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.


Church, Will You Not Care?

There are many like me, women whose men have, through their abuse, torn the very fabric of their lives to shreds. There’s no organic wholeness to our lives, just a grasping terror due to trying desperately to hold on. There’s no plan for the future, no stability to plan one, just a prayer to make it through this one minute. Over and over again, this one minute lived takes us places we’re both afraid to face and hungry to embrace. Maybe it will bring the change, the hopeful future, we long for. More likely, it will bring more of the same deadness, full of fear and confusion, that has haunted our lives for years.

This is the life of an abused woman. As fear grows, hope diminishes until she is afraid to hope. Too much disappointment is a destroyer, a killer of dreams. As the blows from her husband intensify, be they verbal or physical, she retreats further inside herself, afraid even to look up lest she make him angry. It’s no different if the abused wife is a Christian. The life she lives, she lives alone. Afraid both of the consequences she’ll face at home for reaching out to others and of others reactions should they find out the secrets of her life, she hunkers down and cries out at the foot of the cross.

Does God see her? Does He care for her pain, for the pain of her children? Does He want her to stay? Will He enable her to leave? How can she provide for them? How can she protect her babies? How can she make it through another minute, let alone another day? Thoughts and prayers, hope and fears, bump against one another during the crawling fearful minutes of her day. In the late night hours they mix and mingle, twisting crazily into one another, giving her yet another night of fitful sleep and terror-filled dreams.

You wouldn’t know by the responses of the church that God cares. They are more willing to ignore such a woman than to get involved. Time and time again, an abused woman’s story is told; time and again, her story is ignored or disbelieved by those who claim the name of Christ. Refusal to listen, to help, to get involved crosses all denominational lines. If advice is given, it’s usually bad. “Go back home, serve him, keep praying and know that you are suffering for Christ” seems to be the most widely used piece of junk advice Christians have to offer. Junk because in that one sentence, they are both linking Christ to her abuse and excusing themselves from having to extend any effort to help her.

But her pain remains. The tears keep on falling. And, for now as in the past, most churches keeps right on failing abused women and their children.

Church, do you see our tears? Do you not care for our wounded hearts? We are mourning, will you not embrace us? Will you not care? Do you not remember that the same God who told you to rejoice with those who rejoice also said to weep with those who weep? We are weeping, we wives of men who abuse and misuse us, will you not join us? Will you not weep with us? Will you not weep for our children? Will you not be Jesus’s hands to us, gently wiping away our tears? We are your daughters, your sisters, your friends. One in four women, women you know, are weeping, reeling from the pain caused by their man. Will you not help us?


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God Hates Divorce: Slogan or Scripture?

The Reformed Reader Several weeks ago, I noted how some common translations of Malachi 2:16 are unhelpful because they make the text say that God hates divorce (e.g. NKJV, KJV, NIV).  However, the Malachi 2:16 doesn’t say that; it says, ‘For the man who hates and divorces,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘covers his garment with violence….’ (ESV; see also HCSB).  Based on this discussion, I appreciate Barbara Roberts’ words in Not Under Bondage, a thorough biblical study of divorce, abandonment, abuse, and remarriage.  Here’s how she says it:

“The words ‘I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel’’’ which occur in many translations of Malachi 2:16 have frequently been paraphrased as the slogan ‘God hates divorce.’  At face value this slogan appears to condemn all divorce and all acts of divorcing, with no thought for who is the innocent, or less guilty, party.  Understood like this, it…

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How Christians Can Help Single Moms: Get to Know Her

1 Corinthians 13: 2, If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love—I am nothing. 

Remember the single mom in your congregation? You’ve seen her arriving weary but determined, struggling to keep her little ones quiet, trying to guide her teens and be a good example to all her children. She does this alone. Perhaps she is embraced by your congregation, perhaps she is ignored due to the circumstances of her singleness. Put yourself in her place. If you were a single mom, would you feel loved and cared for by God’s own or would you feel ignored and pushed aside? How would that affect your view of God if you were a young Christian? What if you’d not yet submitted to Christ–how would that affect you?

