Are you a victim of domestic abuse?

 

Do you ever wonder if your husband or wife is abusive towards you? Unless you’re an abuser yourself and trying to put that label on  your partner, it’s not normal to think you’re being abused if, in fact, something hasn’t happened to make you think that. That’s not a thought that normally pops out of nowhere. Sadly, domestic abuse is more common than we want to think it is. As the power of the Gospel has diminished in our churches and then in our society, it’s really not surprising that me-centeredness has arisen. And what’s more me-centered than forcing your will, your desires, your way, on your own family while completely ignoring their needs or desires? Abuse can be emotional, spiritual, financial, verbal, or physical (and can show up in controlling/stalking behavior). All abuse–no matter what kind–begins with emotional abuse which is a pattern of behavior designed to elicit fear within the victim. Once fear is entrenched, the victim is easy to control.

So, are you being abused? There are things you can look for, patterns you can observe, to help you discern whether your relationship is an abusive one. Here’s a few of them:

Does your husband (or wife) treat you as if you are his (her) servant? As Christians we are to have a servant’s heart–that’s a good thing. However, if you are being forced to serve, being told you are a slave, being treated as if you have no choice in the matter, or are in a one-sided relationship where you are always the one to serve and never the one who is served, you are being mistreated. These are signs of an abusive or dangerous relationship.

Do you have a voice in the relationship or is he the only one who gets to make decisions such as where you will live, where or if you will attend church, what the money is spent on, where you go, what you do, who you are friends with (or even if you are “allowed” to have any), or even what movie or TV show to watch? Giving into our spouses desires because you love them and want them to be happy is one of the joys of a good marriage. Being forced to continuously give in against your will is a sign of an abusive marriage.

Do you find yourself making excuses for him to others? To yourself? Everybody fails sometimes, but if you have to make excuses for his poor attitude, his anger, his outbursts, his failures, if you find yourself being forced to explain it all away or wanting to explain it all away (in order to try to convince yourself that his attitudes or actions are normal) there is something seriously wrong in your relationship.

Does he see himself as the master of his castle? In Scripture, we are taught that the man is the head of the family, the head of the wife and she is to submit to him. In a good marriage, this is a reflection of Jesus’s submission to His Father and His loving headship of the church. A good husband will listen to his wife, she will be able to take a stand for what she believes, he will want to please her. He will make careful, well thought out decisions with her and, those times he’s forced to make the final decision, he will do so in a way that takes into consideration her hopes, fears, and desires while being careful to do what is best for his family. If a man really sees himself as the “Lord of his domain” or “the Master of his castle”, this guy is either crazy or abusive.

The most important thing to consider when deciding if you are a victim of abuse is this: Are you afraid of him? Do you feel like you have to walk on eggshells when he’s around? Do you find yourself changing the way you think, act, dress, or what you believe in order to accommodate him because you are fearful of the consequences of not doing so? Do you fear his outbursts? Are you afraid he will hurt you? Are your children afraid of him? If you are constantly stressed when you are around him, if you accommodate his wishes, no matter how bizarre, in order to keep him from getting angry, if you go out of your way to meet his demands or to make him happy in order to keep him from blowing up, if you’ll do anything to keep from setting him off, the chances are very, very great that you are in an unhealthy or even a dangerous relationship.

If in reading this, you’ve come to realize that you might be being abused, please be aware that it is not God’s will for you to be abused and there is hope and help available. At the top of the page, I have a list of resources to help you and you can also find my email address there if you need to talk.

Soli Deo gloria!

 

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God, help me

Psalms 57: 4, My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.

Psalms 120, In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me. Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given unto thee? Or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper. Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war. (KJV)

 

Do you know the feeling of having no one to turn to? Of being at war with those whom you don’t want to fight with at all? Of being hurt, again and again, by the very ones you ought to be able to trust the most? I do. Because I do, God, help me has become a daily, sometimes hourly, prayer for me.

God, help me encompasses so much. My desire to know Him better, to serve Him better, to love Him better, to serve others better. To be the Mom, and yes, even the wife, that I long to be. To be an example to others of grace, of godliness, of hope in the midst of heartbreaking circumstances. To one day have a church that stands on the Bible for its doctrine but also knows and understands the pain in our lives and loves us anyway—and lets us love them. To be able to live in peace, worship in peace, to move forward rather than endlessly feeling as if I’m taking one step forward and ten more backwards, sideways, or skewed all over the place. To honor God by being able to pay my bills. To simply have enough. To be able to help others. “God, help me”…. There are times for deeper, more expansive prayers and I pray those often. But there’s also times for simple prayers of dependence.

