At the end of myself…at the feet of Jesus

Matthew 25: 40, 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.


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Looking at Domestic Abuse Through a Biblical Lens

I guess my perspective is different from many Christians. I have lived among abusive people my whole life. The good Lord saw fit to not just dip my feet in the water of abuse but to plunge me into its depths. Because He graciously has allowed me to live in the midst of abusers (though many times, I must confess, I’d have much preferred He hadn’t), I have an understanding of what abusers do and what the abused go through at their hand. In the end, the pain God has allowed me to deal with has been a blessing in some ways because it’s opened my eyes in a way some folk’s eyes are never opened. I know the pain of abuse. I’ve lived with abuse. I’ve been abused by multiple family members at various times of my life. I understand abuse far too well. Because of this, this is where I take my stand: Domestic abuse in any form, by anyone towards anyone, is sin and the church needs to wake up and realize that there are abusers in their midst who are masquerading as Christians; these abusers are hurting their families, sinning against God, and bringing reproach on the church and on the name of God. The church needs to educate themselves about abuse. They need to help the abused who members of their churches. To fail to do so is to choose to sin.

If you’ve not walked in the shoes of Christians who have been abused by those they’ve loved, I guess it’s easy to look away. After all, you don’t understand what’s going on. Anyway, some of the people being accused of abuse are “just the nicest people” or “the best Christian man I know”. Right? It’s much easier to dismiss the accusations than it is to have to deal with the messy fall-out. Anyway, God hates divorce, doesn’t He, so what can you do?

No, you’ve got your facts wrong. God doesn’t hate all divorce. If He did, He wouldn’t have divorced Israel. But, it’s easier to say He hates divorce and just tell her that if she wants to please God she has to stay with her abuser, than it is to risk the wrath of her abuser, than it is to have to sit down and study that Scripture in context, or than it is to actually have to step up and figure out a way to help those who are abused.

Or it’s easier to say “Just leave” and leave it up to her to figure out how.

It’s easier to tell her that the man she’s accusing of abuse can’t possibly be doing what she’s said he is. After all, seeing him once a week or even two or three times a week means you know him far better than his wife does. Right? Wrong. You dismiss her concerns because you don’t want to be bothered.

Because you aren’t looking at her situation through a biblical lens.

There are a lot of godly women out there who really love the Lord and who haven’t a clue what they need to do because their man won’t stop abusing them, neglecting his duties, won’t provide properly and on and on, but who cares? It doesn’t affect you. It doesn’t stop you from sitting down to a good meal forgetting that somewhere in your city, a woman who loves God with all that she is, is struggling to figure out how to keep food on the table for the rest of the week, or is pulling roaches out of what little food she has and serving it anyway, or is not eating herself in order to feed her kids. It doesn’t stop you from buying two or even three cars while ignoring the fact that this woman who has claimed to be abused but you’ve wondered about her faithfulness because she isn’t always in church, isn’t showing up to church because she has no running car. It doesn’t stop you from buying brand new clothes for your family, forgetting that the woman and children you think are dressed so poorly probably don’t have a way to buy any clothes–not and have a hope of keeping food on the table. It doesn’t stop you from going on a vacation, all the while ignoring the fact that she’s about to be evicted because her husband failed to pay the rent–and this isn’t the first time it’s happened to her.

You need to know. You need to look. You need to see. You need to listen: Abused women, children, and sometimes even men (because, yes, men can be, and sometimes are abused by their partners), because of the stress they live in, tend to have more health issues than the non-abused and are often not allowed to have access to health care. They tend to eat more poorly, often because of lack of resources. They tend to be quiet and subdued because they are afraid of anyone finding out for fear of what will happen when the abuser finds out someone knows, or because they fear being looked down on because they’ve been abused, or because they’ve just been abused so much that they haven’t the strength to pretend all is well. Abusers often keep their money for themselves, even demand that the abused turn over their earnings to them, then they do what they want to with it (frequently providing for themselves but not for their family). Sometimes the abuser wastes his money through gambling, through drinking, by doing drugs, through other selfish purposes or by carelessness. Some abusers are so careless in their own lives that they keeps losing their job so they lose everything–over and over again. Whatever the reason, many of those who are abused live in roach-infested, mold-ridden, run-down houses, own shabby second-hand furniture, drive a barely working car (if they are allowed one), and wear clothes most of us would throw away. They are alienated from others because their abuser makes them be–so no one finds out his secret. They often don’t have friends. They often have no credit or their credit has been ruined by their abuser, and they often have no money, so they feel they have no way out.