It’s not enough for us to have correct doctrine. While the need to understand the Bible as God meant it to be understood cannot be overstated, the truth is that we must then live out what we’ve learned or we’ve failed in following Christ. William Nicholson, a minister from the 1800’s said, “It is not sufficient to be sound in the faith—we must also abound in love. A man may have an orthodox creed—while his heart is cold and dead. Where religion is genuine, love will be active.” 

Ask yourself, is love active in your church? In your own life? Are you doing all that you can to show love to those who need it most? How can you do better? Then ask yourself this: If you were a single mom, what would your needs be? Some of your answer would depend upon your socio-economic level. A career oriented single mom who makes enough to provide for herself and her children will likely have different  needs than an inner-city single mom or a single mom who got pregnant as a teenager. Your job as her sister or brother is to get to know her. Gaining an understanding her needs will come.

Some of the needs of single moms are pretty much the same across the board: Someone to care, to listen, to be involved in her children’s lives. The most important thing you need to know is this: Do you know for certain that she knows Christ? Do her children? That is their most important, most pressing, need. Then ask yourself: If you were a single mother, how would you feel bearing your burdens alone? How would you feel sitting by yourself in church? Going home to an empty house? Making sometimes overwhelming decisions that will affect your children all by yourself? What matters might be pressing in on you, threatening to drown you?

In many ways, single moms are just like other moms. They’re real flesh and blood women. They have hopes and dreams, thoughts and feelings, needs and wishes. They get tired. They want what is best for their children. They dream of a better tomorrow. Often their days and nights are lonely and exhausting, their needs overwhelming, their cares daunting. You can come alongside of them and encourage them. Be Christ’s hands and feet to them.

Whatever her circumstances, however she came to be a single mom, be it abandonment or abuse, widowhood or as an unwed teen, don’t let the circumstances of her life cause you to sit back in judgement. She needs you to see past her circumstances to the real woman, the real sister in Christ. The circumstances of her singleness oughtn’t define her but she may feel as if they do. Some might treat her as if they define her. That isn’t right. Even if she sinned in some way and that led to her being a mother alone, if she’s here before you as your sister in Christ, that’s really all you need to know. Help her. Be a friend. Don’t let her circumstances, whatever they may be, affect your desire to serve God through serving her and her children. Don’t let her circumstances affect the way you see her children or the way you react to or interact with them. They need to know that someone cares for them. They need to see Christ’s love reflected in your words and actions. She and her children need the love of Christ. They need a burden-bearer.

Go over to her after church one Sunday and invite her and her children home for lunch or see if they can come for supper one night. I remember Mama telling me that no one but her own family and one other single Mom ever invited us to their homes. When couples got together, nobody knew what to do with a single Mom and her child. So they did nothing. Mama was lonely and her loneliness drove her towards depression. Sometimes she just wanted to feel included, to have someone to laugh with or confide in, someone who cared enough to find out how she was doing. She shouldn’t have had to bear all of her burdens alone. No one should. If you have the opportunity to serve a Mom who is bearing her burdens alone, do so. Include her and her children in some gatherings and try to get others interested in doing so also.

Beyond that, as you get to know her better, see where and how the church can help her. It is hard for most anyone to flat-out say “I have this need”. She may not want to tell you so you might have to observe her circumstances. Is her car reliable? Does she even have a car and, if not, how does she get around? Is dad fully in, partly in or completely out of the picture? Is she being threatened by a disgruntled ex-husband? Was she abused? Were the children? Is she able to provide for her children when birthdays or Christmas rolls around? Are there any pressing medical or dental needs? Does she need someone to talk to (a friend, a minister, a counselor, a lawyer)? Do her girls need help with anything? Do her boys need a man to talk to, do guy things with or to guide him? Go to her, get to know her, invite her into your life and ask to come into hers. Find out what’s on her heart. Ask about her needs and really listen to her reply. You might not be able to do everything, maybe not even much, but showing concern is a great place to start. Rally the troops, what you cannot do perhaps someone else can. Help her to find outside sources of help as appropriate. Just remember to do what you can. Be a friend. Lastly, get her involved in something. If she has gifts, abilities, encourage her to use them to bless others. Accepting help is a bit easier to swallow if you are also giving help to others.

