Galatians 6: 2, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Those on the outside of an abusive marriage might wonder why an abused wife doesn’t simply leave her abuser, why she isn’t reaching out for help, why she doesn’t try harder to make her marriage work. Why doesn’t she…whatever?
I’ve got news for you: She does. She tries harder in every way than anyone around her knows. She gets up in the morning heartbroken, bone weary, afraid, unsure, and yet she does all that she has to do–sometimes doing the things he refuses to do, sometimes managing while injured, always while afraid. An abused wife does more than most folks can imagine due to the terrible treacherous mountains she climbs daily. And then the next day, and all the days after, she gets up and she tries again. And again.
Because leaving her abuser isn’t just as easy as walking out the door. Especially if he’s ruined her credit. If she has no car at her disposal. If he’s lied about her, poisoning the minds and hearts of those who could help her but now won’t. If she has been cut off from friends and family. If she has not been allowed to have any money at her disposal. If….
Reaching out for help isn’t as easy as making a phone call. Her emails and phone calls might be monitored. Her abuser might be seen as a pillar of the community and she as the crazy one. He might be known as “the nicest guy I know” while, because of his lies, she’s thought of as strange. She might not even have a phone, or a car, or a computer. Or maybe she does reach out only to find that no one believes her, or no one cares enough to help.
And telling an abused wife to “try harder to be a good wife” or “do more to please him” or “do whatever you can not to set him off” is to tell her to do that which she is already doing. Many, if not most, abused wives are already are doing absolutely everything they can to be a good wife or to not set their husbands off; they are afraid not to. That’s not to say that all abused women are perfect. They aren’t. But it is to say that a Christian woman, and even most abused women who aren’t, who is being abused by her husband is already doing every single thing she can to make the pain stop. She’s not being abused because she isn’t a good wife. She is being abused because he isn’t a good husband. But few care to hear that.
Confiding in her pastor or another church leader simply isn’t going to happen if she doesn’t have a church; some abusers prevent their wives from going to church out of a desire to control them. Or her wolf in sheeps’s clothing husband might go to church with her and put on a world class act so that everybody there believes him to be “such a godly man”. Maybe she’s already reached out to her pastor but was disbelieved, ignored or told to go home and “obey her husband and suffer for Jesus”. Maybe she has no way to contact anyone without her husband’s knowledge. Maybe church leaders have told her that divorce is a sin and that God will be angry with her if she leaves.
Why doesn’t she go to a domestic abuse shelter? Perhaps there isn’t one close by . Maybe she doesn’t think that they’ll help her if she isn’t bruised and bloodied. Maybe her husband monitors her every movement. Or maybe she doesn’t have a way to get there.
So she should reach out to a friend, a neighbor, or tell a family member…right? Not if she’s afraid that no one will believe her, or if she fears what her husband will do if he finds out she’s told. Maybe he’s told her he’ll kill her if she tries to leave. Or kill her family or friends if she tells them. He might have lied to family or friends about her and they now believe her to be a liar or unstable.
The road an abused wife walks is a dangerous one. It’s a lonely one. But it’s one on which you can come alongside her. Every abused woman’s story is different and yet heartbreakingly similar–each and every woman trapped in an abusive marriage is afraid, and in need of a friend. If you know someone who is being abused, or whom you think might be being abused, reach out to her. Ask her some questions–but do it gently and in private. Find out what she needs and then do whatever you can to help her.
Maybe with your help the road before her can lead to freedom.
Now your turn…
What’s the one thing you’d want someone to do for you if you admitted to them you’d been abused? What’s the one thing you’d want to do for a woman who came to you admitting she’d been abused?