The abused Christian woman (or man) who gets up each morning and prays for the strength to get through the day and does all that they can to protect their children, to raise them and provide for them, is fighting a war most of you will never have to fight. And because they are so often ignored by the church, the very ones who should be helping them, they are fighting it alone.

You can ignore what I’ve written. You can refuse to care. But if you do, please don’t say you are doing all that you can to honor the Lord. According to statistics, one in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in her life. Maybe it’s a parent, a sibling, another relative, or her partner doing the abusing–but some of these “statistics” are sitting in your church.

I’m one of them.

This is just one issue the church is facing. Abortion. Biblical ignorance. Promiscuity. Poverty. Orphans. And on and on and on, the issues just mount up. Ignore these issues, forget that your help is needed and tell God you plan to do so or repent of your failure to care and ask the Lord how you can help. Somebody somewhere needs you to pray for them, to lend a helping hand, to be a friend, to teach them the truth of God’s Word. Look around you. God commanded us to be His hands and His feet. What are you doing to obey Him?

Soli Deo gloria!


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Love God by Loving the Least of These

Matthew 25: 40, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Broken people are easy to ignore. The outcasts, the maimed, the poor, the unwanted, if we aren’t one of them, we don’t really understand them. If you’ve not been confined to a wheelchair, if you don’t know someone who is, can you really relate to what someone who is faces on a day-to-day basis? If you’ve not been in poverty, it’s hard to know just how gut-wrenching the daily life of an impoverished family is. It’s so easy to ignore families who aren’t just like ours. The mother who dresses poorly, eyes always downcast, acting as if she is afraid someone will speak to her–she probably is afraid. Do you love her enough to find out? If we love God, we have to love His people, and not just our own family and friends, not just those we love to catch up with from time to time but the broken ones, the impoverished ones, the ones maimed and damaged by life and by others. Even those caught up in the logical consequences of their own poor decision-making who now have repented and want to live for Christ–to fully live for Him–how often we turn such a one away. We’ll put the elderly on our prayer list. We’ll call the sick (maybe). We’ll take a meal if someone has a new baby or a death in the family. But what of those who are continuously suffering, what of them? What do we do for the abused? For the lonely older lady who did all she could when she could but now has no one, have we forgotten her? What about the one suffering through an unwanted divorce? What about those whose lives have been destroyed by economic disasters? Oh, we’ll organize drives and go paint houses for the elderly, we’ll get the guys together to fix a single Mom’s car or we’ll gather and fill shoe boxes at Christmas for the poor children across the sea so they know that somebody cares. We do all of those things and we feel really good about ourselves when we do. But, once the project is over it’s back to business as normal and those poor folks get ignored for the rest of the year. We’ll speak to them in church (usually in a hurry so we don’t feel guilty about ignoring them while we’re also making sure there’s no time to really connect with them or for them to put any demands on us–we’re just so busy, you know?). If we get around to it (or if we’re really pressed to) we’ll try to raise some money to help them take care of their needs, we’ll say a quick prayer for them (quickly before we forget we promised), we’ll even pick them up for church if no one else will. That’s usually as far as it goes. We see them as a project to do rather than people to love.

Most Christians act like they think that abuse, poverty, unending health challenges are diseases that if we get too close we might catch. We don’t want to get involved, we don’t want demands made on us. We certainly don’t want our own comfort zone somehow compromised by having to think about what someone else is dealing with daily. You’d think we believe in karma rather than the grace of God (maybe they did something to somehow deserve this, brought it on themselves….). Yeah. And maybe it’s just what God has for them and maybe you are the one He’s chosen to put in their path to do something about it.

Funny but I can’t see Jesus hiding from such things, can you? He was always right there, right in the midst of those who were wounded, hurting, maimed and poor. Healing the broken, serving the outcasts, loving the unlovable. Doing His Father’s will. We read the stories and we think how great He was for doing such things yet, when we get the chance to do the same, we balk and run the other way.

It’s time for a change. We need to ‘fess up that we’ve been wrong. We need to get into the midst of the pain, come along side the abused, the sick, the broken, the lonely and the poor and help them. Ask them how they are and really mean it. Hear their stories. Help them. Serve them. Day in, day out, until we’ve actually made a difference in their lives. Until their pain is ours and our joy is theirs. It’s time to do so because Jesus has told us to do so. He’s told us to care. So let’s get on our knees and ask Him to show us those He has for us to serve and then, let’s get busy serving.

Are you ready?