Early on, I learned the importance of praying because, even then, our lives were upside down and backwards. My father was an abusive drunk and he terrified me. I remember being three years old and sitting at my mother’s breakfast table saying first one prayer, then another, out loud. She asked me what I was doing and I told her that I was “practicing praying”. She reminded me she’d taught me “Now I lay me down to sleep”. I remember telling her that “I’ve got more things to say to God than just that.” I still do.

I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.~ C.S. Lewis

I, too, can’t help myself. I must pray. Not to make the Gospel me-centered because it isn’t, but God alone is the One who has always been there for me. He’s lead me down rough and rocky roads, tumultuous pathways, through caustic bitter relationships with family members, through many a dangerous time. I’ve lived in and through poverty, abuse, rejection, and ongoing chronic illness (that, at times, has nearly taken my life). He led me through the valley of false doctrine into His glorious pure truth. He is the reason I live, I breathe, I hope. Be they short or long, my prayers don’t change God. They change me. They change my perspective on my circumstances, aligning it with His. They change my will, making His will my own. My prayers are to honor Him, but they are what continues to give me life.

I am an abused Christian wife. This is a glimpse into my story. But it’s far more than my story. Ultimately, it, like any great story, is about something beyond myself. In my case, my story is about God’s grace and goodness towards me and my children. We live among many lions, but He is our great Defender. He hears me when I cry unto Him.

Are we doing all that we do for Christ–or ourselves?

2 Corinthians 1: 3-4,  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

James 1: 27, Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Ephesians 4: 32, Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Galatians 6: 2, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Colossians 3: 17,  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Galatians 2: 10, Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

Matthew 25: 34-40, Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

I don’t know if I am going to say the right things but I pray that I am. I don’t know if I am really the one who ought to be saying these things but I believe somebody needs to. There’s a lot of talk these days about how the church needs to minister to this or that person/group/need. There’s a lot of talk also about how we need to be more holy, be more genuine in our faith, be more concerned about doctrinal issues and so forth. Both are right when taken together and done in order to please God and both are wrong if they are done for their own sake. What both are sometimes (not all the time and not by all) missing is the reason for doing any of it.

At Christmastime we tend to spout “Jesus is the reason for the season” and He is–but He’s also the reason for everything. He’s the reason we live and breathe and have hope beyond this very moment. There’s nothing without Him and no hope that doesn’t involve Him. Why is it then, that our churches so often seem devoid of this knowledge? Or, if their dependence on Him is acknowledged, why is it that there is little if any power in it? Before you misunderstand, I realize that Jesus’s name is often exalted in our churches but that really doesn’t mean much unless we are dedicated to obedience to His commands. “But works don’t save us,” you say. “You’re being legalistic.” Yes, I know works don’t save us but we are saved by the grace of God in order that we may do good works. Those works are proof of our salvation, not the road to it. And Jesus Himself told us that if we loved Him, we’d obey Him.

The point of all of this is this: If we loved Jesus as we say we do, we’d read His Word with a desire to understand it and obey it. We’d have a foundation upon which to rest our doctrine. Our pastors would be more bold to proclaim it as truth (and not, as one pastor said during a sermon that I was present for, hedge around the truth by saying, “I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes.”) And God’s people, the blood bought people of Christ, would live it out and it’d make a difference–in their families, in their churches, in their communities and, yes, even in our nation.

Folks, we’ve got to start caring about whether or not we’re right with Christ. I’m not speaking to those who already are but those who might think they are, to those who spout “I’m a Christian” without having any real understanding of just what that means.When we are saved, our lives have got to show it in holiness, purity and good works. And the good works needs to start right there in our own congregations.