Just remember, as Christians we are to do all that we do for Christ. So let’s get busy doing.

Soli Deo gloria!

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The Church and Single Moms

I was raised by a single Mom. Not single by choice but rather by necessity due to my Dad’s abuse, Mama struggled alone to be our provider and to fill in for the Dad who was incapable of loving either of us. It was hard. Her own health wasn’t good, yet no matter how poorly she felt, she worked on for bills had to be paid. My health wasn’t good, either, and I spent my childhood in and out of hospitals. For many years, we practically lived in doctor’s offices. My doctors gave up on my living long enough to make it out of childhood. I don’t think Mama ever did. Fortunately, the doctors were wrong. I survived. Through it all Mama tried. She supported us for many years through her sewing. A gifted seamstress who could make anything from wedding gowns to men’s suits, Mama was bent over her sewing machine from sunup until long after I was in bed. Often she didn’t stop until after midnight. The next morning, she was up and going again.

I am writing this because my mother was a single Mom and because, while the church sometimes stepped up and did all that they could do, they often didn’t. I’m grateful for all that those who loved God and loved us did for us. For their prayers, their kindness, their love. I’m especially grateful that they stepped up and helped her escape her abusive marriage. But we were still often alone. My mother still had no one to turn to for counsel most of the time. No one to help her navigate the rough waters threatening to overwhelm us both. She was still lonely. She was still alone. Because she was alone, her fears often overwhelmed her and then poured out on me.

I often write for abused women since my mother knew abuse and since it’s reared its ugly head in my own family too. Some of the issues that abused women face and those faced by single Moms overlap. Some of the suggestions I will be putting forth over the next several days could be effectively applied to abused women/mothers or married-wives-single-Moms (it is just what it sounds like, a married wife whose husband either refused to or is unable to step up to the plate as Dad).

I’ve never been a single Mom myself but as the daughter of a single Mom, I do have a birds-eye view of single Mom life. I know the pain Mama felt at being the odd-woman-out. In a world of couples, she was alone. Consequently, we were rarely invited out. Couples simply didn’t know what to do with us. It’s a complaint I’ve heard from other single Moms. The only person, outside of family, who ever invited us anywhere was the one other single Mom in our church. She herself knew the trials my mother was going through since she herself was going through them also. For many years, they watched each others back and shored each other up. It was nice having someone who understood, who didn’t stumble over asking me where my Daddy was or worry because there was no man for Mama to round out the seating arrangements at suppertime. In a world of couples, they were two lonely women doing the best that they could.

Loneliness is one of the main problems facing single Moms. Along with the myriad other problems such as exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, coping with depression, fear, confusion, wondering if they are messing up, being sure they are messing up, desperation and, quite often, poverty. The problems meant for two must be solved by one. And it’s hard.

The main thing that single Moms need from the church is for truth to be preached, unwatered down and non-sugar coated, and then lived out. Through truth proclaimed and lived, the Moms will get the spiritual succor they need to grow, to know the Lord and to depend on Him and they’ll also get the support from fellow Christians that they need. Truth lived out can’t help but help those who need it most. Single Moms definitely fall within that group.

Over the next few days, I’ll be writing more about the church and single Moms. Once truth is lived out, sometimes ideas are needed as to how it might best be applied. That’s what we’ll tackle next.


Soli Deo gloria!


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What the Abused Really Need

I remember the morning my Daddy jumped up and, cursing, screaming at Mama, “I’m going to shove your *** teeth down your throat!”. I can’t say I remember what happened that lead up to his outburst (though they were common) but I clearly remember jumping between them and yelling at him to “Leave my Mama alone!”. Mama was trying to pull me back, afraid of my father’s reaction. Instead of acting at all, he stared at me and turned and left the room. My memory ends there though I wish I could remember what came next. What did Mama say to me in those moments following his attack? Did she scold me for interfering? Did she hold me close and cry? Did she quickly dress me and herself and leave the house? I simply don’t know. Mama’s been gone for a long time now and even when she was here, asking her questions about my father led her down a pathway I seldom dared to tread.