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Lepers in the Kingdom of God

2 Corinthians 1: 3, 4, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

There are times when God’s people face extraordinary difficulties. Though we know He is there, it can feel as if we will be broken from the weight of our burdens. We falter, we fail and, often, we complain, but God comes along side of us in our pain. Grace alone upholds us. Sadly, though, ofttimes when God’s children face such circumstances, other Christ-followers react in shock and turn from us, ignoring the very burdens they themselves could make lighter through some act of compassion. At those times, added to our burden of pain, fear, poverty, illness, abandonment, abuse or a thousand other difficulties, we now have to bear the burden of human aloneness. Though Christians are told in Holy Scripture that we are to “weep with those who weep” just as much as we “rejoice with those who rejoice”, it is a rare thing to find those who will. It is as if we who suffer are lepers in the Kingdom of God.

A common approach to ministering to those in distress, especially distress that has a less-than-physical cause, is to lay the blame for a fellow Christian’s pain fully back on them. Like Job’s questionable friends, we accuse, castigate and condemn without ever stopping to think that we might be wrong in our accusations. Or, if we are perhaps a bit more loving in our approach, we tell the suffering one that “time will help you to get over it” or that “things really aren’t as bad as they seem” (ignoring the fact that they very well may be worse than we can hope to imagine): if they’ve been abused by their spouse, we tell them that the other person “didn’t mean it”, or that they’ve “misunderstood”, or “if only you’d been better, done better, prayed more, tried harder or had more faith, this wouldn’t have happened”; if they’ve suffered great losses of the heart and of the mind, we tell them “the sun will still come up tomorrow” or “it could be worse, you know”, or, in some other sorry way, mitigate their pain, their sorrow, their loss.

I, like most, have known quite a few difficulties in my life. Over the last few years, the difficulties multiplied tremendously and one part of my life, and then another, and another, gave way. And, though in some ways, rebuilding has begun, in others, life is uncertain and continues to be full of pain.  God in His graciousness, has, over the last couple of years, seen fit to give me a very few select travelers who not only understand but in some way share an intimate knowledge of my burdens for they’ve oft suffered in many of the same ways and, more importantly, who know the value of trusting God in difficulties and taking what we’ve learned and becoming comforters. Many times we’ve been able to comfort each other. For these precious few I daily thank God.

But besides these precious ones, when I’ve tried to share my pain with fellow Christians or, sadly even with leaders within the church, when I’ve dared to ask for prayers or guidance, when I’ve tried to explain my sorrows or sought to unburden myself (at those times when I can carry the burdens no longer), I’ve known the additional pain of being stared at in doubt, misunderstanding, even anger and confusion. All before the one I’d prayerfully turned to blanches and changes the subject, makes accusations, explains away my pain, or, more commonly, silently ignores the fact that I ever turned to them to begin with. As it is and has been with me so it is with many who suffer. It seems doubly so for those who have been abused.

Are we really called by God to cast sorrow upon original sorrow by castigating and accusing those who are already wounded? Do we honor our Lord by ignoring their suffering, by changing the subject, denigrating their pain, refusing to listen? Do we bestow grace by walking away? Do we show Christ-likeness by refusing to try to understand simply because we don’t want to? Are we so callous as to allow our misunderstanding to cause us to fail to seek the truth and, through our failing, perhaps even become a pawn in the hand of Satan, an instrument used by him to pour salt into a fellow Christian’s open, bleeding, wounds? All of this in the Name of our precious Lord? Sadly, from my experiences and those of many I have known, these responses are often the norm.

To say we believe God is one thing. To live as if we believe is quite another. Let us lean on our Lord in our pain,partake of His succor and, from our experiences, learn to become comforters to others so that, when a suffering abused one turns to us, we may respond to those who weep and mourn in a way that shows we live what we say we believe.  When confronted by life’s wounded, pray we remember that the Lord has taught us, in Matthew 25: 40, “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.”


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QUIT loving them to death! (via neilschori.com)

I’ve counseled people for over 10 years for just about every kind of problem under the sun.  I’ve helped people with broken marriages, eating disorders, cutting, and just about every kind of addiction there is today.  There is one problem that makes me more upset than just about any other.  And it isn’t even the issue that is presented to me to “fix.”  It is the issue BEHIND the issue.  It is enabling.

Enabling can be done in a marriage when the unfaithful spouse has excuses made for him by the very wife that he betrayed.  Usually it sounds like this: “Bob wants to be faithful to me.  He just has an unusually high sex drive.  And his dad was the same way.  I’m pretty sure it’s genetic.  Men aren’t good at being monogamous, anyway.”

