Bearing one another’s burdens is part of what Christians are called to do. Sometimes we do. And, sometimes, when the person needing help has a burden the size of Texas and Alaska combined, we look the other way. It’s so much simpler to fix a stubbed toe than it is to fix cancer. It’s also easier to help someone facing unemployment, loss of their home or business or with a sick family member than it is to help someone who is in a cancerous relationship. It’s not that the person facing illness, loss or unemployment isn’t facing a major life change and one that hurts, obviously they are. But it’s something that we can look at, break down and say, Here’s what you need to do next and this is what we can do for you in the meanwhile. We tend to gather around these folks in their time of difficulty; if it goes on too long, that will change, but at least in the beginning stages, in the first few months, we’re onboard to help.
We’re rather fickle, to be honest. We want to rescue, fix, help or sooth if it’s an easy do. If it isn’t easy, if it doesn’t fit known parameters, then, sorry, you’ll have to turn to someone else.
I know. I know this oh so very well. Folks get tired of problems for which they have no cure. Even Christians often don’t want to stand with you when you are facing the same issue you were facing months or even years ago. That’s especially true when what you are facing is not easy to explain or define. Domestic abuse is one of these issues.
Cancer is defined by Merriam-Webster as a serious disease caused by cells that are not normal and that can spread to one or many parts of the body or something bad or dangerous that causes other bad things to happen. That pretty much defines cancerous relationships as well. Abuse never happens in a vacuüm. One part builds on another, and another and another until it becomes a way of life for the abuser and makes life unbearable for the abused. A man or woman can lose their temper and it not be abusive. If it happens repeatedly it becomes abusive because it disrupts the emotional climate in the home, creating stress and disorder and causing other bad things to happen.
Abuse takes many sizes and shapes. From emotional abuse to physical, from sexual abuse to financial, from isolation to lies, any type of abuse hurts. And nearly any type of abuse will cause Christians to abandon post and forget that the Bible commands us to bear one another’s burdens. Being in an abusive situation that you cannot get out of is hard enough. Being in one continuously over a long period of time while God’s people shake their heads and turn away is one of the most painful things anyone can endure. I know. I’ve lived it for years.
I’ve turned to fellow Christians, to pastors, to elders, to deacons for counsel, for prayer, for guidance, only to be turned away, blamed, told it’s not so bad or that I just need to hang in there. I’ve been lied about, gossiped about and told that, if it really were a problem, I’d figure a way out of it. If it were just me I’d think, well, that it was just me. But it isn’t just me. This is the norm for the way abuse victims, be they male or female, are treated in the church.
Bear ye one another’s burdens is what Scripture says. What it doesn’t say is unless they are abuse victims trapped in a cancerous relationship or trying to leave one. I love the Lord’s church. My heart goes out to abuse victims. My prayer is that God’s people will start listening to those who have been hurt so very much by a family member and start standing with them as they ought to do. What they are doing now is inflicting untold pain on top of the pain the victims are already having heaped upon them.
What will you do to help the abused in your church? What can the church as a whole do to help bear burdens for the abused?
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