Mama was an abused woman. I was an abused daughter. I married into an abusive family. The seeds of abuse grow in the hearts of those who have not the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and lay to waste precious lives. Abuse is sin, plain and simple. Those who live in abuse, grow up in abuse, have a difficult time understanding the love of God, trusting God or even understanding human love and trust. When your sky has been black around the clock all of your life are you really going to believe someone who tells you that where they live and, indeed, everywhere else, the sky is blue during daylight? Who could believe such a thing? That would be…weird.

Normal behavior is weird when you’ve been abused. What’s normal to others is so abnormal to you. They speak of trusting. You can’t trust. They speak of joy and happiness. You don’t feel. They speak of engaging, being involved, accomplishing goals. You go numb, hunker down and simply try to survive. The pathway to survival might include drinking (as it did for my father who himself was abused as a child), it might include drugs, promiscuity, overspending, dedication to perfection or any other kind of addiction or coping mechanism. They do that because they often don’t know what else to do. No one is there to teach them, help them or to care. They need someone. They need Christ.

Some Christians respond with loving compassion to those who have suffered abuse. My mother was blessed in that regard. When we finally managed to escape my father, we settled down in her hometown of Tallassee, Alabama. There we joined a church and that church surrounded us with love. They cared what she’d gone through. They hurt for her. They supported her in leaving my father. They even supported her when she, fearing that he would come kill her, take me and vanish with me, as he’d threatened to do so many times, decided to divorce him. The leadership of the church was with her every step of the way. Her story is an anomaly.  Most women suffering from abuse don’t have such loving responses from their churches. That hasn’t usually been my experience nor that of  most women I have spoken with.

You might think that domestic abuse is something you will never have to deal with. Something far away and foreign to you. You might be right but, honestly, I don’t think so. More likely you simply aren’t adept at seeing the signs. One in four women in the USA is affected by domestic abuse at some point in her life. One in four. That means that somewhere along the way every single person has likely come across someone who has been abused or is presently being abused. Most likely, you’ve come across several. Likely there are some in your church right now.

You don’t know what to do? Be Christ to them. If they don’t know Him, teach them of Him. Then serve them. That’s what He’d do. And that’s what they really need.



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What Domestic Abuse Victims Need From the Church

I was born into an abusive home. My father was a drunk and when drunk, he was violent. In the aftermath of our successfully escaping him, my mother, unable to deal with all she’d been through, became a verbal abuser herself. I married into a family where emotional abuse and manipulation was the norm. I know abuse firsthand. I can testify as to the depths of its pain; moreover, I can testify, as an abuse survivor, to the overall failure of the church when it comes to understanding abuse or handling well those who have suffered abuse.

Statistics say that one out of four women experience domestic abuse of some form in their lifetime. Men are victims of domestic abuse far more than most people realize. When those who have suffered are members of the Lord’s church, the faithful among them have an obligation to help them. When, for whatever reason, we shy away from this obligation, either through ignorance or willful refusal to get involved, we lay waste to the Gospel we claim to believe. Christians are called to defend the oppressed yet concerning domestic violence so few do.

What abuse victims need from their fellow Christians is pretty simple and straightforward. We need you to be Jesus to us. Do what He would do, say what He would say, were He the One ministering to us. But isn’t that what we all need from each other, anyway? And isn’t that what we’re called to be and to do? Christians are called to stand in the place of Christ here on the earth and be His representative and do the works He would do. To fail in this is to fail in serving Christ.

Some Christians do care and want to help but really have no idea what to do. Domestic violence is a terrifying and unnerving thing both for the family involved and those aware of the problem. What makes a man (or a woman) treat their family with such cruelty? We can call it narcissism, explain that they grew up in abuse or offer a thousand different explanations but the truth remains the same: Domestic abuse is sin and the abuser is living outside of God’s laws. We can all mess up, treat others with disrespect or even be cruel at times but when it is a pattern, when the abuse defines your actions, you are an abuser, you are living in a continual sinful state and you are not saved. Being an abuser and being saved simply aren’t compatible. That is one thing the church needs to learn: true abusers, no matter how much they pretend to be, aren’t true children of God. They can’t be.