Enabling can also be done in a relationship that has been broken by domestic violence.  It may sound like this: “Adam is a good man.  He only hits me when his boss stresses him out at work.  He’s been doing much better recently.  He brought me flowers yesterday.  He really loves me!”

Enabling is often done in the context of substance abuse, too.  Many times, the addict’s loved ones are afraid that the addict will never talk with them again ….

To read in full, please go to QUIT loving them to death!.


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HELPING THE VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE by Edward Welch


“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalm 9:9)

Couples who sit peacefully in church pews may nevertheless be at war. Spouses can attack each other, defend ground, employ manipulative guerrilla tactics, and declare occasional truces. When war has been declared, there is sin on both sides, but when violence is involved, a strong man typically oppresses a woman. With God’s grace, afflicted women often look to the church for help. When they do, what are some basic biblical parameters that should guide your ministry to them?

You hear the cries of the oppressed.

The victim must be heard. As an imitator of Christ, you begin by listening to the cry of the afflicted (Ps. 10:17). Granted, this is self-evident. There could be no other starting point. But there is a background that makes listening more profound than simply gathering data or taking a perfunctory first step.

First, our Lord encourages the cries of the oppressed. The sheer number of Psalms that call out for God’s protection indicates that we serve a loving Lord who never tires of listening to and acting on the groanings of the needy. God is the righteous judge who hears every complaint of injustice and hates oppression, but he is more than a judge. He is also the One who in unfailing love comes close to his oppressed people. His listening occurs in a relationship between the weak one and the compassionate Hearer-Shepherd.

Remember that some victims of violence are reluctant to speak openly about it. They may fear that openness will lead to retaliation by the perpetrator. They may feel ashamed that they contributed to the war (though they are not responsible for the violence done to them). They may consider their problems unworthy of an elder’s or a friend’s attention. Or, they may feel ashamed that their husbands could dislike them even to the point of violence.

Some shepherds make the situation more difficult by moving quickly to the refrain, “Forgive and forget.” In other words, as soon as the perpetrator asks for forgiveness, the responsibility now falls on the victim to forgive him and never to raise the subject again. But the idea of immediately forgetting sin is dubious teaching. Furthermore, if the primary biblical encouragement given to the victim is “Forgive and forget,” she is left feeling as if she is now the perpetrator, since she cannot easily forgive and forget.

In light of these teachings and tendencies, it is impossible to overestimate the importance of hearing the afflicted woman. Help begins by listening, not as a detective who wants to solve a case quickly, but as a brother or sister who mourns with those who mourn.

Since biblical listening is coupled with action, you may determine, especially if the violence has been personal and dangerous, that listening means taking the victim to a doctor, calling the police, or providing a temporary safe place. If the home is potentially unsafe, it is wise to inform the perpetrator that his wife has revealed the violence and is being kept at an undisclosed safe place.

If the woman is confident that returning to her home will not lead to her physical harm, then listening should include a more systematic review of the violent, controlling patterns in the marriage. This information is most helpful when it is specific and written down. Then the perpetrator can be confronted according to the requirements of Matthew 18, and made to understand that the church leadership takes domestic violence very seriously and will act to protect his wife even as they seek to minister to him and hold him accountable.

You teach the oppressed to put their hope in God.

The victim must be encouraged in her faith. As in all suffering, she may think that God is indifferent and aloof, or that the perpetrator is all-powerful. Either way, affliction is always a time for God’s people to know and rely on our God who hears. Furthermore, if a victim is ever to move toward a repentant perpetrator in love and to open herself to love and trust, she must be strengthened by a robust faith.

1. God does not forget (Ps. 10:12; 56:4). Personal trouble does not mean that God has forsaken his people. Rather, the Bible constantly shows that God responds to prayers for deliverance. While we cannot always observe this deliverance immediately, God will most assuredly deliver his people. The story of God’s work in their lives is not over. Therefore, remind victims to keep their eyes open, watching for God’s strong hand in their lives.

2. Jesus knows our sufferings. In his own body, he experienced violence at the hands of his own people. In fact, his experience surpasses our own because he suffered even to death. When we see this suffering, it can actually begin to lighten, or outweigh, a woman’s grief.

For the woman who feels forsaken by God, the sufferings of Jesus can be a great comfort. It is a comfort that exceeds the sympathy and comfort extended by other women who have endured similar experiences. At a women’s shelter, a victim of violence will be surrounded by people who understand, but in the throne room of God, she will be in the presence of One who understands perfectly, grieves deeply, and loves completely.

