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)

Fool Repellant

I grew up near Yellowstone National Park. One year a man was taken to the emergency room because he applied bear spray to himself instead of the bear. Repellent can be effective when applied properly. This passage could be described as Fool Repellent.
Heartfelt responses to God’s Word  (or wisdom) are underlined, outcomes are in bold, the character of God is in red, descriptions of the abuser are in italics, additions are in (parentheses). To every woman in the world who needs protection from an abusive partner–and those who want to avoid him:

My son (daughter), if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8 guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil
and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked,
and who are devious in their ways. (Proverbs 2:1-15)

Whether you are already in an abusive relationship or trying to avoid one, use this passage as a prayer.

God, please help me receive your words and treasure your commands. Help me listen to wisdom and desire understanding. I’m crying out, begging You for insight and understanding. I need truth more than anything else in the world right now. I want You to be the most important Voice in my head and heart. Help me see past myself, my circumstances, my relationships, and my immediate needs.

God, I need you to give me wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Only You have what I need. Only You can be my shield. Only in Jesus Christ can I receive complete forgiveness, walk uprightly and hope to have integrity. Please be my righteousness; I have nothing to bring but brokenness, anger, hurt, pain, and confusion.

Help me understand Your way and Your word. Deliver me from the way of evil, from the man with perverted speech, who walks in darkness, rejoices in evil, walks a crooked path and is deceitful in his ways. You are here, God. You see the wickedness and deceit that surround me. But You are Truth. You are goodness. Please be my Way; my Truth; my Life. Guide, protect, defend and deliver me for Your sake.

In Jesus name, and in Your mighty love and power I pray. Amen.

Pray. Practice. Repeat.

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)