There really are many of “the least of these” in our own churches, many who might have enough financially but who are hurting and in need of our prayers, but how many of us know it? Who among us really know whether or not everyone in our congregation is fed, whether anyone is living in poverty, whether any are doing without daily needs (not wants, needs), or whether any are living in abuse? What about those facing not terminal but chronic illness–how are they managing in their day to day lives? Or those who might be caregivers to those who are terminally ill? Do we know how those abandoned by their spouses are managing? How their children are doing? What about those whose husband or wife has died? Or their children? And if they know, do they really care? Or do they just care whether there’s money in their vacation fund, about some new thing they want, some new thing to do? I’m not against families having fun, having nice things or having new experiences. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting what’s best for your family or wanting them to have nice things. But I am against that if, in order to pursue that, they are ignoring the commands of Christ in order to achieve their desires. Is one command of His really less important than another? Or, as Christians, are we to take His whole Word seriously?  If one part is not less important than another (and it isn’t), then why is it that those whose lives don’t fit the narrative of what we’ve come to expect in our churches are often forgotten? Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen for it’s not only happened to me and my children repeatedly, it’s happened to so many whom I know. I could give examples but that’s not the point of this article. The point is, are we really willing to obey Christ even when it inconveniences us? There are those Christians who do go the second, third and even tenth mile to help their breathren and I commend them. I’ve been blessed to know some of them and see their good works “done in secret” (Matthew 6: 4). But is what they do really true of the rest of us? Or, are we more concerned about ourselves than we are each other?

Are we really doing all that we do for Christ? Or is it ourselves we are serving?

Don’t think I’m talking only to the supposed rich here, I’m not. There’s so much that even the poor can do, so much those who have known deep suffering can do. Not every good deed involves helping financially. If we are willing, we can be used to comfort others, to listen to them, to pray for and with them, to live out the truth before them. Walk with them down the road you’ve walked yourself and help them in only the way someone who has “been there” can. Besides that there’s mentoring, Titus 2 womanhood, practical instruction, specific prayers for specific people, teaching skills others might be lacking (cooking, homemaking, gardening, car repair, budgeting, etc.) and so on. We should all think through how we can best “love your neighbor as yourself” and do it. Not to mention studying the Bible with them. Somebody in your church can benefit from what you know, is in need of your prayers or, in some way, needs your help.

I don’t want to ever dishonor Christ. I don’t want to bring dishonor on His body. But the fact is, they are bringing dishonor on themselves when they ignore Christ’s commands to care for “the least of these”. They are doing so when they don’t even try to love their neighbor as themselves. We get so worked up fighting against the social gospel that we forget that obedience to Christ means obedience in all things. It’s not the social gospel to serve our own members. Americans are used to having nice things; that might not always be true but for many of us, it is now. We’re used to being individualists, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and so on. But none of that is the Gospel. We’re not called to lay down our lives for success or things. We’re called to carry our cross for Christ and to treat others as we’d want them to treat us. Jesus was compassionate enough to us to save us, can’t we be compassionate enough to help the members of His body who might, in one way or another, need it?

Issues facing abused women that you might not have considered

Some abused women live in extreme poverty, sometimes due to lack of education or preparedness on their or their husband’s parts and sometimes due to choices their abuser has made or is making.

Abused women are often isolated by their husband. The isolation may be in the form of orders not to see, talk to or associate with family, friends or others or it might be in the form of being made to live in unsafe areas, run down houses, isolated locations and so forth. It’s not uncommon for abusers to move their families often.

Even at church, the abused Christian woman often feels alone. She might be afraid that others will find out the details of her painful life and she might be afraid they won’t. Her clothes, her car, her home might mark her out as different (due to being given little or no funds for such things) making her feel even more self-conscience.

Many abused wives were once abused daughters.

The abused woman might be doing every single thing that she can to teach her children about God, to keep them safe and fed, to get them educated, to provide for them, and to raise them right but if her abuser has his way, it will likely never be enough. Abusers frequently use the children against her, turn them against her or threaten them in order to control her.

Abused women and their children are often unhealthy due to the stressful conditions that they are forced to live in. Further, many abusers deny medical care to their spouses and their children.

All abuse starts with emotional abuse.

The abuser is often the friendliest guy you know, the one who is a great story teller, a fantastic friend, funny, kind, and always ready to lend a hand. That’s who he is in public and he’s very good at convincing you that that’s who he is at home. He’s not. At home, he’s evil.