3. The Cross provides the timeless evidence of God’s love for his people and his “toughness” with sin. Sin and suffering will always remain a mystery. Neither makes sense in a world that God created as good. Yet it is clear that God’s love, demonstrated to us in Jesus, exceeds the boundaries of our imagination, and his justice leaves observers silenced. In a world where a woman cannot trust the one closest to her, the greatest blessing you can offer to her is the assurance of God’s loving and watchful presence.

You teach the oppressed how to disarm the controlling, angry, or violent person.

The victim must know how to preempt and respond to ungodly anger. Whether or not the woman returns immediately to her home, she must learn to manifest “a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). Too often her responses to violence fluctuate between timidity and revenge, revealing both the perpetrator’s ongoing control and his dominance in her life. Instead of fluctuating between these two extremes, wives need to be led in a biblical course that is humble and powerful.

A key text is Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In the context of Romans 12, this passage suggests that radical freedom from perpetrators consists of loving the enemy more, not less. This moves us beyond the question What do I need from him? to How do I overcome with the love of Christ?

1. When in doubt, confess your sin to the perpetrator. There may be no more powerful response to the sin of others. Everyone knows how difficult it is to confess sin to another person, but to confess it to a perpetrator of violence seems utterly impossible. But a woman who is strong in the Lord does not stand on her own righteousness; rather, she stands on the righteousness of Christ and can therefore confess her own sin. This, of course, does not imply that her actions caused the violence or abuse. She simply confesses sin that God has exposed in her life.

2. “Then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5). For some women, confrontation may be harder than confession. It may be easier for them to assume they deserve sinful treatment than take a stand against sin. Or they may be afraid that confrontation will lead to divorce. But a way to love the perpetrator is to clearly portray his sin and its consequences. Minimizing or ignoring it can be spiritually deadly—for either party. Such confrontation should be done in the presence of another person.

3. Forgive quickly, but don’t allow the perpetrator’s request for forgiveness to be the end of the discussion. Reconciliation begins when the perpetrator asks for forgiveness. In situations where there has been an outbreak of violence, this violence uncovers a larger pattern of demandingness, control, and arrogance. Such patterns should never be swept aside with the words, “Will you forgive me?” The flesh and the devil thrive when hurts and sins are kept in the dark. Therefore, one way a wife can love is to let her husband know the consequences of his sin in her life. This is not done to hurt; it is done to heal.

4. Speak with gentleness and love. In a world where advanced technology is power, we often overlook the power of words. Words, however, can disarm angry people. It can be a great encouragement for women to know that “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1). Although the woman is not the cause of the violence, she nevertheless has power to subdue it with humility, gentleness, and love.

Domestic violence is as damaging to a marriage relationship as adultery. We should never minimize its impact on the victim. But, as with all suffering, we should also never minimize the grace of God to these victims. God reserves unique glimpses of himself for those who have been oppressed, and he gives power to shake off the twin enemies of timidity and rage.

 

Dr. Welch is a counselor at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation in Glenside, Pa.

 

See this and other articles at: http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH9702/NH9702.html


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Killing the Messenger by Anna Wood

A Message to Churches: Abuse in the home is a subject near to my heart for many, very personal, reasons. I’m far too familiar with the subject in far too many ways to pretend it doesn’t need to be addressed. Abuse, in a number of ways, has invaded the lives of many family members, many friends. I was born into a family broken by abuse. I know what it does, what it can do. I understand, first hand, how it destroys the lives of those affected by it. I have no compassion, no patience, for abusers. Nor do I have compassion for those who would shelter them, deny the abuse is happening or choose to look the other way. That many, if not most folks, who have not known abuse first-hand would fear coming close to it, I can understand–though Christian compassion ought to cause us to overcome our fear and help the abused; I can’t, however, understand the determination to pretend it isn’t real or to come down hard on the one (usually a woman) who is abused. Abuse isn’t catching but it is real. Often, those who are living in abuse, have no idea what to do, no one to turn to and are desperately frightened. Often, it is at great personal cost that the abused comes forth with the truth. The harm that is done when church folks ignore her cries for help or for being believed that it is as bad as she says it is, is far, far greater than one who hasn’t faced it could ever know. If her husband finds out she has told, more often than not, she will pay for the telling. Some women pay with their lives. 