But their victims need help. If God has put them in your path, perhaps He’s calling you to be His hands to them. Don’t know where to start? Here’s some things that Christian victims of domestic abuse need from their fellow believers:


The Pure Gospel

The church long ago got away from the pure gospel. We water it down, mix it up and serve it with a side of fun. No wonder it doesn’t save. It can’t save. It’s poison. We need preachers dedicated to the truth of God’s Word who are willing to stand up and preach that truth without changing it one iota. We need Christians who long after righteousness. When we have that–the pure Gospel preached and lived–we’ll see more Christians helping abuse victims and we’ll see less abusers masquerading as Christians.


Someone to listen to them

If someone came to you and confided to you that they were having problems at home, would you listen? Most of us are uncomfortable when it comes to hearing such information but listening is actually the first step towards helping abuse victims. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to stand up and say, “I’m being abused”. If someone tells you that, sit down with them and get their story. Then see what you can do. Yes, some people lie about being abused and you have to be aware that that can happen but it’s really not the norm; far more women lie about not being abused when they are being abused because they are afraid of their abusers. So listen.


Pray for them and with them

After listening to them, pray with them. Pray specifically for their needs. Then continue to pray for them and let them know you are praying. Prepare to work for often we are the answer to our own prayers. Someone needs to do this–often that someone is you. 


Someone to care for their needs

Do you know what keeps a lot of abused women and children with their abusers? The lack of money to leave. If a woman is trying to get herself and her children to safety, don’t spend time telling her why she’s wrong, what you think about her decision or trying to talk her out of it. She knows what it’s like to live in abuse and you don’t. Even if she stays, chances are great that she and her children need something or maybe a lot of things. Financial abuse often accompanies other types of abuse. Instead of lecturing, get busy serving and help them.


An advocate

Leaving an abuser is a dangerous time for victims. Staying in an abusive marriage is also dangerous. Abuse is killing, even if it isn’t physical. She needs an advocate, someone who will stand up for her, help her find the help she needs, help her to navigate the legal system should she choose to leave. In case she decides to stay, she’ll need an advocate, probably many, to make sure she and her children are safe.


Someone to point them in the right direction

You are in a fog when you live in abuse. It’s difficult to get through the day let alone make wise decisions. You’re constantly afraid and don’t know who to turn to. If you have children, it’s even worse. There’s nothing–nothing at all–more painful for a mother than to watch, hear or see your children being hurt–be it physical or not–and being unable to do anything to stop it. You aren’t sure who will believe you, who will be willing to get involved. So many aren’t. Remember this and get involved. Pray for them. Listen to them. Get their story. Help them to make good decisions, to get to a safe place, to know how to protect themselves and their children. If you don’t, who will?


Someone who will let them make their own decisions while offering guidance as needed

With all that said, it’s also important to let the victim learn to make their own decisions. She must move from victim to survivor and learn to discern truth from lie. She has to learn to trust again and that includes trusting in herself. She’s been lied to by her abuser, told she was worthless, that her opinions didn’t matter. You know what? After hearing it over and over, she started to believe it. She’s been told she can’t do anything and she feels helpless. Help her to grow and learn to believe in herself. Help her learn to discern truth from lie. Help her to find the information she desperately needs and offer your guidance when asked for it but, through it all, help her see the importance of making decisions about her life herself.


Abuse victims have suffered much from their abuser. The one who ought to have loved them, hurt them instead. Don’t add to that hurt by seeing and refusing to help. Get involved. Do something. Anything. Just be determined to honor God in it and He’ll give you the opportunity to serve. You–and she–will be glad that you did.

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Abusers in the church

A Daughter of the Reformation

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. – 3 John 1:9-10 ESV

In his book, A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church, Pastor Jeff Crippen gives an excellent description of an abuser’s tactics and mentality. Having studied what abusers do and how they act, Pastor Crippen realized that not only are there domestic abusers “hiding out” in churches, there are also people who use these same abusive tactics to attempt to control churches. Sometimes these are members of the congregation, and sometimes these are leaders of…

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