, treats you and your children. God will hold him accountable–and others should as well.

Give them the opportunity and by  getting “outta the way.” When your husband tells a lie and gets caught, don’t provide an excuse or step in to smooth the waters. Let him stew in it. It’s his lie. It was his choice. Leave it alone. When he “slips” and says something incredibly rude or derogatory to or about you in public, don’t worry what others think. Let them see him for who he his. Allow the shock and consequences of being marginalized to fall where they may. Don’t cover his sin.

When the Bible says, “Love covers a multitude of sin” it’s referring to sin that has been confessed and repented of, not sin that remains unacknowledged, unconfessed, unhindered, blatant, and repeated. Even God does not cover that kind of sin. Psalm 32:5 says, I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” This is the sin God covers according to verse 1: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!”

True love reveals sin so it can be confessed and forgiven. Ephesians 5:8, 10-12 says, “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light…trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” In loving others, we expose their wickedness and allow them to carry the full weight of their decisions, not because we want vengeance, but because we understand the importance of pleasing God and loving others.

The author of Proverbs agrees. “Stay away,” he warns. “Don’t get drawn into their wickedness and deceit. Hate evil; fear the Lord.” And in doing so, “the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught” (Proverbs 3:26).

You may be the one to execute consequences by saying, “When you threaten violence with your words and/or actions, I’m out of here.” Plan ahead–prepare an extra set of keys, clothing, overnight gear, place to stay, etc. Or, “I will not stand by while call me demeaning names/treat me like a slave/ talk with a raised voice/ get in my face.” When it is safe, leave the room or go to a friends’ house. Let him feel the problem; the consequence; the weight of sinning against you and creating a barrier that has not been restored.  If he doesn’t see the problem, he will continue to excuse his behavior. “It wasn’t that bad.”  “I just _______.” “What’s her problem anyway?”

Say it in your head. Practice it out loud. Repeat it over and over. Then, prayerfully, when the time is right, use it. Involve friends, your pastor, local church leadership, law enforcement, and social services as needed. There is nothing (!) biblical about harboring a sinner and “protecting” him from consequences.

Although it is impossible in human terms, with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). God gives you permission–in fact, He warns you–to “Get Outta the Way!”

 

 

Unjust Suffering

We are all familiar with suffering the consequences of making a poor decision. Children refuse to wear the clothing their parents tell them to and suffer as a result. We like to think that those who cheat, lie, steal, and hurt others will suffer the consequences of their behavior, but we don’t always see it. Is it really true? On the other hand, when women experience domestic violence, abusers tell them, “If only you’d _________, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s your own fault!” What a twisted reality!

That’s why the Bible is so vital to sorting out domestic abuse. It is the only source of absolute truth and God lays it out clearly:

The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:20)

Violence is wrong. Manipulation, deceit, coercion, justification, and posturing are wrong. Using someone to get what you want–power, influence, control–is wrong. The person who lives this way will be held eternally accountable.

The key word is, “eternally.” We may or may not see the consequences now. Asaph saw the injustice of evil men: they were rich, sleek and fat, boasting in themselves and committing acts of violence. Life seemed easy and, somehow, they got away with it. But, Asaph, lamented, his life was uncertain, hard, and he struggled to do what was right. “Why?” he asks. “Why am I trying so hard? What’s the point?”

Then Asaph looked to God and gained a different perspective. This is not the final chapter. From where God sits, unquenchable, eternal judgement is on its way. We may or may not see it in this life, but it will come. In a moment the violent and arrogant will be cast down, tormented by fear and terror. Judgment will come swiftly, inescapably. It is an absolute certainty.

What does God have to say to those who suffer injustice? Asaph wrote these words of encouragement and hope for himself–and for us:

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works. (Psalm 73:23-28)

You can belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ,. When you cry out, He hears you. He sees your need and will see you through. Continue to cry out, trust and obey: tell others, ask for help from friends, the local church,  law enforcement and social services. Keep doing what is right, with your eyes on the long-term goal and your faith in the only One who is with you, in you, and empowering you to press on. Run to your Refuge and Sanctuary. He is steadfast, sure, and able.

Want to know more? Order your copy of Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse. It’s here to help women and their churches see beyond the immediate and obvious to what’s behind and beyond.