So, please, if a woman (or, at times, a man) comes to you or to your church (Pastors, please listen) with a shocking story of abuse by a man you believe to be good and upright, take time out of your day and listen to her, comfort her, offer her hope. If you don’t know how to advise her, find out. There are places where she can receive help, even if the abuse leveled against her is only emotional or verbal abuse (as if these aren’t real abuse); these are killing abuses just as much as physical abuse can be. The only difference is what part of a woman is killed: her heart or her body.

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So often women who are abused by their husbands not only have to deal with abuse at home but, often, with neglect in their local churches. Since church folk often confuse being forgiven with being perfect, anything or anyone that isn’t “perfect” often tends to get pushed aside. Often that leaves those who are most in need of love and guidance alone and lonely as they try to make sense of the nightmarish life they are living.

Many Christians have an idea of the ideal marriage that is sadly based more on tradition than on Scripture (a falsehood which allows a man to treat his wife as a possession) and many wives don’t know enough or have enough support to fight against such a belief; this very fact sets many wives up for abuse. While Scripture teaches the headship of man and teaches that marriage is to be complementarian, nowhere does Scripture support or allow for a man to verbally or emotionally browbeat or abuse his wife or children or abuse them sexually, financially or physically. Scripture also does not allow men to physically discipline their wives or force her to stay locked in a room or never leave the house (or only do so with their very rare–if at all–permission); a woman is not a child and physical punishment at the hands of her husband is just plain wrong. As such it, like all abuse, is sin.

It is often very difficult for a church to recognize an abuser as such; abusive spouses are good at keeping up the façade that causes observers to believe the best about them (while often painting their spouses in unflattering ways) while at home, in private, their families get to see, and deal with, the painful truth of their abuse. This is why wives who muster the courage to speak of abuse must be believed. While it is true that anyone, even a true Christian, can sometimes lose their temper, act in unbecoming ways or even say or do things in a cruel fashion, conviction and repentance will mark the true but imperfect Christian from the abusing spouse who professes Christianity. The problem is getting the church at large to see the difference.

Sadly, even if they do understand the difference,  churches frequently refuse to acknowledge that abuse can be going on in one of their families. Failure to believe abused wives is epidemic in our churches. Often it is easier to believe the abused spouse of being overly emotional or unforgiving or to tell her to go home and try to be more submissive to her husband than it is to force ourselves to confront the fact that there are abusers in our midst. Since the abused wife is most likely far more submissive than most Christian wives, telling her to be more submissive is not only not helpful, it also is enabling the husband to continue to sin against her and possibly bring her and the children further harm.

Additional problems arise when the spouse is believed but, through the very act of being believed, becomes a sore spot among members who might want to maintain a more traditional view to the surrounding community or even among themselves. There are places where abuse simply does not happen even as it is happening and can be proved.

Church members and leaders need to acknowledge that there is a very great chance that sooner or later you are going to have to deal with abusive persons in your church. Accept it and arm yourself to deal biblically with it. If a woman is telling a story of emotional, sexual or physical abuse about a man whom you trust and respect, do her and yourself a favor and at least look into it. It takes great courage for her to stand up and admit it to anyone because she might have to pay a very great price for her honesty. Don’t be guilty of killing the messenger when the messenger has already suffered so much.


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Friend and Foe

You’ve told me that you loved me and to “go to hell” with equal passion.

You’ve explained to me over and over how important I am to you but your actions make it clear that the one you love most of all is yourself.

You made me feel beautiful, loved, cherished and I had hope for our future; you made me feel stupid, worthless and so very alone and I had no hope for anything.

You told me so many times to go away and leave you alone for my love, my attention was suffocating to you; then, when you felt like it, you insisted on my love, my attention, even when I was too tired, too sick, too broken to give it.

You would try when it pleased you to and my hopes would soar; you’d get tired of trying and I’d find myself alone, my dreams dying in the dust.

You told others you were glad I was your wife; you told me how much beneath you I was in every way possible.

You tell me that you are sorry for all of the times, all of the ways that you have hurt me and then you tell me that you never meant to hurt me at all: you just “weren’t thinking” you say and thereby mitigating any and all apologies.

You’ve fooled me so many times: thinking you’d changed I’d throw caution to the wind and trust you; only you hadn’t changed and my heart, and my mind, were broken anew.

I’ve lived so long with the shame of what you’ve said to me, with the humiliation of what I let myself endure in order to please you, with the bone-aching loneliness of never being able to trust.

What am I to think of you when you are day and night? black and white? friend and foe?

What am I to think of me if I see this truth and just ignore it? If I know but do nothing? If I bury me and let you continue to hurt me?