The church often isn’t a very safe place for abused women. Scriptures are often twisted and used against them. They are told that God will be angry with them if they leave their abuser, and that divorce is a sin. They are often told that they abuse is their fault, and if they’d only pray more, try harder, cook better meals, be better at meeting his needs, be more obedient or submissive, that he wouldn’t treat her the way he does. Or she’s told that she’s making it up or exaggerating it. Or it’s God’s means of growing her in godliness. Or such other such dangerous nonsense. Rarely is she believed and offered the assistance she needs.

Many women stay with their abusers because they are afraid to leave–afraid that he’ll try to harm or kill her, himself or the children, afraid that he’ll try to paint her as mentally unbalanced and take the children, afraid that without his money she won’t be able to support herself and her children.

Porn addiction among abusive men frequently leads to sexual violence in their own marriages.

Children who grow up seeing their Moms abused will, if female, be more likely to marry an abuser or, if male, be more likely to become an abuser. Also, having become desensitized to seeing and hearing the abuse towards their Mom, sometimes leads them to become cruel towards her also.

Domestic abuse, domestic violence, isn’t just the abused woman’s problem. It’s a problem that belongs to all Christians. For far too long, to our shame, we’ve ignored the issues facing abused Christian women. It’s time for us to take Jesus seriously when He said we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves”, take a stand against it and figure out how to help. Believe it or not, considering that one in four women in the USA will be a victim of domestic abuse by someone in her family at some point in her life, you already know a victim of domestic abuse–even if you haven’t yet identified her. Figure out who she might be and get busy helping.

Soli Deo gloria!

 

photo credit: Tears For Fears – The Hurting via photopin (license)

 

 

 

A new approach to domestic abuse ministry

The church is the blood bought body of Christ. And much of the church, God’s own people, don’t seem to care about those of us within the church whose lives don’t fit the narrative. We talk–and talk–about how the Gospel is the Good News that brings salvation to many, that some of us were once among the worst of mankind, that a new life–through Christ–changes everything. We talk about it but let someone not fit with our narrative and we simply don’t know what to do with them. I don’t say this lightly–I love the church–but the truth is–the TRUTH is–that we kill our own, especially when our own have been wounded either by their own former life decisions or are being or have been wounded by someone else’s.

For example, consider how the body of Christ responds to those of us who are living with an abusive spouse.

Just to make myself clear, the mission of the church is to teach the Gospel, to minister to Christians and to strengthen them in the truth of the Word. Not a fancy way of saying it but effective, I think. Our focus is never to be on anyone outside of Christ. But we cannot focus on Christ while refusing to obey His commandments–and He commanded us to Love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, strength and minds and our neighbors as ourselves. While we mustn’t ever give anyone the idea that their suffering, no matter how great or unjustified, will save them, we also mustn’t ever make anyone believe–especially a child of God–that their suffering doesn’t matter to the Almighty. Jesus–who was abused, castigated, lied about, beaten, maligned, humiliated, ignored, and shamed–cares about the sufferings of His own. He’s been there. He’s been the victim. He knows pain, shame, humiliation, in a way that none of us–no matter how great our suffering–will ever know. He, after all, was the sinless Son of God, who had done nothing wrong, who in no way deserved His sufferings. We, no matter how unjustified the attacks against us, no matter how great our pain or our shame, can never claim that we are sinless. We might not deserve what was done to us but we are nonetheless guilty of sin.

So what’s the “new way” of ministering to the abused? By getting into the Word of God and teaching it as it is written, as God meant for us to understand it. For far too long, we’ve bought into “new ways” of understanding the Bible, new ideas for teaching truth, new…whatevers. It’s failing. And we’re failing to obey Christ and to love the Lord with all of ourselves and our neighbors as ourselves because of it. We in the church are great at arguing, at finding the one thing we disagree on and focusing on that to the detriment of the truth of God’s Word. If we get our minds off of our pet beliefs, off of our societal issues, off of controversies (fighting for or against), and let the Scriptures have the final say in all of that as in everything else, if we read God’s Word with a heart that is set on believing and obeying, we can transform not only the ministry to the abused but to every single one of us.

We need pastors and elders with a heart for Christ, who believe He is who He said He is and who will live and die teaching the TRUTH of Scripture without ever becoming legalistic or given to liberty that Scripture doesn’t intend for us to have. We need a body of Christ who will listen, believe and obey, and pray (and pray and pray so that our will becomes aligned with God’s) and then rise up to live a life of obedience and service–starting with loving other Christians–including those whose lives don’t fit the narrative. How do we get that? Simply by reading the Bible and believing the Bible and teaching our own families and our own churches to do the same. Then–and only then–will we have a ministry of any kind that is worth having.

 

A Godly Abuser? Really?

My Only Comfort

I recently read this comment on “A Cry for Justice“:

You would be amazed at how many pastors in thriving ministries abuse their wives, are involved in pornography or other sexual sins. Men of God are not perfect.

Really?

I continue to be astounded at these kinds of things. A “godly pastor who abuses his wife” is a lot like saying “a reprobate Christian” a “square circle”, or “waterless water”. It makes no sense.

Since Christians are the salt of the earth, it is no wonder that words have become meaningless in our society. Postmodernism isn’t just something that “others” believe. It started right in the church! If this statement is true: “a godly minister who abuses his wife” , then words have no meaning. If a man can self-identify as a Christian even though he has all the marks of the devil, then how can we protest…

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Who is Safe?

Grace for my Heart

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

I recently read “When I Lay My Isaac Down,” by Carol Kent. A compelling story by a mother who went through tragedy. At one point, she relays something another person told her:

“When you’re in a crisis, if you have only one supportive person, you can make it through the journey. We all need at least one person to be there for us in the middle of a tragedy.”

Good words, and I agree, but they leave one begging question: Who? Who can you trust? Who qualifies as supportive? Who is safe?

This blog post won’t give you a personal answer to that question, of course. I wish I could say, “your pastor,” but I know better. I have heard too many stories where the pastor was not the one to trust. Same for counselors and friends and family members. There just isn’t a certain…

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Abused Christian Wives, It Is Not Your Fault and You Don’t Deserve It.

I cannot thank One Christian Dad enough for writing such a beautiful, needed, and heartfelt article. May the church take heed.

One Christian Dad

imagesAbuse is not something we like to talk about. It doesn’t make us feel good.  It is something that sometimes we would rather just pretend does not happen. But sometimes we need to look at the ugliness of it, in order to do something about it.

October 19-23, 2015 is Domestic Violence Awareness Week.

So we should look at it.

It is a huge topic, covering many things, but for the purpose of this article, I will focus on domestic abuse in the Church, particularly that perpetrated by men against their wives.

In the setting of the Church, allegations of abuse can sadly be dismissed as an overly sensitive wife, or as coming from a wife who simply refuses to submit to her husband’s headship. Or perhaps we think that the wife must have done something to set him off. Or maybe we do care, but we just give…

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If you want to help the abused in your church, begin with the pure Gospel

sunshiningoncross

In most American churches, the Gospel has been reduced down to easy-believism and do-goodism. But this kind of Gospel is worthless. Simply believing that Jesus is God, and going about doing good because you’re dedicated to Christian virtues won’t save anyone.

Micah 6: 8, He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Walking humbly with God means much more than acknowledging Him. It means dying to self, and living for Him. When we do that, we will do justly and love mercy. We cannot help but do so. But to get to the point of being able to walk humbly with Him requires that the Gospel has been preached.

So what is the Gospel? It’s the Good News that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a holy life, died a substitutionary death, rose triumphantly, and now lives at the right hand of the Father. One day, He’s coming back. Until then, He’s working out His will in the lives of those who love Him. It is His will that we obey Him (Luke 6: 46, John 14: 23), that we are salt and light to a sin-sick world (Matthew 5: 13-16), that we serve others (2 Corinthians 4: 5, Colossians 3: 23, 24), take care of the poor (Galatians 2: 10), the widows and the orphans (James 1: 27), and serve the oppressed (Matthew 25: 34-39). In short, He is the God who died for us and we are to take up our crosses daily and follow Him wherever He leads us (Luke 9: 23).

If we dedicate our lives to doing what God has required of us, starting first with obeying Him, our lives will be a blessing to our families, to our churches, and to our communities. Included in these will be those who have suffered under the heavy hand of domestic abuse. To serve them, start with the pure Gospel. Our preachers must preach it, we must believe it, and then we must take it to them. Anything short of this is disobedience to our Holy God.